The Startup Magazine Dr. Noufal Mais on the Importance of Differentiation when Building a Business

Dr. Noufal Mais is a successful optometrist and entrepreneur who has established multiple eyecare businesses in Western Canada. He is the Founder and CEO of The Eye Centre franchise which operates in four locations, with two more scheduled to open this year. Along with his leadership of The Eye Centre, Dr. Mais operates three branches of Alliance Eye Doctors in Regina and Saskatoon, SK. He is preparing to launch a new remote telehealth initiative, Digital Optometric Services, reaching underserved areas of rural Saskatchewan.

 business differentiation

TSM: What inspired you to start your own eye care business?

Dr. Noufal Mais: My inspiration came from a desire to offer high-quality eyecare solutions that transcend traditional boundaries. While practicing as an optometrist, I noticed gaps in the accessibility of specialized eye care services. I saw a market opportunity to create a practice that not only provided exceptional care but would provide much-needed services in areas that desperately needed them. 

TSM: What advice would you give to new eye doctors aspiring to start their own practice or business in optometry?

Dr. Noufal Mais: I’d say to first understand the importance of differentiation. Figure out what it is that will set you apart – whether it’s a unique specialization, a distinct approach to patient care, or leveraging cutting-edge technology. You have to know your identity in your business, and build your brand around it.

Next, it’s important to build a strong network. Forge relationships with other healthcare professionals, local businesses, and the community. Collaborations and referrals play a significant role in the growth of an eye care business.

And for me, the most important thing has been to embrace new innovations and technology. Incorporating advanced diagnostic tools and treatment methods can set your practice apart. These tools not only improve efficiency but also attract patients who are seeking out that extra edge in services and healthcare.

TSM: What challenges did you face when starting your own practice, and how did you overcome them?

Dr. Noufal Mais: For me, my biggest challenge was patience. I wanted to see success immediately, and I had to accept that it’s a process, that growth takes time. For example, I think I rushed into opening my second branch too quickly, and I should have established my business model more definitively. But I learned from that process, and when I opened my third and fourth branches, I made sure to have the foundation in place. I didn’t get ahead of myself, and my team didn’t allow me to. They made sure we were establishing credibility and building a strong patient base. I focused on delivering exceptional care and actively engaging with the community through screenings and outreach programs. It takes time, but gradually, trust and recognition will grow, as it has for us.

TSM: How important is it for new optometrists to understand the business side of eye care?

Dr. Noufal Mais: It’s paramount. A strong clinical background is essential, but understanding the business aspect is I think equally crucial. From managing finances, marketing strategies, to fostering patient relationships, it’s very important to have firm a grasp of business fundamentals.

TSM: Any final words of wisdom for aspiring optometrist entrepreneurs?

Dr. Noufal Mais: Stay passionate and hungry. Stay curious. The field of optometry is evolving so quickly, so you have to embrace that constant learning process. Stay updated with industry trends, and never compromise on the quality of care you provide. For us, our driving motto has been patient-centric care—putting our patients’ needs at the forefront has always guided us in the right direction.

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