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A Foolproof Way to Get Better at Saying ‘No’, and Seven More Tips For November

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Just Say No

Probably a week doesn’t pass where most of us don’t wish we were better at saying no; no to a request for a discount, no to a staff’s request for time off; no to a plea to help out on the school fundraising committee. Sure, it feels good to say yes, but soon enough we are paying the price financially or as other important activities are compromised. Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist blog, suggests a good strategy to deal with this is to try feel instantly and viscerally the pain of having to keep your promise. He says, ask yourself, “If I had to do this today, would I agree to it?” And if that doesn’t work, try this more extreme approach: Adopt a rule that any new task, if accepted, must become your new priority and everything else must be dropped for you to work on it. “The insight here is that every time we say “yes” to a request, we are also saying “no” to anything else we might accomplish with the time. “It pays to take a moment to think about what those things might be,” says Hartford, who often includes his wife as a BCC on “Sorry but no” notes. “The awkward email to the stranger is also a tiny little love letter to her,” he says.


Jeff Grosekemper’s team of sled-pulling dogs has become an important holiday tradition at Casa De Oro Eyecare.

Find a Tradition

More than anything else, Christmas is about the exchange of warm fuzzy feelings and tradition, even if that tradition involves nine small stuffed dogs pulling a larger stuffed dog in a sleigh. “Every year I bring out the team and the patients love it and bring family members by just to see the team,” explains Jeff Grosekemper of Casa De Oro Eyecare Optometry, Spring Valley, CA. The “team” was created by a Kenmark rep, Marg Agrusa, almost 20 years ago, when they carried the Hush Puppies line as part of a Christmas display contest. “I’ve been offered money for the pups but won’t give them up. They’re one of a kind.” 

Failure Wall

If risk-taking, innovation and transparency are habits you want to promote in your business you may want to consider a “failure wall” — a flat space preferably in your back room where you and staff can share your “growth lessons” with each other. “Something magical happens to failure when it’s openly acknowledged,” writes business author Jeff Stibel in a bizjournals.com column. “Paradoxically, it becomes less of a big deal. The idea of failure is often the elephant in the room that no one wants to mention.”

On a Tray

The primary job of an optical retailer is to help customers make the right choice while being careful not to overwhelm them with too many options. Holly Forstad, the optical manager at Rivertown Eye Care, in Hastings, MN, does this with an added touch of style in the form of a carefully edited selection of frames presented on a specially hand-crafted glass tray. “There is still the occasional client who wants to try on every single frame on display, but we have been surprised by how often our clients are relieved that we have made the process so easy and enjoyable for them,” she writes in a blog on dailyoptician.com, adding. “And of course, always include sunwear.”

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Focus on Your Breath

To sound persuasive — either when you’re talking to a patient or giving a sales-floor presentation — it’s crucial you learn to harness your breath, says Allison Shapira, a lecturer at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. In a recent column in the Harvard Business Review, Shapira recommends standing tall, shoulders back and resonating confidence. Put one hand on your bellybutton and one hand on your chest. Breathe deeply into your stomach and then take note which hand moves. (It should be the lower one). “Then exhale slowly, and speak ‘on the breath,’” she says.

Cross It Off

If you use a to-do list to guide your tasks through the week, leave your “done” items at the top as you knock them off, suggests productivity website Lifehacker. The feeling of accomplishment will help you get through the other items.

Stop slouching, and start smiling.

Two-Second Fix

Your parents were right: Stop slouching. “If you take on a collapsed position, it really shifts the physiology,” Erik Peper, a professor of health education at San Francisco State University, told Bloomberg, adding that tests have shown that slouchers’ testosterone levels go down, cortisol levels go up, and they have more helpless thoughts. Luckily, the opposite happens when you sit up, stretch or even better, skip on the spot for just 10 seconds.

Sweater Weather

Kick off a holiday tradition that your followers can participate in on your social media channels. Spex, with 24 locations in Chicago, holds an annual Ugly Sweater contest each December. Search Instagram and Twitter for #SpexySweaterFest to see how well its done for them. Come up with your own fun hashtag, that’s half the fun!

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Ever wanted an email address that you could discard like a pair of disposable chopsticks? 10 Minute Mail (10minutemail.com) is for you. Whitepaper downloaded, anonymous comment posted, whatever — once you’re done, pull the pin and walk away.

