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A Definitive Answer to the Eternal Question: What Temperature Should the Thermostat Be Set? And More of Your Questions for August

Like how to renegotiate lease terms and having an event when you feel your store is just too small.

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We know several vision businesses that have done very well from billboard campaigns but you have to be careful; this is not an easy medium to master. By their nature, billboards target a broad customer base — the general public. If your strength is more niche, there are more cost-effective forms of advertising. With the average consumer being bombarded by more than 5,000 messages per day, you also have to be special/surprising/different to stand out, so be prepared to bring in an advertising pro to help — DIY billboard messages don’t have a good record. Finally, as most of your prospective audience is on wheels of some sort, you need to get to the point very quickly. The rule of thumb is to include your business name, address, website, an image and no more than eight words. For inspiration, check out the collection of billboards at invisionmag.com/072201.

We’re a small optical but I’d like to do some sort of event. What can I do in a 400-sq-ft store that eight people can fill?

Take the party outside! Kate Peterson, president of coaching service Performance Concepts Inc., suggests you partner with other local merchants to create a “block party” of sorts. “A restaurant, a flower shop… even a pet store … any business that is a part of your community and that shares your essential values for professional service and customer appreciation should be approached,” she says. The type of event you stage will depend on the types of partners you can attract. Every merchant can contribute something — from the location to the food to the decor to the entertainment.

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It’s hot! What’s a good temperature for the store when it’s this oppressive outside?

It seems there should be one ideal temperature that’s just right. Yet that Goldilocks zone is tricky to achieve, and like so many things in life it’s due to relativity. A setting of 70 degrees Fahrenheit might feel perfect in winter. But in summer it may feel frigid for a customer coming inside from a 95-degree scorcher. Retail environment experts recommend raising the temperature in summer to around 74 or 76 and lowering it to between 68 and 70 in winter. Such a target suggests many vision business may be aiming too low — a poll we ran of the INVISION Brain Squad indicates that nearly two out of three ECPs set their thermostats between 70-72.

After years away from the business, I took over my mother’s optical when she fell sick 18 months ago. Along with the store, I inherited two difficult long-term workers. They resist any changes I try to make and don’t seem interested in stretching themselves. Yet I don’t know if I could run the store without them and don’t think I could replace them as cheaply. Any advice?

There are a bunch of issues here but they all seem to stem from a reluctance on your part to act. If you don’t trust your optical-business knowledge, bring in an outside consultant to set up structures so the business can operate properly without these recalcitrants. At the same time, the system should have in place incentives to motivate and upgrade the skills of workers. If they can’t be “retooled,” you need to part ways.

I’d like to renegotiate the lease on my unit in a less than vibrant strip mall, but I’m not sure how to. What do you suggest?

If you’re in a depressed retail market, you’re in a strong bargaining position. The key is to make your landlord aware of your pain — and the suffering you could inflict on him if you left. Most landlords hate to offer long-term rent reductions, so you might want to make a 20% or more rent abatement for 18 months your negotiating target. Other areas to aim for are expenses, especially any common area or utility payments. Also, list a few contract releases you’d like, such as a personal guarantee release or a co-tenancy clause. Seek the help of a lawyer who specializes in the local commercial real estate market. They’ll know what deals landlords are offering new tenants.

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