Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in optometry, but not sure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Sheldon Butler, the founder of Rideau Optometric, a contact lens and eye clinic, in Ottawa, Canada.

Tell us all about your business...

We are a contact lens and eye clinic. We perform eye exams, fit contact lenses and train people how to use them, diagnose and treat eye disease, and provide pre- and post-operative care for laser vision correction patients.

What's your background and motivation to grow as a business owner?

When I was growing up, I knew I wanted to work in the health care field, but wasn't sure in what capacity. I was lucky to be healthy, so the only health care providers I saw routinely were my family doctor, dentist and optometrist. I really liked that ultra-clear feeling I got when I first received a new pair of glasses or contact lenses, and wanted to share that with people.

So I took the necessary classes in undergrad, and applied to optometry school. I graduated in 2004, started working at Rideau Optometric in 2006, and have been the owner since 2007. We now have 3 locations within Ottawa. I love getting to know patients and their visual needs, and providing them with personalized plans to optimize their vision and long-term eye health. That keeps me motivated and excited to go to work every day.

As an entrepreneur, what does success ultimately mean to you?

I think the biggest accomplishment is growing a team, team of people who work well together, and share my passion for helping people and providing them with the type of health care experience that we each want to receive.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being an entrepreneur?

I think one of the biggest challenges is balancing everyone's needs in a changing world. Staff, patients, vendors, landlords, support team, regulatory bodies, and governments have different needs and expectations. That has only become more challenging in the past two years with the pandemic.

Doing that while maintaining a brand identity and a positive outlook has probably been the most challenging. I'm grateful to my support team, both professional and personal, for helping to make that possible.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run or grow a small business today?

1) Have a clear vision for what you want to do in terms of a business. In today's environment you want to be able to differentiate yourselves from similar businesses within your target market, and if you don't have a clear idea from the outset, it will be difficult to compete as a business. You can't be the best at everything.

2) You can't be an expert in every aspect of running your business. Surround yourself with a good team whose strengths complement the areas in which you may struggle. You can't be a lawyer, accountant, general contractor, and expert in your field. You need to be focused on the growth and success of your business directly, not figuring out how to navigate all of the backend aspects of running a business, especially not as the business grows.

3) Whenever possible, try to hire staff who you think will work well together as your business grows. You can't always be present, and interpersonal conflicts between your staff will negatively impact the customer experience, and create a lot of behind-the-scenes HR work for you and/or your management team

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

While maintaining your vision for your business, do your best to create a work culture where you and your team enjoy doing the work that you do. You will be spending many hours each week (directly and indirectly) working on and in your business. Enjoying the work environment can make it much easier to face the professional challenges as they arise.

Where can people find you online?

If you like what you've read here and have your own story as an entrepreneur or business coach that you'd like to share, then email; we'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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