Patrick Devlyn helped take his family’s optical company from 80 stores to more than 1,200. Here are his secrets to success.
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The average family business only lasts 60 years. Most often younger generations aren’t interested, or capable of maintaining the business, let alone growing it exponentially. Patrick Devlyn Jr. is the rare exception. When Devlyn’s third generation took over the operation of his family’s business, it was 350 stores strong. Most other inheritors would have simply cruised along reaping profits and not risking the status quo.
But Devlyn, a member of YPO since 2007, wasn’t satisfied with good enough. He wanted Grupo Devlyn to be the biggest and the best. Thanks to his vision and the teamwork of his generation, the company, which just celebrated its 80th anniversary, now has 1,250 stores throughout Mexico, Latin America and the United States (Guatemala, El Salvador, Southern California, and Texas).
Devlyn has expanded creatively gaining a presence in LASIK clinics, department stores and super centers. Their company now focuses beyond prescription optical services, carrying fashion sunglasses and even hearing aids. Devlyn has a clear philosophy about how one can take something good and turn it into something awe-inspiring. Here are the major takeaways from his family journey.
1. Keep core values alive and relevant.
With thousands of employees, the company requires a consistency. Core values are at the heart of Devlyn’s culture and decision-making. “We usually review our core values every three-to-five years,” noted Devlyn. “What we try to do is to base ourselves on what our founders’ values were and how they expressed and acted on them, and then we try to ‘translate’ them in a way that is more up to date and current with todays speak so that our family and team can readily identify themselves with them and adopt them as a reference for they daily activities and intentions behind those actions.”
2. Value your extended family.
Devlyn knows that he and his blood relations can’t do it all. He makes sure the company provides a comfortable and energizing environment for everyone in the Devlyn extended family, including each and every one of their more than 5,000 employees. “They are the ones that day-to-day help us make the difference with our valued customers,” said Devlyn.
3. Don’t depend on the past.
It would be easy to look backwards and admire what the Devlyn family accomplished. Participation of the Devlyn family in the optical business began in 1936 in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, when Dr. Frank Devlyn and his wife, Nelva Mortensen, started the business. But this new generation is looking forward. Devlyn’s team is constantly looking for new ways to innovate, whether it be executing the strategic alliance with his main competitor (and growing more than 30 percent as a result), implementing SAP & the Omni Channel strategy throughout the organization, or opening the largest optical lab and DC in Latin America.
4. Make it about the customer.
Customer behavior constantly shifts from one generation to the next. An inability to adapt to those needs can quickly make older businesses irrelevant. Devlyn and his company are constantly adjusting so they always deliver top-notch customer service. “We work hard to differentiate our customer service so it stands out in ways that we create consumer preference in each of the specific customer segments we compete in,” he explained. “Certain customer segments respond better to low prices, others to discounts and promos, others to a more exclusive product mix, others to a more value-driven product offering, and others to a more personalized customer experience.”
5. Seek out mutually beneficial business opportunities.
You can only grow so far and fast on your own. Devlyn looked beyond his own capabilities to those who could offer exponential growth. “We started by creating a commercial alliance with Sears Roebuck to manage their optical department in most of the Sears stores in Mexico and now have more than 14 commercial alliances,” noted Devlyn. “Other commercial alliance opportunities that have come about, in different moments, have been opening optical shops in major supermarket chains, as well as low segment department stores, and finally also in the leading luxury department store chain in the country.”
6. Get to know your customers today.
When Devlyn’s company first opened its doors, there was no such thing as social media. Devlyn saw the trend as a way to learn more about to whom he was selling. “By precisely segmenting our target customers, weve been able to engage customers in conversations that are more relevant for each of them, which in turn helps us sensibly increase our average ticket spend as well as the time it takes for our customer to return to our opticals,” he revealed.
7. Give back to your community.
When the community has shown you support for many generations, it becomes important for those generations to support the community. Devlyn explained the family approach. “The Devlyn Foundations’ beginnings truly come from one of our founder’s values, as my grandmother used to say, ‘Always help those who are in need’. Although we have always engaged in socially-responsible activities, finally during the mid-90s we formally created the Devlyn Foundation, which my cousin Jessica leads, and now in a much more professional and sustainable fashion, we hold events to support people in need of glasses and do so independently as well as through alliances with the likes of Optometry Giving Sight, One Sight, Fedex, etc.”