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AS ANYONE WHO runs a business knows, “owner” or “manager” means being responsible for a multitude of things at once. If you’re leading an eyecare business, chances are you often feel weighed down by a to-do list of dozens of tasks that don’t actually involve dealing with healthcare consumers or planning new growth opportunities. Besides phone calls that need to be made and emails that must be replied to, there are always a hundred little jobs you never imagined you were signing on for: fixing the toilet, finding the right shade of paint, dealing with a family of mice that just moved in … the list goes on. Is this just how things must be?

Well, to a degree, yes. You’re the boss; the buck stops with you. But you have some agency here as well. You don’t have to wear every single hat at your store. Some of them can be farmed out to employees or contractors. Some you can just drop. To that end, INVISION presents this overview of a few hats to consider hanging up for good. After all, in today’s world, anything we can do to reduce our stress a bit is a positive thing, right?

accountant
11 Roles You Can Stop Playing as a Biz Owner Right Now ACCOUNTING

As a store owner you don’t really have to do deep dives into the business’s finances or devote your limited, precious time to the ins and outs of the tax code to see where you might save money. That’s what you should be paying a bookkeeper or CPA for. Even if you don’t hand it all over to a pro, it’s a good idea to get someone on staff up to speed on this stuff. That’s something Nikki Griffin at EyeStyles Optical in Oakdale, MN is in the process of doing. “I’m in a place where I want to let others keep the wheels turning while I keep the customer relationships alive,” she says. If you do outsource, make sure you hire finance professionals you can trust, audit their work periodically, and consult another accountant if your gut tells you yours could be delivering better value.

lady running holding phone

11 Roles You Can Stop Playing as a Biz Owner Right NowSocial Media

With Facebook and Twitter well into their second decades, and Instagram and even TikTok having established themselves as important marketing channels, it feels like we should have this figured out by now. Yet too many ECPs insist on either continuing to treat social media like a fad or using it simplistically, posting pics of new products and the occasional smiling customer. This is an area that — if not outsourced to a marketing company — is ideally handled by an in-house digital native. And even if you fancy yourself as social media-savvy, the team-building and motivational benefits of assigning this task out are too numerous for you not to be delegating it. Says Dr. Larah Alami, owner of Hudson River Eye Care in Tarrytown, NY, “I turned over our social media marketing — Facebook and Instagram — to a staff member and even though they don’t do it like I would, it’s definitely good enough and worth the time savings for me to delegate the task.” Adds Dr. Sonja Franklin, owner of Modern Eyes in Austin, TX: “Social media tasks are all delegated. I give suggestions but ultimately it is her task to complete. Usually we are on the same page which makes things a bit easier.”

11 Roles You Can Stop Playing as a Biz Owner Right NowBilling

They may give you a headache, but billing and coding duties are not actually rocket science. Hand-pick a trusted staff member to handle them and devote your time to calling the “big picture” shots. “I do the billing at our office and occasionally there is a denial from the insurance company. I have learned to delegate the duty of calling the insurance company to someone else so that I can accomplish more important things,” says Ann-Marie Weaver, office manager at Optimal Eye Care in Lewis Center, OH. According to Dr. Robert Easton Jr. in Oakland Park, FL, “Billing and coding insurance claims was part of my exam to be sure we billed correctly and timely. Once I recognized this could be done easily electronically, I handed this off to one of my staff members and I raised her salary.”

11 Roles You Can Stop Playing as a Biz Owner Right NowFRAME/LENS BUYER

You’re probably never going to remove this hat completely, to be honest — many independent optical retailers got into the business precisely because they love eyewear and hunting for distinctive frames. But your best salespeople should have as strong a sense as you do of the styles and frames your clientele are interested in and should be building the relationships that make it possible for them to go to a show and place orders. “I delegated frame purchasing,” says Dr. Cynthia Sayers, owner of EyeShop Optical Center in Lewis Center, OH. “I really enjoyed it but I felt like it took up a lot of time and it was easier to give a staff member a budget and have them stay within that.” And when it comes to lenses, we get it: Handling this yourself lets you scan for future issues (coating and material mismatches, etc.) and keep an eye on what’s being sold, but if you can handle this, then so can your staff. “Ordering lenses is something I really enjoy… but it’s something I need to give up,” admits Harris Decker of Eye Designs Of Westchester in Scarsdale, NY. “Our two awesome lab techs are fully capable of it but my constant hands-on approach has scared them off. I’m working on it!”

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11 Roles You Can Stop Playing as a Biz Owner Right NowFrame Boards

It seems this is one area in which ECPs keep a particularly tight rein. But letting it go can have all kinds of benefits. “Putting frames back on the board. Not only is it something anyone can do, but it also gives the newer optical staff time to learn more about the frames and to get a better feel for where the brands are located on the floor. It can also help create some sense of ownership over the product when they help reorganize how the frames are arranged — and at the same time it refreshes the look of the optical for patients,” says optical manager Tiffany Firer at Lifetime Eyecare in Jenison, MI. Frances Ann Layton at Eye Associates of South Georgia in Valdosta, GA, adds: “I’m a control freak, but I gave up doing inventory myself because I was needed in the lab instead. It was hard watching them do it a different way, but it worked for them and they got it done!”

