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What Do You Do When a Patient Just Keeps Talking? And Other Questions You’re Asking

Encourage instant answers.

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What do you do when a patient keeps talking and won’t give succinct answers during a refraction?

Over the years, Dr. Jay Petersma of Johnston EyeCare in Johnston, IA, has refined a little preamble that eliminates patients’ wordier, more poetic attempts to describe the difference between 1 and 2. Petersma tells patients: “I need immediate first impressions, not thoughts or descriptions. If you sit and stare and think about the choices, you will have glasses that only work when you sit and stare and think about things. We want instant vision, so I need instant answers.” Say it before you even start the refraction so patients don’t feel singled out for their behavior.

I’ve hired a new employee, but she won’t start for a few more months. How can I keep her feeling excited and positive about the job — and lessen the risk she might change her mind in the long gap before she actually arrives?

Think small, but considerate gestures, says Jack Mitchell, one of the country’s leading clothing retailers and the author of Hug Your Customers. Mitchell tells the story of a superstar salesperson with Macy’s who, after much wooing, finally agreed to come work at Mitchell’s store. Says Mitchell: “We could sense it was a big decision for her, because she is a very loyal and committed person who had established relationships at Macy’s. So we sent her flowers with a handwritten note welcoming her to Mitchell’s and telling her how bright her future was here.” Certainly, a considerate means of showing appreciation. But Mitchell didn’t realize exactly how important his little gesture was until a few years later, when during a seminar, the sales associate told the flower story and revealed something that Mitchell didn’t know. She said that, right after she had agreed to join Mitchell’s, Macy’s had made her a counter-offer and she had told them she would think about it. While driving home, she was having mixed feelings, but when she arrived at the house and saw the bouquet of flowers and read Mitchell’s personal note welcoming her aboard, she was very touched and decided to go ahead with the job switch. The lesson? Mitchell answers: “Most people think a hot button is something big, but it can also be incredibly small, like a bouquet of flowers and a nice note.”

Typos are always creeping into my practice newsletter. I guess I just stink at proofreading. Any tips on what I can do to get better?

Well, our first advice would be to spell-check. (Did you do that? Well, did you?) In addition, before emailing or sending anything to the printers, direct marketing consultant Martha Retallick suggests: “I read every word out loud. Slowly and carefully, just like I did back in first grade reading class. Sometimes, I decide to have some fun and do my proofreading in the form of dramatic readings. Hey, it makes the job go faster ….”

What’s a fun way of telling people what you do at a cocktail party?

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Robert Bell challenged the vast armies of social media supergroup ODs on Facebook to come up with a short “elevator speech” to describe what they do for a living. He made the challenge even tougher by forbidding them from using the words optometrist, optometry, optician, eye doctor or eyecare in their statement. Here are some of the best responses: “I am a vision superhero,” “I give people a new outlook on life,” “I help people see things they’ve never seen before,” “I empower people with vibrant vision,” and “I beautify the world, one face at a time.” Try one of these at your next networking event!

What exactly is marketing? I’m never sure what the specific difference between marketing and advertising.

Try this business proverb, from an anonymous author: “If the circus is coming to town and you paint a sign saying, ‘Circus is coming to Fairgrounds Sunday,’ that’s advertising. If you put the sign on the back of an elephant and walk him through town, that’s a promotion. If the elephant walks through the mayor’s flower bed, that’s publicity. If you can get the mayor to laugh about it, that’s public relations. And, if you planned the whole thing, that’s marketing!”

When shopping or dining out, I frequently meet people I think would be great salespeople for me, but I don’t know how to approach them. Any ideas?

Here’s a great one from jewelry-industry consultant David Geller, who says: “Print up some cards with the following words: ‘I was very impressed with your sales presentation and service level today when you served me. If you have ever considered changing employers, please give me a call.’ Then sign your name.” Then, when you go dining, or shopping, or even to another vision care business, if you happen upon someone who interests you, just give them the card and walk away. With this approach, if they’re truly interested, they’ll get back to you. Plus, they can’t talk during business hours anyway. Says Geller: “There will be those who think this is terrible. But it was terrible when I stole your girlfriend away from you in high school, too.”

Have a question for ASK INVISION? Email us at editor@invisionmag.com.

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Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at editor@invisionmag.com.

