Saturday, 13 August 2022

Let's Get Down to Business: Neil Frost, Frost Borneo

Let's Get Down to Business: Neil Frost, Frost Borneo

NEIL FROST is one of the two partners of Frost Borneo, the opticians in Hart Street in Henley. Born in Yorkshire, his family moved to Tamworth in the West Midlands when Neil was aged eight. He attended Tamworth School prior to taking a degree course in optics and visual science at City University in London. He moved to Henley in 1983 and is the father of Amy, who is 28 and working for the National Trust, and Simon, who is 26 working for Thames Water in Reading. He now lives in Gallowstree Common with his wife Helen and her 12-year-old son Spike. Helen works in a school in Henley. Neil is a sports enthusiast, especially football, running and golf.

Describe your business

We are an independent, friendly and forward-thinking opticians providing contemporary and stylish eyewear to suit everyone. We continually invest in the latest exciting technology to ensure our customers receive the very best in eye care.

How many people does it employ?

There are 12 employees in addition to the two partners.

What did you do before you started this business?

In order to complete my degree course I had to spend a year in an optician’s practice. I sent off several requests, including to an optician in Henley, which at the time was Brian Gegg and he was one of the first to reply. This was in August 1983. A year later, I became a qualified optometrist and continued to be employed in the same premises that we still occupy. We eventually expanded by taking over next door, which was Parkers Estate Agents.

When did you start your business?

I became a partner in the business in 1988. Catalina Borneo joined us in 1991. The practice then became Frost Borneo and Gegg in 1998. In 2003 it became Frost Borneo Opticians. Catalina and I have now been partners for more than 20 years.

What or who influenced you?

As a teenager I was very keen on sport and played lots of football as well as other sports. Because of my eyesight I needed to wear contact lenses. I used to go regularly to the same optician to have them fitted and became quite fascinated by what he did.

Do you have a mentor or role model?

During my pre-registration year it was certainly Brian Gegg

What would you do differently if you could start again?

Actually nothing. I think I went the right route by going from employee to partner.

Do you compare results on a regular basis?

Yes. We keep a scorecard on all our key performance indicators on a very regular basis. Weekly, monthly, quarterly and annually.

How do you market your business/service?

We have an excellent website. We use social media. We do a leaflet drop in Henley every quarter. Ninety per cent of our business comes from recommendations.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

Flexibility. Being in control of the business and where it’s going.

What’s the most challenging aspect?

Juggling all the different aspects of it. However, we have a great team and I’ve learned to delegate more.

Where is your business headed?

We are happy with where it is now but we want to continue to grow and maintain our reputation.

Do you have a five-year plan?

I believe it’s important to have short-term, medium-term and long-term plans.

What would you advise someone starting a business?

Be good at the fundamentals: costs, cashflow, and budgets and know your market.

How organised are you?

Very. My wife would say at home, irritatingly so!

What three qualities are most important to succeed?

Being willing to work hard, knowing your figures and the ability to build a great team.

How do you dress for work each day?

I feel my patients expect me to wear a suit and tie.

What can’t you do/be without every day?

I walk or run with my dog every morning.

Lunch at your desk or going out?

For 25 years I had lunch at my desk but now I generally go to one of Henley’s many coffee shops.

Do you continue to study?

Yes. It’s important to keep up with continual professional development.

What do you read?

I read a lot. At the moment I’m interested in sports psychology and I’m reading books by Matthew Syed. But I also read novels. I get The Times newspaper every day and I read the Henley Standard each week.

How are you planning for retirement?

I’m not planning anything at the moment. I’m enjoying the flexibility with my patients and my business.

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