This article originally appeared in the November 2016 edition of INVISION.

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Ask INVISION

How to Get the Best Employees and More Questions for May

Plus, how to get that chatty, great employee to actually close the sale.

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What’s a good way to sell our company to prospective employees — particularly top salespeople?

Just about the most valuable skill a businessperson can have is the ability to recruit and retain good people and yes, it all starts with that job posting. “When the right people read your ad, their hearts will whisper, ‘These people are like me, and I am like them,’ says Roy H. Williams, author of the business bestseller The Wizard of Ads. Bullet point what the job entails, what kind of inventory they will be handling, and the benefits, but the core message should be about who you are as a company, your reputation and your goals. The best salespeople often don’t have a sales background so go easy on the requirements. Your message should be more about culture than qualifications.

Podcast: What the Heck is Marketing? And What Should ECPs Focus on to Attract New Clients?
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: What the Heck is Marketing? And What Should ECPs Focus on to Attract New Clients?

Podcast: More Ways to Motivate Your Own Eyecare Business Team
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: More Ways to Motivate Your Own Eyecare Business Team

Podcast: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Is it legal for retailers to say they are selling at wholesale prices?

In short, no — unless they really are. Many states including Arkansas, Georgia, North Carolina, Kentucky, Texas, California, New York, and Michigan have strict laws prohibiting the use of the word “wholesale” in retail advertisements. In some states, this is a criminal offense, due to the word’s ability to mislead consumers. Basically, if you advertise you are selling at wholesale prices it must be “the real wholesale price.” Some states define this as the price paid for the item from the supplier. Other states and the federal government say the price must be lower than the average price retailers would pay in the area.

We have a small store that is growing quite nicely. In fact, juggling rosters to avoid paying overtime is increasingly becoming an issue. I understand it can be tricky, but can we just move several employees to salaried positions? No more messy rosters. No more overtime. Right?

Likely very wrong. This is a strategy that “has been used so often to avoid paying rightful overtime, that it is written into the law through the Fair Labor Standards Act,” says Scott Clark, a lawyer and founder of the HTC Group. Yes, there are salaried positions for which there are exemptions from overtime rules, but they tend to be “true” management roles and jobs that require a college degree or technical training. They must also pay more than a minimum of $455 per week, and the salary must be the same every week (so if your employee wants time off to see the doctor you still have to pay his full weekly salary — no more docking wages for hours not worked). If it seems that the government is uncharacteristically protective of lower-income workers in this instance, never fear, it really isn’t. On the contrary, the government is very particular about all the taxes and Social Security that get paid on overtime. We’d say a better approach is to view your employees as an asset who make you money, not as an expense. Invest in your employees to make them more efficient, and they’ll make you even more money. Or hire the staff you actually need.

Where can I get hold of a good employee evaluation form?

As you’ve no doubt discovered, there are scores you can download to use as a model or template. Some, like those from educational institutions, are really quite detailed and cover every possible aspect of a job, while others are very basic. Our only advice when it comes to employee evaluations is that you not spend too much time on the whole process. While you may want the paper trail to protect yourself against lawsuits from former employees, there’s a growing view that reviews don’t really achieve much. Mary Jenkins, a co-author of Abolishing Performance Appraisals: Why They Backfire and What to Do Instead, advocates designing a system in which employees can seek feedback from people they work with, then draw up a skills-development plan with their manager — or you.

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Tip Sheet

‘Hate, Don’t Hate’ and More Tips for May

‘Squeeze, Release, Repeat.’ Don’t worry, it’s doctor approved!

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PRODUCTIVITYThe Mess Can Wait

If you feel the urge to tidy your desk before you start on meaningful work, The Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman has a simple rule for you and other “pre-crastinators” … reschedule. “If your job permits it, schedule a daily deck-clearing hour — but at 4:30pm, not 9am,” he says. “It’s time to abandon the secret pride we precrastinators feel in completing 25 small tasks by 10am: if they’re not the right tasks, that’s not … something to be proud of.” Instead, Burkeman recommends the time-worn advice to work on your most important project for the first hour of each workday.

