Ramin Bayani (centre) with practice staff Theresa (L) and Kristina
Michael Jones and Ramin Bayani live 600 kilometres apart and have never met but Mr Bayani’s practice is reaping the benefits of email and phone advice from his colleague. The two are in the first group of mentors and mentees to be matched in Optometrist Association’s national mentoring program.
Mentee Ramin Bayani said Mr Jones had provided support, boosted his confidence that he could thrive in independent practice, and inspired him to move premises.
Mr Jones, the mentor, wants to contribute to the profession after experiencing great mentoring himself. He describes mentoring as ‘an immensely satisfying experience which renews your enthusiasm for the profession.’
Mr Jones is a partner in a private practice in Coffs Harbour, and a member of the association’s national board and the New South Wales Division board. Much of his day involves orthokeratology and speciality contact lens fitting.
‘I became involved in the program because I have been lucky enough to have some fantastic mentors along my career path,’ he said. ‘I realised how fortunate I was to receive this as optometry can be a bit isolating, especially when you are practising on your own. When [association national policy manger] Skye Cappuccio sent an email about the program, I thought it would be a great idea to be a part of it.
‘I felt my exposure to previous mentors and experience through different career options meant I would be able to help guide someone, whether that was with business advice, or helping them get started with ortho-K or fitting speciality contact lenses.
‘To me, the benefit has been the satisfaction of meeting someone and instilling the confidence in them that they can indeed succeed and thrive in private practice.
‘Ramin will hopefully say the same. When we first started exchanging emails, it was in regards to a keratoconic patient and also starting ortho-K, but when we delved deeper, we found some pretty interesting things from a holistic business point of view that we needed to tackle first.
‘We started corresponding pretty frequently via email and then by phone. We haven’t met in person yet but hopefully we can catch up for a beer at an ortho-K conference later this year.’
Mr Jones, who said it was not a great commitment time-wise, now feels he has a vested interest in making sure Mr Bayani’s practice thrives.
‘I don’t think you need any special skills to be a mentor. I think if you have some special skills that someone else could benefit from, then it may be more attractive but passing on experience is just as valuable,’ he said.
Mr Jones said he was lucky enough to have three great mentors in his earlier career.
‘When I first graduated, Peter Dixon in Adelaide took me under his wing and really taught me more in that first year than I had learned in all of university,’ Mr Jones said.
‘Then Jim Kokkinakis, with whom I was lucky enough to work in the mid-1990s, taught me so much about contact lenses and really lit a fire in me and inspired me to run my own business. He was never afraid of failure.
‘Finally, Greg Russell, with whom I became a partner in 2001, helped me through all the nitty-gritty of practice ownership.’
Ramin Bayani graduated in 1996 and has had his own independent practice in a major shopping centre in Warrawong, a suburb of Wollongong, NSW, since 1998.
‘I became involved in the program because I felt I needed a bit of support as an independent optometrist,’ he said. ‘The benefits have been that just talking to Michael has boosted my confidence that in the current market not only can you survive as an independent practitioner, but thrive.
‘The mentoring started at the right time for me, because before we got into any clinical stuff, I needed advice on a major business issue. My lease with the shopping centre was coming up for renewal and as a contingency plan, I had alternative premises out on the street.
‘However, I was quite nervous about leaving my current location, and it was Michael who gave me the courage and the vision to make the big move. It was difficult to make that decision but thanks to Michael who crystallised it for me, now that I have made that decision I am very excited about it and have no doubt that it will work.
‘I think Michael made a similar move a few years ago so even though we were initially paired up for clinical reasons, this has taken the centre stage of our relationship for now, and I am sure the clinical stuff will come later. Michael also encouraged me to join ProVision, which I have and that has been a great experience.
‘I foresee a long-term relationship because I think there is still a lot more that I could learn from Michael as long as he is happy to do it and I don’t pester him too much.’
For information or to participate in the mentor program, email firstname.lastname@example.org.