Connect with us

Beginnings

New owners weigh in on the hardest part of their business … starting it.

mm

Published

on

They say that starting is the hardest part. If that is true, then these ECPs—whom we asked to share their businesses’ origin stories while they are basically still happening—should have it pretty easy from here on out, right?

Kidding aside, if you’re curious about what happens in that space between idea and execution, we’ve got the perspectives of four new business owners who implemented different models and priorities as they got off the ground. From business plans to securing financing, from what they’d do differently to advice for others looking to branch out on their own, read on for all the fascinating details.

A FAMILY AFFAIR

Julia Laval and Anissa Laval
Cutting Edge Optics, Berkeley, CA
Opened: November 2018

We are a mother/daughter optician duo and opened Cutting Edge Optics in November 2018 located in the charming Elmwood community on one of Berkeley’s busiest streets, College Ave.

Julia also owns Montclair Optical in Oakland. Montclair Optical boasts a long history; it has been in business for 42 years and passed down through several generations of opticians in our family for the last 35. Montclair Village has its own lab and Julia has been the technician in charge of cutting all lenses for the last few years.

I have been an optician for the last nine years. I learned my skills from my mother; observing the techniques needed to succeed in the business. If not for having seen first-hand how to correctly understand lenses, prescriptions and frames, my climb into the business would have been much steeper. I’ve worked under enough doctors to understand how not to run a business, enough that I knew I was ready for this adventure.

Advertisement

We opened Cutting Edge Optics because of our passion for opticianry. We are bringing true optical knowledge, new techniques, and unique, fresh brands to Berkeley. As two opticians with genuine love for this profession, excellent service comes naturally to us. We take our time, offering personal attention to every customer, and supplying a broad yet original selection of glasses to guarantee the perfect fit, customized in every way: from color and lens shape, to the glasses-buying experience itself.  

The shop was previously owned by an optician who was ready to move on. The decor was entirely white. Our aesthetic is based on a New York studio loft. When we took over, we painted and put up a gorgeous plant wall as the focal point. It pulls in the green, sustainable and eco-friendly aspect of the neighborhood, fitting these values into our urban aesthetic. The large windows create an airy, inviting feeling. We play music from all over the world, including Africa and Central and South America. We even mix in a little French rap.

This store has an extensive business plan. After more than 30 years of success in Montclair, it was natural to apply those guidelines to Cutting Edge. We are very serious about the buying process and making sure we don’t overspend on frames. Optical businesses fail in one category: how big their eyes get when a rep walks in verses how much they have in their bank account. It should never be a race to rush patients in the door just to cover your costs month to month.

Julia knew from experience what was needed to financially support the business and get it off the ground, and Anissa knew how to deploy social media and advertising to generate a buzz before the doors even opened. Before Day 1 our Instagram had over 700 followers and we gave hour to hour updates and sneak peeks. Business has been busy from the first day.

We constantly push ourselves to keep our patients informed about what we’re doing next. Social media gives us a platform to align brands with specific people. Every brand introduction and major event is published online. Photographer Dione Green (@Dione.Green), who took our photos, is key. We also advertise a lot with the Elmwood community newsletters.

Advertisement

Business, especially starting cold, can be a waiting game. When you revamp an established business, you’re going to deal with customers who are accustomed to the old way, the old prices, and the old frame selection; these loyal customers can take a while to warm up to changes. One of the most important lessons we’ve learned is not swaying to please everyone.

Annisa (l) and Julia Laval have brought true optical knowledge, new techniques and unique, fresh brands to Berkeley, CA, with Cutting Edge.

In terms of advice, make a detailed guideline to how you want to financially run your business and stick to it. Our way is to make a frame board. Our frame board details how many frames can fit into a section and how much money we are willing to spend on that section. You may think more is better but picking the right frames for customers is smarter than having as many as possible. Listen to your gut, not the rep! For example, if I’m buying 60 pieces of Garrett Leight, I need to ask myself how much I’m spending and how far they will get me before I have to repurchase. Then I need to consider what happens if 35 percent of those frames don’t move. I cannot purchase Caroline Abram just for its beauty, I have to consider who is going to buy these frames and is it worth having the same frame in three colors.

