Executive Suite

By
 






Renee A. Brauns

CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER
American Optometric Association
St. Louis, Missouri

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is influential not by her title, but by her dedication and honesty. She is respected by all. Ask any upper echelon of our industry and they will do nothing but speak highly of her accomplishments.”


 
While working in computer software training for a national organization called ExecuTrain, Renee Brauns was approached by a woman after class who inquired about her business and nonprofit experience. Not long after, that woman would become Brauns’ boss at the American Optometric Association who she has now been working with for 14 years.

“The St. Louis office had just gotten PCs and had sent staff for training. My [now] boss came up to me after the class to ask questions and mentioned AOA and asked if I would be interested. It appealed to me,” Brauns said.

Intriuged by the prospect of giving back and her affinity for working with people and providing customer service, Brauns said she stayed with AOA because of the passion its members, board, volunteers, staff and the optical industry at large show for their profession.

As COO since 2010, she oversees the seven groups that make up a majority of the office’s operations, including affiliate relations and membership, clinical resources, communications and marketing, and research and information.

SHE SAYS… “It is a rewarding and evolving industry for someone who enjoys working with passionate individuals and is willing to be active and get involved. It is that passion that drives me to want to succeed and give back even more to the profession.”


Celina Burns

PRESIDENT
Davis Vision
San Antonio, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “After amassing a unique breadth of health care and specialty vision benefits experience and being sought as keynote speaker on emerging health care trends including the importance of vision care as an essential benefit, she is now responsible for leading the overall development and implementation of Davis Vision’s strategic and operating plans.”

 
In health care for 25 years, much of it in leadership, management and marketing with Aetna and Humana, Celina Burns’ responsibilities have spanned start-up to turnaround to general management encompassing hospital contracting, medical cost management, business development, and client management across both medical and the full spectrum of specialty benefits.

She was led to vision not only through needing glasses a couple of years ago but also by her knowledge of emerging industry trends—voluntary health benefits like vision on the rise and the exponential increase in demand for vision benefits in the Baby Boomer and pediatric market segments.

“The optical field clearly is not in business-as-usual mode in an environment where there are numerous technology advancements, and an increasing segment of the population will be making optical services decisions via the web and/or private or public exchanges,” she said.

From her perspective, she sees an increasing role for women. “With the growing demographic women represent in optical as providers of care, as executives, in retail, women will be a dominant force within all optical industry sectors going forward,” she said.


SHE SAYS… “As one of the most precious human senses, vision and maintaining one’s eyesight is one of the most precious gifts we have. All children and adults should have access to comprehensive, affordable eyecare and eyewear services.”


Linda Marie Chous, OD

CHIEF EYE CARE OFFICER
UnitedHealthcare Specialty Benefits
Minneapolis, Minnesota

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “As Chief Eye Care Officer, Dr. Chous brings her provider perspective and clinical expertise to the development of new solutions and services for UnitedHealthcare.”

 
After working in a retail chain in California, Linda Chous, OD moved to Minnesota in 1989 and purchased her first practice in 1990. She opened a second practice, dedicated to pediatrics, in 1991 and in 1993 she closed the first practice to devote all of her efforts to the pediatric practice. As president of the Minnesota Optometric Association in 2009, she focused on helping doctors understand the ins and outs of health care reform and she began her position as Chief Eye Care Officer for UnitedHealthcare in 2009.

At UHC, she provides clinical input for the development of products and policy for vision care benefits, and contributes to marketing by writing communications, articles and whitepapers. Her most recent whitepaper addresses the ability of eyecare to integrate with medical care in the identification and monitoring of those patients with chronic disease. She believes “eyecare is often the initial touchpoint for involvement in a patient’s overall health and wellness. Optometrists have the capability to be the primary care providers and the first point of care.”

Today, she continues to maintain her private pediatric practice while working at UnitedHealthcare and serves on several committees for the American Optometric Association and National Association of Vision Care Plans.

SHE SAYS… “I have the unique opportunity to affect change by working within a system where I can advocate for both patients and providers of eyecare.”




Ann E. Englert

OWNER AND MANAGING PRINCIPAL
Solutions
Naples, Florida

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Ann is president and sole proprietor of Solutions and has served as a director of the Optical Women’s Association executive board for 10 years, with the last two years as president.”

