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18 Ideas Worth Keeping From 2021

From holding natural lighting to creating a boss user manual, get inspired by these ideas to better manage your store or practice.




OUR STOCK IN trade at INVISION is providing advice, preferably of the “actionable” kind, to help independent vision pros better run their stores. In 2021, a not insignificant amount of our advice had to do with surviving and, as it turned out, thriving during the pandemic. But there were plenty of other areas we covered from store design, to managing employees to handling your finances. The value of a tip is relative, of course, to the nature of any problems or challenges you may be facing. But the following tips, which came from our readers, our columnists, our interactions with industry experts and our general business reading, struck us as likely to be particularly useful to just about anyone running a vision business. So without, further ado, we present INVISION’s Best Tips of 2021:

Up Your Phone Game

The humble phone is still one of the most important tools in a typical optometrist’s office but its potential as a revenue generator is hugely underappreciated, says John D. Marvin, president of eye care organization TSO. According to a study done by Marvin, 95 percent of appointment enquiries are still done over the phone, because filling out an online form on a smart phone is so cumbersome that most people just hit “click to call”. But the truly surprising finding is that fewer than half of those enquiries led to a booking. “An established optometry office will increase their annual revenues by $72,000 for every 10 percent increase in new patients who schedule an appointment,” says Marvin. Yet, the person handling the phone calls is often the least trained and most poorly paid person in the office. What to do? Start by studying how potential customers use the phone to communicate with your office and the information they are seeking. And then institute training to boost your conversion rate. Dollars and ODs’ time are on the line.

Create A “Boss User Manual”

If you own a business, there’s a fairly good chance you’re an idiosyncratic individual, which can be great in bringing differentiation to the marketplace but also makes it a little difficult for new employees to get quickly up to speed to how things operate in your workplace. Ivar Kroghrud, the lead strategist at software firm QuestBack, thinks most businesses would run much more smoothly if bosses and even workers came with user manuals. The idea is that after some self-reflection and feedback from your spouse or oldest employees, you write down a guide that makes explicit how you like to work (“Leave me alone in the morning.” “I like bullet points in emails.” “I hate the sound of alerts on mobile phones.” “Workers who come to me with problems and no solutions deplete me …”) One page should be plenty, he says. “These people will one day work out all these things. Why not get them on the right page from day one?” Kroghrud told the New York Times. — Tipsheet


Be Cool

Everyone wants to hang with the cool kids. Zionsville Eyecare in Zionsville, IN, took that truism and put it to the test, hiring students from the local high school to pose in its eyewear in their yearbook. The result? ZE graduated to the ranks of super cool, becoming an America’s Finest Optical Retailer, INVISION’s showcase of the best in vision retail, this year.

Get Your Staff Competing to be the Biggest Screw-Up

To make the most of your staff’s screw-ups, reward them — ideally with a goofy prize like a stuffed monkey, says Kim Scott, a former top Google executive, in her book Radical Candor: Be A Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity. Bring the monkey to an all-store meeting and tell the group that whoever confesses to the biggest screw-up in the previous month or week or whenever wins the prize. On top of a stuffed toy, “they get instant forgiveness and — this is most important — they get to teach everyone how not to screw up,” says Scott, adding that before long, you’ll have people competing to tell of their biggest mistakes. “It totally changes the tenor of the meeting — admitting failure becomes safe to do, and it is a surprisingly effective way to foster a cultivation of innovation,” she says. — Tipsheet

Light ‘Er Up

You’ve invested thousands of dollars in your lighting system but there’s still no way to compete with that squillion-watt lightbulb in the sky, especially at this time of year. To take advantage of this, The Optic Shop in Tampa, FL, has installed a mirror outside its building and encourages customers to test drive its eyewear in the natural conditions. “The better lighting will show color variations and nuances,” says the store’s optician, Sue Hayward. — Tipsheet

Is That Helpful?

The human mind’s genius for imagining terrible outcomes allowed our ancestors to survive. But in modern life, those 1 million negative thoughts our minds generate every day just aren’t useful. As opposed to being plunged into an anxious funk every time your brain decides something is going to turn out badly, Anne Borges, writing on, suggests this approach: Get in the habit of asking yourself if a negative thought is true, and even more important, is it helpful? The next time your mind starts fixating on all the things that could go wrong, acknowledge that yes, perhaps it could go horribly wrong, but it’s unlikely. Ask yourself: “Is that negative thought helpful?” Test it, scrutinize it. It’s likely you’ll find it’s bogus and you’ll be able to let it go. — Tipsheet

Find Better Solutions by Basking in The Problem

Planning season is upon us, so now is the time to start sowing the seeds of inspiration. This pre-brainstorming period is crucial to finding creative solutions, so don’t rush it, says Tina Selig, a Stanford business professor and author of Creativity Rules: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the World. Rather, let yourself bask in it for a while. If you go straight to the solution, you will likely end up thinking too narrowly, whereas if you frame wider, you can often come up with a creative answer. “Living in that problem space and falling in love with your problems is one of the most powerful ways to unlock really innovative solutions,” she says. (Note that this applies to creative issues: For day-to-day problems, we often know what to do straight away, and what we call “deliberation” is actually just dithering.) — Tipsheet

When you know, you grow.

Measure your KPI metrics data weekly. Yes, that’s probably much more frequently than your’re used to but it will allow you to better serve your patients, team and the overall business, says industry consultant Mark Hinton.

“Think of it like this, KPI metric software is like looking through the windshield, seeing what’s ahead, whereas PMS data is like looking through the rearview mirror. I can change the future of the business, but the past is gone.” By spotting areas where you are underperforming, you can implement immediate changes or run experiments. such as a change in language when prescribing Rx sunglasses. Hinton cites the case of his own practice where he suspected patients weren’t responding to the use of the phrase “UV protection.” “We switched to ‘sun damage’ and the Rx and Plano sunglass percentage increased from 10 percent to 16 percent almost immediately.”

