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How Can I Tell My Staff They’re Going to Have to Work Saturdays?

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I’ve decided to open on Saturdays. It’s the right thing to do for our patients and customers, but I know staff won’t be thrilled. How can I break the news?

Take a cue from Dr. Lyndi Schmidt at Acuity Vision Boutique in San Francisco, CA. She says that although her business has always been open on Saturdays, as her family has grown, she rarely works Saturdays now, and she has hired an OD to work weekends. “I still pop in some Saturdays to drop off fresh donuts, home baked goods, and sometimes lunch to show my staff I appreciate them working on Saturdays,” she says. “It keeps the morale up. The patients really appreciate that we have Saturday hours. If you can keep your staff happy with little perks, it’s a win-win situation for everyone.”


You suggest giving speeches in my community. How can I get started?

Smart move, says INVISION columnist and eyecare business management guru John Marvin. “Offering your time and eyecare expertise by giving speeches to community and civic groups can be a rewarding way to market your practice. Your expertise in eyecare overlaps with areas of public concern. Many community groups have small budgets and are always looking for good speakers for their monthly programs.” Marvin suggests a two-pronged approach — one active, one passive — to boost your number of speaking engagements. First, you can call or write local community clubs and organizations to offer your speaking services. Second, you can note your availability to speak at local events in your client newsletter and also post an announcement on your reception-area bulletin board. Be sure to include a list of topics you can cover and special features of your presentation.


I keep reading I should be adding video to my website and even my email bulletins. Yes? No?

If you’re adding it because of “new toy syndrome” then no, bad idea. Nothing annoys people like boring video content or slow video streams. And it’s not so new — moving pictures aren’t going to pique many people’s attention anymore. Your rule of thumb should be: Use video only when it offers a better experience than text and images can. Such cases could include video testimonials, a nicely produced short on the history of the family business, or perhaps a style guide on what kind of eyewear matches best with different face shapes. Should you need a producer for your video (and you probably will if you’re going to do it right), start your search at Smartshoot.com, a network of thousands of pros who’ll bid for the job. To get maximum value from your video shoot, consider planning out an entire year’s worth of content that you could shoot in a single day.


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Is it really a good idea to hire a client who is an eyewear fanatic as a salesperson?

We have heard stories of it working out well, and we know of at least one business where almost all the staff are former customers. But you also need to be aware of the downside should you have to fire them, for underperformance or discipline issues. As one of INVISION’s Brain Squad members put it, “They’ll hate you and tell their high-spending friends.”


Go one of two ways with messages on your sandwich board: you can try to promote your sales or you can try to give people a chuckle.
I was looking for somewhere to buy sandwich boards. Any ideas on where to go and what to look for?

Sidewalk sandwich-board and easel displays are a great way to draw people into your business. Your creative approach can hew to one of two approaches: Update passers-by with daily sales and new product information, or inspire them and give them a chuckle due to the awesomeness of your product. (As in the image from an optician’s business shown at left.) You can get a basic chalk-able sandwich board from Amazon.com. To see a wider variety of sidewalk signage, including custom options, check with your local sign company or see signsus.com. Once you have your sign, instantly get a year or more worth of creative inspiration by searching Pinterest for “sandwich boards.”


We’d like to reach a new audience and wonder whether radio is still an effective medium. What do you think?

Public and community radio stations can be a very good way to reach presbyopes who need your services — the median age for NPR listeners is 54 — and younger people who prefer to do business locally. Audiences tend to be more affluent, too. Ads usually take the form of sponsorship announcements. Seattle, WA, optical boutique 4 Your Eyes Only uses NPR affiliate KUOW to reach its intended upscale clientele, and owner Judy Ayers frequently uses her simple, 20-second messages to highlight an upcoming trunk show or new line. “We advertise with our favorite community radio station, KUT,” reports Tiffany Satterly of Optique in Austin, TX. “It’s owned by the University of Texas, one of the biggest sources of patients in town. Plus we love listening to news radio on the way to work, and many of our patients do too!”

This article originally appeared in the April 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.

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Teen Sees Color for the First Time — Watch Her Reaction

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

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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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Finding the Best Tax Professional for You and More Questions for February

Getting a head start on what could be a volatile year, and more advice for February.

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2019 seems like it’s going to be a volatile year. What should we do to get ready?

Eight years of economic growth and cheap credit allowed many business owners to gaze far into the future and craft successful, long-term strategies, but it does seem those times are coming to an end as trade wars, rising interest rates, political turmoil, spooked financial markets and ongoing technological change cast a shadow over what otherwise is still a strong economy. In such a shifting, unstable environment where visibility is low, Donald Sull, a London Business School professor, recommends “active waiting.” Contemplate alternative techniques, explore likely scenarios and focus on general readiness. This is a time of threat but also opportunity. “Keep your vision fuzzy and your priorities clear,” Sull says. “Maintain a war chest and battle-ready troops. Know when to wait — and when to strike. When you grab an opportunity or move to crush a threat, amass all your resources behind the effort.” At the same time, continue making routine operational improvements such as cutting costs, strengthening distribution, and improving products and services. “Though mundane, these initiatives foster efficiency, which can position you to snatch a golden opportunity from rivals’ jaws,” Sull says. It all sounds rather dramatic, but then high drama surely awaits.

