Entrepreneur spirit

AOP chair Kevin Thompson, who has a number of businesses inside and outside of optics, reflects on where an entrepreneur’s spirit comes from

Kevin Thompson

Reality TV shows all have one thing in common – every contestant aspires to greater things. In the example of The X Factor, those who rise to the top do it not just through exhibiting raw talent, but through a determination that sets them apart from the others.

Whether it is a genuinely unique recording voice or some other ‘star quality’ that the public embraces, it can turn them into a modern day celebrity. Entrepreneurial spirit is no different, and the dogged determination of some is what sets them apart.

AOP members are either working towards, or have achieved, a qualification that entitles them to a particular status and salary in life. Compared to the many millions of  ‘hopefuls’ out there, they have already proven themselves and if this were indeed The X Factor, they would have made it at least to the live shows.

Likewise, if an optometrist keeps their nose clean and enters the consulting room ‘stage’ on a daily basis, this is an enviable position for many ‘wannabes’ and is understandably the endgame to personal achievement. But, in terms of entrepreneurial spirit, what else might they decide to do with their skill to determine an alternative ‘enhanced’ career path?

The right determination

I believe everyone has entrepreneurial spirit; it is just a question of how determined we are to pursue a goal whilst assessing the risk factors, measuring against our current success. This does not mean that everyone has to be like Richard Branson, or indeed the Trotters from Only Fools and Horses. Yet in a rapidly changing technological world, there are many new, potentially unique, opportunities out there.

"There is no doubt that those with the motivation and entrepreneurial spirit to upskill to enable new doors to open will be those who succeed"

However, practitioners should never forget the building blocks of their personal ‘talent’ that they worked so hard to attain. As technology changes, the need for clinicians to develop their scope of practice is becoming critical, and there is no doubt that those with the motivation and entrepreneurial spirit to upskill to enable new doors to open will be those who succeed.

What gets anyone out of bed in the morning? In my case, I grew up in a business-orientated family that took every opportunity to make money out of sheer necessity. I have developed many businesses and it is the excitement of doing something new that inspires me, as well as constantly learning from others.

I asked my long-suffering partner, Teresa, if she had found my approach to business over the years beneficial. Her look to me suggested that she wanted to hit me over the head with something heavy the next time I have a brainwave, so let's just say that my approach is an acquired taste.

I have not spent my entire career in a consulting room, and have learned a wealth of new skills and knowledge unrelated to optics. On the flip side, it is amazing how incredibly hard you have to work to be what others regard frequently as being lucky.

Optometry can be a very insular, blinkered career path, but I hope my wider business experience brings something to the profession via the AOP.

Kevin Thompson is the owner of the north east group Thompson Opticians, which has 20 practices. He is also managing director of a residential and commercial development company with retail and holiday lets. Additionally, he is a sub-postmaster, has both a general store and clothes shop.