A day in the life of a business owner

“A clinic day is my favourite day of the week”

Optometrist and owner of Wessex Optical, Zabir Ali, talks OT  through a clinic day that centres patients above all else

Zabir Ali is surrounded by alpacas, outside on his smallholding
Zabir Ali
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Zabir Ali, optometrist and owner of Wessex Optical, talks OT through his day – from feeding the free-range peacocks on his Dorset smallholding, to evening dinners with colleagues and business associates.



Zabir Ali

Occupation:Optometrist and practice owner at Wessex Optical


Business owner since:2012.

I get up between 5:45am and 6:30am. The first thing I do, which is probably not the greatest thing to do, is check my phone, to make sure everything has been ok overnight.

I was always a city boy. When I moved to the south coast it was so different for me, and I fell in love with it. I lived in parts of Bournemouth, which were busy, and then three years ago I moved to East Dorset, which is 10 minutes from my head office and main practice.

I’ve got a small farmstead with a few little animals, including peacocks and alpacas. I make sure they are fed and ready for the day, and that they’ve had a run around. I’ve got quite efficient at doing that. They are quite low maintenance – my peacocks are free range, and they fly in from the trees.


I have a quick breakfast, then go to the gym for an hour. I’ll usually do some weights, some functional training, and then spend 10 minutes in the sauna to relax. Then, I’ll get ready and go to one of my practices.

Zabir Ali recently won an EMEA recognition award at Transitions Academy. Read the article here



If I’m testing, I’ll arrive just before 9am. If it’s a day where I’m doing managerial or leadership tasks, it’s not so critical that I'm there for 9am.
I’ve got an operations team, who look after the store-level teams. I’ll welcome the team and make sure they are okay. They report into their practice managers, but it’s always nice to see the owner. I check in on how their weekends have been, what has been good, and how yesterday ended. I’ll also mention if we have had a good patient review come in.

Before my first patient, I also need to set up my team for the day. I’ve got a financial director and an operations director, and often I find that if I’ve gone in and started testing at 9am that’s it, my day is gone – I’ll be back-to-back with patients. I learned that the hard way.


If I'm in clinic, which I am twice a week, I will usually start with my first patient by 9.30am. From then until lunchtime, I’ll be with patients. I might also be supervising a pre-reg at the same time.

I never turn a patient away. If they come in late, I see them; if they have a problem, I’ll see them at the end of my day. That’s what I expect from my teams as well.


I don’t like to check emails between patients. I want to make sure patients feel like they are the most important person at that time. We are doing quite an important job – we are looking after people’s eyes, and their livelihoods as well. I feel like I’d do them a disservice if I was focused on anything else. I’ve got lots of business interests and lots going on in my world, but when I’m testing, the patient is my work.

My patients always know if we’ve won awards, if I’ve opened another store, or I’m sitting on a panel, and they are always grateful to see me. But I always tell them that a clinic day is my favourite day of the week.

I’ve got lots of business interests and lots going on in my world, but when I’m testing, the patient is my work



At lunchtime, my first task is to get a debrief from my PA, or check my email to see what has gone on.

I love healthy eating, and I think it’s really important. Chicken, fish, veg, and a bit of rice is my go-to lunch. If I’m in a place where there’s a nice independent cafe, I’ll go there. Lymington has one of my favourite vegan places. I’m not vegan, but I sometimes feel like I need a plant-based day. I think we eat far too much meat. It’s also supporting the High Street. I think that’s really important.

I have an hour planned in, but by the time I’ve checked my emails, caught up with anything, and had a bit of a pace up and down the High Street, I get to sit down for 10 or 20 minutes and then I’m back into it with the patients.

The thing I most enjoy watching to unwind is... The Apprentice and Dragon's Den



The first task of the afternoon is checking in with the team again, seeing what’s going on, or if any issues have crept up, and then it’s just setting up for the rest of the afternoon. I will see my last patient at 4.45pm, and finish up by about 5.30pm.


A couple of nights a week, I'll meet people for dinner. It might be a business meeting, or one of my team – it could be another optometrist that I’m taking out for dinner. I do that quite often. I love a good old Wagamama. For me, it’s easy, quick food, that’s decent.


If I’ve been out for dinner, I’ll get home around 9.30pm. I don’t get a lot of time to watch Netflix. For me, that’s a novelty. It is rare for me, but at the moment I’m loving The Apprentice and Dragon's Den. When people are starting out in their careers, they make some funny mistakes. I do enjoy watching that. I might watch an hour, if I do get time. Often, I might catch up with the news by reading The Times on my phone. I like to read about holistic health, too.


I like to be in bed by 10.30pm, and hopefully asleep by 11pm, so I can do it all over again the next day.