My best salesperson, who’s 45, wants six months off to “find himself.”

What should I do?Give it to him. Tell him to take the six months off and that you’ll even pay him 20 percent of his salary while he his gone. “What?!” we hear you saying. “That’s money for nothing!” Ask yourself, though, how hard it is to find good staff and then reconsider. If he’s been in your store seven or 10 years, working the floor, watching the world go by through your window, it’s no surprise he’s getting a little restless. Simply ask that after he’s done traipsing through the Andes, training for that triathlon or spending more time with his kids,  he returns and works for you for at least one more year. His absence can give you the opportunity to train a junior staff member for more senior responsibilities — and inspire long-term loyalty in other staff members who may someday want a sabbatical, too.

I saw the article in your January issue on the store that wrapped a car with a promotional messages, and I’d like to create my own rolling advertisement. What will it cost?

Creating your own Eyemobile? Cool. The gurus at BuyerZone say that cast-vinyl wraps (designed to last a year or longer) for cars and SUVs run between $2,000 and $3,000 including installation. (Rates will vary based on your vehicle size and location.) Shorter-term “calendared vinyl” installations can be 40 percent cheaper, but since you’ll probably be keeping your message on your car for a long time, ignore this option. Before you start, do an image search for “car wraps” and look at a lot of them. Invest in having your design professionally done. Last but not least, make sure your URL and phone are easily seen in your design.

Our website stinks. But I’m not sure we can justify an upgrade right now. Why should I spend
the money?

A recent survey of over 1,300 U.S. consumers found that 58 percent have decided not to do business with a company based solely on the business’ website. What does that mean? To Daniel Feldman of The Visionaries Group, it means that “just having a website isn’t good enough anymore.” Says Feldman: “In a time when over 80 percent of consumers will research a business online before ever walking through your doors, do you really want to risk the future of your practice on a website built by your next door neighbor’s nephew in trade for a pair or two of Ray-Ban sunglasses?” Evaluate your website honestly against local and national competitors to see how you stand up. Another angle that might convince you: Ask yourself, what if a good website could bring in just one more patient every week? At a price of $115 per exam, that works out to be $5,980 in increased exam fees in one year. Let’s say two-thirds of those people purchase a single pair of eyeglasses (you should be selling them all more than one pair, of course) at an average cost of $250 per pair. So add $8,500 more in annual sales. That is almost $15,000 in increased volume due to your new website, based on a very conservative estimate of sales.

How can we add a little drama to the moment when we present a client with their new eyewear?

Think luxury, says Mike Rolih of Mirro, employee training and marketing consultants for optometrists and independent opticians. First step: toss out those plastic “job” trays you’re probably using and invest in jewelry trays with a felt or leather base. (Extra-credit technique: Wear white gloves when revealing the new eyewear.) Present the customer with a cleaning cloth (with your logo on it), a case, spray cleaner, and a nice bag (again with your logo). Even if you’re selling a pair of low-end frames, you can still create a high-end experience patients will appreciate ... and remember.

Our website stinks. But I’m not sure we can justify an upgrade right now. Why should I spend
the money?

A recent survey of over 1,300 U.S. consumers found that 58 percent have decided not to do business with a company based solely on the business’ website. What does that mean? To Daniel Feldman of The Visionaries Group, it means that “just having a website isn’t good enough anymore.” Says Feldman: “In a time when over 80 percent of consumers will research a business online before ever walking through your doors, do you really want to risk the future of your practice on a website built by your next door neighbor’s nephew in trade for a pair or two of Ray-Ban sunglasses?” Evaluate your website honestly against local and national competitors to see how you stand up. Another angle that might convince you: Ask yourself, what if a good website could bring in just one more patient every week? At a price of $115 per exam, that works out to be $5,980 in increased exam fees in one year. Let’s say two-thirds of those people purchase a single pair of eyeglasses (you should be selling them all more than one pair, of course) at an average cost of $250 per pair. So add $8,500 more in annual sales. That is almost $15,000 in increased volume due to your new website, based on a very conservative estimate of sales.

How can we add a little drama to the moment when we present a client with their new eyewear?

Think luxury, says Mike Rolih of Mirro, employee training and marketing consultants for optometrists and independent opticians. First step: toss out those plastic “job” trays you’re probably using and invest in jewelry trays with a felt or leather base. (Extra-credit technique: Wear white gloves when revealing the new eyewear.) Present the customer with a cleaning cloth (with your logo on it), a case, spray cleaner, and a nice bag (again with your logo). Even if you’re selling a pair of low-end frames, you can still create a high-end experience patients will appreciate ... and remember.

What’s a good growth rate?

Some growth is necessary for any business to keep up with competitors, benefit from economies of scale and provide new opportunities for its staff, but there are more important things you should be focusing on. As Brazilian businessman Ricardo Semler noted in his book Maverick, the only things in the world that grow for the sake of growth are businesses and tumors. If you focus on cash flow, profit, taking care of your staff and customers — and basically doing a good job — growth will take care of itself.

Some business columnists recommend what they call the “Bill Belichick model of staffing”: Hire cheaply, and when employees want more money, replace them with people who are young and hungry. What do you think?

We have our doubts Bill and his hoodie belong in eye retail. To be sure, you need to get the most productivity for every labor dollar. But in retail, stinting on employees doesn’t actually save you money. It just gets you less for less. Nothing will sell your store — and your inventory — more than a fulfilled, knowledgeable and helpful sales team. If you hire a good employee at below-market rates, market forces guarantee that she’s going to leave sooner rather than later, and high turnover is very, very expensive. (Some recruiting agencies put the cost at eight months’ salary.) It also makes it hard to create consistency in the workplace, which can lower productivity, service quality and customer satisfaction. Investing in your staff shouldn’t be a losing proposition; it should pay healthy dividends.

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