sellingIt’s A Win Win

The stylists at Eye Candy Optical in Beachwood, OH, play a simple game called “hate, don’t hate” with their customers. “We used to say ‘like and hate’ but our customers found the word ‘like’ to be too committal,” say co-owners Steve Nelson and Anton Syzdykov. “If they ‘don’t hate it’ it stays in the tray. It’s that simple!” At the end of the game, the cream rises to the top and the customer can be certain they found the best frame, they say. Of course, the caveat is that it takes a very skilled person to lead this process. “They must know the person’s style, features, skin tone, color palette, occupation, and image they want to project. We are all psychologists, detectives, artists, and stylists.”

sellingKeep ’Em in Your Sights

Eye contact is important in any kind of sale. Jack Mitchell, author of Hug Your Customers, suggests asking your sales associates: “Do you know the color of your top customers’ eyes?” Quiz them on this once in a while. A customer’s eyes are the one thing they should remember. You are ECPs after all.

sellingGood Citizens

If you refer to potential customers as prospects or targets, Seth Godin urges you to stop and instead call them “citizens.” He says conventional “marketing-centric terms” don’t reflect the way power has shifted in the marketplace. “Citizens are no longer the weak, isolated pre-consumers in front of a TV set in 1971, with few options. Now, they appear to be holding all the cards.” Try it and “you can’t help but become a little more humble and a little more respectful,” he writes on his blog.

LEARNINGBrain Squeeze

This may sound a bit odd, but work with us, it’s doctor-approved. Dr. Allen Bradon, author of Learn Faster and Remember More, suggests bringing a tennis ball to work. When reading documents, squeeze the ball in your right hand. This will stimulate the left side of your brain, the side that processes words. If it’s blueprints or instructions with diagrams, switch to your left hand; the brain’s right side deals with spatial relationships.

sellingLike a Charm

Great sales mantra seen on the website of author and sales expert Jeffrey Gitomer at gitomer.com. A reader writes that while he is selling to a customer, he tells himself, “I am transferring enthusiasm, I am transferring enthusiasm.” That’s exactly what you should be doing.

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Tip Sheet

What’s the Title of Your Autobiography? And More Tips for April

Plus who doesn’t like a party? Especially when the ‘gifts’ are positive reviews for you business.

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planning Be an Idea Machine

Write down 10 ideas a day. “Do it for six straight months and see what happens. It actually turns into a super power,” says serial entrepreneur and author James Altucher. To collect his ideas, Altucher buys 1,000 waiter’s pads at a time from restaurant supplies websites (10 cents a pad). “They’re great for meetings because I have to keep concise lists, and they’re always good conversation starters.”

marketingThrow a Party

What month was your company born? Throw a birthday party and ask your customers to bring “gifts” of testimonials that you can use in your marketing. Including such third-party recommendations on your website and in your ads is one of the best ways around to convince others that your store is, indeed, the best place to shop, says Entrepreneur magazine’s Idea Site For Business.

managementThe Power of Perspective

When somebody gets down over a minor setback, ask them something in the vein of, “So that’s what you’re going to title your autobiography? I Had a Slice of Pizza and Spent the Rest of My Life as a Fat Blob?” And while sarcasm can motivate, best if you follow up with, “Hell no, you get back on track the next day as if nothing happened.” Our thanks to the Reddit diet community.

operationsDon’t Make It Weirder

Sign seen on the door of a store in Vulcan, Alberta: “No soliciting. Seriously, don’t make it weirder.”  Hat tip to Sarini Fine Jewellery for telling it in a tone that would warm the heart of Dr. Spock.

managementWhat Can I Do for You?

Once a month, make it a practice to individually ask each of your employees “What one thing can I do better for you?” After listening to and acknowledging the employee’s ideas, then tell them the one thing that they can do better for you that month. This helps build better communication, and keep both of you focused on continuous improvement, says Bob Nelson in 1001 Ways to Energize Employees.

salesNumbers Game

If quickly working out percentages, such as a 4% discount on a $75 item, trips you up, keep this hack in mind: It’s often easier to flip the sum, i.e. 75% of 4 (for which the answer is — and even we got this — 3!) 18% of 50, 14% of $300 (50% of $18, 300% of $14) … it’s a doddle, right?

communityShare the Ride

April brings us Earth Day (April 22), and if you’d like to do your bit to encourage a more sustainable way of living, take your cue from McCulley Optix Gallery in Fargo, ND, which gives credits to people who show a receipt for ride-share expenses to get to their office.

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