Also, have a social media advisor. Social media is the new Yelp. Without a visual aid to generate intrigue for customers, you’re doing your business a disservice and damaging its ability to grow and make profit. Social media is a digital lasso for new customers.

QUICK Q & A

What was the first major milestone you celebrated?
We wanted to open as dramatically as we could. Our doors and windows were covered then we did a large reveal online and on the Elmwood community site. We were met with overwhelming support.
Have you already had to break up with a patient/customer or vendor?
We have had to break up with many vendors and bring in new brands.
Has the business made you cry?
Of course! If a business doesn’t make you cry, you’re not working hard enough.
Would you have done anything differently?
No.
What’s been your most empowering moment?
A customer who had been looking for frames for over three years left with six. She later came back with three friends who all purchased.
How long did it take until you felt like were gonna make it?
Instantly. Business grows if you control money flow. Everything else comes easy.
Do you ever feel like you’ve made a terrible mistake?
Never. You have to be confident in your ability to succeed.
What do you do to help overcome doubt?
We sit in the office every time we feel overwhelmed and say: “There’s no way we are going to fail.”

 

Advertisement

GOING HOME AGAIN

Erika E. Mabus, OD 
Muncy and Laporte, PA
Opened: September 2018

I established my corporation on July 26, 2018 and officially signed closing documents on Sept. 6, 2018. I purchased it from an optometrist who had been practicing in the same location for the last 20 odd years. It’s 12 miles north of where I grew up and 25 miles south of where I live now. It was well-established, privately-owned, and one of very few independent offices in my area. I believe in private practice optometry and I am excited to officially be practicing in that capacity. 

I’d been contemplating my own practice since graduating from optometry school in 2013, and the timing just felt right. The optometrist had plans to retire soon, so it’s been a nice way for us to transition patients and give me time to pick his brain on the business aspects. 

I spent months going over the financials with an accountant and business advisor, as well as a lawyer with expertise in accounting and business acquisitions. I was surprised at how long it took for lawyers to go back and forth to on the contract’s terms. The retiring doctor and I began the process in April 2018 and finalized it September.

I secured financing through PNC Healthcare Business Banking and have been extremely happy with the help I received before, during, and after the purchase. I contacted a few smaller local banks, but they asked for high down payments or collateral; PNC made it simple and easy. 

I made a business plan, but just as everything in the world evolves, so has my idea of how my practice should run. I am happy with what I have accomplished in the last seven months of ownership, but I am always striving to do better. Currently, I am considering a consultant for more accountability and to keep myself on track, but also to help me achieve my future goal: comfort with the cost of new technology to set my office apart. 

Part of the appeal of private practice in a rural area is that patients feel at home. My team greets every patient by name and in the exam room I always try to make at least one personal connection. I recently saw an older patient I thought may have patronized my grandfather’s business years ago. We reminisced about the time he and his father spent in my grandfather’s hardware store. 

Taking over from an established OD where she grew up was Dr. Mabus’ way to ownership.

The retiring doctor and I put up a photo in the waiting area with a note welcoming me to the practice. I advertised with local high school sports teams and drama club programs and T-shirts. I also contacted the local newspaper for a “spotlight on business” article which brought a lot of business to my new location without any cost to me. 

The day we signed the agreement there was a full book of patients and it’s been that way ever since. Keeping the same staff with the retiring doctor still seeing patients has been a huge help. Patients are getting used to the idea of another doctor and they get one final visit with their previous optometrist. I opened a second location cold in January and I am just now starting to have a full day of patients there after a few weeks of one to five patients a day. 

I am happy with the quality of medical eyecare I provide, but I’d love to incorporate more advanced dry eye treatments. It is one of my personal passions, since I experience it myself. I also hope to become more skilled at specialty contact lens fittings to differentiate myself and complement my dry eye treatments. I thought I would be ready to jump in and purchase more equipment the first year, but now I hope to do so in year two. 

If anyone else is thinking of purchasing or starting their own practice, I would recommend getting an excellent set of advisors: a good lawyer, a competent accountant, and a business advisor. Having people to help is huge. My other advice is to integrate yourself into your community. Patients love to make connections with you, and that’s easier if you go to the same restaurants, know the schools, join the same gym, or shop in the same places.  

