It's been a good year for Mike Protopsaltis. Not only has he won optician's Franchisee of the Year Award, but he also won the same award at Dollond & Aitchison's own awards ceremony in March.
'At the awards my attitude was to go and enjoy the evening. I thought the worst case scenario was that we'd be third. The fact that we did win was very nice and a great morale boost for the rest of the team,' he says.
'I would enter the optician Awards again. We all strive for recognition. I don't think anyone would say they don't enjoy the limelight,' he muses.
With over 20 years in the optical business, Protopsaltis has a wide knowledge of all aspects of the optical industry. He trained as a dispenser on a course in Bradford in 1982 and worked his way up through Dollond & Aitchison, known previously as Imperial Optical.
From 1989, he was the manager of D&A practices in Oxford Street, The Strand and Cheapside.
'Oxford Street was good because it was the heyday of the West End and it was great to be running such a busy store,' he says.
Protopsaltis also enjoyed running the practice in The Strand, not only because he 'managed to transform it from an average practice in to a ground-breaking store with a major refit', but because of all the famous people he met there.
Hollywood actor Harrison Ford, actor Richard Harris, the author and politician Jeffery Archer, actress Zoe Wannamaker and former prime minister John Major were among the famous faces to visit the practice.
'We had Harrison Ford in when he was filming Patriot Games - he was a very polite man and very precise. We did about 10 pairs of glasses for him and I saw him wearing some of them in subsequent films, which was very satisfying.
'Occasionally he'd ring from the US too and there was nothing like a member of staff approaching me in front of customers to say Harrison Ford was on the phone.'
Protopsaltis' last position within D&A group operations was as manager for London central and the south east.
'It was interesting to be in charge of 40 stores and to get involved with group personnel, marketing operations, employment law, training, HR matters and even benefits, but eventually I wanted a change.'
Seven years ago Protopsaltis agreed with D&A to purchase a branch for himself and he hasn't looked back. He works alongside a franchise director who visits his practice on a regular basis to share ideas, discuss problems and develop the business.
'D&A enables me to express myself as a business person, dispenser and salesman, but at the same time my good work is as an ambassador for the company to present a consistent image to the customer,' he adds.
Protopsaltis says he enjoys working with the public and strives to exceed customer expectations by listening to them and providing higher customer service levels than they normally receive.
'For example, if a customer cannot make it into the practice we will hand-deliver their order to their home address. Quite often this surprises our customers but it seems quite normal to me,' he says.
Two years ago, Protopsaltis orchestrated and oversaw the remodelling of the whole practice to create a clean and open space.
'We started with an empty shell and I was involved with the design, architects and shopfitters every step of the way. The practice didn't shut, we operated from a unit next door. Two years on people still comment that it looks fairly new because we've looked after it so well.'
Protopsaltis adopts the same dedicated approach to his nine-strong staff base, which he rotates around in different roles to keep everyone fresh, happy and motivated.
'We have some defined roles on a daily basis but they are interchangeable so that people can perform different tasks. Some staff members are more partial to some jobs than others and it is my job to pick the best person for the role.'
After seven years, Protopsaltis is satisfied with his achievements at the branch.
'In Wandsworth I am now seen as an optician who can provide fantastic customer service in dealing with anything from clinical matters to the selection of frames and the advice we can give. We are transparent in what we say and what we do and when people come in they make friends with us.'