ONE-TO-ONE: MATT CEVASCO

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“The industry knows what Optima is, but I’m not sure the industry understands what PFO Global means.”

Matt Cevasco has been CEO of PFO Global since March 2016. Prior to that he was president and general manager of Luneau Technology USA, responsible for Briot, Briot/WECO Canada, Visionix and Latham & Phillips Ophthalmic in North America. He also served as vice president of sales at SOLA International from January 2000 to March 2005, when it merged with Carl Zeiss Vision, for which he was vice president of sales from March 2005 to July 2007.

 

JOHN SAILER: How would you define the strategy for PFO Global?


MATT CEVASCO: We have two different strategies, and they’re both pretty significant opportunities. The first is to revitalize the Optima brand, and bring it back to what it was. At one point it was a very large business, and the interesting thing about that is the products are as good as they ever were. With quality products featuring unique selling points, especially Resolution birefringence free polycarbonate; there is nothing else like it in the industry. I think this is a substantial opportunity for us.

We also have a program called “Smart Eyewear,” which is the complete eyewear portion of our business that serves as a fulfillment center for managed care, government and Medicaid work.


SAILER: How do you distinguish yourself from other suppliers?


CEVASCO: On the Optima side, in particular with Resolution, it’s by far and away the best quality polycarbonate lens in the industry because it’s birefringence free; there’s no other product like it.

For Optima, it’s key for us to work with wholesale distributors in the marketplace, so our primary focus is to forge alliances and partnerships with the wholesalers and retailers. We’re putting together programs with them. We’ve hired a new salesforce with a lot of lens experience, who have existing relationships out there, and we want to leverage those relationships and experience. From the marketing side, we brought Katherine [Allen] and her marketing expertise onboard. [Katherine Allen has more than a decade of experience as a marketing director for a variety of optical operations.]


SAILER: What are some of your marketing initiatives?

CEVASCO: There are several legs to that stool. One is reinvigorating the brand through trade publications like yours. The new image that Katherine has developed is a little bit more mature and polished than it would have been in the past. The second piece is using our salespeople to get product on the shelves. Thirdly, we want to spend marketing time and money with our distributors to help get the product off their shelves.


SAILER: What kind of a sales team do you have?


CEVASCO: It’s comprised of industry veterans who have been in the lens business for a long time, people who have worked for VISION EASE, for Rodenstock and for Signet Armorlite.

SAILER: What other changes have you implemented since taking over just a short time ago?


CEVASCO: We redirected the efforts of the entire company and changed the strategy and market approach. Prior to my arrival, the company called itself a technology company and spent a lot of time and money developing things that were never really commercialized. At the same time, they had products that I consider diamonds in the rough such as Smart Eyewear and the Optima brand. I used to compete against Optima, so I know how good this stuff is.

We walked away from the technology segment, and now we’re focused on the distribution of these diamonds-in-the-rough products. That has been a radical change. We’ve consolidated our operations, moved our corporate office to a different location in Texas and also consolidated the Connecticut facility into Texas as well, so we’re all operating out of one building now. Everything-corporate offices, distribution and lens processing, is all in one building.


SAILER: To what degree are you processing in Texas now?


CEVASCO: Finishing.


SAILER: What kind of reputation do Optima lenses have among ECPs, and are you changing that or are just reinforcing it?


CEVASCO: Part of the homework I did before changing the strategy was to get out in the marketplace and talk to the users of lens products. The answer I always got was, “You know, that is great stuff. I don’t know why we don’t sell it anymore!” So I think our mission here is just to remind them why they used to sell it. If we can do that, which we have started to do already, we’re going to be pretty successful.


SAILER: What about niche products such as lenses that block blue light?

CEVASCO: Optima is renowned for having great products, high-index, hyper-index lenses. Bringing in the Vitaris blue-blocking lens fortifies and broadens that portfolio. We have it in semi-finished, finished, 1.60 and 1.74. It was a really nice addition to our product portfolio.


SAILER: What’s on the horizon for PFO Global?


CEVASCO: You’re going to see a continued focus on the redevelopment and re-establishment of Optima products such as Hyper-Index and Resolution while establishing the Vitaris brand. That’s it. We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve made some really big strides, and we have the right people going in the direction we’ve chosen.

For the most part, the industry knows what Optima is, but I’m not sure the industry understands what PFO Global means. So one of the challenges we’ve got is how do we position ourselves in the market. Do we run out there and say we’re PFO Global, or do we say we’re Optima by PFO Global? The positioning of the brand is still a little bit unclear. We’re still working on what’s the best way to go to market.

The corporate umbrella will continue to be PFO Global, but when we talk in the marketplace and if you look at our business cards, you’ll see Optima, because that’s what everybody knows.

We’re looking at ways to strategically grow the business, so you’re going to see PFO Global in the coming months doing things differently than what has been done recently, in addition to expanding into different segments of the industry at a strategic level. We’re looking to grow strategically via acquisitions where it makes sense for us. We have the resources to do it, but we will need to do it in a way that supports our existing strategy.


SAILER: How does being a publicly traded company impact the business?


CEVASCO: We think it can create more value for the shareholders of the company and see a greater return on investment being publicly traded.

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