QUICK Q & A

What was the first major milestone you celebrated?
I brought in two new independent frame lines that focus on sustainability — TOC lunettes Monkey Glasses and David Green Eyewear
Have you had to break up with a patient/customer or vendor?
Not yet, thankfully. Has the business made you cry? e Not yet! But I have had a few sleepless nights since September
Would you have done anything differently?
I would have set up my website sooner, which is still not complete.
What’s been your most empowering moment?
I still see patients at two other retail locations on evenings and weekends. When I tell them I have two private practices, they tell me that they are excited to see me there next year.   
 
How long did it take until you felt like you had it under control?
About three months, although there are still times when I feel like I’m lost with the business aspects. 
Do you ever feel like you’ve made a terrible mistake?
Not yet. Even when I am working seven days a week because I know in the end all the hard work will directly benefit me, not someone else.
What do you do to overcome doubt?
I breathe. I meditate. I trust that I am enough. I work hard, so I know that I’ve done everything I can. 

 

FROM BIG BOX TO BOUTIQUE

Mitch Peterson and Kelsey Keltgen, OD
SEEK Eyecare / Victoria, MN
Opened: February 2017 (Soft), April 2017 (Grand)

My wife, Dr. Kelsey Keltgen, and I cold-opened our practice in early 2017. We chose a new building in downtown Victoria, MN. We were the first and are still the only practice in Victoria.  

My wife, and high school sweetheart, had been practicing for about six years prior to opening SEEK. She worked as a paid hourly doctor right out of school and filled in at other practices on the side. After that she was a lease-holding doctor at a big box optical. I have a diverse background, from working on my family farm to starting a few successful businesses. I was even a bouncer and drove semi-trucks in college. Our unique backgrounds make us a great team. She is one of the most passionate ODs out there.

We both worked six to seven days a week to pay off our personal debt. So, when we were ready to open our dream store we were financially able to do so. We wanted to open our own practice because no one was doing what we wanted to do: offer a state-of-the-art practice that provided comprehensive exams with an approachable retail space. My wife wanted to be able to take a preventative approach that would be more beneficial to patients.

We did a ton of research. We used our experience to develop a patient experience that picked up where a lot of practices fall short. We had to figure everything out from scratch. None of us knew how or where to purchase frames … What lenses or lab to use.

We developed a very in-depth business plan with multiple options to pivot with if things didn’t pan out. We have adhered to the majority of it. The only major change is that we had to adapt due to how fast we are growing. We are hitting our goals for years four and five in year two.

We secured a build-out loan fairly easily due to our favorable debt-to-income ratio and self-financed the operating side. The most surprising challenge we encountered was that construction was always four months behind schedule due to more than 35 inches of rain the day we broke ground. We had to meet frame reps at a coffee shop.

Insurance credentialing was a huge project that my rock star wife handled. Start working on that the second you can. We are involved in the community, volunteering and sponsoring events. I’ve used unique marketing avenues to get our brand out. Constant logo use and branding is important to my marketing plan. Since we previously leased at a corporate big box practice, the patient base was ours. We posted on social media each step of the build-out.

Business was crazy when we opened. We had so much local support and we both have large families; they were some of our first patients. The support from our friends and family has been amazing.

Over time, we have gotten very precise in how we operate. We have brought in more high-end eyewear than we initially planned. The biggest learning curves have been on the optical side: we’re more particular with our frame purchases; we make sure the product is great and the rep is even better; if they aren’t, we get rid of them.

Our advice is don’t over-extend yourself. If you aren’t financially and mentally prepared to do everything yourself, wait a few years. Write up your dream business model and find the patient base that fits it. Don’t let anyone or anything push you to start cold. You have to be all-in. We have zero regrets and love working as a wife and husband duo.

QUICK Q & A

What was the first major milestone you celebrated?
The night before we turned the OPEN sign on, we sat and had a beer in the front office after a month of 100 hour work weeks.
Have you already had to break up with a patient/customer or vendor?
We are break-up free on the patient side. We have had to let a vendor or two go.
Has the business made you cry?
It has been an emotional rollercoaster but I think the only tears have been tears of joy.
Would you have done anything differently?
e Nope.
What’s been your most empowering moment?
When publications like INVISION contact us to share our story. It reassures us that we must be doing something right.
 