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Lifting Your Business Out of Mediocrity and More Questions for January

And how to share chores among staff to make sure they get done.

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I have two good candidates for the position of office manager, but I can’t decide between them. Can you suggest a tie-breaker?

Toss a coin and let fate be your arbiter. If they’re both equally appealing candidates and you can’t reduce the uncertainty by doing further research or interviews or trial runs, then your decision doesn’t much matter. That likely sounds like rash advice, but this paralysis you’re experiencing has a name: Fredkin’s Paradox. The computer scientist Edward Fredkin summed it up as, “The more equally attractive two alternatives seem, the harder it can be to choose between them — no matter that, to the same degree, the choice can only matter less.” To be sure, it will probably turn out to have mattered in hindsight, but by then it’ll be too late. Given that you’re unable to know how things will turn out, overthinking this one — or any similar tough choice — is futile.

How do you share the chores among staff fairly and in a way that is easy to enforce?

Store consultant David Geller feels he knows well the issues you’re facing. “Typically, we as store owners, when something isn’t done, pick our favorite person who is always willing to help to do what others should have done,” he says. “It’s not fair.” To create a system that IS fair, he suggests breaking your staff into groups and rotating the responsibilities. “Put some easy chores with some bad ones like vacuuming and cleaning the bathroom,” he says. The people whose names are under the different groups of chores (see table) do them for only one week, and then they move onto the next group of tasks. This shares around the bad and light chores and also makes it easy for the store owner to raise the issue when a job needs doing. “After doing this, I no longer need to complain to a person, I complain to a group,” Geller says.

Tell me, how do I lift my store out of the rut of mediocrity?

It’s said the toughest test of a manager is how they address lackluster performance. The reason is because it’s not so much about issuing dictates and drawing up policy as it is about fostering a culture that accepts nothing but excellence. Indeed, according to work by Brigham Young business school on high-performing teams, peers manage the bulk of the heavy lifting when it comes to maintaining standards. Counterintuitively, it is in mediocre teams that bosses must enforce standards and are the source of accountability. But how to get to that almost mythical land of self-enforced high standards? Joseph Grenny, a social scientist and author of Crucial Accountability, gives four leadership practices that can help: Start by showing the consequences of mediocrity, to connect people with the experiences, feelings, and impact of bad performance. Set clear goals and explain why they are important. “Use concrete measures to make poor performance painfully apparent,” says Grenny. Establish peer accountability so that people feel comfortable challenging one another when they see mediocrity. And be quick to defend the high standards. A chronic poor performer is an impediment to your goals. How you handle this situation will let your team know whether your highest value is keeping the peace or pursuing performance. “When you ask a group to step up to high performance, you are inviting them to a place of stress — one where they must stretch…where interpersonal conflicts must be addressed,” says Grenny. “If you shrink from or delay in addressing this issue … you send a message to everyone else about your values.”

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Promoting Healthy Competition and More Questions for Year’s End

Also, proper staff gift-giving etiquette and getting the most out of staff trainers.

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How do I tease out a prospective hire’s innate strengths and weaknesses during an interview?

Marcus Buckingham, a leader of the strengths-based school of business management, suggests asking this question (and revisiting it periodically if you do hire the person): What was the best day at work you’ve had in the past three months? “Find out what the person was doing and why he or she enjoyed it so much,” he says, adding it’s key to keep in mind that a strength is not merely something someone is good at. “It might be something they aren’t good at yet. It might be just a predilection, something they find so intrinsically satisfying that they look forward to doing it again and again and getting better at it over time.” The theory is that the best businesses are those that fully leverage the strengths (unbridled upside) of their employees as opposed to trying to fix up their weaknesses (never more than incremental gains).

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How can I promote competition among staff without it turning my store into the setting of Lord Of The Flies?

The key to fostering healthy competition, according to new research done by a team at Harvard Business School, lies in how you communicate the competition. When employees feel excited, they’re more likely to come up with creative solutions and new ways to better serve customers. When they feel anxious or worried they might lose their job or be publicly humiliated, they’re more likely to cut corners or sabotage one another. Leaders can generate excitement by highlighting the potential positive outcomes of competition (such as the recognition and rewards that await outstanding performers) rather than creating anxiety by singling out low performers (think of the steak knives scene in Glengarry Glen Ross).

What is proper etiquette for gift-giving in the workplace?

