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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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This Email Will Self-Destruct

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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What the Law Says About Retailers Who Say They’re Selling at ‘Wholesale’ Prices and More Questions for March

Unless it’s true, it might be a criminal offense in your state.

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How can I improve the open rates on my email marketing bulletins?

A few years ago, MailChimp.com did a survey of some 40 million promotional emails and found that those with the highest open rates (from 67 to an amazing 80 percent) were the ones that were — surprise, surprise — the least promotional. Typically, they had subject lines that told the recipient what was inside (they didn’t confuse e-bulletins with promotions or vice versa), they used the company’s name in the subject line, and had straightforward subject lines — they weren’t too “salesy” or pushy (this also helps you avoid spam trigger words). Most email providers will allow you to write subject lines of up to 60 characters but you should try to keep it short and to the point, between 30 and 40 characters and no more than five to eight words.

Teen Sees Color for the First Time — Watch Her Reaction
Videos

Teen Sees Color for the First Time — Watch Her Reaction

Video Shows Just How Fabulous Eyeglasses Were in the ’50s — Take a Look
Videos

Video Shows Just How Fabulous Eyeglasses Were in the ’50s — Take a Look

He Recorded a Song with His Optometry Equipment — and Absolutely Killed It
Videos

He Recorded a Song with His Optometry Equipment — and Absolutely Killed It

Constant Contact, another service provider, recommends you state a clear benefit to opening the email. Email messages that have an “exclusive” offer in the subject line, such as “Private event” or “For select customers only,” can generate an additional 24 percent open rate, according to its studies. Of course, you don’t want to be too dry. Your content should be as friendly as possible. Open with the recipient’s name, use a tone that reflects your personality and end with your signature line. Most important, give them something they want. If they’ve opted in and you are responding to their interests, you too might be able to get super-high open rates.

One of the questions I always get, and hate, is “Do you have to charge sales tax?” How should I answer this?

Here’s a simple way to defuse this sneaky discount ploy. Look at the customer directly, smile, and say, “Actually, I don’t charge sales tax. I collect it.” They’ll get the point. And while everybody wants the best deal possible, they’ll probably trust you more for it. Because if you’d cheat on your taxes, why should a customer or patient trust you to take care of their vision?

My store seems like a reality TV show: unnecessary drama. Addressing it only seems to add fuel to the fire. Is there a way to bring it under control?

You’re not alone. After profitability concerns, this is the No. 1 headache of business owners, says business coach Lauren Owen. Drama and discord create stress and hurt productivity. There is no quick fix but there are a number of things you can do, starting with regular meetings. “Scheduled, well-run meetings are essential to clear communication and team building and addressing potential conflicts,” says Owen, adding that such meetings are conspicuously absent at stores with drama issues.

Other steps include confronting your drama queens, addressing your underperformers (there is often a hidden cost in the resentment they cause), performing a cost-benefit analysis on your high performance/maintenance employees (sometimes they just suck all the energy out of a store), and finally taking a good look at yourself. “Some people actually like drama, despite what they say,” Owen says. “If you were really honest with yourself you might understand that the drama is satisfying some need of yours. Attention? Power? Control? Do you avoid all conflict, even healthy conflict, at all costs?” And are you giving your staff a clear sense of purpose — that eyewear is about something much bigger than business?

My practice has never grown the way I had hoped … or hired for. To keep going, I feel we need to downsize. How can I do it without destroying staff morale?

Layoffs are tough. You can’t have high productivity without good morale, and you can’t have good morale unless people have confidence that the company has a future and that the business is going to treat them fairly if things get worse. Employees need to know that you respect and value their contributions and don’t just view them as a resource.

Sometimes, however, you have no choice but to order layoffs. In that case, remember three rules.

1. Do them all at once. Dragging things out will destroy morale.
2. It’s better to cut too much than to cut too little.
3. Make sure all remaining employees understand that what you’re doing is saving their jobs.

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Tip Sheet

Earn Some Low-Tech Loyalty and More Tips for March

Like an inexpensive way to tell your customers about what’s new.

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merchandisingSign Language

When you go to a trade show, your vendors immediately tell you what’s new, right? Of course they do. You can do the same. Merchandising consultant Larry B. Johnson says the best way to draw interest from regular customers is to put a whiteboard on an easel (total cost: $79) just inside your door with all of your new products written on it.