 
As owner and managing principal of Solutions, Ann Englert takes pride in positioning her company as a management resource for short term strategic sales and marketing for optical business. When working with clients, she insists on seeing projects through to ensure the best “solution” is found.

“What I love about my company is that I’m very diversified,” Englert said. “I get in and do what needs to be done. I help people find what they’re looking for, when sometimes, they don’t know what they’re looking for.”

An expert at finding and developing talent, Englert believes her affinity for efficiency and positive outcomes stems from a long line of supportive mentors. “I’m very grateful for the stream of mentors throughout my life. They saw my potential, believed in me and encouraged me to hone the skills to enhance my potential.”

Englert is also president of the OWA, where she exercises her natural passion to encourage the leadership of women. She believes that leading women “will do the work to understand the changing needs of the marketplace,” as well as collaborate and navigate their companies to better serve the industry on both the individual and corporate levels.


SHE SAYS… “I firmly believe that as long as we believe we can, we can accomplish great things, big and small.”


Anna Fuentes


PRESIDENT AND OPTICIAN
Art and Science of Eyewear
Lafayette, California

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Anna is a leader for her staff, a perfectionist in her job and an innovator in the industry. She seeks products that are unique to her clientele and the boutiques of California.”

 
After graduating from San Francisco State, Anna Fuentes went back to school to earn her Masters in Language Studies thinking she would one day become a teacher. “While in graduate school at night, I took a day job as a receptionist with C. Stephen Johnson, an OD in Oakland, Calif.,” she explained. “I soon became the office manager, substituting as the optician as needed and then finally, the optician. At 29, I decided to make this my profession.”

Fuentes opened Art and Science of Eyewear in 1996. “Art and Science of Eyewear is a business motivated by serving others. I wanted to create a practice where heart is a method of operation and the discovery of the possible is motivating and prized. Now 17 years later, I have a loyal client base and a 5-star rating on Yelp,” she said.

Fuentes credits several people with contributions to her success but it was her mother, Eudelia Fuentes, who was her greatest supporter until her death in 2012. “She taught me where inside myself to go for that reserve [of strength] when I need it,” said Fuentes.

SHE SAYS… “Be known for your own brand. Think and act like a business owner and manage your reputation, then you’ll become a walking advertisement of your value to your boss, co-workers and industry associates.”


Annette Hanian, OD

OWNER
Northsight Vision Care Center
Scottsdale, Arizona

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “For the past decade, Dr. Hanian has been a beacon of great leadership for optometry in Arizona, rallying optometrists throughout the state to help protect our patients.”

 
After graduating from the University of Calgary in 1991, Annette Hanian, OD got her degree from the Southern California College of Optometry in 1995. Almost immediately thereafter, she opened Complete Vision Care Center in Scottsdale and today is a sole practitioner in private practice.

As legislative committee chairperson for the Arizona Optometric Association since 2007, Hanian makes it her business to ensure doctors of optometry are allowed to practice up to the full extent of their license, providing education to the Arizona Legislators, other health professions and the public about the importance of good eyecare and the significant role doctors of optometry play in securing the best vision and eye health possible.

Today, she splits her time between her practice and duties at the legislature where she has been instrumental in getting several bills passed which expand the scope of practice for optometrists in Arizona. “The legislators in Arizona have a better understanding of what optometry is and what we do as a profession,” she said. Hanian urges other women in the profession to “join your state and national associations, even if you are part-time in your profession, and participate to the level that you feel comfortable.”


SHE SAYS… When asked what inspires her she replied “The sign on my office wall says ‘Put on your big girl panties & deal with it.’”


Sherianne James

DIRECTOR, NORTH AMERICA MARKETING
Transitions Optical
Pinellas Park, Florida

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She successfully guides the brand positioning and marketing of one of the best-known optical lens brands.”

 
Sherianne James leads her team in developing and executing trade and retail marketing programs, as well as maintaining and developing relationships with Transitions Optical’s business and research partners. She oversees the development and implementation of organizational marketing strategy in the U.S. and Canada. These plans include driving Transitions Optical and partner business growth by promoting brand equity, increasing consumer demand for the family of Transitions lenses and helping ECPs reach new levels of patient satisfaction. She has been active in integrating insights into the development of Transitions Optical’s brand strategy and campaign, and has also led efforts that have enhanced consumer and eyecare professional segment insights.

