Moving Forward ProVision Sets Path for FutureProVision has hosted its first national conference in four years, with a three-day event focussed on personal and business development, highlighting the importance of community, and stressing the need to move forward. WRITER Melanie Kell Keynote speaker Julie Cross (left) and Ian Bluntish (below). Photographs by Ben Whimpey, Indimax Productions. With 468 delegates in attendance, including a small number from outside the organisation, ProVision’s 2022 conference in Melbourne, themed Moving Forward, attracted the highest numbers in the company’s 30-year history. As explained by ProVision Chair Ian Bluntish, ProVision was established in 1999, in the context of two fundamental beliefs: 1. Eye care is best delivered in private practice by practitioners who have control of their clinical decisions and direct, continuous contact with the patient. 2. The survival and progress of optometry relies on a strong sector of small, independent practices, which provide a comprehensive range of services including dispensing – and in essence, that practices are self-determined. In line with the company’s charter to support the sustainability of independent optometry in Australia, and in the wake of a challenging few years due to COVID, this conference was heavily focussed on mental, emotional, and physical health, all of which are needed to be “the best we can be”. The idea for ProVision was conceived by the late Professor Brian Layland and implemented by Joe Chakman. The late Micheal Knipe was one of the early directors. His contribution to the company, the profession, and the welfare of people in Australia and overseas, was honoured with the inaugural Micheal Knipe address, delivered by Ian Bluntish. Speaking of these early leaders, Mr Bluntish said, “Things just don’t happen – it needs vision and leadership from those who have the most to gain and the most to lose…” And so, the scene was set for a conference that inspired the independent delegates in the room to be bold, courageous and to constantly ask “why not?”. FIND YOUR SPARKLEThis year’s conference was book-ended by two outstanding keynote speakers – Julie Cross and Dylan Alcott AO 2022 Australian of the Year – who shared the “passion and purpose” they’ve discovered by tackling momentous personal hurdles. Playing with the concept of personal energy, Ms Cross said it’s this that creates “your sparkle” – the uniqueness that inspires your patients to come back to you, new staff to be drawn to your business, and your team to own your vision, even in a difficult employment environment. Ms Cross reminded the audience that our energy is in our control, however it takes emotional discipline and courage to access it, especially when times are challenging. Like physical muscles, practise on your emotional muscles by reframing poor experiences. In doing so, you’ll be stronger for the bigger challenges in life.Describing herself as “lucky me”, Ms Cross spoke of her own life, of her husband who encouraged and supported her business as a speaker, and who died when her two boys were young; of discovering that one of her sons had autism and learning to find the happiness among these immense challenges. There was barely a dry eye in the room. Among her key messages were: “Life gets messy. Do the best you can in that mess… you can frame things up and see things how you want to… challenging situations can point us in a different direction… sometimes it can take the power of a community to get behind you and believe in you – that could be a community like ProVision”. SETTING GOALS An interactive presentation by Keith Abraham had the audience setting personal and professional goals, then preparing a six-step path to help them move from point A to B faster, easier, sooner; and in doing so, become their best self. As Mr Abraham said, the world is made up of four groups: 3% make things happen; 10% expect things to happen; 60% watch things happen; and 27% don’t know what happened. He wanted this audience to be in the 3%. “ You need to have clarity, confidence, certainty, and consistency,” Mr Abraham said. Create momentum by setting a goal, planning for the first hour / day / week / month and acting. Assess progress and adjust. RED FLAGS FOR MENTAL HEALTHLeanne Faulkner, a small business mental health advocate, spoke about red flags for mental health that can be observed in yourself and others. The biggest ones are avoidance and spending minimal quality time with family (you may be there in body but is your mind there or at work?). Other indicators are unclear thinking, inability to make decisions, denial or obsession, changes in behaviour or attitude, and changes in social participation. She challenged delegates to analyse stressors and be brave about making positive change. A lack of power or control can be a major stressor. Allowing people to determine what they’re doing and when, within an agreed schedule, will help maintain mental health. If you own your own business, you may need to consider how you can regain a sense of control – whether that’s through planning your personal life, acquiring more knowledge, drawing on a business coach or adapting processes, for example. Younger people are more comfortable with discussing mental health issues, however it’s up to all generations to bring this discussion to the table. When you identify someone whose