woman outside Specsavers

‘You can choose the career you want’

Nikki Gardiner, is celebrating her 20-year anniversary with Specsavers – from working weekends as an optical assistant, she joined the graduate programme – which let her choose the career she wanted. She’s now busy supporting 23 stores as a regional relationship manager in Northern Ireland and is also a board member of Newtownards Business Hub.

What was your first job?

At 16 I started work in Café Laurent in Bangor at £3.21 an hour. It was a fab job and the craic was mighty. I started working in Specsavers’ Bangor store when I was 17 as a weekend colleague. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that in 2021 I’d be celebrating my 20th year with the company and still loving it.

What qualifications do you have?

A first-class honours degree in social anthropology with politics from Queen’s University. After that I secured a place on the Specsavers graduate programme. I love travelling around and supporting my colleagues at Specsavers’ 23 stores. An office job where I would have to follow the rules is definitely not for me.

What do you attribute your success to?

Mindset is everything. I don’t believe that good things just come to people. You need to have the right attitude and get out there and make it happen. I love setting goals then figuring out a plan to make them happen. Everyone is dealt a different hand in life and sometimes that is out of our control – but how we respond is entirely within our control and that is so powerful.

How would you describe yourself to someone who’d never met you?

I think I’m hilarious – though not sure that’s universally agreed upon. I am definitely young at heart and still think I’m in my 20s. I’m a wife, daughter, sister and definitely not a hugger. I am hard working and not afraid of graft and am obsessed by routine and habit.

Who do you look up to in business?

A few years ago, I heard Michelle Mone speak and I could listen to her all day. So many of her values resonate with me, such as hard graft, dreaming big and overcoming barriers. Also, Karren Brady for her ability to just own a boardroom as a female leader and for her straight talking. Also, you have to hand it to Michael O’Leary for just owning his position in the industry. For me, he is the epitome of guts and confidence.

How do you get the best out of people who work with you or for you?

Being straightforward and honest in a respectful way goes a long way in business. The ability to have a challenging conversation and that all parties feel respected. Giving people your attention is a powerful tool.

What website or App could you not do without?

It’s my ‘Corries on the Farm’ app. Shout out to those guys who make sure I don’t starve just because I don’t enjoy cooking. In business terms I rate Specsavers so highly for their speedy adaptions during the current pandemic. It was the same with Corries on the Farm. Within weeks they had diversified their range and updated the app. They saw an opportunity to develop this side of their business whilst helping people who didn’t want to go out to the shops.

What was the last book you read?

I have just finished the ‘Miracle Morning’ by Hal Elrod and what a read. I usually read for 15 minutes every morning and rotate between about three business or personal development books, but this had me hooked and consumed. 

Tell us something interesting about yourself?

I started a retail and business blog last year at https://retailblog471341731.wordpress.com . It’s small fry, but it really helps me get my thoughts out and if it is of use to even one person then I’m absolutely over the moon.

What’s your greatest passion outside work and family?

Health and wellbeing and all the benefits of taking good care of yourself can bring. It makes me so sad to see people putting themselves last because what use is an empty tank. My real passion in this area is CrossFit. I am equally passionate about our little canine family of a Westie and two rescue greyhounds.

This interview first appeared in the Irish News.

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