Teen Sees Color for the First Time — Watch Her Reaction
Videos

Teen Sees Color for the First Time — Watch Her Reaction

Video Shows Just How Fabulous Eyeglasses Were in the ’50s — Take a Look
Videos

Video Shows Just How Fabulous Eyeglasses Were in the ’50s — Take a Look

He Recorded a Song with His Optometry Equipment — and Absolutely Killed It
Videos

He Recorded a Song with His Optometry Equipment — and Absolutely Killed It

planningBuy-In Gets Results

The staff at Midwest Eye in Downers Grove, IL, were intimately involved in planning its renovation. The result was an office full of individual character, that is functionally attuned to staff needs, and, according to practice manager Pam Peters “a space we all love to work in.” Natalie Taylor, one of our 2018 America’s Finest judges, concurs: “The office’s flow is great — a separate desk for check-in and check-out, wall-mounted TV, and optical kiosks all show the collaboration of staff in designing the space.”

managementDon’t Beat Around the Bush

When you’re delivering good and bad news to employees, always give the bad news first, says Daniel Pink, bestselling author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. He acknowledges this often feels counterintuitive, as many hope to cushion the bad stuff to come. “But that is wrong,” he recently told The Washington Post. “The research tells us this very, very clearly. If you ask people what they prefer, four out of five prefer getting bad news first. Given the choice, human beings prefer endings that elevate.”

techGo Gray

Worried your relationship with your phone is less than healthy? Switch your display from color to grayscale, recommends Catherine Price in her book How to Break Up With Your Phone. (This is so threatening to phone makers’ addiction business model, it’s hidden five levels deep on the iPhone: Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Color Filters.)

managementOn a Roll? Take a Break

According to a Columbia University study, the key to taking effective breaks is to stop even when you don’t feel like it. “Participants who didn’t step away from a task at regular intervals were more likely to write ‘new’ ideas that were very similar to the last one,” the authors explained in Harvard Business Review. So, “if you’re hesitant to break away because you feel that you’re on a roll, be mindful that it might be a false impression.”

marketingLow-Tech Loyalty

Consumers spend more at retailers with loyalty programs. But if creating one seems like a chore, borrow New Jersey pet store Maxwell & Molly’s Closet’s idea: Spend $200 and earn 5 percent off on all purchases for life. Keep it simple.

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Tip Sheet

Stop Expecting So Much and More Tips for February

But always bring donuts if you’re running late.

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staffMore Donuts

Want to add some fun to your store? Take a tip from Sherrie’s Jewelry Box in Tigard, OR, where “you’re never late to work if you bring donuts,” owner Sherrie Devaney told INVISION’s sister publication INSTORE magazine.

TRADE SHOWSGood Expo Days

Headed to Vision Expo East? Follow the advice of marketing consultant Andrea Hill and take along a collapsible instant hot water carafe “because coffee is the beginning of a good day” and those Starbuck’s lines can get brutal.

hiringValue Added

Anand Sanwal, the CEO and co-founder of fast-growing tech company CB Insights, has an interesting take on the best question to ask a job candidate — “Tell me how you prepared for this interview.” Not only does the reply likely reveal a lot about how the person’s commitment to the position — do they care? — but it hints at their work ethic and analytical capabilities, he says. In the case of good candidates who have done their homework, they may even have fresh ideas about the way the company functions. “All of a sudden it goes from an interview to a conversation and that is a really encouraging sign if someone is adding value at that stage,” he told The Twenty Minute VC podcast.

psychologyKeep It Real

The problem with high expectations is they often result in future disappointment. Meanwhile, low ones tend to make you glum since there’s not much to look forward to. The answer? Stop expecting, says Jason Fried, who has written several books on work. “I used to set up expectations in my head all day long. But constantly measuring reality against an imagined reality is taxing and tiring.” Expectations also keep you mentally living in the future and deflated when events don’t measure up — even if what happens is pretty good. So, in 2019, don’t expect so much.

planningUse Will-Do Lists

When making your daily to-do list, don’t pick 20 things you hope to do that you think add up to one day’s work: you’ll overestimate your capacities. Instead, pick the three or four most important things, and really commit to doing them, even if you think they’ll take you only a couple of hours, suggests Luciano Passuello at litemind.com.

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merchandisingProtect Your View

Yes, the job market is tight and you may be short staffed, but hang those Help Wanted flyers on a local bulletin board or near your counter, not as some retailers do, in your front window. “Your front window is your customers’ first impression of your store,” says merchandising expert Tom Crossman. “Don’t make it a messy one.”

TIME OFFShort and Sweet

There seems to be a belief that a “proper” vacation requires at least a week. But as psychologist Thomas Gilovich told the Boston Globe, “If you have to sacrifice how long your vacation is versus how intense it is, you want shorter and more intense.” That’s because we remember and judge our experiences not in their entirety but according to how they felt at their emotional peak, and at the end. Yes, time feels scarce in the modern world. But you have no excuse for not having a memorable holiday this year. Start planning now!

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