Discover the power of innovative technology and the boundless potential for providers in North America, as we delve into a captivating conversation that will leave you inspired. We have on the show one of the most passionate and charismatic leaders in eye care, Pierre Bertrand. With over a decade of experience in the industry, first with Essilor and now as CEO of Neurolens, Pierre is on a mission to make a massive impact on as many patients as possible. In this episode, he shares the secrets to his success, dives into the cutting-edge technology powering Neurolens, and explores the immense opportunities for eye care providers in North America. Don’t miss out on the wisdom of this visionary leader who is revolutionizing the industry and transforming the lives of patients.
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Changing Lives In Eyecare With Pierre Bertrand, CEO Of Neurolens
Thank you so much for taking the time to join me here to learn and to grow. As always, I’m so grateful for you taking the time out of your busy day to join me and my wonderful guests. I’m always trying to bring on amazing guests that are going to help us grow, and this is no exception. I have the amazing, if you don’t know him already, he will realize he is the amazing Pierre Bertrand. He is the CEO of Neurolens, and we are going to dive into Neurolens and how amazing that technology is.
President of Vision Associates, President of Essilor Canada, he’s had well-over a decade of experience in the eyecare industry and two decades in the healthcare industry overall. He is a newly crowned American citizen, so congratulations. Although, I will not forget the fact that you are Canadian at heart. Welcome to the show. I’m so happy to have you here.
Thanks. It’s great to be on.
Thank you. It’s been a long time coming, as we were talking about. The first time we spoke was video chat, and we were talking about how we might put this together, so I’m glad to be here. Maybe right off the top, I will line this up. We are going to be doing a series, and I want to thank you, Pierre, and Neurolens for supporting the show. Not just bringing your own personal talent and insight onto the show but supporting it over a series of three episodes that we are going to do together in the next months.
We will touch on different topics, but I wanted to start with you because one of my favorite topics to discuss is entrepreneurship. I look at you as an entrepreneur and a leader in the industry. I want to get into first who you are and what you do, then we will dive into those other topics as well. Why don’t you give us your version of your introduction?
I’m a humble Canadian, born and raised in Montreal, one of the few French Canadians you will find that can barely skate backwards. I will say it’s Stéphane Arcand, who leads our Canadian operation. He’s world-class hockey player and golfer. I am not one of them.
We take a second to give Stéphane a shout-out, too. I love that guy. I have been able to spend a lot of time with him. He’s been instrumental in helping us put this together. I’m going to have to talk to him about hockey and his career and his skill level.
He’s an extraordinary person. I do think that along the path of my career, I have been so blessed to be surrounded by people who more talented, intelligent, driven, and passionate than I am. Our team in Canada is fantastic, I’d say all 170 of us across Neurolens. I think back now, when I joined Neurolens, there were seventeen of us.
That’s 10X-ing right there.
It’s 10X in a few years. You want to talk about startup life. You read about startups and watch movies about startups. It looks so sexy and fun. It’s all of those things, and it’s the hardest thing you will ever do. It feels like you are building the plane as you are flying it every day, but it’s the most rewarding thing I have ever done. We will get into the Neurolens thing.
For me, it’s always been about making a difference. My purpose has always been, “Can I help as many people as I can?” That’s my philosophy and leadership. That’s my philosophy in life, and that’s how I have approached my career. I spent time at Pfizer. I joined Pfizer because of the life-changing medicines and the commitment to science. What a great career. Out of the blue, one day, I got a call from this small French company that you may have heard of called Essilor.
Are they in eye care?
They have got small products. I still remember the call because they said, “We are this small French company.”
Did they actually use those words?
Even if that was several years ago, that’s not good.
What I loved about the DNA of the Essilor I joined was this scrappy entrepreneurial spirit. I aspire to be able to hold that because if you have got that passionate, fiery, scrappy core at the heart of your company, it doesn’t matter if there are 17, 170, or 70,000 of you like Essilor was a few years ago. Now we are above 100,000 in the company. If you can maintain that, you can achieve anything. Their pitch was, “Our core customer is the independent optometrist. We want to create consumer brands to defend them against the encroachment of online and retail. Our mission is to eradicate poor vision around the world for years.”
I thought, “I want to be a part of that. That is an amazing mission and a great company.” I got to see it firsthand in India and Haiti. What an amazing company and they truly are making great things happen. Along the way, like you and I first got to get introduced, I’m going to Vision Expo East in 2019 in New York City. The week before, I got a LinkedIn note from a guy I’d never heard about called Davis Corley from a company I’d never heard of called Neurolens. He says, “Do you have fifteen minutes?” I said, “Sure.” I’m always up for meeting new people.
