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20 Top Tips of 2020 INVISION

Bad times produce good art. And probably good business ideas as well.

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THEY SAY BAD times produce good art. And along with great music, books and movies we can probably add good business ideas as well. Following are some of the best tips from the pages of INVISION and our daily bulletins in 2020, a year, that wasn’t merely bad – it was awful. We hope you find the following ideas correspondingly awesome and they help you navigate these challenging times.

Show Off Face-framing Lines

Your most stylish goods, those that highlight the best features, should be front and center of your website at the moment. People can’t go out, so they use Zoom as their opportunity to dress up, says Larry Birnbaum, CEO of ShopWorn. — Tipsheet

See a Crisis, Grab the Opportunities

Like all crises, the coronavirus epidemic also presents an opportunity, specifically for sales to children. “This year we have more students doing ‘hybrid education’ — meaning some time in class and some time on the computer at home. (It’s a) good opportunity for us to address computer vision for kids,” notes Amber Fritsch of Precision Eye Care in Mt. Juliet, TN — Tipsheet

Just How Well Do You Know Your Patients?

In a normal year, Frances Ann Layton of Eye Associates of South GA, Valdosta, GA, would have used the Labor Day break to head to Dragon Con, the popular sci-fi, fantasy and gaming convention in Atlanta — although not to get dressed up as her favorite anime character. “(It’s) for the business; it’s all about making sure our younger patients have awesome glasses in the new school year,” she explains. With such devotion to understanding what excites kids, we’re guessing Layton is something of a superhero to her young clients. — Tipsheet

Let’s Celebrate

Every time Swell Vision Center in Leland, NC, racks up another 100 5-star Google reviews, they throw a staff party, ranging from axe throwing to Topgolf. — America’s Finest Optical Retailers, February 2020

Go Over the Top with Your Business Cards

Kevin Kretch, owner of Eyes on Chagrin in Cleveland, OH, spent thousands of dollars on the design of his new business cards and altogether about 10 times more money per card than his previous versions. “I wanted someone to comment on the card every time we hand one out. The sheer weight and thickness of the card is enough to gain a reaction.” — America’s Finest Optical Retailers, October 2020

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Wow, Wow, Wow

“Everybody likes a compliment,” Abraham Lincoln famously observed. But most humans are weirdly parsimonious about handing out kind words. To keep the good feelings flowing at New Jersey eyecare practice Focus Eye Care, management installed a “WOW Box” in the back office and encourages staff to write something positive about another staff member that motivated them. “Often the notes contain funny messages and inside jokes that go over our heads, but the point is we enjoy it,” said manager Vlad Cordero. — Tipsheet

Be the Calm Doctor

Imagine a car-accident victim stumbles into your store or practice with a severe torn cornea among other injuries. Would he respond best if you freak out and yell, “Oh, my God. That’s horrific!” Or you look at it and very calmly say, ‘Let’s take care of that’? It’s the same in any stressful situation even an overwhelming work period such as the holiday season, argues the designer Mike Monteiro, in an online essay. “Anxiety is conductive,” “It wants to travel from one person to another person.” At his design studio, they have a rule: Stop Adopting Other People’s Anxiety. “Once a client becomes anxious,” Monteiro writes, “their primary goal becomes to make you anxious, because that justifies their own anxiety.” Apply the approach not only to patients and customers but your staff as well. Be the calm doctor. — Tipsheet

In a Crisis, Calibration Is Key

Sven Smit, a McKinsey senior partner, says the key thing to do when a complex, changing event like a downturn hits is to stay calibrated and keep an eye on the long term. “To date, there’s no recession — even the big ones — that has lasted longer than one or two years. So good times will come. In the recession, the response is, you go crazy. Cut, cut, cut. But don’t forget that the actions you take toward the future in the recession are as important as the actions that you take to respond to the unique event that will take place. Holding that calibration is very difficult. Profit margins of companies are not that big. So in a recession, it will look very ugly very quickly. Ugly makes you respond with ugly, while the beauty is ahead, or the prosperity is ahead.” — “Recession Proof Your Business,” April 2020

In Tough Times, Go for Small Wins

The organizational theorist Karl Weick showed in his classic article “Small Wins” that when an obstacle is framed as too big, too complex, or too difficult, people get overwhelmed and freeze in their tracks. Yet when the same challenge is broken down into less daunting components, people proceed with confidence to overcome it. As you lead your team through a stressful period, aim to give them a flurry of little things they can check off as they make their way through their work. It dramatically lowers people’s collective anxiety, enhances their collective energy, and gives them confidence that the hard tasks, too, can be handled. — Tipsheet

Keeping It Cool

A conversation or negotiation getting out control? Refocus on agreement, says Joseph Grenny in an article in HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW. “When people feel threatened, they tend to focus exclusively on areas of disagreement. It’s remarkable to see parties who agree on 90 percent of an issue obsess over and even magnify the 10 percent they disagree about. You can profoundly change the tone of a conversation by stopping this pathological divisiveness and saying something like, “Can I pause for a moment and point out what we both agree on?” Then deliberately, slowly and sincerely you can enumerate common interests, beliefs or histories. — Tipsheet