Like any good marketer, James knows that the underlying appeal of a brand is based as much on emotion as on reason. “I’m inspired to connect people to the world on a deeper level, to be a facilitator of magical moments,” she said. “You can’t develop technology for technology’s sake. I look at that sweet spot between a product’s technical strength and what consumers need and like.”

Prior to joining Transitions, James served as senior marketing director for Russell Hobbs, a marketer and distributor of popular small household appliance brands.

SHE SAYS… “In our field, where there is a gatekeeper between the patient and product, we need to balance the position of the doctor or eye health expert with a healthy dose of patient empathy. Using consumer insights, we can understand what patients want and delight them.”


Sherry Lay

EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT/CHIEF MERCHANDISING OFFICER
Visionworks
San Antonio, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Within senior management, she is a strategic leader responsible for merchandising, brand management, marketing, business development and inventory planning to tactically drive the company forward to be a leader in the industry.”

 
Sherry Lay’s current responsibilities include product development, merchandising, inventory planning and marketing for 600 Visionworks stores as well as strategic partnerships with Davis Vision and Viva International Group. She has held senior level merchandising and marketing roles with multi-channel retail companies including VP, merchandising and marketing at Pearle Vision and GMM/VP, merchandising at Sunglass Hut, as well as similar roles at Ann Taylor and The Body Shop.

She sees current challenges resulting from the changing landscape of health care/optical benefits and their effect on serving the eyewear customer within their wallet size. From her perspective, she’s seen women’s roles expand: “Over the past decade, more women have joined the ranks of optical retail leadership. Women understand the balance between the business side and the nurturing side of optical,” she said. “This industry assists customers to have a better life, optical correction needs are growing, customers want the best value and at the same time feel they can trust optical experts to recommend what is best for their sight.”


SHE SAYS… “Just like the fashion world, one size does not fit all in the optical business. You must understand every different customer and customize for every individual’s eyewear needs.”


Aimée LaFont Leifer

HEAD OF HEALTH DIVISION
Demandforce, an Intuit Company
San Francisco, California

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She is instrumental in assisting the industry in improving patient connectedness. Her effort to understand the business of optometry allows Demandforce to make inroads.”

 
Aimée LaFont Leifer’s name says it all—she was destined for eyecare. “I do come from an eyecare family,” said Leifer, whose father is a practicing optometrist, as was his father. Proving to be a true “lifer”—though the “LaFont” is just coincidence, she said—Leifer worked at an ophthalmology practice in high school, at her father’s practice in college and then went on to study business at the University of Chicago. It was back in San Francisco that she saw a job listing for Demandforce, which bundles the marketing and communications tools that small local businesses need to succeed with customers today.

“They were looking for someone with an MBA from a top business school with marketing and financing experience and an interest in startup technology. It seemed to exactly describe my background,” Leifer said. “The bottom line said ‘optical industry knowledge a plus.’ It seemed too serendipitous not to take the interview.”

Leifer believes her biggest accomplishment at Demandforce has been introducing the company to the medical space, particularly the optometric market. The product, which focuses on increasing local business, has been adopted by over 15 percent of ODs in the U.S. in just two years, the fastest percent growth in one market, Leifer said.

SHE SAYS… “If you don’t love your job, keep looking. When you find something that challenges you in the right ways, it will make you happier, your fellow colleagues happier and your employees happier.”


Erica Perreira

CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER
American Optical Services
Las Vegas, Nevada

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Erica’s shown great expertise in the operational consolidation of optometry/ophthalmology practices and has helped create a unique business model in the industry. Three words to describe her are excellence, spirit and drive.”

 
Erica Perreira began her 20-year career at Essilor with the Logo Paris distribution, then headed to L.e.a.d./Cartier Eyewear where she oversaw the company’s operations and distribution network in North, Central and South America. After Cartier, she became the director of operations for Richemont in New York responsible for the Lancel retail network. In 2006, she helped form Luxury Optical Holdings, where as senior vice president she oversaw all the operations and sales for the company. Then in 2009, she joined Pierre Keyser when he formed American Optical Services. Today, she oversees all of the company’s practice locations, revenue, acquisition integrations, EMR implementation and back office operations.

