“Myopia is our fastest growing sector within the business”
Owner of Enfield’s Hammond Opticians, Deven Lakhani, walks OT through a working day that starts with artisanal coffee and ends with a stir fry and family game time
05 January 2024
Occupation:Owner of Hammond Opticians
Business owner since:2000
6.45amI’ll get to work at about quarter to seven. I’m definitely a morning person. The morning is my absolute critical time, because that’s when I get all my business-orientated work done.
The first hour or so will be me working on marketing projects, or rewriting parts of the website, rather than the day-to-day aspects of the practice. This year we’ve won two awards, so I might work on submissions or something similar. I enjoy a freshly made cup of brewed coffee, and that’s my time. I don't tend to drink tea or coffee later in the day. That early coffee kickstarts my day.
8amFrom 8am to 8.45am I work in the business. That might be referrals from the previous day, catching up on bits and pieces, and preparing for the day’s clinic.
8.45amThe rest of the team will generally arrive between 8.30am and 8.45am, and then we’ll spend 15 or 20 minutes having a huddle to catch up on what the day holds, who we are seeing, and whether there is anything the dispensing or front of house team need to know about.
Like many practice owners, I feel very grateful that I have an excellent team behind me. Our most recent team member has been with us for over seven and a half years. The longest serving member has been with us for about 18 years. We do have longevity. Everyone knows their role, and allowing for the odd day or two, everyone is pumped and ready to go. I do think that little chat in the morning really helps, because it gets us into the day. We know what we’re expecting, and we know where we’re going.
9.30amTypically, appointments will be booked from 9.30am onwards. We are a private practice. We left General Ophthalmic Services (GOS) just over two years ago. It was done reluctantly, to a certain degree. I’d worked within GOS for my whole career, 30 plus years. But it has enabled us to see far fewer appointments than the majority of practices, and spend a lot longer with patients. My appointments will be either 30 minutes or an hour, depending on who I’m seeing. We spend a lot of time with each individual, and we really focus on quality of care, rather than quantity.
1pmLunch is around one o’clock. I don’t spend a lot of time having lunch – probably 20 minutes or half an hour. Much to the frustration of my children, who are teenagers, I have pretty much the same lunch every day: a homemade salad, very healthy and absolutely delicious. They cannot understand why I have the same thing every day. But it gives me energy for the afternoon, and after half an hour I'm ready to go back. I may not see appointments for another half an hour, but I’ll start preparing, filling out paperwork from the morning, and helping out the rest of the team before starting the afternoon clinics.
3pmIf I’m busy, I have no problems keeping going. I love what I do. It’s great to help people. Transferring to being a private practice has meant that, generally speaking, people are opting to come to us. They’re not coming to us because we’re the most local. They’re choosing to come because they’re paying for our services.
3.30pmI start preparing for the following day’s clinic in the afternoon, making sure I know what’s going on who’s booked in. I’ve run this business now for 23 years, and it’s got to the stage where my team knows exactly how I like to work.
4pmWe do a huge amount of work with myopia management, and we tend to reserve the very final appointments of the day for them, because obviously parents want to bring children in after school. I tend not to allow those appointments to be used by anybody else.
Myopia is our fastest growing sector within the business. I developed myopia aged nine or 10, so it's not just a professional thing that I really value and enjoy doing, it’s a very personal thing too. With each of these children, I see in them who I was 40 years ago.
It’s always got to be a three-way conversation. Whether the child is six or 16, I insist that they’re part of the conversation. I say to parents that I will do all the clinical work and look after the children as best as I can, but that they are paying for the treatment and for my services. For the young person I say, ‘these are your tasks. You’ve got to follow my instructions, and listen when mum or dad tell you to stop using your phone.’ Because I really enjoy that aspect of my work, I end the day on a high.
5.15pmI typically finish clinics at 5pm, so I’ll try and leave at about 5.15pm. I try not to be the last person out of the door, although it does happen sometimes, on exceptionally busy days. If the day has gone well, I will have pre-planned the next day so I can start fresh in the morning again. The practice closes at 5.30pm.
To unwind, I read...
Michael Connelly crime novels
6pmAs a family, we listen to a lot of music. We don’t play instruments, but there’s always music on in the background rather than the TV. Like my daughter, I love reading, so often in the evening that’s my escapism; my rest and respite. Our kids are now teenagers, but if they’ve got a day where they don’t have so much homework, we will often play board games. It’s a family thing, and all four of us really like to do that.
Most of our mid-week dinners are really straightforward. Trying to eat healthily, a stir fry is something we’d usually have at least once a week.
I’m a great fan of crime fiction and thrillers, and I have my favourite authors. There’s an author called Michael Connelly. He was a journalist for the LA Times, and has been an author for 25 years. He’s got a few series of books, some of which are now televised. I’m reading one of his new novels right now. That’s my ultimate escapism. If I was only allowed to do one thing to unwind, reading crime fiction is what I would choose to do.
My fantasy practice
Probably make structural rather than technical changes. The practice is almost in the mould that I would like it to be, barring a few minor changes. But, as many are, we are tenants in someone else’s building, which is quite old. We are restricted: there are steps where it’s inconvenient; there is a layout that doesn’t allow us to expand as much as we want. So, if I had an unlimited budget and could do anything, I would make structural changes to make the work area even better. We already have really beautiful sofas, but I would make that an even nicer environment. We offer properly brewed teas and coffees, but I’d expand all of that too, to make it a really homely experience.
If I was going to invent a piece of technology to help me solve one issue in practice, it would be...
An ability to be able to communicate successfully, and not just for work, but for everything. The key adage that I tell my team is that it’s not so much what I’ve said, but it’s what they’ve understood. That’s whether I’m talking to a parent, to a six-year-old, to you, or to my family. If there was a way we could have an inter-communication instrument that would mean that what I wanted to convey was understood by the person listening, that would be amazing.
The very first change that I would make to the optometry profession would be...
I would really like young optometrists and dispensing opticians to be more involved in the independent sector, and in particular to think more about having their own independent practice. One thing that is missing from our practice is a young optometrist, like I was when I was in my 20s. It’s a great opportunity, but when I’ve interviewed and spoken to younger optometrists, there’s a dearth of desire to do that. People seem to want a nine-to-five job, in a multiple setting. Which is fine, but if I could change one thing, I’d really like to somehow incentivise people into independent practice ownership.
If I could be visited in practice by one influential person from history, it would be...
Aristotle, on the basis that he’s basically the forefather of Western philosophy and how we live life. So, I thought that might be quite interesting.
One thing that would improve my practice economics is...
Having another optometrist with me. It would mean that when I take time off, whether planned or unplanned, we would still be running full tilt. At the moment, if I take time off, things do grind down a little bit.
If I could close the practice for a week without having any impact at all, I would spend the week...
Ideally, I would travel around Southeast Asia and then go to New Zealand, but that’s going to take longer than a week. Failing that, I would probably go interrailing again, even if just for a week. I’d choose carefully, but I would definitely go travelling. When I can take time off more easily, that’s what I intend to do.
My wildest ambition for my practice is...
To have a continuing legacy in what we’ve built. The practice dates back to 1932. It was very well known in its day. It had the original Mr. Hammond, succeeded by his son, also Mr. Hammond, and I’m only the third owner in 90 years. The practice has changed, substantially, but we are still well known in the area for clinical and business expertise, and great customer service. I would love that legacy to continue, with a likeminded, younger practitioner, who can drive it for the next 30 years, like I’ve done.