Meet the expert: Kathryn Buchanan
PUBLISHED: 08:16 04 September 2015 | UPDATED: 08:16 04 September 2015
The senior optometrist at the UK's best independent optician on cutting-edge techniques, Snodland and life changes.
Tell us a bit about you
I was born in Plymouth and returned there after studying for an optometry degree in Cardiff. I spent every spare university break travelling the world, then worked as an optometrist managing three independent practices in South Devon for 12 years. I met Alisdair at an optical conference 10 years ago in Denmark and finally succumbed to his marriage proposal and moved east to Kent three years ago.
We now live in Snodland and are expecting our first child, so I guess life is about to change a lot. I plan to take a couple of months off before returning to work possibly part time at first. We have just taken on a fabulous new full-time optometrist. Heather has been in the industry for more than 20 years and is very skilled. I know our clients will love her.
AND your TRAINING?
Working in South Devon an hour from the nearest eye hospital meant that I completed extra training and ran glaucoma, diabetic and macula screening on behalf of the hospital in the community, seeing complex cases that would never normally be seen in a high street practice.
I also saw children with complex problems and visited housebound elderly, all of which gave me a great basis for the specialist clinics we now run in Snodland. These include our unique glaucoma clinics, investing in 4D scanning equipment to detect and monitor glaucoma which can help us find the signs of the condition sometimes years before normal eye tests or hospital examinations.
We are one of the few specialist centres in the UK to treat clients suffering from dry eyes, a condition I share, some travelling hundreds of miles to seek our expertise.
When did Buchanan OPTOMETRISTS FIRST START?
Alisdair started Buchanan Optometrists 15 years ago when he took over a 40-year-old practice on the high street in Snodland. It’s the perfect location for easy access, free parking and a wide catchment area. Two years later he moved the practice to the current, much larger location on Malling Road.
Alisdair trained as a dispensing optician and later as an optometrist but his passion has always been the business and technology side of the company. He was driven to open the practice to offer the best-quality lenses and frames.
When I joined the practice it allowed the perfect balance in that I could run and develop the clinical side of things and he could run the business and develop the technology side of the practice. He also lectures on eye and business subjects. We both work on marketing and the website together.
Two years ago we re-invested in so much new equipment we needed to expand to accommodate it all, so decided to do a major refit ourselves over a two-week Christmas break. We’ve now got one of the smartest, most relaxing practices in the UK to do justice to our incredible quality frames.
Is business good?
Business has been fantastic over the last few years, which has enabled us to reinvest in the specialist equipment and beautiful frames which make us so different.
Often people question how or why the UK’s best optician is in Snodland, but for us the location is wonderful. We attract clients from all over the UK, many from London on the high-speed rail link. We have celebrity clients and people who’ve flown from Ireland just for an eye examination.
any business advice?
In business being scared of failure means we’d never have been bold enough to try things no one else has done before and we’d still be photographing people’s eyes using 20-year-old technology.
This year we won best Independent Practice in the UK at the National Optician awards, it’s the Oscars of our industry. We’ve been shortlisted in the top five independent practices in the UK for the last eight years, more than any other practice in the UK. In 2012 we won the Optician award for the Technology practice of the year and in 2013 the Premium lens practice of the year.
Your most prized possession?
Freedom. Living in a civilised country and having a passport that has given me the freedom to travel is something I’m very thankful for. Being self-employed means more ties and responsibilities but at the same time gives you the freedom to do things that employment can make difficult.
I never have to miss a family birthday or say no to an event because the boss won’t let me have the day off! It also gives you the freedom to make decisions and act on your own ideas without restriction. Ultimately being free to do these things is what makes me happy. w