I could not live without…

Webinars and WhatsApp

Jill Heath, partner at Hakim Group practices Heath Optometric in Stoke-on-Trent and Newbold Optician in Market Drayton.

Jill Heath

In times of extraordinary challenge, it’s incredibly useful to know that someone has your back, is fighting your corner and, above all, is keeping you in the loop. That’s why during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and all the uncertainty it is bringing, two communication platforms have become vital to our new remote working life: webinars and WhatsApp.

My husband James Heath and I have two practices that are part of the Hakim Group, so we have been lucky enough to attend regular webinars hosted by CEO Imran Hakim and other members of the Hakim Group back-office team. They’ve been amazingly informative and in the first week of the ‘lockdown’, these webinars were almost a daily occurrence, which was so important at that time. It was very reassuring to know that someone was fighting our corner every day of the week and keeping us updated.

Adapting communications

We certainly wouldn’t say that we used webinars regularly a few weeks ago, but with the pandemic situation as it is, we have definitely been converted to using them. The subjects of the webinars have been on a number of issues, including a 13-week financial blueprint for all the practices, which is incredibly useful moving forward.

One of the most important webinar topics has been in relation to our team members. Staff are the mainstay of a business and the priority is to keep them happy. Obviously, there were great concerns around whether it would be safe for staff to come into the practices before the lockdown was implemented and before we had Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), especially if they had older family members or others at risk at home. The webinars have given really useful and up-to-date guidance on how best to approach how we protect our staff, secure their future jobs and the business as a whole during the pandemic.

Instant responses

Geographically, as practice owners and Hakim Group HQ members, we’re all apart from one another and we can’t meet up for obvious reasons, so webinars are one way of keeping us all in the loop. What we’ve really found useful has been the interaction during the webinars, in the comments section. The communication with the other practices has been really important, because everybody runs their own practice very differently within the Hakim Group and the interplay and exchange of ideas has given rise to different viewpoints. These group discussions can make you view things differently, adding more knowledge and possibly change the direction of your own decisions. When the webinars are playing out it’s been fantastic to be able to bounce back ideas as we’re tuning in.

Communication with other practices has been really important

 

This shared information and learning with other independent partners in the Hakim Group is also why WhatsApp has been so vital. When James and I wake up in a morning, the first thing we do is check our group chat, which contains all of the practice partners in the Hakim Group, as well as HGHQ members. We do that so we have the most up-to-date information and can start the day feeling informed. The messaging group is thoroughly professional and practice team members share their experiences, advice and guidance on any and all situations, but particularly relating to COVID-19 at the moment. It’s a great forum where you are able to pose questions to those in a similar situation and get almost instant responses and also a way to keep moral high.

Knowledge sharing

For young optometrists who have been landed with COVID-19 so early in their careers, especially if they’ve only recently taken over a practice as a partner, to have this backup of group knowledge must be incredibly valuable. If you’re new to partnership, the structure of the Hakim Group means that someone who does have that experience is just a message away. As a dispensing optician it can also be very helpful if you’re looking for a specific frame or lens advice. The WhatsApp groups are ideal sources of mass information.

All in all, both communication tools allow the Hakim Group HQ team to communicate with all partners at once, rather than sending out lots of individual messages. Crucially for us currently, it gives us the flexibility to receive important information, whilst we work remotely, on very accessible platforms. The core message throughout the Hakim Group during this uncertain and concerning time has been #StrongerTogether and the way we’ve been able to communicate has been crucial for that mantra to come true. As an independent practice, life would have been a lot more difficult without the incredible communication support from the Hakim Group.

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