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‘A Gut-Wrenching Decision’: ECP Biz Owners Tell Us Their Best Coronavirus Calls

From closing up shop to dumping their waiting-room magazines, owners and managers are making tough, unusual — and even some downright simple — decisions to deal with COVID-19.

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COVID-19 is posing special challenges for small business owners, from the financial to the emotional. Are you keeping up with, and making the most of, government assistance measures? Are you prioritizing costs and cuts, being honest with yourself about your payroll situation, showing leadership while discouraging panic? How about designating an official staff “clean-up/disinfection” song? And are you managing to smile in the face of it all?

We asked respondents to our INVISION Coronavirus Impact Survey to tell us their best decision so far as a manager/leader in this time of crisis. Here’s a sampling of what they told us:

  • “Look… in a business we hope for the best and prepare for the worst. This is an eye opener for managing your costs. I know our vendors will be cross but we are only making necessary purchases (frames specifically). Negotiate with your labs. Look at hours. Make financial decisions based on whether they ADD value—meaning profit. – Steve Nelson, Eye Candy Optical, Westlake, OH
  • #1 Decision: Take the hit and close all non-essential business. – Erika Tydor Shoreline Eyecare, Shoreline, WA
  • I printed a coronavirus question sheet for the front desk to use on the phone and in person with patients and told them how to handle people by asking some to wait in their cars, as well as posting info online. I let one staff member who was anxious not come in, but otherwise I am hiding in my office room because everyone seems very cranky. – Marc Ullman, Academy Vision, Pine Beach, NJ
  • To help keep up morale, we have played games such as bingo…. – Ann-Marie Weaver, Optimal Eye Care, Lewis Center, OH
  • Though it was a gut-wrenching decision, closing my shop has been the best decision for me, my staff and my community. — Tamra Asmuth, One Hip Chic Optical, Rochester, NY
  • Reaffirming to our staff that our financial business policies have set us up to remain after this crisis. They still have jobs, etc. Using closed time for virtual staff meetings and those projects we never have time to complete, so that after this, our business will be stronger and more prepared for the rush of business when life is “normal”. – Tina Smrkovski, Reed Optical, Claremont, NH.
  • Smiling. – Phil Harris, EYES ON FIFTH, San Diego, CA
  • Asking the entire team for input, instead of mandating new things from above. It’s always great to see how many ideas we can generate when collaborating together. – Jan Heller, Pend Oreille Vision Care, Sandpoint, ID
  • Staying calm. – Bob McBeath, Edina Eye, Edina, MN
  • It seems odd, but I feel good about having removed all the extra “stuff” around the office. Dispensing mats, lens demonstrators, pamphlets, etc., that are often touched by multiple people a day. Maybe it’s just because things look cleaner/neater and it’s a visible reminder that we’re “trying?” – Christine Howard, Attleboro Vision Care, Attleboro, MA
  • Having a meeting with staff explaining the “what if” scenarios. How we will or will not be able to sustain their pay if forced to shut down. How we need to be more vigilant. – Jim Williams, Eye to Eye Optometry Inc, Mexico, MO
  • I discontinued the use of magazines in the waiting room, along with coffee for patients. – Frances Ann Layton, Eye Associates of South GA, Valdosta, GA
  • Letting my employees take toilet paper home (lol). Letting them choose to work or not. – Annette Prevaux, The Visionary Inc, Allen Park, MI
  • Surveying all customers upon entry to screen them at the door. – Adam Ramsey, Socialite Vision, Palm Beach Gardens, FL
  • We were the first to close in our area. As Dr. Cassar stated on the “Closed” sign, “To best care for our patients and our staff we have decided to close until March 31. Stay safe.” – Bethany Cassar, Complete Eye Health, Holland, MI
  • Insisting that we not minimize how each other is feeling during all of this. We are all at varying levels of freak-out, and however we’re feeling is valid. That being said, it is our duty to lead our patients through this scary time in the best way we can. – Tiffany Firer, Lifetime Eyecare, Jenison, MI

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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