That fifteen minutes turned into over an hour. What got me so charged up was this premise that we all knew. The industry, for the past years, had all been focused on digital vision syndrome and digital eyestrain. We knew that 2/3 of people around the world were struggling. You talk about disruption. In the last years, the launch of the iPhone, and the presence of digital technology now in our lives has changed how we use our visual faster than in any other period in the history of man, except for the industrial revolution. What did the industry do? We all tried to figure out how to help people.
I love the industry for it. I spent five years launching blue light products and anti-fatigue lenses. When I met with Neurolens, they said, “We think that the issue is not blue light or digital devices. It’s the uncomfortable posture that we are asking our eyes to sit in because of the way we live our lives now. That misalignment is what needs to be corrected. Not the amount of blue light.” I thought if that’s true, there’s a $100 billion market that needs to transform. I could be a part of helping people not only see better but truly feel better. It took about months to get there, but I finally jumped on board. It’s been such a wild ride.
These are the types of stories I love to hear and the journeys I love to hear. It starts from you could have easily missed that LinkedIn note, ignored it, or you got too busy at Vision Expo because it’s easy to do that, I can tell you from my own experience, or you felt comfortable enough in your position that going to a startup didn’t seem too appealing to you.
There are all these things that could have happened but you made the choices along the way that led you here. It’s cool to hear that. You are welcome to share as little or as much as you are comfortable. Initially, was there a discussion about like, “Why doesn’t Essilor buy Neurolens, and let’s take it from there?” That seemed like the more likely conversation in that setting to me.
One of the questions that comes up often is, as we have grown, we have grown the company almost 10X in four years. There is no faster-growing category, no larger unmet need in this industry than what we are addressing. We have got patents that will allow us to be the ones that can grow this through independent optometry for years to come.
The natural thing is, when is Essilor going to buy you? When is somebody else going to buy you? I believe that this opportunity is so great that it will take somebody focused, doggedly focused, and unwaveringly focused on growing this to achieve its potential. Essilor is a great company. I look at, for example, Transitions. The beauty of Transitions, which arguably is the largest, most successful consumer brand in this industry.
How did they build it? They built it by being agnostic, doggedly focused on what they brought to the consumer, and telling that story in a very single-minded way. We talk about that all the time with customers and with the industry. We raised $67 million. There were 303 deals in 2022, and it was a bit of a rocky market to be raising money in. Little Neurolens was the number three MedTech raise in the entire industry in 2022.
The reason we raised that is for two reasons. From the investor’s perspective, they saw this $15 billion opportunity. They saw what we had been able to do as a small, scrappy, nimble startup. From our perspective, we are confident that we have scratched the surface. We are just getting started, so we want to keep building this for years to come, and we got the fuel to do it.
2022 was a crazy year in all sorts of ways as far as financially speaking, but challenges with getting investments and banks having issues, and so on. I know Neurolens has its fair share of things that they have had to deal with. It’s pretty amazing that you folks have continued to grow at this rate. It’s very exciting. Why don’t we talk to our audience a little bit about what exactly Neurolens is?
Again, I’m going to line this up for you to approach it however you’d like, but talk a little bit about the technology. We don’t have to get too nitty-gritty because we are going to have other guests coming on to tell us a lot more details. Tell us a little bit about the technology. How did it get started? Where are we now? Ultimately, what’s the mission? You have already shared a little bit about that.
I oftentimes say we are a new company addressing an old problem. What I mean about that is asthenopia has been around for over 100 years. Jewelry workers and textile workers 100 years ago had asthenopia. What is that? That’s digital eyestrain before digital devices ever existed. It was because they were working up close all day long, and their visual system couldn’t compensate. They had what? The same symptoms we described digital vision syndrome, headaches, dry tired eyes, and neck pain.
What I love about this is that the name has changed over the years but the issue is not the digital devices. It’s what we ask our eyes to do. It’s become so much more prevalent. It’s no longer a niche. In 2022, the Vision Council did a very large consumer study. They saw that because of the pandemic and the way that our lifestyles changed even more in the last couple of years. Now, 4 out of 5 consumers are dealing with these issues. The need has been around for a long time. We have brought a solution. The solution needed two things. One was how do we measure that misalignment, and we have measured now over one million patients.
