Specsavers has achieved growth year after year. It has never closed a store, has no loans or outside investment. This is nothing to do with luck or timing, insists Mary, but the result of “careful appraisal of everything”.
Specsavers rigorously researches locations and partners, and is closely involved with the running of each store.
“A board member meets with all the opticians in every country every eight weeks…. It’s not all done from behind a desk, we’re very much involved at the sharp end.”
5. Nurture Community Relationships
The Specsavers joint venture structure encourages opticians to build engagement in their own patch.
Doug explains: “Reputation is ever more important with the new media around. Companies should stay close to their customers and be part of their communities.”
He warns the internet has increased customer expectations “Customers are searching for more value – for more for less. They’re more demanding, and more knowledgeable, using the internet to find out things for themselves, and they want better service. So they need to be told why they should spend money with you.”
6. Stick To The Knitting
Mary’s famous phrase is “Stick to the knitting”, which emphasises the importantance of sticking to core activities that mesh with your existing skills and customer base.
Specsavers have kept growth at a steady and manageable rate. A common cause of failure, she says, is “trying to run before walking, trying to get big in a hurry – there’s no need to do that”.
She warns against being too thinly spread, and losing culture and values when expanding into other markets.
“I think entrepreneurs who want to grow a business have to think really hard about whether they want to add on another country, or whether they should be strengthening what they’ve got.”
7. Different Growth Stages Need Different People
Growing a business necessitates some ruthless decisions, and involves difficult conversations.
“We started with generalists, we could all do a bit of everything. Then there comes a stage when you need specialists – a marketing director and so on.
Later when you go out to different countries, you need global experience.
So there are times when you have to say goodbye to someone… The people who start the business with you are not always the people you need as you get bigger.”