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Meet The Experts – Justin Cook

14 January 2022

Please give an overview of your role within Optegra?

I look after a team of six Service Promotion Executives (SPEs) covering the south of the country to raise awareness of the NHS pathway we offer at Optegra and to develop relationships with key stakeholders.

Working across the Optegra hospitals in North London, Surrey and Hampshire, I have trained the team of SPEs to really know the business inside out, to build and strengthen the relationships with practices in the community and within the LOCs.

Having started at Optegra as an SPE myself, I know the role at first hand and really enjoy building the team, providing guidance and training.

Coaching is in my DNA! I started my career as a sports coach in the States and also as a PE teacher so I have loved developing this team and seeing the results they are achieving.

 

What first attracted you to this industry?

Well it has certainly been a journey from sports to healthcare!

My hopes for teaching PE were dashed – it’s very difficult when 60% of the teenagers in class don’t want to be there! So as there was not really a market in the UK for sports coaching at the time, I moved into retail.

I built up experience across sports apparel, mobile phones and then was approached for an opportunity in the optical world. I have not looked back!

I’ve worked at a top Optical Express store, then almost a decade with Vision Express, at multiple stores then as regional manager.

In 2020 I joined Optegra and have loved this role – it’s back to my DNA, having a blank canvas to evolve the role and now train this fantastic team.

 

What are the most common questions that optometrists ask you?

There is a lot of interest in our NHS pathway – what is on offer, and then how to they utilise it, how exactly do they refer and the benefits for doing so?

It is wonderful to see optometrists’ relief when they hear they can refer patients for treatment within just six weeks – and that the patient will have a pre-op assessment call within 48 hours of Optegra receiving the referral. It is great news both for optical practices, optometrists and of course their patients.

 

What brings you joy in your work with Optegra?

It’s all about building relationships and trust.

To be able to meet an optometrist for the first time who may be hesitant if they did not know Optegra and turn that around so they really trust us to care for their patients, these are relationships I am so proud of.

 

How would you describe the ethos of Optegra?

 Essentially, we care and we want to help. Particularly at the moment in this challenging time when the NHS is struggling, and Omicron is only going to make it worse. Optegra is here to help and fill that gap for NHS cataract patients, to provide an alternative option which can be quicker, closer and more efficient.

 

Challenging moment in your career?

In a previous practice manager role, I was assigned to a store which was really struggling and was given from the summer to the end of year to gain back the deficit or it would close.  When I arrived the team lacked confidence and were not on board at all – but no replacements were made, I could see they did not have any organisation, guidance or coaching.  We turned that around and delivered! Not only did we save the store from closing, it went on to have its best year of business in its 25 year history the following year!

 

Your perfect holiday?

I can only cope with lying on the beach for 20 minutes! So it’s with the family and its exploring the local culture and visiting sites – while a big swimming pool is vital, we get out and about to explore!

I love travelling and spent six months touring the East coast of America – Boston down to Florida Keys, New Orleans, Georgia, Philadelphia, New York – it was fantastic!

 

Any unusual or interesting hobby/holiday you have experienced?

I’m a big kid outside of work and love Lego! Also I love gardening – many say I don’t look like a gardener! And sports – I play a lot of football, go to gym, play badminton and tennis with my son.

 

Favourite recipe you cook?

Well for years my three kids have enjoyed “Daddy’s special order”. It sounds fancy but is basically a sausage casserole with meatballs in it as well. Not the healthiest but it goes down a treat!

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    Justin Cook, Optegra Regional Services Manager – South
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