“Our company is creating and pursuing opportunities to evolve the optical industry through quality of patient care and quick responses to the changes in health care,” she explained. “We have integrated amazing talent that together overcomes obstacles, creates wins and results in success.”

And though her biggest mentors have been men, her biggest inspiration shares her XX chromosomes. “My mentor throughout my career and who has been a great support in my development is Pierre Keyser, CEO of AOS, but my inspiration is my daughter. She gives me the strength and determination to be the best I can be.”


SHE SAYS… “Embrace change. Without it, we cannot grow.”


Shirleen Prescott

CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER
HMI Buying Group/Red Tray Network
Vicksburg, Mississippi

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “She brings a fresh perspective and her ‘A’ game to her job every day as she continually challenges those around her.”

 
After a prior career in accounting, Shirleen Prescott began working for Hayes Marketing Inc. (HMI Buying Group) created by Dr. Jerry Hayes, OD, as an accounts payable clerk. Some 28 years later, Prescott is now serving as COO of HMI Buying Group and Red Tray Network, an alliance of independent ECPs, where she oversees operations for more than 100,000 supplier invoices and 5,000 member statements each month. She attributes her success to hard work and a great staff.

“I worked my way up, and I was very fortunate,” said Prescott. “I have staff that’s been here longer than me, so there was a great infrastructure coming in. What makes a company successful is the employees. I’ve definitely grown with the company. We’ve had great success.”

Part of this success can be attributed to Prescott’s talent for encouraging staff to identify and implement ways to improve billing systems and customer service. Additionally, her extensive knowledge of the industry allows her to serve as an advisor for partner vendors, offering knowledge on a range of topics from software systems to member programs.


SHE SAYS… “What inspires me every day is the challenge of the job. We feel so good about where we’re going, where the business is going, where the industry is going. It’s a great profession.”


Bidisha Rudra

DIRECTOR, BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT
Essilor of America
Dallas, Texas

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “As a researcher and strategist, Rudra has a direct influence on the global executive committee at Essilor with her knowledge and skill in providing key insights, competitive intelligence and strategic recommendations.”

 
Bidisha Rudra, who holds a PhD in applied economics, started her career in the banking sector, working for Citigroup and American Express. She entered the optical industry seven years ago when she joined Essilor. Most recently, Rudra managed the decision science area within the company’s marketing department, providing recommendations to senior management in achieving long term strategic investment goals by quantitative as well as qualitative analyses on competitive strategies, channel optimization, ROI on campaign executions, demographic trends and macroeconomic outlooks.

“This year, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to take up an international assignment within Essilor to work out of our Asia Pacific headquarter in Singapore to develop strategies and implement best practices from the U.S. for new business growth and development in our emerging markets in Asia,” she said. “I fit in with the culture here, and I have a skill set developed in the U.S. market which many people here are eager to learn from,” noted Rudra, who was born in India and educated in America.


SHE SAYS… “Women have inherent qualities that make them successful in business, especially in a field like vision care. We are creative, collaborative and empathetic which are great qualities to have in an industry with a social focus.”


Daniela Zanzuri

CHIEF OPTICAL ILLUSIONIST
Edward Beiner Group
Miami, Florida

CHOSEN BECAUSE… “Daniela built a team necessary to execute our advertising and marketing plan. Under her guidance and direction, the company started a process of re-evaluating and understanding our customer base in 10 different Florida markets.”

 
As the upholder of Edward Beiner’s corporate and public image, Daniela Zanzuri’s goal is to ensure each and every store fits the scene of its location. When asked about her success in doing just that, she attributes certain qualities to her prior experience in the film industry.

“Advertising and public relations can sometimes be a big illusion,” she said. “How do we give it substance? How do we give a certain reality to the illusion we’re trying to create? That’s what I’m good at—breaking the big picture into details.”

Zanzuri’s greatest challenge at Edward Beiner has been catering each location to a different clientele “while at the same time being true to our own DNA and our own image of what we think optical should be,” she said.

She is able to face those challenges with the support of friends, family and the determination to never stop learning—a philosophy derived from her mentors, one of whom was one of the first women in the Directors Guild Association of Florida, and another being her mother who still takes university and Pilates classes at age 93.

SHE SAYS… “Have a smile and conquer people by being kind rather than by losing it.”