Congratulations. That’s incredible.
What a huge milestone.
Do you know what’s crazy about that number? In 2022, at this time, we had measured 400,000 in the history of the company. It took us years to get to 400,000, and we did 600,000 in the next months. That is an exponential curve, so we are going to keep doing this. That’s what’s exciting, but those million patients give us 10,000 data points each.
That’s $10 billion for anybody who’s doing the math.
Correct. Thank you. I love to geek out on this stuff, so I try not to throw too many data points, but we have got more insights on human visual systems, I would argue, than almost anybody else. What we see is most people need 0.6 basins or 0.8 basins, small amounts but almost everybody, 92% of those one million-plus need more near than they do in the distance. What’s been the challenge historically is how do you measure 0.6, 0.4, and 0.2, then how do you dispense the right amount of prism from distance to near?
We have solved both of those things by developing our neural measurement device that in less than 2 minutes, a tech can measure to 100th of a diopter. We have developed Neurolenses that have contoured prism. When I’m at a cocktail party or hanging out with neighbors and they ask me what I do, I tell them that we have invented a therapeutic system that can help in reducing symptoms of digital eyestrain.
When I describe digital eyestrain, every single person, either personally has it or knows somebody that does. That’s the opportunity for independent optometry. That’s Neurolens in a nutshell. It’s simple. I have never in this industry, on a daily basis, had the opportunity to receive unsolicited letters, notes, or texts from patients.
That’s what makes us so great is that we are not selling eyeglasses. We are truly impacting lives. I had one, a few months ago, this elderly couple. They hadn’t left their county in 40 years because the wife got car sick, and they couldn’t go anywhere. We measured her, and one of the symptoms that does well with Neurolens is this motion sickness. The reason for it, if you think about it, is how dynamic you have got to use your visual system and having to adjust to that.
We get nearly 90% relief of that symptom through Neurolens. This is why I love this product because the doctor was sharing how the couple came back, and they hugged the doctor and said, “You can’t realize what we did.” They said, “We took a week-long road trip to Florida, and my wife drove us back. You have given us freedom.” You hear all of the extreme stories but, to me, that’s a life-changing story too. We get those every day, so it’s a blast.
To me, that sounds like one of the more significant stories. You are telling me that’s like a day-in and day-out story. There’s more significance than that. That’s pretty crazy because to me, that’s a story I would tell all my friends and family, but you are getting that daily, essentially.
I will tell you the flip side of it, what keeps me up at night is the thousands or probably millions of patients that go through our practices each and every day, either not mentioning this symptom because they don’t think you can help them, or they do bring it up and you figure it’s something else. That’s what I get excited about. We have got now over 1,000 sites that are dispensing Neurolens.
The doctors and the staff love it because they say, “It’s the first time that we get feedback.” Most of the time, you come in through your annual eye exam, you dispense some glasses, and they leave. If everything’s fine, you never hear from them again, but Neurolens, they come back and they share and they bring friends, so it’s fun. It’s fun to be something different.
Sometimes there are products or services that come out we didn’t realize we needed. This is one of those we did need it. We just didn’t know how to approach it. It’s pretty cool that Neurolens has been able to create this device and provide the measurement. Also, the other challenge is to provide what you need on the other side, you need the lenses to match those measurements, which is not an easy feat. That’s very cool. This a personal question or maybe one that others may be wondering. Is there an age limit or range? Can you do kids with the Neurolens? How old would you say is the youngest?
We have done 6-year-olds all the way up to 80-year-olds. If they are able to focus through our two-minute test, that’s the decision-maker.
All the submarines.
You got it. You have done it at Vision Expo, it’s comfortable. It’s fast. It’s immersive. The good news about the device is that we have an MQI score, so if the measurement quality is not good because the patient is distracted or maybe they are suppressing or 1,000 other reasons, but it will tell you don’t trust our reading. That’s where you can get confidence.
That’s good to know and a powerful story. It’s cool. Again, the fact that those kinds of stories you are hearing daily, you set 1,000 devices, which is an amazing accomplishment but at the same time, not that many. I don’t mean that in a bad way. I mean that you are getting that many positive stories from 1,000 devices. Imagine it’s 10,000 or 100,000. Those numbers are going to grow exponentially, like the number of eyes that you have tested. That’s cool. I’m excited to hear more and more of those.
