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Company of the year.

MYERS LA ROCHE

Year of establishment: 1985

Chief executive officer: Patrick Myers (pictured)

Number of staff: 14

Based: Altrincham

VALLI GROUP

Year of establishment: 2005

Managing director: Moin Valli

Number of staff: 25

Based: Huddersfield

THE CENTRAL (LOC) FUND

Year of establishment: 1973, as a company 2013

Secretary and treasurer: Roy Brackley

Number of staff: Six

Based: Colchester, Essex

MYERS LA ROCHE

How has your company promoted and expanded the role of optometry over the last 12 months?

The market is extremely tough. We have worked with businesses to fight back, to increase their sales and profits, and their survivability.

Can you give an example of a specific campaign, or project, which has achieved this?

The Optic2000 Club is a simple, low cost programme which is designed to pinpoint areas of weakness within a practice and to signpost guaranteed solutions. For more details see:

* www.myerslaroche.co.uk/improving-profitability/the-optic2000-club;

* www.myerslaroche.co.uk/improving-profitability/intelligence-casestudies;

* www.myerslaroche.co.uk/improving-profitability/quotes-fromoptic2000-club-members.

What technical innovations has the company brought which brings the benefits of optics to a wider audience?

Optometrists are often doubtful about the benefits and costs of professional marketing. In April, we launched Myers La Roche Online at http://marketing-for-opticians.co.uk/. This is a one-stop shop for professional marketing support which does not tie the practice owner into expensive on-going fees. They simply order what they need, when they need it.

What are your three tips for running a successful company?

Look after your patients; make sure that you keep in contact with them in the time between successive eye examinations and use emails and social media, as well as mailings, where appropriate.

Review the patient journey within the practice to make it as seamless as possible. It needs to be informative and enjoyable.

Set a realistic budget for marketing and promotion. As a guide, 5% sales turnover is about right and expect a 400% return on investment. So a 15,000[pounds sterling]-a-year marketing budget would produce a 60,000[pounds sterling]-a-year increase in sales.

What's the best thing about the company?

We employ qualified marketing professionals who base their recommendations on investigations, not hunches and guesswork.

What's the company ethos?

To increase our customers' sales and profits.

Is there anything else you would like to include in your profile?

Myers La Roche is the largest specialist firm in Europe dedicated to providing professional marketing support to independent eye care practitioners. We are fully qualified marketing consultants, members/ fellows of the Chartered Institute of Marketing; exclusively working with eye care professionals. We have a proven track record gained from 28 years in optics.

VALLI GROUP

How has your company promoted and expanded the role of optometry over the last 12 months?

Part of our vision is our commitment to educating the communities we serve about the importance of eye health and we have a PR, marketing and communications strategy.

We have formed two further companies within the Valli Group Valli Home Eye Care, which provides domiciliary eye care services and Valli Corporate Eye Care, which provides bespoke eye care services to medium and large corporate and engineering firms.

We have put on numerous charity events, including a Mother's Day themed pampering evening and we also have a sponsored walk planned in August called the 'Valli Rally.

We have made recent associations with local companies, including a company called 'Huddersfield Veg Man'. Here we are raising the awareness of maintaining good eye health through nutrition, including the creation of bespoke recipes by a local award-winning chef which will appear on our website.

Can you give an example of a specific campaign, or project, which has achieved this?

Our community talks project has been well received. MD Moin Valli has visited schools, community groups, GP surgeries, patient focus groups and care homes. We are regularly featured in the local press and also make great use of our social media accounts. We also actively promote the AOP's Back to School campaign through press releases and paid for adverts in local publications.

What technical innovations has the company brought which brings the benefits of optics to a wider audience?

The Valli Group has invested over 400,000[pounds sterling] in technology, optical equipment and refurbishment over the last six years. We use 3D video dispensing stations to enhance the dispensing process and iPads, both in the consultation room and on the shop floor.

We also took delivery of an Intuitive Colorimeter Mark III machine last month. Overlays and colorimetry assessment is one of our unique selling points, along with a dry eye treatment programme, sports eyewear and a lashes clinic.

What are your three tips for running a successful company?

Have the ability to make decisions; accept and manage change and constantly strive for improvement.

What's the best thing about the company?

We're very proud to be a local, independent company which puts the interests and welfare of our patients and staff at the top of our agenda. We're proud sponsors of the local football team, Honley FC. All staff have been given an additional day off in 2013 but it has to be dedicated to either raising money or providing support for our chosen charity, the Forget Me Not Children's Hospice.

THE CENTRAL (LOC) FUND

How has your company promoted and expanded the role of optometry over the last 12 months?

Being an 'Investor in Optometry' has allowed the Central (LOC) Fund to promote the sector. It has financed innovative research projects being undertaken by university departments and has assisted political initiatives, being a significant supporter of Optometry Wales. It has supported public awareness campaigns, financing website-based resources for National Eye Health Week and the Eyecare Trust's campaign 'On Doctor's Orders. It is also funding SeeAbility to carry out a LOCSU Learning Disabilities Eyecare Pathway pilot study.

Much of the work financed by the Central (LOC) Fund is used to promote optometry. Research work leads to conclusions and statistical evidence which can be used in primary care negotiation. Pilot studies can lead to new pathways being established. Political engagement influences Government thinking on health care.

Can you give an example of a specific campaign, or project, which has achieved this?

The Central Fund felt it needed to promote that it had money available to finance research, development and statistical projects which will be necessary for, and might be crucial to, the future development of the profession. It contacted all research departments in UK universities and the Institute of Optometry with information and posters. As a result, four applications for funding were received. After consideration, two were approved, having been deemed to fulfil the criteria needed to show that they were of benefit to the whole profession.

Dr Amy Shepherd from the School of Life & Health Sciences at Aston University is receiving a grant for 'Clinical Characteristics of Domiciliary Eye Examination Patients in the UK and Potential Enhancement of Optometric Services. Part of the UK Vision Strategy is to increase the number of specialists in ophthalmic public health. A modest sum has been awarded to the Optometry Postgraduate Education Centre in Wales to develop appropriate modules in its Masters programme.

What technical innovations has the company supported which brings the benefits of optics to a wider audience?

A funded project that comes to mind is the major contribution to bring the National Eye Health Epidemiological Model (NEHEM) into being a tool which gives the breakdown of eye conditions in community areas, down to local authority and primary care organisation, populations.

What's the best thing about the company?

Being in a position to re-invent itself as optometry and the NHS goes through another set of changes. The Central (LOC) Fund was established to protect the interests of LOCs and their members. It still supports core professional matters, such as fee negotiation, and would be available as a 'fighting fund,' when needed. However, it relishes being an eye to the future, in terms of research and projects such as NEHEM, invaluable to local primary care negotiation.

To learn more about each shortlisted nominee and to vote, visit www.optometry.co.uk/awards. Voting will close at midnight on September 6.

In the next edition of OT we will be profiling the nominees for: Optical Assistant of the Year, Marketing Innovation of the Year and LOC/ AOC/ROC of the Year
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Title Annotation:AOP AWARDS
Publication:Optometry Today
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jun 28, 2013
Words:1390
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