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

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Podcast: Try Not to Blink Talks About the Business of Cannabis, and Its Role in Modern Healthcare

The sales experts you quote often recommend role-playing exercises. But my sales staff always slinks away when I suggest them. How can I get them to play along?

That may be because the focus is negative, says sales trainer Dave Richardson. Make the role-playing positive and fun. First, play the role of the salesperson and let your salespeople critique you. Then, when it’s your turn to play the customer, instead of saying, “Here’s what you did wrong,” start off by telling the person what you felt they did well and what you would change if you had the opportunity. Always finish on a positive, encouraging note, Richardson says.

Our marketing team’s images were recently lifted and used by the vendor for their advertising without crediting us. When I contacted them, they said, “We’re sorry; it was the intern’s fault.” How should I handle this?

If it was “the intern’s fault,” who approved the final vendor layouts? But regardless of whose fault it is, you should get some compensation for the use of your images, says business management consultant Kate Peterson. The vendor would have paid for the images had they used any other marketing professional to create them, so they should have no issue with paying your in-house team. “I would suggest that the retailer assign a fair price (what she typically pays her team per image) and send an invoice directly to the head of the company with pics of their ads and an explanation. If applicable, tell them you will apply the amount of the invoice against an outstanding balance,” says Peterson. “The key here is to remain positive and confident, as opposed to challenging. Assume they are expecting to compensate, and communicate in a tone that expresses confidence in their interest in doing the right thing.”

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My business is only four years old and up until now I’ve done my own taxes but now I’d like to find a tax pro. Where do I find a good one?

Online directories such as CPAdirectory.com, Accountant-Finder.com and AccountantsWorld.com are a good place to start. Most will allow you to search by name, location and industry focus. The National Association of Tax Professionals also offers an online database of tax preparers, and the American Institute of CPAs has one for CPA firms. If you do contemplate hiring a tax preparer you found online, request referrals to past clients so you can ask about the quality of the service they received. A possibly better strategy is to ask people in the industry. This is because your ideal target should have some experience doing returns for vision-related businesses as every industry has its own rules and deduction options.

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Personality Clashes and More Questions for This Month

Read the answers to some of your holiday questions.

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Our holiday events are approaching. What are the best finger foods for an in-store event?

Balancing what tastes good — usually greasy or gooey food — with what looks sophisticated and doesn’t leave crumbs around the store or sticky fingerprints over your eyewear or frame boards is a tough balancing act. But store trainer Kate Peterson thinks she’s seen the answer: small, clear plastic drink glasses. “One presentation had a small amount (about three-quarters of an inch) of ranch dressing in the bottom of the cups, along with a variety of veggie sticks (carrots, celery, bell peppers, cucumbers, squash). The glasses were all arranged on a tray, so instead of having to pick up the veggies and scoop dip onto a plate, guests simply picked up an easy-to-handle, pre-made serving, which could then be dropped into a trash bin when they were done. Peterson adds that she saw a similar but more “savory” twist on this treatment with cocktail sauce and jumbo shrimp (tails removed). Don’t want ranch dressing in your store? Try cubed cheese and seedless grapes, which are always a crowd favorite, and easy to prepare.

I need ideas on how to give my optical a quick, cheap facelift before the holiday season starts.

The problem with quick, cheap facelifts is that they look exactly that — quick and cheap. Take a hard look at your store and if you find worn fixtures splash out and get them refinished. Then focus on creating a killer (but easy-on-the-pocket) winter-themed display. Bare branches, lots of white, big candles, spray-on snow… Be bold about moving your merchandise to new locations. Try them in higher or lower positions, with new props or with more space than usual. And if you’ve got a boring wall you just don’t know what to do with, throw up another mirror. People are endlessly fascinated with themselves.

I’m thinking of opening a new retail optical outlet in what’s possibly the most crowded market in the country; there are over three dozen optical retailers here in a college town of 400,000. I feel I know this market but should I look elsewhere?

A crowded marketplace isn’t necessarily a bad sign; conversely, it may be an indicator of the huge demand for a product or service. The secret to business success isn’t finding an empty field, it’s filling a need, and that generally means a niche. Sometimes niches are created because everyone is chasing the big-ticket-buying crowd or the youth market or there are changes in fashion or technology that the existing players may have missed. The real question is whether you can do something better or differently. “Just don’t think you can do it by being the cheapest,” says marketing expert Brad Sugars. “You’re the little guy; you don’t have economies of scale. The big guys can make up in volume what they lack in margin. You can’t.”

I’m a junior member of a front office team of eight. They’re all good people but one of the older girls bugs the hell out of me. It’s purely a personality thing. What do I do?

Focus on the positives. Remind yourself of the contributions she makes. If that’s too hard then at least don’t fall into the trap of recruiting allies to your cause. Sure, it feels good to have someone confirm she’s annoying but it also makes her presence a bigger issue. Try to minimize contact and ask yourself, does she irk everyone or is there something about you that has you grimacing like this?

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