The colleagues I know who have it speak very highly of it, so it’s going to be a game changer in the industry if it hasn’t become already. In fact, the next question I had for you, and I already touched on this, was about disruption in game-changer-type technologies. Do you consider Neurolens a disruptor, a disruptive technology? What other forms of disruption do you see or have you seen in eyecare coming up?
The concept of disruption is a great one. When you hear disruption, people’s minds go to the negative right away. They think about how digital photography killed the print business and how artificial intelligence is going to eliminate millions of jobs. To me, disruption can be as positive. There’s been so much innovation over the years, across so many industries that are positive, that change lives for the better.
It comes down to not just novelty. In this industry, there’s a lot of new, and we tend to sometimes adopt new because it’s new. I think innovation should always be measured through the lens of how big is the unmet need, how well I believe that me and my staff can present it in a compelling way to the patient, and what we believe the outcomes are going to be. How satisfied are they going to be with the solution that I offer? Those three things are important because if the unmet need isn’t that big, it’s going to be hard to be successful. If you are unable to present the innovation, you are not going to sell a bunch. If the solution’s mediocre, you will sell them once, and they will never come back.
Innovation should always be measured through the lens of how big the unmet need is.
Also, if they won’t refer anyone. I use the analogy of dry eye all the time because that one’s been the biggest leap I have made in my career as a business owner as far as financial investment, time investment has been into the dry eye over the last few years. I use that analogy all the time. I feel like your three points there, the unmet need or how big the need and how well I can present it, and how good the outcomes are, are all very relevant to dry eye.
If I’m going to go spend $100,000 on technology or more for dry eye, why am I doing it if only a couple of people have it? Is this technology going to give the results I wanted to give? Ultimately, I got to be good at talking to the patient about it in the exam room and succinctly, effectively showing them why it’s a good option for them. When you wrap it all up, it’s a lot to think about, but there are some technologies and some disruptions and innovations that are easy in all three of those. It’s an easy thumbs-up in all three categories. That’s a good way to put it, those three points.
That’s where I got excited about Neurolens, and that’s why I joined. That’s why I think the 170 people that get up very early than their days and stay late at night at Neurolens. The reason that we are so passionate and driven by purpose is that we are a home run in all three. You think about 4 out of 5 people are suffering from some level of digital eyestrain.
I look at my two daughters, from the minute they wake up to the moment they go to bed and probably at some points throughout the night if I look at their Instagram, they are on their phone. It is insane. Small personal story but I downloaded Instagram. It’s been a long time, but I have zero posts on Instagram. The only reason I have Instagram is to communicate with my daughters because of that little green Messenger icon that I thought everybody used, they are like, “Dad, nobody uses that. It’s not even on my home screen.”
It’s so true. The younger they get, the more different. I have cousins who are a lot younger than me. I thought Snapchat was to send a quick picture of, “Look where I am or look at the funny thing my kid did.” They are having full-on conversations on Snapchat, and then there’s TikTok, which is a whole different. I can’t even explain to you what happens on that channel. There’s always something new coming up. There’s another one called Lemonade or something like that.
There are all these different things that talk about innovations and disruptions. There are things that we need to learn to use and we have to decide, which one of these platforms makes sense to us. How are we going to use it? What’s the benefit of it? Going back to your 170 team members that are able to get up early and stay up late. It’s probably because they don’t have asthenopia. They are not dealing with asthenopia daily.
Some of the people that have joined us were because they were working in the industry at one of the established companies. They went to one of our sites. They got dispensed Neurolens, and they were like, “This is the real deal.”
I know one of them at least that has that story, and that’s cool. It’s a very compelling story. Cool, honestly. It’s cool to have heard those stories personally. The first person from the person themselves who’s having that change and they are like, “I’m excited to, hopefully, you eventually offer our patients the services.” We don’t yet for anybody who’s wondering but on the list.
I’m not quitting until you join the movement.
It’s there. Trust me. It’s coming. We just got a few other fires to put out and other things to quickly build then we will be ready. You touched on, Pierre, the topic of team building and leadership a couple of times through our conversation already. That’s an important piece that I want to talk about. These days, during some of my presentations that I talk about the importance of developing a good culture. More important now than it ever has been with the Great Resignation and all these other things that we have been dealing with post-COVID. Having a strong culture is so important.