 
How long did it take until you felt like you were gonna make it?
Once the first patient came in the door I knew we had created something special.
Do you ever feel like you’ve made a terrible mistake?
e No success comes without mistakes. It is how you move forward and learn from them.
What do you do to help overcome doubt?
We work through everything as a team. If there is any doubt we talk it through between the doctor, Rachel and myself. Keeping each other in check keeps confidence high.

 

CROWDSOURCING SUCCESS

Jason M. Klepfisz, OD
Urban Eyecare, Phoenix, AZ
Opened: August 2017

We opened Urban Eyecare in August of 2017 to bring comprehensive care and independent eyewear and specialty contacts to an underserved area, and also hoping that bringing these services would springboard future growth.

I spent the better part of three years jotting down notes on all the little aspects of private practice and optical that resonated with myself. I wish I could say it was all fun and games, but there was a lot of monotony: Which slit lamp has the best optics? Manual vs. automated phoropter? White-gray flooring or gray-white? Pricing out the optical. The best advice came from those that have gone down this road before, those that are currently practicing, and those looking to hang up their own shingle.

I come from an Indian Health Services background, having completed residency in a rural community. This continued in a geriatric setting for years when I returned to Phoenix before deciding to open my own office. The biggest challenge we faced when opening, and one that changed our overall goal, was getting credentialed on medical insurance panels. We pivoted to focus on our retail experience, seeking harmony between a medically and optically oriented office. What I didn’t expect was to fall in love with the materials and craftsmanship as much as I have.

To make ourselves stand out, we push brand-awareness social media campaigns and provide adjustments and free cleaner to anybody who walks in. We exhibit local artists in our office.

We got the word out through trial and error. We started with our online presence. I also hand delivered letters to about 250 local businesses on a 100-degree spring day. We called local businesses and found ones who allowed us to deliver gift bags to their employees. We took every health fair opportunity available. Every bulletin board, coffee shop and college building we could leave flyers, we did, even handed them out on the street.

Business was great when we opened. The problem was we lost our optician just a few days before opening. I had no previous experience with optical and my staff were untrained in the area. In our first week, we slowly built up a pile of lab orders ready to be placed but nobody to place them. Fortunately, by the end of that week we found a wonderful replacement who has been our rock star ever since!

The main lessons we’ve learned are, firstly, to check out eyewear in person before buying. With our limited window to purchase frames while opening, we carried some brands we were less than thrilled with over the course of the year. We shed about half of the brands we started with and are much more careful in our choices now.

Lastly, my advice is to follow your dream! Don’t feel the need to take over somebody else’s problem office because starting cold is too difficult. Create something unique, a place that patients want to go, rather than a place they reluctantly need to go. Create an experience that makes people want to come back.

QUICK Q & A

What was the first major milestone you celebrated?
Adding a fourth doctor day per week. It was wonderful to spend another day in my practice rather than working for somebody else. 
Have you already had to break up with a patient/customer or vendor?
We have unfortunately had to drop a few vendors. The beauty of ownership is we can choose to work with brands that complement us and our mission, to grow together.
Would you have done anything differently?
I would make design changes for our next office. A doctor who owns a large chain once told me that you always like your first office the least, but each one after gets a little better.
How long did it take until you felt like you were gonna make it?
It’s still day by day, even though we are turning a profit. The days with 16 patients make me feel like the king of the world, while slow days make me feel like tomorrow is never going to come. I don’t think I’ll feel like it’s completely under control for a couple more years.
Do you ever feel like you’ve made a terrible mistake?
Never!
What do you do to help overcome doubt?
Wake up happy every day and excited to go do my dream job at my dream office!

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

Advertisement

SPONSORED VIDEO

SPONSORED BY REICHERT

When You’re Passionate About Eye Care, the Right Technology Matters

Lisa Genovese, O.D., strives to give her patients the very best. At Insight Eye Care’s multiple locations, Dr. Genovese provides optimal care for her patients using the Reichert® Phoroptor® VRx Digital Refraction System. In this second Practice Profile Video from Reichert’s “Passionate About Eye Care” series, take a closer look and see how this eye care professional achieved a better work-life balance with equipment that’s designed and engineered in the U.S.A.

