“It’s important that I’m calm and leading by example”
Angela Davey, partner in Haine & Smith in Wiltshire, on meditative practices, clear communication, and putting family first
23 November 2022
Meet the owner
- Name: Angela Davey (AD)
- Location: Pewsey, Wiltshire
- Partner in: Haine & Smith Opticians
- Business owner for: Four years
I generally get up around 6.30am. The first thing I do is try to wake up my seven-year-old son. I try hard not to look at my work emails until I’ve got him ready for school. I used to get up and do yoga, but it doesn’t happen now, with a seven-year-old.
I’m based at head office, but I only go there once or twice a week. I try to be around our practices for the rest of the time. If I’m doing practice visits, I arrive for 9.30am, so the staff have had time to set up and start their clinics.
I tend to set aside half a day at practice. The first thing I do is check my emails and make sure the leadership team is happy, and that there’s nothing urgent required.
I’ll chat generally with the staff, so there’s not necessarily an agenda. Sometimes I might want to know what’s going on with a certain part of the business, but other times I just want to find out how they’re feeling, what improvements we can make, and how the month has been going.
New staff need to get to know you before they’re going to feel comfortable enough to question why we’re doing things or offer ideas on how things could be done better
In the first 45 minutes, there are usually no issues, and everything is great. But the more I’m there, the more I can get out of them. By the end, I’ve got a good page of action points to take away, whether that’s to do with customer service or procedures.
The most important thing with practice visits, for me, is building relationships. New staff need to get to know you before they’re going to feel comfortable enough to question why we’re doing things or offer ideas on how things could be done better. You have to have that relationship, so that’s why I always put that time aside.
We do have locums, and their first morning would always be a training session with one of the partners, to train them on our record keeping, but also so that they understand the business values and what we expect with customer or patient service.
The leadership team has a weekly huddle, where we talk through what’s going on for the week, what challenges we have, and what went well last week. That gives us motivation for the week going forward. If I went in and it was completely target-focused, that’s not what motivates people. We’re people people.
I also have weekly or fortnightly meetings, for an hour, with each member of our team: IT and communications, clinical lead, operations manager, training manager, purchasing manager and the accounts team. We always know that whatever happens, there’s that hour in there when they can speak to me. I do my very best never to alter those meetings.
I always try and finish around 12.30pm, so I have time with my personal assistant to go through emails and deal with anything that’s urgent.
I also lead the HR side of the business, so there are often tasks that come into that – so we arrange the rest of the day around anything that’s urgent with HR.
I always eat lunch. I’m not somebody who can go without food. I wouldn’t say I take more than 10 minutes, but I do make sure that I sit quietly and have some food – often a prawn sandwich.
The thing I most enjoy reading/watching/listening to to unwind is...
Listening is always meditation rather than any particular music. I don’t read as much as I’d like to, but that definitely helps me unwind, and that would be quite a range of books: from trashy novels to autobiographies.
I’m currently watching The Capture on the BBC. I do love The Great British Bake Off, too.
I tend to keep my afternoons free from meetings. A typical afternoon would probably be either talking to practice staff again, or dealing with HR issues.
Sometimes we block out my diary for research, which is time for me to look at what our competitors are doing. It might be as simple as reading some articles and making sure I’m on top of our industry and what's happening. If you don’t have it in the diary, it’s the last thing you do, because everything else feels more important.
I’ve done meditation for 15 years. I can do a simple guided meditation for five minutes and clear my mind, and that’s really important. I try to get this across to practice managers: if you don’t take time out to have a break, you’re less effective.
In an ideal world I’d go for a walk or for a swim, but there’s rarely time to do that. But even five minutes of meditation makes a massive difference. I try to do that towards the end of the day. Sometimes you just need to empty your mind, because otherwise you’re going over and over everything, and not actually producing anything.
I try to get this across to practice managers: if you don’t take time out to have a break, you’re less effective
If anything comes up that is particularly difficult in the day, it’s important that I’m calm and leading by example. In that case I might turn my phone and the laptop off for five minutes and just gather myself so that everybody else stays calm. That was important in the pandemic, when, at the start, nobody knew what they were doing and were looking to me to guide them on everything. That was overwhelming, so it was important to step back.
Officially the day ends at 5.30pm. At that point my son comes first, and I’ll do whatever we’re up to, until he goes to bed. As a family we love walking, and we like geocaching. I particularly enjoy yoga and pilates, and I’m a keen gardener.
I can never resist a roast dinner, even in the middle of the week. I’m so pleased when we get to autumn, and we can have crumbles and roasts.
When my son is asleep, I log back on. I’m doing a HR course at the moment, so I'll do some reading around that.
It depends what’s going on within the business: there will be certain times when I am working up until 11pm or midnight, and other times that I’m not. I don’t want people thinking I work until midnight every night.
What I’m always grateful for with Haine & Smith and the position I have is the flexibility. It means I can put my family first and I can still get my job done, but it doesn’t matter what time I’m getting it done. I always make sure my phone is on and available to the practices six days a week, throughout their opening hours.
My fantasy practice...
If I had an unlimited practice budget, I would...
Make sure we had the latest technology. It would also be key that there was comfortable and practical seating for all ages, where we could serve tea and coffee, and really give patients the time that they deserve. We used to do that before COVID-19, and I hope we will get back to doing that, because I think that it’s all about relationship building. My fantasy practice is all about a comfortable surrounding, where we can build really good relationships with the best technology that we can put in.
If I could invent a piece of technology to help solve one issue in the practice, it would be...
A really, really flexible diary.
If I could be visited in practice by one influential person from history, it would be...
Helen Keller [American author and disability rights activist.] I think it’d be really interesting. She was such a positive person. I think we would learn so much.
If I could close the practices for a week without having any impact at all, I would...
Definitely be somewhere warm, by the sea.
My wildest ambition for my practices is...
That we continue to be successful. We are now 47 years old, and I would like to see that we are successful for the next 47 years.