behaviour has changed, find somewhere quiet to talk; focus on behaviours and not emotions; allow time to listen and discover what the person is really saying; collaborate on a solution; connect the person to additional resources. Most important is self care – we can only look after others when we look after ourselves. BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT Change was a constant theme at this conference. As MC Nigel Collin remarked, “The world is completely different – it’s changing at a rapid pace – the expectations of Gen Y and Gen Z, advancements in digital technology (and technology in general) mean we all need to rethink how we do things and to be adaptable.” Katrina McCarter, author and marketer, was engaged to discuss the differences between Gen Y and Z. Gen Y (Millennials) 26–41 Years 1. A mobile-first marketing approach is required – they’ll reach for the phone first to solve a problem, so design your website and test it accordingly. They won’t call or email, so install a chat function. 2. Rich, relevant content is vitally important – 63% of Gen Y use a pop-up ad blocker. Produce and upload / link podcasts, ‘how to’ videos, useful tips, blogs, and e-books, then amplify your content via their preferred media channels, including Instagram and YouTube. 3. It’s all about the values over value – 91% of Gen Ys are loyal to businesses that support a cause. Consider meaningful cause marketing initiatives. 4. Experience is more enjoyable than products – online browsing and shopping is a form of entertainment – 40% of Gen Y make a wish list of products they want to buy. 5. Parenting is very serious – 32% of Gen Y parents have taken their child to an optometrist before starting them at kindergarten, representing an important opportunity to educate parents when they’re in the consult room. Gen Z 10–25 Years 1. Gen Zs are hyper connected, and they value speed. They can filter content at a rate we haven’t seen before; they scan rather than read and have short attention spans. Ensure a seamless experience across digital devices with minimal clicks, “snackable” content, and fast service and product delivery. 2. Gen Z is not on Facebook; 68% of their total media time is spent on channels such as Spotify and streaming; they favour platforms with ad blockers and look for curated content – we have 4.1m TikTok users across Australia and BeReal is taking off. Start educating yourself on new platforms now. 3. Gen Z is risk averse. They think carefully before interacting with brands or giving their email address and their social media accounts are generally on private. They seek out third party endorsement, so logos, awards, user generated content and earned media will become important. 4. They want to collaborate with brands – they are used to having a voice on social media and they want to be heard so get them involved – 82% of Gen Z trust user generated content. 5. Purpose is absolutely everything – diversity, inclusion, transparency, and authenticity are all important. Live your purpose and amplify it via marketing materials. Consider your imagery carefully (it needs to be authentic). INCLUSIVITYClosing the conference, Dylan Alcott AO, the only man to complete the Golden Slam in quad tennis singles, winning all four majors and the Paralympics in 2021, addressed the need for inclusivity. Paraplegic from birth, he became sensitive to his disability in his teens when his friends excluded him from activities because they were too shy to talk to him about his needs. “When I started talking about my disability more, it normalised it for everyone else,” he said. Dylan’s disability enabled him to discover his purpose, which is to ensure people with a disability get to enjoy the life they deserve. “The hardest challenge is not the lack of accessibility, it’s the lack of expectation of what people think you can do. Ask questions, put in a bit of effort, listen, and learn from your consumers about what they need, and you’ll change their lives – it’s the right thing to do.” With 4.5 million Australians living with a visible or invisible disability, he said it’s also a good business decision. “ "No-one wants to stand still PROVISION WORKSHOPS AND CELEBRATIONS The ProVision conference also presented a series of workshops on digital marketing, future planning for succession and business growth strategies. Additionally, Mr Collin led a panel discussion with the company’s senior management team on programs and plans underway to support its 450 members, 80 associate members and 33 suppliers. A trade show on the opening evening of the conference resulted in spectacular sales for many ProVision suppliers, five of whom were recognised for their products and service at the Saturday evening conference dinner. They were: Best Product Range: CooperVision; Best Customer Service: Van Staveren Eyewear; Best Quality Products: Rodenstock; Best Product Value: VMD Eyewear; and Best Business Partner: CR Surfacing. The Most Outstanding Supplier Partner overall was Van Staveren Eyewear. As Mr Bluntish said right at the beginning of this energised three-day event, “The future for independent optometry is truly exciting. Noone wants to stand still, owning an independent optometry practice is about moving forward.” The next ProVision conference will take place in Perth, Western Australia, in 2024.
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