Promoted Headlines

Best of Eyecare

25 ECPs Share Their Elevator Pitches

25 ECPs put who they are and what they do for a living in a sentence or two… or three.

mm

Published

on

OK… You’ve slipped into the elevator just as the doors are closing. The woman on your left is wearing poorly fitting frames that are totally wrong for her. The gentleman to your right is squinting as he tries to find the button for his floor. You sense a golden opportunity, but the floors are already ticking by. You’ve got until those doors open again to tell these potential clients what you do and how you can help them. It’s time to dust off your “elevator pitch.” Our Brain Squad members are rarely at a loss for a few well-chosen words, so we asked them their best pitches. Here’s what they had to say to those future customers and patients on the subject of… you.

Hi, My name is Diana Canto Sims. I am an eyeball doctor turned eyewear designer for the diverse and the bold. What do you do? — Diana Sims, Buena Vista Optical, Chicago, IL

We help you create a look that is as unique as you are. — Doreen Erbe, Snyder Eye Group, Ship Bottom, NJ

I create complete custom eyewear by hand in Glenview. This includes the frames as well as the lenses. — Kevin Count, Prentice Lab, Glenview, IL

I am the owner and doctor at an eyecare office focused on pampering our patients.  — Nytarsha Thomas, OD, Visionelle Eyecare, Zionsville, IN

I can easily knock 10 years off your look and I promise people will notice! — Jennifer Leuzzi, Mill Creek Optical, Dansville, NY

We sell unique eyewear from all over the world.” (Then give a few specific examples of exotic materials. However, never oversell or seem pushy. Just plant the seed!!!)”  — Scott Keating, OD, Vision Trends, Dover, OH

You know the eyes are the windows to the soul right? Sometimes the windows cannot see; I help with that. I am an optometrist.” — Selina McGee, OD, Precision Vision, Edmond, OK

I refine one of your five senses. I give you vision and insight into your health, with a twist of style, all while having a good time in the process. — Cynthia Sayers, OD, EyeShop Optical Center, Lewis Center, OH

I explain that I run a practice for an eye doctor and that our goal is to make sure each patient sees well and is educated on the products and materials we wear ourselves. — Amy Pelak, Proview Eyecare Optometry, Corona, CA

I help people love their new eyewear, and owning 31 pairs of glasses and sunwear, I know I can find the right pair for you. — Kathy Maren Comb EyeCare & Eyewear, Western Springs, IL

I talk about the unique things our practice offers like sensory and vision therapy. We carry a variety of frames for the whole family. From durable kids, to the fun and funky for mom and dad. We’re not your average eye doctor.” Heather Nagucki, Brodie Optometry, Perrysburg, OH

I compliment someone on their glasses. I may ask them where they got them and always say something nice about their doctor or optician. I know everyone in town after 50 years in Sacramento. If the patient discusses a bad experience then I drop a business card.”  — Texas L. Smith, OD, Dr. Texas L. Smith & Associates, Citrus Heights, CA

I help people see and look better.  — Jason Stamper Eye Care Pavilion, Davenport, IA

I tell them I try not to look like an optometrist! — Dave Schultz, OD, Urban Optics, San Luis Obispo, CA

When I meet people I always try to tell them I’m like a pharmacist for your eyeglasses. — Bob Schmittou, New Eyes Optical, Wyandotte, MI

I’m an optician. Once the eye doctor is done with you I will help you with any optical needs whether glasses or contacts. Basically, I make you look good! — Scott Felten, Fox Valley Family Eye Care, Little Chute, WI

We get to help people see to their fullest potential. It’s the best job in the world! — Caitlin Bruno, Binyon Vision Center, Bellingham, WA

I’m like a pharmacist. I fill the prescription written by the doctor. But in Michigan, your optician doesn’t have to have a license the way your pharmacist does. That’s why there are so many people walking around in ugly glasses that can’t see.  — Dave Goodrich, Goodrich Optical, Lansing, MI

