America's Finest optical businesses Lynn Valley Optometry

Success comes naturally to purpose-driven practice

BY JULIE FANSELOW

This article originally appeared in the March 2015 edition of INVISION.


Q U I C K   F A C T S

L O C A T I O N: North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
W E B S I T E: lynnvalleyoptometry.com
O W N E R : Dr. Altaz Shajani
F O U N D E D : 1992
O P E N E D    C U R R E N T
L O C A T I O N :
2007
D E S I G N: Interior design by Susan Taubensee; floor plan by Barbara Wright Design A R E A : 3,500 square feet
E M P L O Y E E S : 17
T O P   B R A N D S : Anne & Valentin, Claire Goldsmith, Ørgreen, SALT, Face à Face, Lindberg, Gold & Wood
F A C E B O O K : facebook.com/lynnvalley
optometry

British Columbia is known for its natural beauty and people who are committed to green lifestyles, and that’s definitely the vibe at Lynn Valley Optometry in North Vancouver. Yoga studios and a natural-foods store are steps away — and a 617-acre nature preserve is close, too. Everything evokes the spirit of healthy, holistic living, from many frames made of natural materials to the basket of cloth hand towels in the washroom.

But Dr. Altaz Shajani and his team aren’t simply catering to people heeding the call of the wild. The optometrist has developed a thriving practice that offers a full spectrum of medical eyecare and a wardrobe approach to eyewear. By adding new technology and services to organically grow his business, as well as a second doctor and robust staffing, Shajani now has $2 million in annual sales.

A Vancouver-area native, Shajani knew he wanted to return home after graduating from the New England College of Optometry. He bought Lynn Valley Optometry in 2001, starting with two employees and an office in a medical complex. By 2007, the practice needed more space and had the chance to move to a new mixed-use development: Lynn Valley Village, a two-level open-air retail and services plaza anchored by the Lynn Valley Library.

It was a bold move that worked out well: The business grew by 30 percent between 2007 and 2009. The recession meant a few years of stagnation, but between 2011 and 2014, the practice grew another 60 percent — success that Shajani attributes in part to “wisdom-sharing groups” that give like-minded ODs the chance to talk about their work and think about ways to grow.

For example, having lunch with a colleague inspired him to open a dry-eye center. “Usually, if a person says they have dry eyes, they’re handed a bottle of artificial tears. There’s so much more we can do,” says Shajani, from offering a soothing hot towel during office procedures to the latest technology. Shajani has also developed specialties in children’s vision therapy — he works with about 40 kids each year — as well as Ortho-K and nutraceuticals.

Lynn Valley Optometry supported the 2014 World Sight Day Challenge by donating 100 percent of its exam fees last Oct. 9. North Shore News/Mike Wakefield photo
He’s also invested in diagnostic equipment and solutions that help him serve difficult cases. (One patient with amblyopia told him he hadn’t seen so well with his lazy eye in 40 years.) And while Lynn Valley Optometry used to carry lots of mass-produced frames, it has phased them out in favor of more independent lines. “It was risky since we went from being a middle-of-the road optical to a higher-end one,” he says. “It took us a few years to find a balance.”

Shajani’s business philosophy is rooted in the book Noble Purpose: How to Drive Revenue and Do Work that Makes You Proud by Lisa Earle McLeod. “A few years ago, I spent the day with my leadership team to come up with our noble purpose, which is to improve lives,” he says. “It seems simple, but it’s such an important part of our culture. Now, anytime we’re deciding whether to recommend a certain product or service to a client — even though it might be a more difficult conversation due to cost or time — we’re more inclined to recommend what is best for them.”

The practice is also introducing concepts from The Great Game of Business, based on Jack Stack’s best-selling book. “Every business could benefit from this type of management in which everyone has a voice in how the company is run and a stake in the financial outcome,” says Shajani. Lynn Valley Optometry now stages mini-games with monthly goals for each department and rewards like manicures and movie tickets. “When there’s a game and we’re keeping score, it’s always more fun and people try harder,” he says.

Vancouver is home to eyewear e-commerce giants Coastal.com and ClearlyContacts, but Shajani doesn’t see them as threats, since bargain hunters are not Lynn Valley Optometry’s demographic. The practice is building its own e-commerce presence and plans to have its entire inventory of about 1,000 frames online later this spring, both for buying and browsing. A more mobile-friendly website is in the works, too.

Still, Lynn Valley Optometry strives to be a place that people will want to visit in person, even if they start their eyewear shopping online. From fresh flowers to the tasty snacks both in the reception area and the exam room, from music and comfy leather seating to the essential oils used throughout the practice, everything is pleasing to the senses. “We’re creating an eye experience people will remember and talk about with their friends,” Shajani says.

Lynn Valley Optometry


Five Cool Things About Lynn Valley Optometry

As part of Lynn Valley Optometry's kid-friendly environment, Dr. Shajani will do magic tricks.
1. LIKE MAGIC: Lynn Valley Optometry is kid-friendly. A dedicated playroom has an Xbox for older kids and toys for younger kids. Dr. Shajani greets youngsters with a simple magic trick to settle them down for their exam, and every child receives a free pair of sunglasses with full UV protection.

2. MAIN EVENT: The practice holds an annual customer appreciation day in June, offering $100 off each pair of complete single-vision pairs and $150 off progressives. The single-day event brought in $50,000 last year. Lynn Valley Optometry also draws foot traffic from plaza events including a summer concert series.

3. SOCIAL CAPITAL: The practice has more than 1,200 Facebook likes and a string of “Favourite Optical Store” awards from the local North Shore News. Customers take a one-question iPad survey as they leave, asking whether — on a scale of 1 to 10 — they’d recommend the practice to a friend. The survey yields a Net Promoter Score that’s routinely in the mid-80s. Online reviews are strong, too.

4. Love your team: Shajani believes in motivating his staff in lots of ways — even something as small as jotting a note of encouragement on the back of their paychecks. For a special surprise one day last holiday season, “we closed at 3 p.m. and went to the mall,” Shajani says. “I gave everyone $150 and said they had to spend it on themselves.”

5. TELL THE STORIES: New looks in the dispensary include more frames displayed on shelving instead of frame boards. Customers can use iPads to explore the stories of top frame lines (at left), and a department store-style sunglass shop-in-shop is coming this year, too.


George Costanza,

F I N E   S T O R Y

Inspiration can come in funny ways. Remember the Seinfeld episode (“The Opposite”) where George Costanza flips his routine by ordering chicken salad on rye instead of tuna on toast — and he suddenly gets the girl and a job with the New York Yankees? Dr. Shajani says this classic show helps him remember to be different and take risks.



N E V E R   G I V E   U P

Optician Michelle Klassen recently made a first-time eyewear sale to a longtime patient who had always walked out with her prescription — and who, that very day in the exam chair, said she’d do so again. “She said, ‘It’s too expensive. It’s just a piece of plastic,’” Klassen recalls. But the optician successfully used visuals — including a presentation on free-form technology via the Echo app from Eyemaginations — and even her own eyewear in a similar prescription to make a case that the patient would get her best-ever glasses by buying from the practice. A 60-day satisfaction guarantee plus two-year warranties on most premium frames and lenses help make the sale, too. “People aren’t stuck with their glasses,” Klassen adds. “They know that upfront.”


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