I watch you, honestly, and it’s so cool how much you talk about leadership. You mentioned right off the top that you are a leader but a humble person. It’s incredible to see you are leading a team of 170 people and the crazy growth that you are going through. I can’t even get to my question. What are some of the key qualities that you feel you have or perhaps a strong leader should have to get through some of the challenging times, also get people on board so much that they believe in what you are doing and where you are going?
I have been blessed over the years to have great coaches and great mentors. What it comes down to is a few things. It starts with setting a purpose, a vision that is compelling, and that people align to. We will talk about leadership a lot, and the piece that sometimes they forget about is that’s a two-way street. I can have the most compelling vision and be as passionate as I want. The people on the team need to be as bought into that.
People talk about leadership a lot and the piece that they sometimes forget about is that it’s a two-way street.
One of the pieces about leadership, especially when you are building something like we are doing at Neurolens, you have got to have a rigorous process to identify and invite people into your movement. In every interview and discussion that I have, I always stress why we are here, what we are trying to accomplish, and how hard it’s going to be.
We are outmanned and outgunned, but our mission is so pure. The opportunity is so great. This industry is so passionate about its patience, and the team that we have is so world-class that we can’t but succeed over time. The only question is how big is big? I truly believe that twenty years from now, and maybe even sooner, we are going to be that fourth dimension of vision. We are going to be in every prescription.
Not everybody is going to have a contoured prism, but everybody’s going to have a contoured prism number. I’m excited about that. When I’m sitting at an airport restaurant, it won’t be everybody talking about how bad their astigmatism is. They are going to talk about something else. I’m excited about that. I’m sure you are too. To back to leadership, I do think that there’s this balance of setting a vision. This idea of a general on the hill that’s looking out into the distance and setting a course, but then being able to come down from the hill and get on the front lines with their teams.
To me, the team’s more important than the leader. The other piece about creating a great culture is you have to embrace the reality that, at some point, one person cannot and will not set the culture. The culture starts within every single person on the team, and the organizational culture is the amalgamation of that. We get together every six months as a team, everybody. I don’t care what your title is.
Yes, and we look at our values. Do we believe that our values, A) Are we living them? B) Are they moving us closer to our vision? We have changed our value set over time to make sure that everybody was aligned with them. The other piece is, is our vision still where we are aiming to, and is it still as compelling and pure as we want it to be? That’s not Pierre setting that. That’s every single employee at Neurolens sharing with me what they believe are the most vital things we should be working on, what values drive us, and what vision inspires them. That’s a unique thing, and it’s so powerful.
Does each person on the team have a check-in at some point like to make sure they are still aligned? You have the one big thing at six months but what about in between? Is there anything going on in between?
We run what are called roadmaps. Every person and their boss has a roadmap. It’s a single one-page document. It’s got our vision and values. It’s got our organizational vitals, the most critical things that are occurring in the organization. If you get called upon to work on those, we as an organization agree that everything gets put to the side, and that becomes your priority.
You will have your vitals, and that’s a living document. As I meet with you every week and we sit down, the expectation is as we are talking, if I go, “I have noticed that we are talking about stuff that’s not on your roadmap. Are these still the most important things in terms of your personal contribution? If they aren’t, let’s have a conversation about what we remove.” It’s a great exercise because it keeps us focused on the vital few things that are going to make us succeed. The greatest enemy of great is distraction, and it’s so easy to keep piling on one more thing. This concept of having this living document, this contract between the two of us is a powerful thing.
The greatest enemy of great is distraction.
That’s amazing. That’s a cool idea. I know someone who’s easily distracted and piles too many things on their plate. Personal experience talking here. That’s awesome, Pierre. I could ask you so many more questions on culture and leadership and all of that because that’s such an important topic. Maybe we will have you back on to talk about that only.
I want to move a little closer to wrapping up here the conversation, and before we do, I do this once in a while. I have a little rapid-fire section here. I have 5 or 6 questions I’m going to ask you. You give me a couple of words to a sentence maybe of an answer, then we will move to the next one. Are you all ready? I need you to get fired up here and get the juices playing.
I’m always fired up. Let’s go.
That’s true. Here’s question number one. Why are you always fired up?
I don’t know. I’m just curious. I would put it to that. I’m a curious person.
What impact would you like to leave on the eyecare industry?
People feel better, not just see better.
How do you define success?
Never-ending in that sense?
Never-ending, never satisfied, and that’s personal and professional.
I love it. Habs or Stars? You didn’t see that one?
Sadly, Habs. At least, we have got color pictures of the Stanley Cup, unlike beliefs. It’s been a long time.
