As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Stanton. Daniel is the founder and chief executive officer of Now Optics, a leading eye health provider, roles he has held since the company’s inception in 2006. Stanton leveraged his business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit to develop the company and its retail component through the Stanton Optical and My Eyelab brands. Due to the company’s rapid growth and expansion over the past few years, there are over 170 retail and franchise locations across the country in 25 states under the Stanton Optical and My Eyelab brands. Stanton’s desire is to change the way people buy eyeglasses. He created “Easy Eye Care” ‒ offering customers a vast selection of eyewear and an affordable, accessible, and efficient eyeglass shopping experience ‒ which has resulted in the company being among the nation’s fastest growing, full-service retail optical centers. In 2016, his visionary approach and desire to innovate led to Now Optics’ retail debut of ocular telehealth exams. Since then, Now Optics affiliated network of doctors have administered over 600,000 complete eye exams nationwide.
Thank you so much for joining us Daniel! Can you tell us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Iwas a college student while working in a variety of roles for a national, optical retailer when I observed a broken process in the way people purchased eyeglasses. As a result, I created “Easy Eye Care” ‒ offering customers a vast selection of eyewear and an affordable, accessible, and efficient eyeglass shopping experience at Stanton Optical and My Eyelab retail stores.
Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?
One of the challenges was planning for future business needs with a limited budget and resources. Trying to be forward thinking and proactive yet realizing there were constraints. Also, time management and developing a balanced schedule with time spent on the customer, associates, and simply running the business.
I learned that placing “people first,” was essential in helping to tackle the limited budget and resources. The people we had on the team were committed and loyal in helping to move us forward. Several are employed with us today.
What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?
I believe Now Optics’ success is the result of building a foundation with the right people in the right roles. As new associates joined the team, we not only supported each other but also focused on our customers first.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.
- Grit to persevere: There are extreme highs and lows when starting a business. While you can prepare for them in advance, each one presents its own, unique challenge. Over the past 13 years, the company has experienced periods of right sizing and rapid growth. Both phases were essential for us to reach to the milestones we have been able to achieve today. At times, difficult decisions were made yet they brought us to the place where we are today.
- Ruthlessly prioritize: It’s important to be committed to both the business and your personal life. Each requires priority. During the earlier stages of the business, it required endless amounts of time to build the foundation for its future growth. While it’s still at the top of my list of priorities today, my time spent with family is, too. This ruthless prioritization allows me to dedicate time, accordingly.
- Focused discipline: Remaining focused on key priorities while looking ahead to the future takes discipline. While I’ve always been diligent and hardworking, starting my days at 4:30 a.m. took dedication and effort. I’d read and heard from other leaders the importance of being an early riser, and when I committed to doing it, have reaped the advantages. It not only allows me to exercise, read and meditate, but by doing so, has become a part of my lifestyle.
- Clear and decisive: It’s one thing to be able to make decisions on your own, but being able open to input from other leaders on the team to arrive at some decisions is often required. In this business, there are numerous decisions on a daily basis that I’m required to make. I often ask people to share with me what they’d do differently or why they approached something the way they did. I find that process to be extremely beneficial in arriving at decisions.
- Engaging Communication: Everything involves some form of communication — whether written or verbal. From emails and phone calls or text messages and face-to-face meetings, the day can be consumed with communication. As the CEO, I’m not only leading the organization and making decisions, but my role is to be motivate our associates. They want to see and hear the passion I have about the business and share with them how each one contributes to the team and in making the company successful. I’ve been told I possess a more upbeat and optimistic demeanor which I try to convey to all whom I encounter.
What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Prioritize your time by scheduling personal time. Disconnect once a week by spending time away or as much as possible for at least a few hours. Whether it involves engaging in something outdoors such as participate in a sporting event or activity and changing your surroundings. It’s also important to find something outside of work that you’re as passionate about as your vocation and leverage that same drive to master it.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Glenn, a small business owner who was instrumental in developing my entrepreneurial spirit. He later became a father figure who instilled in me the value of a hard work ethic. Through his mentorship and guidance, I developed confidence in my ability to identify strategic business opportunities. This sparked a passion for entrepreneurship and showed me how rewarding it could be. I was in school at the time and found myself spending all of my free time working for him at his landscaping business. Glenn taught me many of the principles and lessons I adhere to as an entrepreneur including 1) Don’t misunderstand the difference between personal and work relationships as each has its own expectations. 2) Be intentional.
What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?
More opportunities to be on stage in front of large, national audiences as a keynote or panelist about ocular telehealth.
What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?
As an industry disruptor and leader who’s improved the quality of life for many through accessible and affordable eye care globally by leveraging proprietary telehealth technology and related services. Being impactful in my role as a husband, father, and son is equally as important.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
One of the reasons I co-founded Stanton Optical was to change the way consumers buy eyeglasses. I’d want this to be the catalyst for a larger movement effectively redefining the entire eye wear and eye care shopping process.
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