“My wildest ambition is fulfilment for the whole team”
Gavin Rebello talks OT through his busy day as co-owner of eight independent practices
11 August 2023
Malvern-based co-owner of eight Hakim Group independent practices, Gavin Rebello, talks OT through his day – from morning meditation and Spanish practice to evening business meetings with a backdrop of MasterChef Australia.
Occupation:Owner of eight Hakim Group independent practices
Business owner since:2000
7am:I’m out of bed at 7am. I used to hit the snooze button all the time, and it would be 7.30am and I’d be running late. To break that habit, I bought an old school, analogue alarm clock. It’s at the other side of my bedroom, and I have to physically get out of bed to switch it off.
When I’m either working within a reasonable commute, or working from home, I’ll do some yoga or Qigong. I’ve completed my teacher training in both, so I can look after myself properly. So, the next thing I’ll do is get on my yoga mat.
On other days, I could be anywhere in the UK. If I’m delivering a workshop, that’s the priority. I’ll get up earlier and I’ll do my meditation and my Spanish, but I’ll leave the mat work.
Breakfast is a homemade power smoothie. I’ve got a big Thermomix, and I put in protein powder, frozen cherries, frozen blueberries, banana, and spinach. That morning routine has taken me a while to work out, but it sets me up for being at my best, certainly for the morning.
8am:In my working day, the first thing I do is check in with my co-directors. I’ve got eight practices that I have part ownership of, and I have co-directors in all of them. My role is to mentor and support them, so I’ll make sure they’re all okay. If I’ve taken on a new practice, obviously there is a lot I need to be doing.
After that, it depends on whether I’m working from home, on Zoom meetings or with a blank sheet of paper planning out the future, or whether I’m on the road delivering a workshop.
9am:I sometimes deliver leadership and management workshops for hospital consultants and hospital surgeons. I’ll give them a little bit of a spiel about why I’m there: that I have a clinical background; I’ve worked in the hospital environment.
10am:I punctuate my day, especially if I’ve got a screen day. At 10am, I will move away and either do some phone calls, or get onto my yoga mat and do some stretches because of the sitting posture.
12 noon:I like an earlier lunch, around 12 noon or 12.15pm. It will probably last about 10 minutes. I grab something to eat – it might be another smoothie, if I’m really ‘on it’, but it will probably be a sandwich and coffee. If I’m from working from home, I’ll have something decent for lunch, rather than something on the hoof.
1.30pm:I’ll often try and plan a meeting around lunch. If I want to talk to one of my co-directors, obviously they’re in clinic, so I’ll try and tune into their lunchtime.
If I’m based at home for the day I’ll go out for a walk at lunchtime, or go and meet one of the team for a coffee. I’ve never taken an hour. I’m just not used to stopping and pausing like that.
I lost my dad 18 months ago. My mum is about 45 minutes away, and my job allows me to go over every week or so, take her shopping, and have lunch. I can make sure she’s looked after. If she needs anything doing, I can change my timetable to be able to go and support her. The best thing about my flexibility is that it allows me to give back to the people that have always looked after me and always had my back*.
3pm:If I’m working from home, I’ll do the tasks that will move the businesses forward or require more thinking in the morning, and the afternoon will be more admin, from paying accounts to rotas. It’s more routine admin in the afternoon, because I’m a morning person.
When you do things that you absolutely love, you don’t get a slump. When I’m delivering a workshop, I’m told that I’m as energetic at the end of the day as I am at the beginning. I love teaching.
5.30pm:My evenings are often working, so I’ll clock off initially at around 5.30pm. I love cooking. I find it meditative. I’m in the moment; it’s creative. I’ll always cook from scratch, even if nobody else is around. What I cook varies, from a Thai or Indian curry to something like fish or veg – anything, really. I am eclectic with my cooking. I can open the fridge, see the ingredients and create something. I very rarely follow recipe books.
To unwind, I watch...
The Great British Menu or MasterChef Australia
I will sometimes go to the gym. I live in the Malvern Hills. What I aspire to is an evening walk up the hills. That’s the next habit that I want to put in place. The gym is a fairly new habit. When I left Essex and moved to Malvern in 2016, I started from scratch – I’d sold the house and my previous practice, and I was really immersed in trying to build the new practices up. But I’m in a place, now, where I can start putting all of those better habits in place.
