When My Eyelab franchise owner Brad Rodman accepted a role as general manager at the third-ever Stanton Optical store located in Modesto, California in 2009, he had no idea just how significantly it would end up changing his life.
Not only did he meet his wife helping her find a pair of glasses but it started a chain of events that has led to him open 10 My Eyelab franchises across multiple markets and make a difference in countless lives.
Brad’s connection to the eye care industry began in the mid-2000s when he worked with Daniel Stanton, CEO and co-founder of Now Optics. Stanton approached Brad about opening the Stanton Optical location, and Brad jumped at the opportunity, uprooting from Florida to move across the country. A year later, Brad began overseeing multiple locations and continued ascending in the ranks.
“The titles changed, and the opportunities grew, going from director of operations to senior field executive,” said Brad. “And that was from store No. 4 to roughly No. 120 in 2017, which is when I made up my mind to become a franchisee.”
Transitioning from the Corporate World to Franchise Ownership
Having helped build the Stanton Optical and My Eyelab brands as a member of the corporate team, Brad wanted to establish an ownership stake as well.
“In my prior role, I was getting on a flight on Monday morning and coming back home on Friday night, and it wasn’t something I wanted to do forever,” Brad added.
Above all, he wanted to build something from the ground up instead of growing and maintaining a business for someone else. From the get-go, Brad had his sight set on multi-unit development – but with a slight caveat.
“The original plan was to open a My Eyelab in the Dallas market and eventually grow to four locations,” he said. “I wanted to ensure my investment aligned with my wife’s career path and that I’d never have to sleep anywhere else but my own bed.”
For better or worse, opportunities developed beyond the scope of the four-unit vision and Brad’s investments rapidly grew. His first My Eyelab location opened in Frisco, TX, in 2018.
“I spent a lot of time in that store, built a really strong team and began seeing significant success,” Brad explained. “Our success delivering an exceptional customer and brand experience led Daniel [Stanton] and Mike Wootton to introduce me to my current partners at the Chunara Group as a subject matter expert.”
The Chunara Group of Companies, a private equity group based out of Atlanta, currently has ownership in over 100 locations across multiple brands, including Dunkin’, Checkers, Church’s Chicken, Popeyes, Take 5 Oil Change, Stoners Pizza, Kale Me Crazy and TGI Fridays.
The partnership brought five new franchise stores to the Oklahoma City market and the four in the Dallas/Fort Worth metro area. The pace of development has been aggressive; the first two of the Oklahoma City franchises opened in January 2021, two more opened in February and the fifth store opened in the latter half of March.
“In my previous roles, I had never opened more than one store per month,” said Brad. “Karim Vastani, one of my partners through the Chunara Group, has been instrumental in making sure it all came together.”
Brad and Karim have complementary skill sets that help ensure they’re focusing on what they enjoy doing and what yields efficiency and positive outcomes. For example, Karim handled the business planning, licensure, human resources documentation, insurance and information technology infrastructure. Meanwhile, Brad’s strong suit is building exceptional teams, including recruitment, hiring and training.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better partner,” Brad added. “I’ve been able to focus solely on bringing on the best people and getting them up to speed on creating great customer experiences.”
The Right People + Strong Processes = Successful Franchise Store
That’s not to say there haven’t been challenges. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Brad has had to adjust his recruitment strategy to be all virtual. Previously, he would visit retailers and identify high-energy people who had strong customer service skills, are articulate and enjoy the retail environment. He would pitch them on the opportunity with My Eyelab and schedule interviews on the spot.
For his recently opened stores, he relied on Indeed.com to post opportunities and used FaceTime or Skype to conduct the interviews – roughly 400 of which occurred in the first couple of months of 2021. During these interactions, he dug into candidates’ motivations and learned about leaders who influenced their lives and got references for other potential candidates. In addition to finding talented employees, Brad is able to use the recruitment process as an indirect marketing tactic.
“Even if the person ends up not being the right fit, I can still generate brand awareness and let them know that our business is coming to the community,” he said. “You have to capitalize on every opportunity.”
Once he’s identified strong candidates, Brad invests significant time in training. One of his most effective tactics is role-playing. Although it may not be everyone’s favorite activity, the repetitive nature of it helps reinforce the right behaviors and prepares team members to create positive experiences for each customer.
The results are all the proof Brad needs of the efficacy of the process. The opening day sales for his first Oklahoma City store shattered the previous record, and the sales figures for the second location broke that record.
Another contributing factor in Brad’s rapid growth is the fact that My Eyelab’s business model is highly scalable.
“There’s the strong unit-level economics, a relatively low initial investment, reasonable operating costs and a market that’s virtually recession-proof,” said Brad.
At the same time, My Eyelab’s telehealth technology makes eye care and buying glasses affordable, giving the brand a competitive advantage. The Now Optics team has also solidified the supply chain, real estate support and advertising strategy on behalf of franchise owners.
What Keeps the Fire Alive?
Having achieved significant personal and professional success, Brad is far from finished. Three primary drivers keep him motivated:
- The people he works for – his family and himself
- The people he works with – his business partners at the Chunara Group
- The people who work for him – the people he works with daily
While he’s dedicated to securing financial security and stability for his family, Brad’s biggest motivation is growing and developing the people around him.
“They count on me for training and motivation,” said Brad. “In turn, I count on them to execute the vision and the plan.”
And despite the growth he’s experienced as a My Eyelab franchisee, the memories that stick out are the customer interactions that occur in the store – the moments when a customer tries on glasses for the first time and can see the world clearly.
“Many people simply never have the chance to get an eye exam because they can’t afford it or don’t know enough about the process,” said Brad. “The look of relief on people’s faces when they find a low-cost alternative to a traditionally very expensive service and product that doesn’t sacrifice quality is simply priceless.”