You could always hang on to Patrick. It’s fine. He always has those days. Not long ago, that was many years ago. It was more recent than the Canucks.
That’s true but you had those great uniforms in the ‘80s.
We are bringing them back. The skate with the red and yellow, that’s coming back. I’m asking you to give short answers, and then I start giving my tangents here. What’s one thing you do every day to keep yourself on track?
Wake up at 4:30.
Has anyone ever told you that you look like Jean-Claude Van Damme?
I bet you Jean-Claude Van Damme has been told that he looks like Pierre Bertrand.
I got to take that as a no then?
I have gotten a lot, and flattery will get you everywhere.
The next question was, can you do the splits like Jean-Claude Van Damme, but then we won’t go there?
1 or 2 book recommendations that you’d like to share?
One of the great ones is David Goggins. If you have never read a David Goggins book, his latest one is Never Finished. The story of we all live at about 30% of our true potential, and we are only limited by our minds. His personal story is incredible. The other one would be The Dichotomy of Leadership, Jocko Willink.
I have read the other one, Extreme Ownership.
This is one of the things that I love about Jocko Willink, and these two-word answers turn into a sentence. We both have the same problem. Extreme Ownership was the first book he wrote. It’s pretty black and white. It’s a great book. As he was consulting over the next 6 to 12 months, he realized, “It’s not as cut and dry as I thought. There’s a lot of gray.” He wrote The Dichotomy of Leadership because he realized, “It’s unfair. What I have written is not true, and I have got to give some of that gray area and how to lead through that.” I love the candor and the demonstration of ownership in writing that second book.
I will have to read that. That’s something similar in a sense. Not quite to the degree of the Jocko Willink but we were talking before we came online. I was saying how I don’t edit things out so much. I’m good with showing the way it is, and I don’t want people to think that it’s some polished and perfect product because I want people to understand the importance of authenticity and candor like you are saying and the owning that I screw up sometimes. That’s cool for someone at that level to showcase that. Those are the rapid-fire questions for now because otherwise, they are going to turn into longer answers the further we go. I do still have two more questions for you, but before we get into those, could you share with us where could people connect with you or learn more about Neurolens?
Neurolens.com is very simple.
Neurolens.ca for the Canadians out there.
I have got a great team. We are almost everywhere now. If you don’t know your Neurolens rep, you can send me a note and I will connect you to the right person, [email protected]. That’s one of the benefits of being a startup is we don’t need last names.
That’s true. If you were at Essilor, it’d be like PierB123 because there are probably three other Pierre Bs.
That’s the other benefit of living in Texas too, because if I was in Montreal, there would probably be a bunch of Pierres already too. From a social media perspective, I don’t do Facebook. I don’t do Instagram other than to get my daughters to come down for dinner. LinkedIn is probably the best place. One of the beautiful things about LinkedIn is you could send a note to Elon Musk and hear back from him.
If anybody’s ever curious and wants to reach out and they forget my email address, send me a note on LinkedIn. I’m so passionate about the opportunity that we have together as an industry to create value and to change lives. I don’t want anybody to hesitate. I’m never too busy. You asked the question about the secret and I said 4:30 AM. There’s nothing magical about it. It just gives you more hours in your day to make things happen.
Those hours of 4:30 to 8:00 before the rest of the world gets up allow you to get a workout in without disturbing anybody, reading a book, stretching, get mindful, and set your plan for the day. I bring that up to say I don’t have hours. I believe in what we are doing so much that 24/7, reach out. Let’s change lives together.
I love that. 4:30 for you is 2:30 for me, so I’m going to be sleeping at that time but I will catch you a little later in the morning. Pierre, thanks for that. There are two questions that I ask every single guest at the end of the episode, and I want to quickly pose those to you here. Number one is, if we could step in a time machine and go back to a point in your life that was challenging, you are welcome to share the moment if you would like to. More importantly, what advice would you give to Pierre at that time?
I was a junior or senior in high school, and I got into this mind frame of letting cool and my insecurities distract me from my aspirations. By that, I mean my fear of trying hard and failing kept me from achieving academically and athletically what I thought I could. It led me down a bad path. I called this story the Garbage Man story because I do think that my father gave me the speech that set me on the right course.