The Golden Hour and a Half

Research shows how you start the day has an enormous positive effect on productivity. To actually get things done in the morning, “Four Hour” productivity guru Tim Ferriss suggests having the first 90 minutes of your workday vary as little as possible. “I think that a routine is necessary to feel in control and non-reactive, which reduces anxiety. It therefore also makes you more productive.” — Tipsheet

Hire an (Imaginary) Hotshot

Don’t have the money to hire a top industry consultant to come in and turn your business around? No sweat. Just hire an imaginary one on a monthly retainer. That’s the advice of Kat Cole, COO of Focus Brands (Auntie Anne’s, Cinnabon, Jamba Juice, etc). Talking to INC magazine, she says that once a month, she asks herself if a hotshot consultant or manager, someone with amazing tenacity and insight, were to take over the reins at her company, what is one thing would they immediately see and change. Chances are, you already know what needs to be done, but just need the power of self-distancing to make it clear. — Tipsheet

Opticians, Stop Trying to ‘Sell’ Eyewear

To increase capture and multiple sales it is key for the doctor and optician to speak with the same voice, says industry consultant and practice owner Mark Hinton. “My best ‘sales’ advice: Connect first, lead, mimic the doctor’s clearly explained prescription, offer new information only when asked, and make it all about the consumer,” he says. “The optical is the doctor’s pharmacy to prescribe for an outcome — be it comfort, safety, and efficiency in front of digital screens, or protection from blue light and sun damage. If the prescription is based on belief and intention, it does not feel salesy for the patient.”

The Secret Words to Make an Annual Review Productive

Employees generally hate reviews. Managers generally hate giving them. What to do? In his book, Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Daniel Coyle recommends using these 19 words to bring out the best in the situation and deliver the feedback that will lead to a “dramatic improvement” in performance and effort. The words? “I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.” Why does it work? According to Coyle, it builds trust, signals belonging, and combines high standards with the assurance that people can reach those standards. — Tipsheet


Can’t Decide? Use a Timer

Can’t make a decision? Use a timer, suggests Oliver Burkeman in his Guardian column on lifestyle optimization. For everyday matters, set it to allow yourself a few minutes for deliberation, and then when your time is up, make a decision. “Often, what we think of as deliberation is really hours of indecision, followed by a snap judgment,” he notes. “You were going to do so eventually anyway.” — Tipsheet

Reboot Your Phone Every Week

Here’s a new weekly habit for you: Turn your phone off and on at least once. That’s part of the National Security Agency’s recently released “best practices” guide for mobile device security. While it won’t stop a sophisticated hacker, it will make them work harder to maintain access and steal data from your phone. “This is all about imposing cost on these malicious actors,” Neal Ziring, technical director of the NSA’s cybersecurity directorate, told the Associated Press. The reason is that the latest malicious software typically targets your phone’s root file system. But the newest phones can detect and block such malware during a reboot. — Tipsheet

Embrace JOMO

According to the entrepreneur Caterina Fake, who helped popularize the term “Fomo,” the fear of missing out is “an age-old problem, exacerbated by technology.” Thanks to Facebook et al, we’ve never been so aware of what others are doing, and we aren’t. How to calm your anguish? Try “Jomo,” or the joy of missing out, which is basically the reaffirmation that what you’ve decided to do — build a business, spend time with the family — matters more. If Fomo arises from second-guessing your choices, Jomo means taking ownership of them — whereupon Fomo fades away. It hinges on the appreciation that there will always be a limitless number of cool or meaningful things you’re NOT doing. Feeling bad about that is like beating yourself up for being unable to count to infinity. — From our January lead, Get Focused.

The Tyranny of Choice

Recent studies into what is being called “decision fatigue” show that people make worse choices the more choices they are forced to make. It’s something sneaky salespeople have known for a long time and is why auto dealers will show a potential car buyer 100 separate options, starting with four cheap gear knob varieties and ending with a dozen expensive engine choices; because our brain’s “regulatory powers” deplete surprisingly quickly and we tend to make increasingly poor choices — which in a retail setting is usually the more expensive default option — as our willpower wanes. Be aware, though that studies have also shown consumers don’t enjoy situations where they are faced with too many choices. As NYU marketing professor Scott Galloway noted recently in his No Mercy/No Malice column, “consumers want less choice, but instead confidence in the [fewer] choices presented to them.” Help a customer find the best option for his or her needs and you bring honor to the sales profession. — Tipsheet

Beware Incentives

According to studies, the primary cause of most culture-change debacles is when companies attempt to influence behaviors by using rewards as their first motivational strategy. “Influence masters first ensure that vital behaviors are connected to intrinsic satisfaction. Next they line up social support and double check both of these areas are in place before they finally choose extrinsic rewards to motivate behavior,” says Kerry Patterson, co-author of “Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change”. He warns that if you don’t follow this careful order, you’re likely to be disappointed. — Culture Wars, April lead

Be Nice To Quitters

It’s no secret that staff turnover is currently high across just about all businesses. But that is no reason to treat departing workers the way you would an expired bottle of milk. On the contrary, handling them well has benefits for your business, HR magazine quotes Gail Gunderson of Ohio State University as saying. If you treat exiting workers with understanding and respect, they may decide to change their minds. They may also tell you the real reason they are leaving, which is important information if you suffer from high turnover. Parting on good terms potentially leaves the door open for them to return. And even if they don’t, they will have positive things to say, which could attract others. Finally, a cordial exit signals to remaining staff that you’re a decent boss who cares about his workers as people, which is good for morale. — Tipsheet




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