I bend light for a living. — Jon LaShorne, Kirkpatrick Eye Care, Madison, IN

I frame the windows to your soul with beauty. — Frances Ann Layton, Eye Associates of South Georgia, Valdosta, GA

I have no elevator pitch. I just let people know why I love doing what I do.” — Pablo E. Mercado, Mount Vernon Eyecare, Dunwoody, GA

Nice glasses! I bet they cost you a fortune. I’m an optician. Here’s my card. Next time you’re in the market for a new pair, give me a call and I’ll save you money.” — Mitchell Kaufman, Marine Park Family Vision, Brooklyn, NY

Everyone knows what a pharmacist does … so I equate my career as a licensed optician to that. I take a prescription from a doctor and I interpret that prescription. I advise and educate the patient on how to use the prescription written. I generate a product from that prescription and then dispense that prescription as a piece of medical equipment.”  — William Chancellor, Eye Can See Eyewear, McDonough, GA

We help people see the important things in life.” — John Marvin, Texas State Optical Inc., Houston, TX

Continue Reading

Best of Eyecare

Make Magic Happen With Our Expert 90-Day Plan for Peak End of Year Performance

mm

Published

on

How you finish the year has a major impact on how you start the next one. Year-end is a tricky, busy time. You need to be maximizing the long holiday season and flex spending, evaluating your performance for the year, assessing inventory and store needs and setting new goals, all while rewarding your team for a job well done and inspiring them for the year ahead.

We asked four industry experts (see bios on page 43) to break down the remainder of 2019 for optical business owners and offer some advice on what they should be thinking about in the weeks and months ahead. We also collected some hot takes from our Brain Squad members, who gave us a sense of their fall and winter plans. Here’s our three-month guide to kick-starting a new cycle of success.

Advertisement

90 Days Out…

Planning and marketing late-year events, reaching out to clients, drafting a 2020 strategy and capturing flex dollars should be on your mind.

MICHAEL KARLSRUD
founder, Karlsrüd Company

Before you set about planning for peak performance, Karlsrud says it’s good to set a few ground rules:

Any business or practice without a plan is like a ship without a rudder. Think through opportunities and challenges in the areas of business performance, managing employees, and serving patients through what can be a very chaotic time. Also, remember to keep score. Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) that measure the behavior required to accomplish the goals laid out. They should be easy to track and easily understood. Post them for all to see and keep score on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Reward accordingly for earned success. Finally, when it comes to major business goals, limit them to three. More than that significantly increases the likelihood that you won’t achieve any of them.

Now is the time to communicate to employees your expectations about time off, performance and serving patients. The end of the year is especially stressful on everyone, so have this conversation well in advance while cooler heads prevail.

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

Steven Nelson of Eye Candy Optical, Westlake, OH: “As much as we love to be busy, we have to be ready for the ‘back to school’ slump in September to mid-October. This means right-sizing inventory, getting the team to take their vacation time, and getting the ad campaigns ready for ‘the season.’” Jen Heller at Pend Oreille Vision Care in Sandpoint, ID, also uses this time of year to run her annual inventory check, “to clean up all the loose ends and have everything accounted for, but not so close to the end as to stress us out.”

It’s vital to start marketing for late-year events now and get your message out through direct mail, email and on social media. Set your appointments as early as possible as an indicator of patient flow and staffing requirements. Offer end of the year specials on high-end sunwear, specialty lenses and the most profitable frame and lens packages you offer.

Finally, “Don’t forget to update your phone messaging and front desk scripts to promote sales, multiple pairs and additional family member appointments.”

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

Michelle Wright at DePoe Eye Center, Stockbridge, GA: “It’s time to start planning our Black Friday. We have to: 1.) Choose a theme; 2.) plan advertisements; 3.) planogram; and 4.) purchase eyewear and decide what eyewear we currently have will be a part of the promotion. Last year was our first year with our Black Friday event. It was a success and set the tone for the end of year sales… We all also had a great time.

TRUDI CHAREST
co-founder, Marketing4ECPs

For most optical retailers and optometry practices, if the tail end of the year could be condensed into four words, they would be “Capture that flex spending!” Charest takes this as a starting point in offering these points to focus on in October, which should also be a key month for working out 2020 strategy, she says.