Your watchwords should be considerate, fair, and inclusive. Aim for gifts that can be shared and enjoyed by everyone such as food. (If people have diet restrictions, they can simply pass on the offering without making a big fuss.) If you do decide to give gifts to every staff member, steer clear of knick-knacks. Most people can barely see their desks as it is. The last thing they need is another coffee mug or pen-and-pencil set. Keep it clean. Do not consider gag gifts that rely on sexual innuendo or ethnic stereotypes to be funny. Do not give anything that could remotely be considered intimate. And be generous down the chain. Give your assistant or intern at least as nice a gift as the one you give your manager.

I’d like to hire a trainer for my staff, but I’m worried about the return on investment?

Our reason for existing at INVISION is to make ECPs better ECPs, and we believe professional trainers can help you enormously. To get your money’s worth, focus on two things: 1.) Hard skills. Overinvest in training that helps to increase ability versus motivation. Yes, it’s nice to have your staff leave a training session all fired up, but for lasting results that will give you that return on your investment, focus on small but vital aspects of your staff’s sales skills. It could be when to pause in a presentation or how many features to stress. Break tasks into discrete actions, practice within a low-risk environment and build in recovery strategies. 2.) This is just as important. Follow up. Bring in a trainer, but only if you yourself are willing to buy into their lessons and do ongoing training and reviews.

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When to Let That Questionable New Employee Go and More Questions for October

Plus its all fun and games until someone gets drunk at the company holiday party … how to protect your business from potential trouble.

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How do you know when a new employee can’t be saved? How much time should you give someone?

When you have coached someone carefully and repeatedly, invested large amounts of energy and they show no signs of improvement, that’s a solid signal you probably need to act. The clincher comes when their co-workers start showing their frustration and stop trying to help the person. This is often at about the three- or four-month mark. A lot of bosses will let it drag on past that, but it’s really in everyone’s interest for both parties to pursue new opportunities.

Podcast: Is Eyecare in Canada Really More Like the US Than We Think?
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: Is Eyecare in Canada Really More Like the US Than We Think?

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Podcast: What Exactly Does it Take to Become America’s Finest Optical Retailer?

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INVISION Podcast

Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries

I’m planning an end-of-year company party, but one concern is that somebody could get drunk, have a car accident, and I might get sued. Got any advice on protecting myself?

These days, the Grinch must be a lawyer. Concerns about liability for alcohol-related incidents, sexual harassment, and workers’ compensation claims have led many companies to forgo holiday galas entirely. You don’t have to. But if you’re really afraid, lawyer Anil Khosla, writing in Inc. Magazine, suggests the following steps to reduce your liability: “1. To distance the business from the party, make it an entirely social event, don’t invite clients or vendors, and make sure employees know that attendance is voluntary. 2. Plan accordingly. Hold your gathering off-site, if possible. That may shift some of the potential liability to the hotel, restaurant, or caterer. If you must have an on-site party, hire an independent caterer. Don’t permit anyone from the company to serve alcohol and instruct bartenders to stop serving anyone who seems inebriated. Lawyers advise avoiding an open bar — or, at the very least, limiting it to the first hour. Also, close the bar at least one hour before the party ends. 3. Consider providing transportation to and from the event. Make sure that cabs will be available and appoint someone to suggest cab rides home for people who have had a few too many.”

I haven’t got around to writing a will yet. What would happen to my business if I died unexpectedly?

When there’s no will, state law (“interstate succession” statutes) usually takes charge of your estate. “Each state has precise laws about who gets what when there is no will, and there are differences among the states,” says Norman M. Boone, MBA, CFP, a nationally renowned financial adviser. “In California, for example, the spouse inherits all the deceased spouse’s community property, but the separate property is shared with the children. In New Jersey, your spouse gets the first $50,000 of your estate and one-half of the rest; your children get everything else. If the children are minors in either state, then the court appoints someone to manage their property (including your business), and then supervises their activities, which involves more intrusion and more expense. The children receive their inheritance at age 18. For singles, the assets are parceled out to relatives in an order determined by state law. Usually, children, parents and then siblings are first in line. Friends, lovers (even domestic partners) or charities are left out.” Without a will, there is always a chance the estate will be fought over by the above claimants, a process which can drag out and potentially ruin a business. Don’t like those prospects? What are you waiting for? Write that will!

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