I’m thinking it could be time to open a second location. What factors should I be considering?

There’s an adage in retail that if you’re going to open two stores you might as well open six; the headaches are the same. To make more than one location work you need to be able to systemize the way you do business, duplicate operational procedures and take yourself out of moment-to-moment management. For ECPs, there can be additional hassles in the form of new local HMO/IPA contracts. To be sure, there are potential rewards, yet if our Brain Squad had one message regarding a second location, it was: Don’t underestimate the demands on your time, finances, energy and staff (who will also feel the burden). Basically, you’re putting yourself back in start-up mode. “It’s more than twice the work,” noted Wendy Salle of Salle Opticians in Atlanta, GA. “I wish someone had suggested I invest in cloning technology, so I could be in two places at once,” added Dan Amyx of Hillmoor Optical in Port St. Lucie, FL. Unless you’re making crazy amounts of money per square foot, focus your energy on improving your current location. That’s what a surprising number of our past America’s Finest Optical Retailer winners did when faced with a similar choice — they opted to become destination stores rather than chains.

My last few hires haven’t been great. How can I improve our hiring process?

Think “The Bachelorette.” That’s what Dr. Tanya Gill, owner of Oakland Vision Center in Oakland, CA, did after a couple of “hiring disasters.”

For the first step in her search for a new lab technician she emailed applicants the same 10-question survey asking the basics: availability, wants, needs, reasons for leaving last job, hourly wage, etc. Surprisingly, she says, only about 10 percent of applicants responded. “It was a great way to filter out the bad ones.”  

Round Two was another survey, this time asking very specific questions related to job duties like alphabetizing, organizing by date, creating work schedules, ethics, proofreading. If they passed this portion (“We made no exceptions for errors,” says Gill), they were granted a phone interview.

“I only had to give five phone interviews to very qualified applicants. Out of the five, three were selected for in-person interviews. Out of those three, our first choice was given a working interview. We hired him the next day.”

How do you tell patients their eyebrows are crooked? It makes dispensing difficult.

Tracy Gillotte, owner of Focusers in Bensalem, PA, calls it the Eyebrow Conspiracy. Some patients refuse to acknowledge one brow is higher than the other. She advises deferring to their pick-up partner, who will invariable agree. “Once you point it out, it’s all you can see.”

I need a tag line to support our practice’s name. We want to highlight that our office is a one-stop destination. Any ideas?

Tag lines should underscore your credentials or offer some sort of social endorsement (“Where Townsville Shops for Eyewear”). Stay away from “one-stop shop.” Optical customers look for expertise and someone they can trust. You don’t want to come across as a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. As marketing experts Dr. Jennifer Lyerly and Dr. Darryl Glover note: “We all offer comprehensive care to our patients but a brand that’s too broad or generic often fails to connect with anyone. Focus on things that are special and unique, so patients can immediately tell you are an expert and others see you as a specialist who must be great at the basics.”

Two employees want the same day off before Thanksgiving. I can only cover for one. Now what?

You’re probably going to have to resort to bribery, or at least one worker will think they’ve been shafted. Call them in and ask how they think the work can get done. This creates a sense of “ownership” of the issue. If that doesn’t work you may have to promise one of them an extra half-day off later. Once you get it sorted you should revisit your holiday policies. Flexibility is great, but staff should be told how important the holiday season is even before they are hired.


This article originally appeared in the September 2017 edition of INVISION.

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