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Frank Devlyn, owner of Devlyn Optics, dies

May 28, 2020


Frank Devlyn, owner of the Mexican company Ópticas Devlyn, died this Wednesday at the age of 79. The causes of death are not yet known.

Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard regretted the businessman’s death via his Twitter account:

Frank Devlyn, owner of Devlyn Optics, diesFrank Devlyn, owner of Devlyn Optics, dies

Image: Twitter

We leave you the full interview we did in 2017 with this patriarch who turned this Mexican look into an empire.

His office in the Mexican district of Polanco enters dressed and elegant executives. Everyone greets him with a kiss on the cheek and even a hug. It looks like a scene The Godfatherby Francis Ford Coppola. Frank, 77, with blonde hair, is almost two meters tall, wearing a suit and thick glasses. He is the patriarch of the family Devlyn. Those who greet him warmly are the managers of the company – who are also his nephews – and his daughter Melanie, who inherited the realm of optics and lenses, which saw its beginnings in his grandparents’ business, which consists of only five people optically.

At the age when many children prefer to play on the street, Frank already put together spectacle frames. At the age of 17 he made an alliance with Sears Roebuck to bring his glasses to Guadalajara, Tampico and Monterrey. It was there in the late 1950s when the Devlyn Group took off that today Chain of lenses and optics The largest in Latin America, with more than 1,200 offices in Mexico, the United States, Guatemala and El Salvador, serves 200,000 customers per month and employs more than 5,000 people, 12 of whom are family members.

His father died when Frank was barely over 20 years old and had to take over the company. While Don Corleone’s empire was based on fraud and fear, Devlyns was based on love, adaptation and overcoming many crises.

“I am a person who has faced all the changes in Mexico: first, when absolutely nothing could be bought, and later on the opening that globalization brought with it. I knew how I could change over time, ”says the businessman.

Thanks to this ability and constant innovation, Frank has managed to keep a company with 81 years of history fresh so that it remains in the taste of a constantly changing market. And it is, although it is a leader in its field today Startups With innovative business proposals and affordable pricing, they are forcing this giant to change its strategy and strengthen itself, now under the command of the third generation of the family who are responsible for it Melanie Devlyn, Daughter of the patriarch.

There is still a lot of turmoil for the 77-year-old entrepreneur and his family, but the duo have no doubt that they will be strengthened by constant change and will emerge victorious.

Look in the living room of the house

From an early age, Frank learned that success not only results from a dream, but also from hard work. Her parents, Frank Sr. and Melva, began to consult and display their goods in the living room of their home in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. She even crossed the border in El Paso to bring boxes of candy, which she then sold door to door to the children in the neighborhood.

Frank has always been lucky. One day while visiting Mexico City looking for business opportunities, he was contacted by representatives of American Optical, the country’s largest frame factory at the time. They offered to buy the factory, but he didn’t have enough money, so he asked for a loan and negotiated with the company to become the country’s largest optician in the historic center.

Since then, he and his brothers Jesse and Patrick have led their company to unparalleled growth thanks to their ability to move at the pace that marked life for them.

“The business world is like that. You need to know how to change and adapt to the circumstances. We are ready to face what is coming, “says the patriarch. For this reason, his personal motto is” Innovation and change with time “.

The company is challenged more than ever to stay up to date. Business models by entrepreneurs like Ben Frank and Grupo ICH who offer lenses at cheaper prices and who can take the helm if necessary could prevent you from doing so. Part of the market.

“Do you already have your green card?”

The Godfather de Coppola is a man who does not offer favors, let alone offers. However, when you meet Frank Devlyn, you can’t escape two things: hearing a strange anecdote in his deep voice and receiving what he calls a Green card, a handkerchief for cleaning glasses with company logo.

The good-natured patriarch, who received the EY Mexico of the Year award in 2016 and represented the country at the EY World Of The Year 2017 in Monaco, Italy, is a great success promoting the name of the company. It’s not for less: every year, Devlyn Optics It opens between 40 and 60 branches and has warehouses for the sale of optical products – such as Vallejo in CDMX of 8,000 m2nd-, six surgical centers and a chain of laboratories for carving and chamfering lenses. It also merged in 2014 with Ópticas del AH, owned by Linzor Capital Partners, which now owns 23% of the shares.

