Real Deal: The Case of the Boss's Vacation

Editor’s Note: “Real Deal” is a fictional scenario designed to read like real-life business events. The businesses and people mentioned in this story should not be confused with actual eyecare businesses and people.

“Don’t worry. It’ll all be fine. You really need this vacation, so make sure you have a decent break. I’ll give a full update of everything you need to know when you come back,” Alana assured practice owner Luke Goddard.

“I’ll try,” he replied. “But you must promise to call me if there are any problems.”

“Oh, I promise, but you must trust me!  This is what you hired me for.”

Luke had worked tirelessly over the past three years, without a break, to build his practice from scratch. His recent blood pressure tests had led him to realize he needed to make some changes. The workload of his ever-growing patient list, boosted by scheduled returns, had made it increasingly difficult to both manage the practice and work as the OD.  

The first change he made was to recruit Alana Schwartz as practice manager. They had known each other for a number of years, since they had both worked at the local Mega Mart superstore, where Luke had practiced in the optical department and Alana was team leader in the clothing department. Alana was delighted to have this career opportunity and was eager to prove her competence to her new boss. She’d had much to learn since starting her first role in eyecare four months ago. 

Together, she and Luke had spent a great deal of time creating future plans for the practice. They figured that, if growth continued, a flexible, part-time associate OD would give additional capacity and enable Luke to take vacations. Alana seized an opportunity when she heard that Herbie Jones, a young OD who worked at Mega Mart, was leaving his post to travel for six months. Herbie agreed to cover the practice for two weeks before he went on his adventure. This would allow Luke to have his vacation and serve as a trial of Herbie’s suitability as a regular associate. Win, win, win.

Halfway through the first morning of Luke’s vacation, Robbie — who manned the instrument area — broke the news that the visual field analyzer had stopped working.  “Have you tried turning it off and then back on again?” Alana asked.

“First thing that I did,” Robbie replied. He added, however, that this seemed to be more than the regular little gremlin which occurred from time to time.

“Have you tried turning it off and then back on again?” was also Herbie’s question when he heard the news. Again, Robbie confirmed he had. “Well, you’ll need to get something arranged,” Herbie said. “I have a young lady with severe headaches and I really need those results. I’m quite concerned about her.”

Alana agreed with Herbie that the machine’s malfunction needed to be addressed as a priority. “We have a service contract with Opto-Equip. Luke bought the instruments from them and they should be able to help us,” she said confidently. “I’ll call them right away.”

Alana made the call. “Have you tried turning it off and then back …” the Opto-Equip adviser tried to ask.

“Yes!” Alana nearly shouted. “There was a flash and the control screen is blank, no matter what we do.”

“OK. Sounds like one of the engineers will need to have a look. Now, this VFA isn’t covered in your service agreement. It was purchased as a reconditioned unit three years ago, but now it’s eight years old.  Our service agreements only apply to equipment seven years old or less. Apparently this was mentioned to Mr. Goddard at the last maintenance visit. There will be a $500 service charge.”

Alana winced. “Will that be tomorrow?” she asked.

“Normally that might be possible; however, your local engineer is sick. The earliest I can see any availability for another engineer would be two weeks from today.”

“What!” gasped Alana.  She let the Opto-Equip adviser know she wasn’t impressed, but she went ahead and made the booking.

“I can’t work like this!” exclaimed Herbie when Alana relayed the conversation.  “When I came here, I expected the simple basics to be in place. I can’t work for two weeks with no VFA. It’s unprofessional! Sorry, Alana. I’m happy to finish the rest of the day, but I won’t be back tomorrow.”

Alana stood in stunned silence. What a mess. They had a full appointment schedule. She didn’t know which way to turn — then her gaze fixed on Luke’s phone number. She knew he needed his vacation, but ...

The BIG Questions
1. Should Alana call Luke and interrupt his much-needed vacation? 2. What alternatives could there be to waiting two weeks for an engineer for the VFA? 3. How appropriate is Herbie’s decision not to work for the remainder of the agreed two weeks? 4. How should Alana and/or Luke respond to Herbie? 5. What arrangements do you have in place to deal with major technical failures? Comment below (please leave your name and store) or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..