Noosa may be a haven for tourists, but the region presents numerous challenges for local businesses. mivision spoke to Noosa Optical – a young practice in the area that is succeeding in spite of the odds.
Noosa, nestled on the northern edge of the Sunshine coast, is globally renowned for its beautiful beaches, lush rainforests and laid back lifestyle. While it’s a paradise for tourists, local businesses in the area are largely reliant on a seasonal and transient clientele. On top of that, businesses in the region are faced with hurdles on a daily basis – poor access to suppliers and limited training and education just to name a few.
Recently, Noosa along with many other areas of Queensland, faced an unanticipated downturn as a result of devastating flooding.
Despite these challenges, Noosa Optical continues to thrive in the face of a seasonal economy, the recent forces of Mother Nature and intense competition. Since Shane and Catherine Tromp (practice manager and optometrist respectively) purchased the business in 2007, three of the practice’s seven surrounding competitors have closed their doors.
Seeing a smile on a patient’s face that hasn’t enjoyed the benefits of optimal vision for a while, makes everything worth while
A Service Focus
While many surviving optometrists in the local area have turned to price to compete, Noosa Optical has focused on product and service innovation to anticipate its clientele’s ever changing needs.
The Tromps have also focused on quality, service and advanced eye care. “We believe if we create the right mix of service, atmosphere, product and skill, our clients will be less concerned with price,” said Ms. Tromp.
“We recognise that we have a limited population size, most of whom are either retired or unemployed due to our regional location. For this reason we also cater for entry level product, however it is not our primary focus,” said Mr. Tromp.
Being the only practice in the locality to charge full consultation fees has not been to their detriment either. In addition to attracting an above average eyewear spend, it is evidence that price isn’t everything.
Noosa Optical’s success has not come easily. Owning and managing a practice was something neither Mr. or Ms. Tromp had previous experience with. Having both worked as employees (Ms. Tromp worked for an independent optometry practice and Mr. Tromp was a veterinarian) they saw the value in self-employment – flexibility, independence and rewards for their efforts and work ethic. However they knew their limitations.
“We (needed)… management and financial advice, human resource tools and an education system which suited our philosophy,” said Ms. Tromp.
The couple became comprehensive members of Provision Eyecare and sought the group’s professional guidance, motivation and industry insights.
Noosa Optical’s commitment to continuous improvement is entrenched in its day-to-day operations. Every initiative is measured to calculate its payback and learnings are recorded for the future.
Constantly exploring new opportunities to enhance the practice’s marketing programs, services, range and more has meant change has become part of its culture. It’s an approach that has positioned it well to adapt quickly to changes in consumer needs and the external environment – the practice is not blessed with the frequent passing traffic its competitors enjoy.
Instead it has needed to implement strategic marketing initiatives to attract tourists through the doors.
“Repairs are a good measure of how many tourists are in town. Travellers always seem to sit on their glasses!” said Mr. Tromp.
Of course, travellers bring dollars through the doors, but they are not the ‘be all and end all’ of an optical business. Instead, it is relationships with permanent residents that are integral to long-term success.
Those relationships come down to the service provided and the knowledge offered by the team. It is something that both Mr. and Ms. Tromp have focused on since taking over the business.
Initially, they implemented a transition plan and established a new team ethos. As a result, Mr. Tromp says, the team is wholly and solely focused on the patients.
Then they introduced regular education workshops and courses to all team members. This ensures the entire practice remains fully abreast of the latest trends, product knowledge and management techniques.
“Part of our team success is also our communication and transparency across the practice,” said Ms. Tromp. “By discussing challenges, sharing and rewarding results, as well as encouraging each team member to contribute to the goals of the practice, our team remains motivated and passionate.”
In the long term, the Tromps hope to see their young practice develop and continue to improve. “Hopefully one day we will be able to look back and find that we have done something good for the Noosa community,” said Mr. Tromp.
“Seeing a smile on a patient’s face that hasn’t enjoyed the benefits of optimal vision for a while, makes everything worth while,” says Ms. Tromp.
So what’s their advice for those considering owning and running their own independent practice? “You don’t need to have decades of experience, you just need to be smart about the way you operate – be prepared to have patience, to take calculated risks and be ready to challenge yourself on a regular basis,” she said.
“Importantly, don’t overestimate your own abilities. Seek the assistance and guidance of an experienced team of professionals… who know the industry and can guide and motivate you to reach your goals.”
In late 2010, Noosa Optical was recognised with a Provision Business Excellence Award.