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Here's something important: Before you start your America's Finest Optical Retailers contest entry, let's make sure you're eligible. This is especially important because the rules have changed slightly this year.

Here are the eligibility criteria (posted on the contest rules page):

  • Your business must be based in the United States or Canada. (Once again, we extend our apologies to Steve's Eyewear Emporium of Outer Mongolia.)
  • Your business must not have previously placed in the top 12 in INVISION's America's Finest Optical contest.
  • Your business must have been open at least one year before the date you enter the contest. As long as your business has been open a year, it's OK if the location you enter is newer.

From top left, winners of America's Finest Optical Retailers contest featured on the cover of INVISION; 2017: Dr. Michael A. Kling of INVISION Optometry; 2016: James and Dr. Laura Armstrong of Alberta Eye Care; 2015: Tanya Gill of Oakland Vision Center Optometry; 2014: Nate Ogura of Eyes on Fremont. See 2017's America's Finest feature here.

Now: Are all three of the above things true of your business? If so, you're good to go!

Next: logging in. Between now and March 15, you will always log in to edit your contest entry at the following URL: http://invmag.us/finest

Bookmark it. You'll also want to make a note of the email address you use to sign up for the contest. Or else we'll be receiving more than a few calls from eye who can't remember which email address they'd used. For sake of convenience, you might make a note of your password, too. As long as it's unique (i.e., it isn't the same password you use for other sites, like your email), there's not a real serious security risk if someone happens to find the Post-It note on which you scribbled it.

One thing you might want to do is establish a specific person to be your point person for the contest. This could be an owner or an employee, but it should be someone who is relatively computer-literate and who has a little extra time each week to devote to compiling information and photos, and preparing the entry.

And the final note for this week: Historically, a lot of AFOR entrants tend to leave their entry to be completed at the last minute. Some of them still do fine, but many discover too late that they don't have exactly what our judges are looking for easily at hand -- that is to say, they could get it, but not in time for the deadline.

Certainly, preparing your AFOR entry isn't the most time-consuming thing you'll do all year. But it does take time — so if you're going to do it, it makes sense to do it right. You'll be well served if you or your point person set aside a specific chunk of time each week, perhaps during a time when business is normally slow, to work on it — hopefully using this blog series as a guide.

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