His glasses can be bought in stores such as Bodega Aurrera, Chedraui, City Club, Coppel, Soriana, Sam’s Club and Walmart. The company can continue to grow because, according to Essilor, one of the largest mica manufacturers in Mexico, 20 million lenses are sold annually. And after the National Household Survey 2014 16.9 million Mexicans live from the Inegi with a kind of visual impairment, which makes this market a market with great potential.

Frank is not comfortable with what he has already achieved. The Patriarch is a fan of change and ensures that Devlyn uses platforms from E-commerce more robust to bring the right products closer to the public, to strengthen the culture of visual hygiene and to expand the brand presence in the new markets they enter.

“We have an entire department in E-commerce with my nephew Andrew at the helm and we know this is vital because we want to be ahead of every other technological change. “

It is not a sterile effort; According to the Mexican Internet Association (Amipci), electronic commerce billed 257,000 million pesos from 2014 to 2015. The group also recognizes that market offerings are diversifying and has therefore developed various proposals to respond to entrepreneurial models. .

With the high-end vetro look, for example, a “concierge” helps the customer to receive frames from companies such as Cartier, Salvatore Ferragamo, Gucci, Armani and Fendi. With INMODA it offers designer brands at cheaper prices and with Optimar it connects the user with products at marginal costs. Beyond all innovations and adaptations, Frank says without hesitation that the key to his company’s success has been to take care of the customer experience. “My mother died at the age of 92. She still had her own optician, the first one my father founded, and she always paid personal attention. This deal is the best you can give to have customers for life. We carry this principle in all our companies. “

The patriarch’s heir

Among the recognitions that Frank has for his business and work at the Rotary Club in his office, the face of a young, red-haired and smiling woman appears who accompanies him. She is his daughter Melanie, heiress to Devlyn’s strong man.

Today it is up to her to take over the family business in order to overcome the next crises and changes and to always ensure that the rules of the company and the family are observed, for which she does not lose any details of her father. She looks at him with admiration because she is not only his father, but also his teacher. Melanie has been the chair of the Devlyn Group Board of Directors for six years when she was led by her father.

“Rules have helped us put things in context by being cousins ​​and co-workers. They give everyone the feeling that they are just as committed to the company, ”says Melanie.

“Family businesses often fail to plan the succession process because they don’t know how to separate the roles of the individual members,” explains Yudiel Guerrero, consultant for the professionalization of SMEs and professor at the institute. s. And it is true: Only 16% of family businesses have a well-structured succession plan, according to the 2014 survey by the consulting firm PwC on family businesses in Mexico.

“A company grows and is institutionalized. It is the most common and deadly mistake for these companies to have no clear decision-making levels between the family council and the board of directors, ”says the expert. For Melanie, who shares the helm of optics with her cousins ​​Michael (General Manager) and Patrick (Director of Operations), the lack of discipline is the greatest oversight that managers and entrepreneurs of this kind can get into. “This is the key to the success of a family business. There must be a moment of clarity and seriousness when you start treating the company with great respect. And the best way to do this is through standards that are known regardless of whether you work in the company or not. “

On the path to institutionalization, the Devlyn clan today has a family council that organizes meetings once a year to discuss the issues that affect more than 40 family members. At the same time, the company has solid corporate governance that monitors compliance with the agreements to which all Group employees are committed, regardless of whether they are relatives or not.

Melanie reflects in her eyes the same pride and wisdom as her father. She knows that just as Frank realized when it was time to give up command, so did her time. “Sometimes it is worth having these unpleasant conversations and talking. Stepping aside at a certain age is not a punishment because you have to do business. I already know that I have to retire at 65. “

Generational change is never an easy process because, according to Fernando Sandoval, director of the Center for ial Families at ITESM, 70% of family businesses disappear when they switch from the first to the second generation, while the third is only enough 10 percent. “The most common problem that these companies face in succession is ensuring competent leadership so that the family and the company can be supported. Many founders try to repeat their leadership role in the new generations and therefore they fail, ”says the expert.

For this reason, the heir to Grupo Devlyn knows that the path the company has to take must be closely linked to what it started in the living room of her grandparents’ house, always following the example of her father, but without constant change to stop . Well, in a scene that is unthinkable in any of the films in the trilogy The GodfatherIt will be Melanie who gets the respect and the kisses and hugs from the dressed and elegant executives. Devlyn’s new matriarch knows very well where she comes from and where she is going.

“My grandparents had the dream of creating an optics chain. From the moment he heard it, my father was thrilled with his father’s illusion. Now we’re working on the next generation doing the same. “