Dare to Suck

Here’s a perfect theme for a weekly video meeting with your staff: Dare To Suck. The idea, courtesy of Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, is that every member of that band would have to come to the meeting and present an idea that they thought was probably terrible. “And nine times out of ten, the idea is actually terrible,” Tyler told a MasterClass. “But one time out of 10, you get ‘Dude Looks Like a Lady’ or ‘Love in an Elevator.’” The brilliance of the idea is that it takes the fear out of the creative process. — Tipsheet

What Gets Measured …

There’s much to be wary of when it comes to business advice emanating from Silicon Valley. But the tech mecca’s obsession with measuring data can be useful in a surprising number of areas, such as getting home for dinner in time to eat with your family. “It’s great to know how to recharge your batteries, but it’s even more important that you actually do it,” venture capitalist Vinod Khosla told FAST COMPANY. “I track how many times I get home in time to have dinner with my family. Your company measures its priorities. People also need to place metrics around their priorities.”

Set Clear Goals

According to a study cited in INC magazine, 63 percent of employees reported that they wasted time at work because they weren’t aware of what work was a priority. As a leader, make sure staff knows what your key goals are this year: Is it to reach new customers, take really good care of your VIPs, hit aggressive new sales targets? No one should have any doubts.

Six-Week Sprints

“Agile planning” should be viewed as a series of box sprints with the objective of moving forward, testing the waters, learning, and refining the strategy based on the results, says business coach Dave Bailey, who recommends six-week stretches. Brian Moran and Michael Lennington, authors of the 12-WEEK YEAR, recommend a longer period, as the title of their book suggests. The exact number isn’t important, just so long as the stretch is long enough to allow your team to make significant progress on a key front, yet short enough to stay focused. The problem with thinking of life in annualized 365-day units is that a year’s too big to get your head around, Moran and Lennington argue, and there’s too much unpredictability involved in planning for 10 or 11 months in the future. — “Act Now!” lead story from February 2020

There is No Finish Line

Lurking behind most schemes for transformation is the unspoken notion that change is something you achieve, once and for all. But it doesn’t work that way because a day when everything is “sorted out” never arrives. If you continuously stare at the gap between where you are and where you think we should be, you’ll exist in a space of debilitating discouragement. Instead, observe and appreciate how far you’ve come. Sure, you aren’t where you want to be, but you aren’t where you were, either. “Treat strategy as evergreen. The best companies see strategy less as a plan and more as a direction and agenda of decisions,” says Michael Mankins in a paper titled “5 Ways the Best Companies Close the Strategy-Execution Gap” in the HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW. Focus on getting better rather than being good, and before too long, you might find that you’re actually pretty great. Not only does this encourage you to focus on developing and acquiring new skills, it allows you to take difficulties in stride and appreciate the journey as much as the destination. — “Act Now!” lead story from February 2020

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Firewall Your Bad Moods

Why? The late Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen once argued that managers have among the most important jobs in the world. How they treat their workers during the day will determine whether billions of people go home happy or agitated at the end of the day.

How? Consider managing your moods as one of your chief responsibilities. You are a “walking mood inductor” and your subordinates are “receptors.” Your mood impacts how they feel, and, consequently, how they perform.

Source: INVISION Daily Tips, December 2020

Priority Means One

WHY? When the word priority came into the English language in the 1400s — and for 500 years after that — it meant “the very first thing,” and it was singular. Only in the 20th century did we see the plural, priorities.

HOW? Only one thing can be the most important goal for you and your business, at least at any one time. You can have five goals, but you can’t have five priorities. Go big on one great thing, whether it’s opening a new location or positioning yourself as the bridal leader in your market.

SOURCE: Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, Nov 27, 2020

Ask, What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

WHY? Feeling anxious? Add some ancient perspective. Seneca’s Letters From A Stoic is essentially a training manual for answering one question: What’s the worst that could happen? This helps because specific fears are more manageable than vague ones.

HOW? Another lesson from the ancients — worry only about what you can control. It worked for Travis LeFevre’s grandmother, who owned Krystal Vision in Logan, UT, back during the last recession: “She says the best thing she did was worry only about what you can control,” says LeFevre. “So if another recession happens, I’m planning to … keep learning new ways to help our clients.”

Source: INVISION Daily Tips, April 2020

Exceed Expectations … but Only Within Reason

Why? One of the most passionately held beliefs of independent business owners is that the key to success is exceeding customers’ expectations and delighting them whenever possible. But it’s a myth, says John Goodman, vice chairman of research company TARP Worldwide. A far better policy is to aim to delight customers only when the cost is reasonable and the payoff significant.

How? “Many labor-intensive heroics will only result in a 12- to 14-percent increase in customers who will definitely recommend a company,” Goodman told Quirk’s marketing newsletter. In contrast, other less labor-intensive actions, such as a friendly 90-second conversation that creates an emotional connection or a hint on how to avoid a problem, will result in two or three times more customers becoming advocates, he says.

Source: INVISION Daily Tips, February 2020

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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