John Perkins was 12 years old when his parents, Doug and Mary (now Dame Mary), launched Specsavers from their Guernsey home in 1984.
Even as a boy, Perkins played his part in the family business. He spent his formative years driving up and down the UK looking for potential store locations with his parents and remembers calling to get sales figures from individual stores at the age of 14.
Since returning to the family business after a stint at an accountancy firm, Perkins has built his Specsavers career from the ground up. He notes, “While you can have some views and perceptions about where the business should be going, until you know how to run a store, it’s very difficult to put anything into context.” John rose from store assistant to finance director, and in 2007 he became joint managing director with his father and idol, Doug.
Although its history spans 30 years, in many ways the business is just as it once was. Like Perkins, regardless of the department they end up working in, new Specsavers recruits must first work in stores. “In order to have credibility with a partner, you need to be able to empathize with them and the challenges they face,” says Perkins.
These partners are key to Specsavers’ success, and Perkins pays tribute to the collaborative relationships that can drive business. “Many of the things that we do as a business will have started through a conversation with a partner or seeing something happening within a store.”
What really sets the Specsavers of today apart is its phenomenal organic growth. The business is entering its 30th year with £1.8b in global revenue, and Perkins suggests there’s room for more. Optimistic about the growth potential in the company’s non-UK markets, he is focused on developing employees, whom he refers to as “our people.” The rest, he promises, will take care of itself.
To get the full Specsavers story, visit www.ey.com/exceptional