From an idea to a thriving business in space of a decade
The third in a four-part series on successful entrepreneurs featured in Butterfield Bank’s advertising campaign sees ALEX WRIGHT speak to Dr Royland Samms, the owner of Atlantic Vision Care, whose business has been growing from strength to strength since its inception in 2002.
In the space of less than ten years Atlantic Vision Care has grown from a small Mom and Pop business to the equivalent of one of the top five percent of eye care practices in the US.
But Dr Royland Samms and his wife Shawna-Rica Samms may never have realised their dream if it hadn’t been for the help of Butterfield Bank who provided them with a loan to start the business in 2002.
Starting out life in the Brown and Brangman building in Reid Street in August on that year, five years later they moved in to their current location next door and today have nine full-time and three part-time staff on their books. It also became the first practice to have three optometrists prior to Dr Black returning to the US in May this year.
Dr Samms can often be found carrying out eye tests and examinations, fitting and repairing spectacles, referring patients to optometrists and doing pre-lasik assessments and treatment after surgery, as well as attending to administrative work and setting the company’s overall strategy, while Mrs Samms manages the cash and deposits and orders and checks the inventory.
His connection with the bank goes back to the time when he decided to branch out on his own from Dr Henry Simmons, whose optometry practice he had worked for for four years, and having unsuccessfully tried to obtain financing to get his business up and running for a couple of other banks and approached Butterfield and they more than happy to help.
“Butterfield were very flexible with us,” he said.
“I think they offer a bit more of a personal touch. A number of the bank’s employees are patients here and so there is always that personal contact with them and hopefully they have grown to see the quality and consistency of our work and service and believe in our product and know that we are a reliable client.”
Born in Jamaica, Dr Samms moved with his family to Canada before going to study at Atlantic University College in Massachusetts, where he met his wife in 1987, and then on to the State University of New York to read a BSc degree in Biology.
After a short stint back in Toronto, he started his career in earnest at the Ohio State University’s College of Optometry, graduating with a degree in Optometry, and going on to work for LensCrafters and Wal-Mart and for a retinal surgeon and at an inner city welfare clinic, prior to arriving in Bermuda 13 years ago.
Over the past five years Dr Samms has been focusing on streamlining the business and its processes, in particular keeping on top of the volume of clients and balancing the two parts of the operation the clinical and retail sides.
While the clinical part of the business has been a core, the retail side has experienced some significant and steady growth and the company has been challenged to maintain its high level of customer service with a personal touch.
In order to just keep up with this ever-changing technology world, the business has invested heavily in its equipment and its people, including enhancing its diagnostics for glaucoma and retinal tests and adding Optical Coherence Tomography (the equivalent of an MRI scan of the back of the eye using laser imaging), as well as up-to-date visual field testing for central and peripheral vision, and training its staff. Indeed the laboratory technician was the first Bermudian to become a registered optician, according to Dr Samms.
Despite the recession, Dr Samms said that the business had continued to expand, adding a third optometrist in 2009, but at the same time found that the operation had to become more efficient and resourceful as more people left the Island.
The exodus from Bermuda’s shores really hit home in the summer of this year, when Dr Samms said he saw a drop-off in the number of guest workers and he was asked to forward on people’s records overseas, while he also witnessed an increase in the amount of redundancies or lay-offs which resulted in people losing their benefits and thus ability to pay for treatment.
Dr Samms puts his success down to his faith, hard work and careful and thorough approach and prides himself on maintaining a family spirit within his business.
“Profit motivation can’t be the first thing on the agenda for me that’s not the way to do business,” he said.
“The monetary and financial success is incidental to me it will happen if you treat people the right way, which is what we focus on, taking a slow and steady approach as opposed to trying to get rich quick.”
In the future Dr Samms plans to continue to staying on the cutting edge of technology and constantly improving the delivery of eye and healthcare, and ultimately he would like to own his own building.