When Opportunity Knocks…

When Opportunity Knocks… July 19, 2022

I remember it well. It was way back in 1977 when my first employer, the optometrist owner of an eyewear distribution firm, received a telephone message. “My name is Tom Schinkel. I’m an international business consultant and I represent a Swedish frame manufacturer. My client is seeking a US distributor.” That was it. Not even a call back number.

My boss shared the message with me, and I immediately started leafing through Frames Catalog to see if I could figure out who this guy represented. Within 30 minutes of the receipt of that message, I was on the phone calling the company and asking for Tom, who just happened to be in the office. To make a long story short, our firm went on to become the exclusive US representative of Skaga Sweden, a respected frame line to this day. More important, Tom and I have enjoyed a 45-year relationship. He became my partner in the founding of Co-Optics of America, the first national optometry buying group. And, to this day, he’s a mentor and advisor to me.

Roll the calendar forward to 2002. I was living in San Diego at the time and read an article about a guy who was organizing peer groups of business leaders. Cleinman Performance Network was in its infancy at the time and my quick read of the article indicated that I might be able to learn something from this guy?

I reached out to him with a phone call. “I think we have something in common,” I said. “Let’s have lunch.”

Well, that individual turned out to be a recovering attorney, the former VP of Development for Jenny Craig weight loss centers, and the owner of a franchise that developed peer groups. As it turned out, he lived close to me in San Diego, and we broke bread on several occasions. Gary Hawk went on to serve Cleinman Performance Network for over 15 years as a facilitator. We’ve enjoyed a two-decade long friendship and business relationship.

And just this morning I read an article about an innovative technology coming into our industry. Under development for almost a decade, the technology promises to open the doors for a new product that may well be a game-changer for optometrists. As I read this article, my “opportunity bell” went off as it has so many times over the past 50 years. I directed one of my team to contact the firm to see if we can bring them in as a keynoter for our upcoming Cleinman Performance Network meeting in Nashville in November.

What’s my point? One of my fundamental beliefs is that their exists opportunity around every corner…if you’re eyes and ears are open to it. Said Winston Churchill, “a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Ours is a rapidly changing world, one in which the business of optometry is becoming ever more challenging…and rewarding. While we’re immersed in inflation, employment challenges, vision plan dominance, supply interruptions and competition from all directions, the industry is also full of opportunity…if you’re open to it.

So, don’t ever hesitate to pursue an idea…to explore…to turn over rocks…to ask questions…and to make a phone call. While one can’t execute on every opportunity, the walk of 1000 miles begins with a single step and, at worse, the process of elimination is a learning experience in and of itself.

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