Congratulations on placing first in the 2018 Sunday Times Best Small Companies to Work For listing. How does it feel?
There’s a real sense of achievement right across the business. To be named as number one really justifies our on-going commitment to continuously invest in our practice teams, by placing their happiness and wellbeing right at the heart of our overall strategy.
What was your reaction to the announcement, and how did you celebrate?
It seems like we are still celebrating. After the announcement, there has been a deluge of congratulatory messages from friends and colleagues, both within and outside of the industry. The announcement came 24 hours after the birth of my third daughter, so it was quite a memorable week.
The list is determined by staff feedback, so what do Hakim Group’s employees love about the company?
We have always placed the happiness of our teams above everything else and this award demonstrates how much they appreciate that focus on their wellbeing. Everything we do is with a huge dollop of fun and positivity to make the journey at work truly enjoyable. After all, you spend a huge chunk of your adult life at work, and to fulfil your potential, you have to enjoy the work that you do.
How has the Hakim Group gone about making the workplace a good environment to be in?
We have many initiatives in place to foster a ‘happy’ work environment. Amongst these we have a health plan for all of our colleagues and birthdays are treated as an extra day off to spend at home with loved ones. We also ring-fence a Financial Flexibility Fund to help our colleagues manage their finances through some of the more challenging times of the year such as holidays and Christmas. We also have HG Giftbox, which allows our team members to get discounts for themselves and their families off the weekly shop, restaurants, cinema tickets and at thousands of retailers. We have many more initiatives all designed to make their time at work more enjoyable.
"Everything we do is with a huge dollop of fun and positivity to make the journey at work truly enjoyable'"
You also won a special award for Best Leader. What makes a great leader?
My mantra is that a progressive workplace is one where the leader creates an environment that allows people to express themselves and then trusts the team to ‘get on with it.’ That’s what we have at the Hakim Group right across all of our independent practices. It is a symbiotic relationship built on trusting one another to do the right thing. It’s about being consistent in your approach, even with the difficult decisions and personifying the values that you preach through your own behaviours.
Tell OT about how the Hakim Group operates, its services and what sets it apart from other practices?
Hakim Group is a family of independent practices. All the practices operate independently but are supported by a dedicated team to help with some of the ‘heavy lifting’ when it comes to finance, HR, digital marketing, IT, training, and all the parts of the business that the 21st century business owner has to be proficient in. Running an independent business today has more complexity than at any time in the past and at the Hakim Group we ensure that we are on the front line to help our practices work through these challenges.
What message does this send to the public about the standard of eye care provided by Hakim Group?
A happy team delivers a better customer experience. That’s a proven fact and very evident if you look at some of the best businesses in other sectors as well.
Is this also a victory for independent practices and the wider industry in general? Will this help raise awareness of the work optical practices are doing?
This award demonstrates that it is possible within the optical industry to build a ‘best in class’ culture around your people as a true differentiator for your business. At the end of the day, we are all selling eyewear and eye care; what makes each business truly unique is the people who deliver the products and services.
What are the challenges currently faced by independents, and what needs to be done to overcome them?
The challenges for all independent business owners – regardless of whether they are in optometry or any other industry – is keeping up with a more sophisticated, knowledgeable and demanding customer. To stay competitive, all independent businesses need a commercial and operational strategy that keeps them at the cutting edge, not just clinically but also in regard to their business.
Read more from Mr Hakim in OT’s 100% Optical coverage, where he featured as part of a panel discussion on the future of independent practice.