Every year we attend a two day conference of the top tier independent opticians in the UK and Republic of Ireland. It’s great to rub shoulders with these creative entrepreneurs, learn from them and get to know them. I always look forward to it and I’m excited by the thought of bringing something new back to work on at Bottomleys.
Each year there is the coveted Practice of the Year award presented at the conference. To stand a chance of winning you have to submit a long document showing what you’ve been up to and how you run your business with evidence to show why you’re different and deserve the award.
As if I’d got nothing else to do, I was foolishly persuaded to submit the document and throw my hat in the ring this year. Once I got into it I actually enjoyed it! In doing it I got the chance to look at what we do and why we do it almost through fresh eyes. I finished it and pressed send. I wasn’t so worried… they pick 10 finalists out of all the entries so it was highly unlikely we would go through.
I’d had the experience of evaluating a snap shot of Bottomleys right now and I had benefited from that.
To my surprise I got an email about two weeks later from the organisers of the event thanking me for my submission and that we’d been put through as finalists!
I was amazed and quite proud of us but also equally fearful. Being a finalist meant more work. Not only that, it meant having to give a presentation to the whole crowd at the conference on Saturday night! I instantly rued the day I let someone sway my better judgement. I’ve played in bands for over 30 years. We have done some notable gigs in our time but that’s being up there with your mates, coping with the nerves as a team and in most cases delivering it both barrels (if we do say so ourselves). I am not a solo artist and I am certainly not a public speaker!
I had to have a word with myself and accept the fact that if I had been stupid enough to press send then I had to man up and start writing the presentation. I had never used powerpoint before so that was a new skill to learn. Basically it’s a slideshow – an upgrade from an overhead projector.
I got really stuck into the slide show first before realising I needed to write the speech first…(I have a knack of always learning the hard way). Even though it was a good couple of months off the organisers wanted the whole presentation emailed in less than a week!!! I emailed them my rough draft knowing that I could tweak it before having to deliver it live in a couple of months.
Well, time went by, we got busy, I went windsurfing in Greece and then the day I got back I had to pack and leave for the conference in Liverpool. It was upon us! I picked up Nick and we drove over. There was a good programme of talks and interactive discussions brainstorming lots of ideas that could be useful to us. There was a brilliant keynote speech given by Will Butler- Adams, the CEO of Brompton Bikes. He is a really interesting chap with a valuably weird approach to business that has worked very well for him at Bromptons, and he was sharing some great ideas that would work in any business. It was really good to soak up all the suggestions and learn from the experienced optical entrepreneurs in the top tier of our industry once again. All of a sudden though…it was Saturday evening!
I was sat in my seat giving myself a pep talk about it only being a talk and it would all be fine when they introduced me and called me up. I walked confidently up to the stage (pep talk kicking in). I had the worst dry mouth I’ve ever experienced and the room was spinning. I started out talking about Randolph Bottomley and how he started it all; talked about my dad and then I quickly realised that this slide show was the first draft that I’d submitted and all my notes fitted with the updated version! I had practiced this gig about a hundred times to my cat Tiger and the kitchen clock. I had to just freestyle through most of the slides and chat about how the team work together to deliver a great experience for all our clients. I also talked about trade shows in Paris, Munich and Milan, the Boutique in the Piece Hall and finally took it full circle with a quote from Randolph Bottomley who used to say “always give people a reason to walk through that door” and how it fitted with the ethos of the event. I thanked the audience and went back to my seat as if nothing had happened. It was good to be anonymous again. It was a bit of a shambles but I was feeling relieved that I’d got it over with.
There were some great talks given by the 9 other finalists and I was pretty sure who would take the trophy. The guy who went on before me really worked the room and was very entertaining and he certainly had my vote. The winner is decided by everyone in the room voting. The votes were counted and I sat there ready to applaud Steve for his win.
What happened next was quite extraordinary. I will never forget the feeling of shock and amazement… fully expectingSteve to be summoned but they called my name instead!
The room really was spinning now!
I had to go up and accept the trophy for Practice of the Year 2019.
It was quite a humbling experience but I’m really proud of the team for giving me all the good things to talk about! The trophy sits on the shelf just above the front desk at Halifax for now, but it will move round and do stints at Lindley and the Boutique.
Do come in and be served by an award winning team!