Tell us about Martin Smith Opticians...

Martin Smith Opticians is a successful and award winning sole independent practice in Lincoln City centre. We have one optometrist (Myself) and two dispensing opticians, plus 5 other support staff. I have owned the practice since 2004. I was just 24 when I took the practice on, but owning my own independent practice was something I knew I had to do, so I didn’t want to delay. I immediately started to grow and improve the practice, introducing new technology, improving the frame ranges and improving the appearance of the practice. It’s been a long process, and one which will never be complete, as innovation and improvement is never finished – but I think we are in a pretty good place right now. The practice looks great, the staff we have are excellent and we all work together to make every customer journey unique and enjoyable for both the customer and for us. There’s no better feeling than knowing you are doing your job well and knowing the people we serve recognise that.

What makes Martin Smith Opticians unique from other independent opticians?

I think we stand out from other independents by being at the pinnacle of technology and clinical excellence, as well as having exclusive brands and offering a level of service that few can match. For example, we are currently the only practice in the UK to offer the Paskal 3D sight testing system, which enables refraction without occlusion which is a much better experience for the patient and give a much more accurate representation of the patient’s habitual visual state. I believe this leads to a more accurate refraction and better detection of binocular instability. Few practices with one optometrist will have two qualified dispensing opticians on hand, to ensure that all clinical contacts between us and the patients are dealt with by an experienced practitioner. Technology is at the heart of our experience, from the sight test with every conceivable technological advancement used, to the dispensing where we promote the latest lens technology as standard. All this comes about as both myself and the practice manager Sue have a real passion for the profession and for getting things right. It’s important to not be satisfied with good enough, we have to go the extra mile to make things perfect.

How do you source the latest eyewear?

We have a few innovative brands which we work with and are always on the lookout for niche exciting brands which patients won’t find elsewhere. At every step, we want our patients to recognise that the experience they have with us simply cannot be found elsewhere on the high street, and that follows through to our frame buying. We visit the optical trade events like 100% optical regularly to find the latest and greatest frame ranges. It’s really important to be excited by the frames you sell, if your frame range doesn’t inspire you, how could you expect it to inspire your customers?

What are the main challenges facing independent opticians?

The main challenge this practice faces is the volume of work we have. We are often fully booked four weeks ahead which makes it difficult sometimes to squeeze those patients in need of urgent care into our schedule – often it ends up being my lunch break which suffers! One of the reasons we for this is the model I work to, with just one optometrist, but I think that is at the moment very important to us. I may have to introduce another optometrist at some point but am in some ways reluctant to surrender complete control of the clinical side of the practice. I think the reason we are so successful is that we clearly differentiate ourselves on quality grounds from the competition, in particular the multiples. We do not even consider price competition, and I think it is a mistake for independent practices to try to. The one advantage we have is the control over the service and quality of the experience we can offer customers – as soon as you try and reduce your costs, you lose that essential point of difference as the customer service always suffers. You can get cheap anywhere, but I believe you only get true excellence at a great independent practice.

What is your experience of the education delivered by 100% Optical?

All the AOP events I have attended have had a excellent and diverse range of education options. It’s a great way to get your CET points whilst meeting your peers in the profession.

Why would you recommend 100% optical to your whole team?

I think it is important for all people in the optical sector to come to events like 100% optical – people work better with others when they understand the demands of the roles of their colleagues. It is important that all staff keep their knowledge of the profession up to date, so they can deal effectively with the demands of the customers, or efficiently direct queries they cannot deal with to the right person. As the event is so diverse there is always something for everyone to enjoy and learn.

Dr Martin Smith, Owner of Martin Smith Opticians