Launch Q4 “Use It or Lose It” campaign.

Finalize 2020 objectives. For example: Fill new associate schedule with 30 new patients per month, 30 return patients per month; grow optical sales by 20 percent. Bring in 10 new dry eye patients per month.

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

Dr. Blake Hutto at Family Vision Care, Alma, GA: “The year’s end is mostly about perfecting policy and our business format. We think we’re on to a way of treating patients and conducting business that works well, so now it’s putting it to paper. We’re planning a big push for 2020 (the year of the optometrist).”

Build a 2020 campaign strategy. Example:
1 Q1 2020: Fill schedule — “Accepting
New Patients” campaign.
1 Q2 2020: “50% Off 2nd Pair Sale.”
1 Q3 2020: “Are Your Eyes Irritated?”
campaign.
1 Q4 2020: Fill schedule — “Book Appointment” campaign.

Create a promotions and execution calendar for 2020.

Develop a social media strategy for the quarterly campaigns for 2020.

Advertisement

60 Days Out…

As we move into November, a re-focus, a few recalls and a team refresh are in order, along with a progress report—and we need to talk about your systems.

PAULINE BLACHFORD
founder, Pauline Blachford Consulting

Now is the time to revisit your year-end targets and goals. Review with your team what targets have been met, which ones are close to complete and which ones need to be adjusted. If a certain target is far out of reach, set a more reasonable expectation for the last two months of the year — one that can still be celebrated if met and counted as a success.

Focus your recall efforts on patients who haven’t visited your practice in 2019.

It can be easy to lean into the holidays and let your targets slide. Don’t underestimate how much your team can accomplish if properly motivated. Start planning ahead for your year-end staff celebration. Include additional bonuses and surprises for staff if your practice meets its targets for the year.

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

Maureen Garbis Compass Eyecare, Oak Park, IL: “We have a sales goal. If it’s met by Dec. 20 we get the whole holiday week off with pay. We’ve met it for the last four years and are on track for this year also.”

MARK HINTON
CEO and president of eYeFacilitate

Review last year, same time, to understand opportunities and missed opportunities; it’s a trip back in time.

Revisit systems of process and procedure. After all, people don’t run the business, systems run the business, and people manage those systems. Practice Management Systems (PMS) alone is a bunch of reports to sift through; and PMSs are like viewing your business through the rear-view mirror, it already happened. Check out industry data-mining software products like Glimpse or EdgePro by GPN; using these types of systems gives you the ability to examine your business through the “’windshield” and evaluate trends to navigate in an easy and nimble strategy.

What other family members need exams? Get Care Credit dialogs solid.

(And in case you skipped it last month…) Begin planning first quarter 2020; whiteboard ideas, including what, when, who.

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

Dr. Robert Easton Jr., OD, Oakland Park, FL: “We are doing updates in our office of older equipment to better link to our Compulink EHR. We just updated our autorefractor/keratometer from the ARC 900 to the ARK 1e. We’ll also update our Humphrey VF unit to the latest Humphrey VF technology for our growing Glaucoma practice.”

CHAREST

Time for a flex check — and time to get creative, says Charest:
Analyze Q4 2019 “Use It Or Lose It.”
Hire graphic designer to create Q1 2020 campaign.
Schedule out the rest of the graphics you will need to have created throughout the year.
Plan any additional events you may have in 2020 such as trunk shows.
Add to the marketing calendar.

KARLSRUD
After setting out the plan and establishing the scorecard to determine success factors, it’s go time!
Hold a launch meeting with the team and take the time to explain where you’ve been as a practice, where you are currently, and where you are heading. Don’t forget to focus on “why” you are putting these plans and goals in place. Explain how each member of the team contributes to the success of the practice. Start keeping score. Create excitement around accomplishing goals and roll out your incentive program!

Advertisement

45 Days Out…

Six weeks till Santa: Time to think about cards and customer appreciation. (Oh, and did we mention flex spending?)

