"The coffee machine goes on before anything else”
Caffeine-fuelled Gloucester practice owners Becci and Daniel Zawadzki walk us through their 16-hour days
28 October 2022
Meet the owners
Partners in: Norville Gloucester and the four John Weygang practices
Roles: Optometrist/partner (Becci) and partner (Dan)
Business owners for: one year.
BZ: Our children wake us up, and the first thing we do is give them a cuddle. Our two-year-old climbs up into our bed. We try to get him to go back to sleep, but it doesn’t work.
DZ: The second thing we do is check our phones for any messages from any of the partners or staff. It’s always a 3am text, if something has gone wrong, so it’s there when you wake up.
DZ: When we arrive at work the coffee machine goes on immediately, before anything else.
BZ: Our working hours are 8.45am until 5.15pm, and we start paying our staff 15 minutes before the store opens, so we have 15 minutes to get everything together, grab a coffee, look at any notes for the day, and have a little huddle. That motivates the team – they’re not in it at 8.59am and starting work straightaway. It gives them a few minutes to regroup before the patients come in, which relaxes everyone. Doors open just before 9am.
BZ: We have a circle of locums that we use quite frequently. As soon as they walk in, we get them a coffee, show them to the room, and give them a heads-up on any patients that might be coming in: any they might need to pay particular attention to or help in a certain way. Our locums are really good fun - they’re on the same wavelength as us, and we enjoy a laugh and a joke.
For the rest of the morning, I’m busy in my room, seeing patients. I try to check my emails in between, but that’s quite rare.
I don’t really have a typical day – I’d love to have one, where everything just went in a similar pattern
DZ: I don’t really have a typical day – I’d love to have one, where everything just went in a similar pattern. At about 9am, I start checking through work emails. I probably get between 30 and 50 emails a day.
I’ll normally get a phone call from one of the management teams at one of the practices. Quite often I go to one or two practices in a day, to help with little bits – anything from the fundus camera not working to the ceiling falling down. The other week I did 35 miles in a day between all the practices, even though none of them are more than five miles apart.
DZ: I'm a creature of habit. I have lunch at 12, which means I don’t have to have lunch with my wife. She’s a noisy eater.
Typically, if I’ve got lunch with me, I’ll eat it then go for a 20-minute or half an hour walk to get away from work and clear my head. Normally on the walk back I remember that I’ve got to make a call or check something. As I’m walking back to the practice, I’m usually on the phone talking to a rep.
BZ: My diary is blocked out between 1pm and 2pm, so that’s typically my lunchtime. Normally I’ll eat in my room in front of my computer, checking my emails, doing the referrals, sorting out any problems and replying to the WhatsApp groups that we’re in. We’ve got about five different WhatsApp groups, and there are always messages in at least one of them. Sometimes I go out for a walk or do a bit of shopping, but typically, it is a working lunch. But I do have time blocked out my diary, which is nice.
A healthy lunch helps avoid the afternoon slump
A healthy lunch helps avoid the afternoon slump. If I have a heavy lunch full of carbohydrates, I really do get a 3pm slump in energy, whereas if I stick to proteins and healthy fats, it definitely keeps me going through the day. I try to avoid caffeine in the afternoon, otherwise it affects my sleep.
DZ: Over lunch we’ve got a good hour of quietness, when there are no patients in. I’m back from my walk by then, so I get an hour for lunch, and an hour of quiet – I get a two-hour lunch, really. Patients don't expect the practice to be open during lunch time, so no one phones, and I can just sit and do the admin bits, like looking at patient reviews. That’s a nice time, when there’s no one asking me to do anything.
BZ: The practice closes at 5pm, and then we have a 15-minute wind down, making sure everything is neat and tidy, everything is ordered, and that all the patients who are expecting phone calls or emails back have had them. It’s a bit of time to catch up. Officially, our working day finishes at 5.15pm.
The thing I most enjoy listening to to unwind is...
BZ: We’ve got a six-year-old and a nearly two-year-old, so they take up most of our evening, and then it’s dinner time for us. We enjoy watching TV, which is a really bad hobby – but that’s our wind down. We love The Great British Bake Off. Last week we had carrot cake whilst watching, and it’s biscuit week next week, so we’ll have biscuits. We should have a hobby, but we don’t. I used to run, and then I got an injury and had to stop. It feels like there’s no time.
DZ: Our ideal midweek dinner is probably something someone else has cooked. Often, it gets to Wednesday or Thursday and we’ll order a cheeky takeaway. We eat well at the start of the week and have good intentions, but by then it’s a takeaway – usually Chinese, curry, or pizza.
BZ: Or chicken fajitas, which is our daughter’s favourite. Once the children are in bed and we’ve had dinner, we often go through emails again, in case there’s anything urgent. We’re often busy chatting on the partners WhatsApp group and coming up with new ideas.
The thing I most enjoy reading to unwind is...
DZ: Every Monday night we do a partner meeting, where we chat about business plans. The meeting is usually two hours. Because there’s more than one practice there is a lot to cover, and when you’re in practice you forget who you’ve told. The meeting helps to make sure everyone knows all the information.
Our fantasy practice...
If we had an unlimited practice budget, we would...
DZ: An outdoor space would be nice. We’ve got a back garden at Norville, and it would be nice to have the time to tidy it up and have a place for the staff. It’s like a meadow at the moment, full of weeds. One of the plans is to do up the garden and have after work get-togethers with the staff.
BZ: Install a prosecco bar.
If we could invent one piece of technology to help solve an issue in practice, it would be...
DZ: Something that makes contact lens patients more organised.
If we could make one change to the optometry profession, we would...
BZ: As optometrists, we need to be better represented. Dentists and doctors get a lot of respect from patients. I think a lot of ours see us as a shop first and a healthcare provider second. So many people don’t realise that we are primarily healthcare. They don’t know that contact lenses are medical devices. We need a better understanding that we’re not just retail. But that’s not something that will change overnight.
If we could be visited in practice by one influential person from history, it would be...
DZ: Robin Williams. He was a superbly funny guy, and it’s a shame that he’s gone. Either him, or Spike Milligan. Either way, I’d end up laughing by the end of it.
BZ: The Queen.
If we could close the practices for a week without having any impact at all, we would...
BZ: Probably be on holiday with our work crew. They’re very much our work family. Some of them we’ve known for over 20 years. I think we’d probably do a little city break.
DZ: No, we’d go to the beach.
BZ: Our favourite place in the world is Croyde Bay in Devon, so yes, we’d probably end up there.
Our wildest ambition for our practices is...
BZ: To make more money.
DZ: International recognition. We’d love to be a place people want to go. Rather than “I’ve got to go to the optician,” more “I want to go there,” and people travelling from further away to see us because they like the place, they like what we do, and they like the staff.
Want to walk us through your working day? Get in touch with [email protected]