Richard Watt – When eye care is more than just a business

Written by Shaun Ryan

Richard Watt has been helping Hervey Bay residents with their vision for more than three decades. Richard moved to the Fraser Coast from New South Wales in 1989 and quickly entrenched himself as the go-to optometrist in the whale watching capital of the world.

“I moved back to Queensland and Hervey Bay looked like a good spot,” Richard said. The relocation wasn’t a random decision. “Hervey Bay was a great opportunity for me to get in and start a business.

I looked at the town’s population statistics, expected growth rate and identified the number of optometrists in Hervey Bay at the time. I realised there was an opportunity for me to cement my place in the profession,” explained Richard.

“The small-town nature of Hervey Bay was another attraction, as it meant I could be part of the community and develop a good reputation and some real patient loyalty. ”A lot has changed since Richard Watt Optometrist opened its doors for the first time – and much of that is centred around technology.

“We’ve always tried to keep up-to-date with the latest technology and have always secured the best equipment that we can afford, to ensure our patients receive the highest quality care. ”

Richard said his business’ longevity was not just based on eye care.

“It’s important for us to be the best in our field, but we also run the business in a way that promotes excellence, honesty and service. ”

“We treat our staff like family and our patients pick up on that. ”

In 2019, Richard celebrated his 30th anniversary and wanted to do something special for the long-standing patients. “We went through our electronic records then searched our oldest paper records to find six people who had been consistent patients from the first six weeks of the business. ”

“On our anniversary day, we gave our six “gold patients” a ‘gold pass’ and they receive a 30 per cent discount whenever they come in for as long as I own the practice,” said Richard.

That ethos of caring for our staff, our patients and our community also extends beyond office hours.
“We love being part of the Hervey Bay community,” said Gwen Watt, Richard’s wife and practice manager.

The business always tries to give back to the community through sponsorships and charity – sporting clubs, church, Rotary and Bayside Transformations, the local drug and alcohol rehabilitation hostel.

One big ongoing community service is free vision screening of Year 1 and 4 students at 12 local schools for the past 12 years.

“Some 25 per cent of Australian children have vision problems and around 2/3 have never had an eye test. It is really rewarding for us when we can help people identify problems and ways to improve their sight – even if they never knew there was something wrong,” said Richard.

“It’s a truly amazing experience to know we helped turn someone’s life around by helping them with their vision,” said Gwen.