I remember we had a blowout argument. He looked at me and he said, “For the first sixteen years of your life, I kept telling you about this potential ahead of you. The greatness that you could bring, the way that you could elevate our family to a whole other level. Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I have set standards for you that you just don’t have the capabilities to achieve. Maybe you should roll it up. Be a garbage man. Make good money and have a flexible schedule. You can work out and read. You can do whatever you choose in your free time. You will have a decent life.”
That challenge that you can’t achieve something lit a spark. It truly made me realize that if you reach for greatness and you fall a little short, you are going to be so much further along, and that’s not failure. That’s explosive success for everybody else that’s looking. That’s been the thing that’s driven me all these years. If I could go back, I would say reach for greatness. Achieve the impossible. Nothing extraordinary was ever achieved through ordinary effort. You will only know the limits of your potential if you stretch beyond what you think is possible.
Amazing insight from your dad to know how to reach you. That way is pretty incredible. That’s hard for your parent, and I’m a parent, because I would be scared of my kid being like, “Sure. I will just do that then if that’s what you say,” but he knew how to get to you. That’s cool and the fact that sticks with you all the way. It reminds me of a book if you have read it called Mindset by Carol Dweck.
She talks about the fixed versus growth mindset. It sounds like you are in the fixed and he managed to somehow unlock that for you. It’s been growing since then. That’s awesome. Very cool, great story. Thank you. Last question, everything you have achieved until now, your time with us, everything, the growth at Neurolens, all of that, how much of it would you say is due to luck, and how much is due to hard work?
Can I add a third element because it’s 85% a third element? The people you choose to surround yourself with are 85% of the winning formula. If you surround yourself with people, they tell you, “That’s okay. That’s too hard. It’s all right to take every second Friday off. Twenty percent growth is fine. This industry will never sell a thousand pair of eyeglasses.”
Those types of people, that’s what create a fixed mindset. I have been so lucky in sports to be a mediocre athlete surrounded by people that pushed me and kicked me in the butt. Teammates at work would pick me up, and I would do the same because we all go through peaks and valleys but never allowed each other to be mediocre. That’s luck.
When I joined Pfizer, I was looking at two things. The other one was a startup in telecommunications, a router startup that ended up going bankrupt in the dot-com crash. The only reason I chose Pfizer in the end is I had student loans and I didn’t have the gut to go over there and risk it. That’s luck. I’m so grateful that Pfizer was able to give me all these chances to develop.
Hard work goes back to nothing extraordinary that was ever achieved through ordinary effort. You look at the greats, the Michael Jordan, anybody that’s ever achieved anything. Talent only gets you so far. Once you reach the pinnacle, everybody’s got talent. It’s, what are you willing to sacrifice to achieve the greatness that you seek?
Talent only gets you so far. Everybody’s got talent but it’s what you are willing to sacrifice to achieve the greatness that you seek that makes you extraordinary.
I want to keep listening to you give these amazing insights. This is incredible, Pierre. Thank you so much. That’s a perfect place to end it. Honestly, so much great insight in this whole conversation, whether we are talking about your journey through eyecare, Neurolens, talking about leadership, or all of these kinds of things. It’s been great, and I hope everyone who’s reading or watching maybe go back and read some of the things that Pierre was sharing in there about the team building and whatnot. That’s going to be valuable to all of us. Pierre, any final words of wisdom before we wrap it up?
I think we are at an interesting crossroads in our industry, and there are a lot of reasons why you could be pessimistic. We are at the dawn of the next wave of growth in our industry. Independent optometry has the opportunity to separate, differentiate itself, and create a whole new category for itself. Create value, create gains, and create lifelong patience and that’s why I’m here. That’s what gets me out of bed every morning. That’s why I have got the team that I do because we want to move this industry. We are not selling generic eyewear. We are changing lives. We need you and the rest of the industry to come along with us.
That’s an important message because a lot of what we are doing is becoming commoditized and people are worried. We are worried. My colleagues and my friends and everybody else in the industry are worried where we’re going to end up a decade from now or whatever is. We have opportunities to be specialized and to offer services that are not going to become commoditized. It’s important for us to look at those and bring those in. I 100% agree with you.
Thank you for sharing that. Thank you to everybody who’s been watching and reading, whether you are on YouTube, Spotify, Apple, or wherever you are. If you took any value, there’s so much value. Let me stop there. Take the most valuable thing that you read. Take a screenshot, put it up on Instagram or link it on LinkedIn or send a text message to your friend, and tell them what that valuable thing was so they can read all the amazing things that Pierre shared here. Thank you. Thank you again, Pierre, for being here. I will see you in the next episode.