Still steering the ship after five decades in practice
John Fried, owner of six independent practices, talks OT through his day – from breakfast with grandchildren to evenings spent with his wife of 53 years
17 September 2023
John Fried, dispensing optician and owner of six independent practices, gave OT a sneak preview of his day – from waking up three grandchildren to closing the door as soon as his final patient leaves the practice.
Owner of:Six independent practices, in South London, Surrey and Kent
Business owner since:1975
I start my day at about 8.30am. I look at my desk, and try to prioritise what I’ve got to do that day. I am an old-fashioned list-maker. I make lists, and have lots of bits of paper.
We are very lucky. We have roughly 40 staff and all practices have a team of between four and six, some of whom move around. They are a fabulous group of people. We listen to them. We tell them they’re great, most of the time. We want our staff to enjoy their work, because they spend more time at work than they do at home. The working environment is pretty good.
We want our staff to enjoy their work, because they spend more time at work than they do at home
Practice is busy. We run a Minor Eye Conditions Service (MECS), for which we’re booked two weeks in advance.
I have one or two other things that I do other than optics. My day can be totally mixed. I’ve got other business interests that I’ve developed over the years, and so my day can be anything from talking to challenging patients to dealing with matters that are external to optics.
Up until recently we still closed for lunch after COVID-19, but in the past few months everybody agreed that we should be open at lunchtime.
Everybody gets an hour for lunch, except for me. I try to keep healthy. I have fruit most lunchtimes – two, three or four different types of fruit. I’ll take 10 minutes to do that, and otherwise I’ll do paperwork. If we’re short on staff, I’ll sit at the front desk with the receptionist or another dispensing optician.
In the afternoon, I revisit my paper lists and what I didn’t do in the morning, and I dispense. Most days I’m in practice, because I really like it. In an ideal world, that would be 98% of my time. I’ve got relatively good energy to keep going [in the afternoon]. Enjoy what you do. If you don’t enjoy it, leave. Go and do something else.
To unwind I watch...
Anything that’s not too gory
I like to cook, although I don’t get much chance. We’ve got a very busy life. We’ve got nine grandchildren, six of whom live in the UK, while three live in Spain. My wife is an absolute powerhouse.
For half the week the grandchildren are with their mother, and for half the week they’re with us. The evening involves reading stories, which normally my wife or their father does, and then it’s time for us to collapse in a heap. Sometimes we go out to eat. Our ideal midweek dinner is Italian.
I don’t do reality TV. I’ve never been on Facebook, and don’t want to be. I spend time with my wife. I know it sounds cheesy, but I adore my wife. We’ve been together for 53 years. We’re going to Amsterdam this week, for the first time.
My fantasy practice
If I had an unlimited practice budget, I would...
Modernise some of my existing group of six practices.
The very first change I would make to the optometry profession would be...
A better understanding of the commercial pressures of optics today.
If I could be visited in practice by one influential person from history, it would be...
Mark McCormack, who was a business guru 30 years ago. I’ve read some of his books.
One thing that would improve my practice economics is...
A realistic understanding between commercial pressures and ethical and professional requirements.
If I could close a practice for a week without it having any impact at all, I would spend the week...
Redecorating the practices that need it, and sending the staff away for a few days without me.
My wildest ambition for my practices is...
For them to still be here in 25 years’ time.