Can you give us a background to your Vision Express journey?
It’s been a big span of growth in the last 7 years or so. I first started off as an Optical Assistant in Scotland and over the years progressed to store manager. I moved to London and took the role in different stores including general manager of our flagship store on Oxford Street.
I was then given the opportunity to work as regional manager which progressed to managing our largest stores. I then took roles for GrandVision, our parent company, based in Amsterdam. I was Business Development Manager followed by Regional Sales Director where I looked after 14 European countries. I came back to Vision Express as Divisional Director when we acquired Tesco opticians in 2017.
What does your current role as Divisional Director involve?
In a nutshell, I look after stores in the South region. I have several regional managers who report to me and together we look after all aspects of our stores, from colleague development to customer service and store performance. There’s a lot involved!
What do you enjoy the most about your role?
I love the variety, one day I can be in a store, the next in the office so no two days are the same. I’m always meeting different colleagues and looking for new solutions and new avenues to explore. When you support so many stores, you also get to see so many positive changes happen which is really rewarding.
Who or what motivated you to progress with Vision Express?
To be honest, I was happy with what I was doing as general manager of Oxford Street and I was really enjoying it. But I was taken out of my comfort zone by Neil McGowan, our Retail Operations Director and he asked me to look after a region of stores. Neil spotted my ability and nurtured it well, he was certainly the biggest influence through that transition in my career. It was a big change as I became a decision maker for more stores rather than just my own, which was scary at first but from then I saw my career go from strength to strength.
I now try to do the same with my own team, I encourage them to move out of their comfort zone. It’s important to invest in people and understand their skills so they can continue to learn and progress.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Have fun and keep smiling. At first, I started out hard to the core! But now I sit back and think about things a lot more – it’s something Neil taught me. I don’t react to things as quickly as I used to. I sit and think about it. The more reactive you are, the more emotional you are, the more you’re driven by the wrong decision.
What key skills are important for a store manager to have?
Their personality plays a major part of the role and whether they have the ability to build a rapport with customers and colleagues. Having that warmth and smile is one of the most important skills and store managers should lead by example.
What advice would you give to a new starter?
Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The optics industry is different to other retailers because there’s a lot to learn and customers rely on your knowledge and advice. It might seem challenging in the beginning but the more work you put in, the more you’ll get out of it.