7pm:After dinner, I’ll set myself up for the evening. I might have one-to-one clients or Zoom meetings. Sometimes I’ll have management meetings with my co-directors, to get them all in one place.
My other big unwind is watching cookery programmes. I’ll get my ideas from that. I love Nigel Slater. He doesn’t give recipes; he gives concepts and then just lets you fly. I really love the way he works. He’s so evocative with the way that he speaks. I love The Great British Menu and MasterChef, but specifically the professionals, or bizarrely, MasterChef Australia. They do it so much better than the UK. There’s more learning. The tasks are more interesting, and you get to know the people better.
I’m lucky: I’ve got some really core friends. I don’t see them very often, but I know they are there, I can pick up the phone and have a chat with them, and they leave me in a better place.
My fantasy practice...
Do several things. First of all, it would be interior designed, and it would look beautiful. I gravitate towards higher end practices. The practice refits I’ve done have always been super smart. There would be massage chairs for the patients to sit on and relax. I’m aware that they often come in stressed, so anything that we can do to calm them down would be my priority.
There would be a drinks cabinet for non-alcoholic drinks – coffees and teas, of course, but a menu. There’d be snacks. We’d have a real restaurant feel. They’d have their eye examination, but there would be a facial or a spa afterwards, so they could go away feeling that their eyes are really refreshed.
The staff room would be amazing. We work in an environment where we’re holding a lot of emotional baggage for patients, and we’re caring for them. For each patient, we have to give our best. For the teams, it can be emotionally draining, so I would want a really lovely recreation area where the team can go and unwind. Whatever that looks like for that team: books, music, a chef to cook them a healthy, nutritious meal, so they feel their best.
If I could invent a piece of technology to help solve one issue in the practice, it would be...
Some sort of artificial intelligence that supports the clinicians and the front of house team. To tell them: “Yep, that’s right. You haven’t forgotten anything. That’s great thinking on your clinical judgement.” I’m aware that there are lots of clinicians that worry that they’ve missed something. They often fear the worst. Some sort of reassuring sense check, that actually they’re doing a great job, would be great.
The other thing would be the ability to press a button, and everything just pauses. Pause, take a moment, take a breath, and off we go again.
If I could be visited in practice by one influential person from history, it would be...
Henry Ford. There are two sayings that are attributed to him. Both have become almost mantras in my life. The first is around procrastination: ‘if it’s important enough, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.’ The other one is: ‘if you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right.’
When I read them, they were an absolute light bulb. I’d want to sit down and thank him for that, because it has made a massive difference to my life, but also just have a chat over coffee. Obviously, he was a very successful businessman, and he has left his mark. His legacy is there for all to see.
If I could change one thing to improve the practices’ economics, I would change...
The practical answer is the General Ophthalmic Services fee. But realistically, that isn’t going to happen. No government is going to give more money, because people are delivering the job anyway.
So, I would love to redefine what is expected from an NHS sight test, to be in line with a GP. You go in with a knee problem to the GP, the GP looks at the knee. They don’t check that your head is okay, or your ears are okay. In optometry, regardless of what the symptom is, we have to look at everything. It’s a very inefficient model.
The other thing would be better training at the university level, around the practicalities of the job.
If I could close the practice for a week without having any impact at all, I would...
My heart always goes back to New Zealand. That’s where I love; I’ve been a few times. You can’t do it in a week, though. I’d need a month, or three months.
Otherwise, if it was a week, I would go to rural Spain, maybe up in the Pyrenees, walking. Maybe San Sebastian, where all the great restaurants are.
My wildest ambition for my practice is...
More than anything, I love helping teammates reach their potential – whether that’s a receptionist who didn’t have the opportunities at school but is very capable of being supported on a dispensing optician course, or somebody who didn’t think they could own a business and then suddenly they’re a director.
I love helping people on their way. My wildest ambition for my practices is for every single team member to be reaching their potential; for every single team member to have a spring in their step, so they feel content and fulfilled in their job.
Every day they’re at work, they don’t get that time back. One of my key responsibilities is that they’re getting value out of the time that they spend in that role. So, my wildest ambition is fulfilment for the whole team.
*At the time of publishing, Gavin’s mum sadly passed away. The team at OT send our condolences.