SightCare, the business support community for independent practices, was held on 29 and 30 January 2023 after its postponement from it’s original September date which unfortunately fell on the day of the Queen’s funeral. This year’s SightCare conference welcomed 200 delegates and 38 optical supplier exhibitors at the Telford International Centre.

The theme of this year’s conference was ‘The Future is Now’, where guest speakers Kriss Akabusi MBE and Imran Hakim shared their views on how independent optical practices must adapt to survive in a volatile and uncertain business environment.

Keynote speaker Kriss Akabusi MBE talked about how independent optical practice owners can deliver peak performance in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) World. He shared his approach to dealing with the “Hey, it's crazy out there!” feeling in the small business world. Kriss did this with energy and humour reflecting on his own difficult upbringing and how at the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo, he won a gold medal as a member of the 4 x 400 relay team beating the World Champions, USA. Kriss shared his mantra: ‘The past is for reference, not residence’.

Entrepreneur, founder, and CEO of the Hakim Group Imran Hakim was in conversation with SightCare Chair Martin White discussing what the future looks like for the optical high street, the hazards to look out for and what independent optical practices need to do, not just to survive but thrive.

Throughout the two-day programme the conference speakers and workshop presenters helped delegates understand that the independent optical practice is changing, and it will continue to do so regardless of how we feel about it. Although some business owners may still hope to go back to the way things were pre COVID-19, it was made clear that the independent sector is changing fast, and small businesses must learn to adapt accordingly. In other words, the future is now — and here to stay.

Prominent with this message, speaker Sid Madge discussed how organisations don’t change, people do. He encouraged us to recognise that the future really is now, and that we are all going to have to find new ways to deliver even greater value to our patients, customers and staff. Especially with so much online competition, rising prices and the cost of living eating into all our budgets. He said that online is never personal. It’s rarely human and there are still so many advantages to be had for those that offer a more authentic, people-centric, human-focused service. He explored how to make our businesses more human.

John French, SightCare’s Chief Executive, said: “This year’s SightCare conference helped us understand how ultimately all business is about ‘people.’ No business succeeds without them. The better we understand ourselves, each other, and our customers the better we can serve them, sell more, and build trusted business relationships over the long term.”

The new format conference social evening hosted the 2022 SightCare Awards celebrating the Independent Spirit followed by comedian with eyes on optometry Sarah Louise Keegan who entertained delegates and exhibitors with her latest stand-up material.

John French closed the two-day conference saying: “There is no going back. The fundamental changes in ways of working caused by COVID-19 require independent optical practices to change, too. Innovative approaches to agility and inclusion, which helped practice owners and their teams through the crisis, are at the core of resetting practices for long-term resilience.”

Abi Page, Dispensing Optician and owner of Page & Small Opticians, said: “This was my first conference since 2019 and wow, it was so good to be back! The chance to network, learn and share experience with likeminded professionals is truly invaluable and cannot be replicated virtually.”

To find out more about the SightCare conference for Independent Optical Practices please go to