Anne Chong, CEO of Visual-Eyes, comes from a family of engineers. From an early age, technology intertwined with her life. Anne’s parents had not one but two computers, which was a rarity for the 1980s. Her dad even programmed on one of the first computers at the University of Toronto (U of T) and still has the punch cards to prove it.
When she began her own studies at the U of T, Anne focused on both engineering and the environment, entering the engineering science program completing the environmental option. It wasn’t long before Anne met Glenn Chong, the man who would become her husband and business partner who, at the time, was a professional student working on his 4th degree. While Anne graduated with her B.Sc in engineering science, meeting Glenn took her down a different path into owning a technology company.
When Anne first met Glenn, he’d been working on contract programing projects while finishing his degrees. In 1996, just after Windows 95 was released, Glenn's brother Oliver approached him about a possible project. The practice Oliver worked at was running a DOS system but their clinic wanted to upgrade to Windows. This was the opportunity that Glenn was looking for and with the help of Oliver, Glenn approached 10 optometry clinics in British Columbia. In the early days, Glenn would travel to these clinics for major releases. While he was there he would code at night, run through the use cases live with the staff the next morning and then try to grab a cat nap before repeating the process all over again.
After Anne graduated, they partnered to continue to build and grow Visual-Eyes, a practice management system for the eye care industry. Initially Visual-Eyes was for booking and billing but it has since expanded to cover integrations at all levels. The addition of the exam module allowed for eye exam equipment integrations and in more recent years they have gotten rid of needing to fax orders with direct lab integrations. Their solution has grown with the optometry industry and now includes more technology and integration to streamline the optometry experience and make it easier for their clients.
Visual-Eyes now offers an end-to-end practice management suite that covers everything from scheduling to dispensing and examination to task management. It also makes it easier for the optometrists’ clients as they now offer online booking, automated appointment reminders, and recalls.
So how did Visual-Eyes move to Alberta?
Anne and Glenn’s path started in Toronto, but as Visual-Eyes’ client base started in British Columbia, they started looking at where they wanted to launch their headquarters. Finding a fiscally responsible, pro-small business environment was key and Alberta caught their interest. As their business was primarily remote even in the 90s, they made the jump and initially moved to Elnora, a small community just southeast of Red Deer with 360 people. As their business grew and connectivity became more reliant on email and Internet access, Anne and Glenn realized they would need to move to a larger centre. They were drawn to Red Deer, where they have been ever since. Also a factor… hiring developers in Elnora was a bit difficult.
Anne’s approach to growth has been slow and steady with a focus on the best possible experience. Supporting this approach is the fact that Visual-Eyes has maintained customer relationships going back to the earliest days. Having customers stick with a company for 24 years speaks to successful product evolution and a focus on client success. Having employees do the same (with some being there over 15 years) speaks to a great company culture as well.
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