11 Roles You Can Stop Playing as a Biz Owner Right NowCustodial Engineer

There is something to be said for store owners who still take out the trash themselves. No one should believe they’re above wiping down displays or vacuuming. But unless you’re a one-person operation, an owner shouldn’t be doing the bulk of the janitorial duties. Divvy up cleaning tasks among the entire staff, so that everyone bears a smaller part of the burden — after all, a tidy and well-maintained space is essential for all of you … if you want to make money. That said: This is work you must assign and manage. We heard of one retailer who grew increasingly resentful that her employees wouldn’t take it upon themselves to clean the restroom when it got icky, but she didn’t want to tell them to do it either — she wanted them to feel as personally invested as she was. That’s understandable, but not realistic. Set clear expectations and release yourself from excessive housekeeping responsibilities. “I am a doctor; I delegate everything beyond books and patient care,” says Dr. Jason Klepfisz, owner of Urban Eye Care in Phoenix, AZ.

11 Roles You Can Stop Playing as a Biz Owner Right NowHR Specialist

The reality is that most small businesses can’t afford a full-time human resources manager. But is there an HR professional you could contract with part-time? Having someone familiar with employment law on hand can be mighty useful, and a seasoned vet might be able to streamline your hiring and onboarding processes. It’s also common for lines to get blurred at small businesses — managers and employers start feeling like “family,” boundaries get fuzzy, and hurt feelings can fester. Even a part-time HR person can help address these issues. Dr. Marc Ullman, owner of Academy Vision in Pine Beach, NJ, went one better and hired an in-house axe-dropper. “I have one staff member who I appointed as an office manager and put her on salary specifically so she handles the firing of other workers,” he says. “I’ve let bad employees linger over a year although I knew they needed to be let go. I even gave one a small bonus so she wouldn’t be embarrassed at the holiday party being the only one not to get a bonus check; my newly appointed manager fired her the first of the year.”
DJ

11 Roles You Can Stop Playing as a Biz Owner Right NowDJ

Do you know what eyecare practices and optical boutiques used to do before Spotify came along and made us all believe we’re exceptional “curators of music”? They just played the radio: lite rock — never “light” — and it was terrific. So, go out there and twirl that FM tuner until you find a station playing Fields of Gold by Sting (or find the Spotify playlist equivalent), and then never touch the nob again, because you are set, baby. That’s your frequency. You’re welcome.

IT guy
11 Roles You Can Stop Playing as a Biz Owner Right NowIT Department

“Computer stuff” is another set of duties that should be contracted out to an on-call professional, whether an individual or another local business. Resetting the Wi-Fi is straightforward enough (try turning it off and then back on again), but unless you absolutely love tech, you should feel no shame about absolving yourself of responsibility for fixing the printer or syncing content on iPads. Our guess is your employees will be only too happy to assume this mantle, if it means they don’t have to watch you fuming over the toner again. It certainly appears to be the case at Sports Optical in Denver, CO, where, according to owner Bret Hunter, “Staff does almost anything computer-related because I’m old.”

11 Roles You Can Stop Playing as a Biz Owner Right NowSpiritual Guru or Therapist

On the popular “Ask a Manager” blog — which should be required reading for anyone working at or running a business — veteran manager Alison Green dispenses advice on work situations ranging from the mundane (“How do I set boundaries with an overly chatty coworker?”) to the salacious (“My coworker wants us to call her boyfriend her ‘master’”) to the absurd (“I had to prepare a meal and entertain 20 people for a job interview”). A theme Green is seeing more often is bosses seeking an active role in managing employees’ mental health.
Advice-seekers describe situations such as being forced to go around a table sharing personal details about medication and trauma (in the name of “breaking down the stigma around mental health”) or being made to write emotionally charged poetry. No matter how good your intentions are, for the love of all that is holy, do not do this. You are not responsible for your employees’ mental well-being — you are responsible for setting clear expectations and giving them the tools they need to meet them (which may include a health care plan offering access to affordable help). Asking them to treat work like a spiritual retreat or a therapist’s office is a giant boundary violation. If you’re wearing this hat, please remove it and never put it back on.

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11 Roles You Can Stop Playing as a Biz Owner Right NowLife-changer

Styling eyewear and providing eyecare is, in part, about selling an image — and not just the image of your customer wearing their latest purchase. Think of the benefits of providing vision screenings or donating your expertise or eyewear to your business AND your community. Your business should be seen as a giving, caring place that improves lives. You might not be able to honor every philanthropic request that comes your way, but it’s in your interest to respond to some of them.

HATS WORTH WEARING

The head of an eyecare biz can’t take off every hat, of course — and shouldn’t want to! Here are the hats we — and your staff — love seeing on your head.

VISIONARY: You should be working “on” your business, not just “in” it. Keep a log for a few weeks and work out, down to the minute, what is sucking up most of your working time. You may well find that much of it is being consumed by trivial and unproductive work. Prioritize what’s important and start delegating a few tasks each month. Then it’s time for the fun stuff: focusing on marketing campaigns, big sales and the new products and relationships that generate the big bucks.

CHEERLEADER AND COACH: Your employees should never doubt you’re in their corner. While you can’t make every sale for them or edge every lens, you can be vocal about their successes. You recruit the best talent and write the playbook, then watch them execute. As a coach, think more Phil Jackson than Bobby Knight. And as cheerleader, pom-poms are fine, but leave the short skirt at home.

SPOKESPERSON: What’s more delightful than a business owner who’s also the face of their business? Not every owner is cut out to be a spokesperson, and it’s OK if you aren’t, but if you have a sense of fun and a flair for public speaking, taking on that role can be a marketing coup.

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at [email protected].

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