BLACHFORD

Start preparing a customer appreciation plan. Have your staff prepare cards or e-cards that thank your customers and wish them well during the holiday season. This can include some light holiday marketing, such as offering patients discounts on eyewear purchased as gifts. Go the extra mile by planning holiday giveaways that require patients to call or visit your practice to enter. This is a great way to get your patients on the phone, when staff can ensure their contact information is up-to-date, and ask them about booking an appointment in 2019 or early 2020.

HINTON

’Tis the season (almost) for gift certificates to make holiday shopping a snap; who wouldn’t love another set of eyewear, or a gift certificate for contacts — or to give to contact wearers to buy glasses they’d actually be seen wearing, “For the cool yule in you!”
It’s HSA and FSA “Use it, don’t lose it,” time.

Social media bump time.

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

Deb Jaeger at Eye Center of the Dakotas, Bismarck, ND: “We strive to keep staff fed and happy as we get through the year-end rush to use vision benefits. Always a busy time with holidays and year-end flex-spending, we try to keep our days flowing normally to reduce stress. We encourage gift certificates and send thank you notes each week to vendors, patients, customers, and friends of the practice we are thankful for.”

Advertisement

30 Days Out…

OK folks—it’s time to execute!

BLACHFORD

Implement your customer appreciate plan early. December is a busy time for postal services. If your practice chooses to send e-cards, emailing patients around Dec. 1 gives them time to benefit from any discounts, coupons or goodies you send their way.

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

Kim Hilgers, Monson Eyecare Center, Owatonna, MN: “I’ll get postcards designed with our rebate money from our billing group ready in October and Solution Reach email blasts prior to it. Basically, I get inventory built up starting this month into the end of the year and have a promotion on our discontinued/dogs/unloved frames (free frame with the purchase of lenses). Pre-inventory checks so that we are prepared to do final inventory on the 31st of December.”
ECPs looking to end the year strong and drive more traffic to their practice can try drumming up more business in December with attractive and cheery holiday displays. Holiday-themed products, giveaways, activities or a holiday open house are a few ways of attracting patients and potential patients into your clinic. (And remember, offering something with no strings attached is a great way to start building a strong, trusting and loyal relationship with a new customer.)

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

Dr. Adam Ramsey at Socialite Vision, Palm Beach Gardens, FL: “I am changing my window displays to attract more customers. Curb appeal matters and I want to draw their eye to my store.”

HINTON

One month out, Hinton urges ECPs to start by revisiting his tips for the two-month and six-weeks marks.

Keep an eye on that white board; are you accomplishing the pre-determined goals? I advise all readers to read “The Checklist Manifesto.” Another tip: Who has time to read all these recommended biz books? Solution: The Blinkist app. This is a book summary app and it’s quite good.

Don’t forget those stocking stuffer ideas.
Play big with sharp focused communication to patients who don’t picture eyecare and eyewear as a perfect gift for the holidays.

Social media, emails and signage for eyewear and contact lens gift certificates.

CHAREST
Execute the last month of “Use It Or Lose It.”

Review ROI on all marketing initiatives for 2019 including website conversion, traffic, paid advertising, email marketing, recall cards/calls, and any other marketing and compare year over year.

Finalize your promotions calendar for 2020 and tasks.
Get everything ready in your Q1 2020 campaign: website updates, paid advertising new campaigns, social marketing, social media, email blast, etc. — and ensure you have a set schedule for the end of December, beginning of January to transition to the new campaign.

KARLSRUD

Hold an update meeting and review the KPIs and the results thus far. People only respect what you inspect, so if you pass on this meeting you will likely pass on hitting your goals. Celebrate areas that are going right and ask what prevents success in areas that are not. Adjust the plan accordingly but do not abandon it.

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

Annette Prevaux at The Visionary Inc., Allen Park, MI: “This has been a really challenging year so I am hoping to end on a high note. We fired Eyemed so revenue is down until my patients go elsewhere and realize it’s not like us. Also, cleaning up and moving out inventory that is sold online at a discount, bringing in more private/exclusive frames.”

Focus on the importance of accomplishing the goals set and ways to improve processes or best practices.

Review the expectations of your team in terms of time off and navigating the holiday seasons. Communicate clearly and often with your team. Motivate! Motivate! Motivate!

21 Days Out…

Time to check in with your team on the past year, with an eye on 2020.

BLACHFORD

Hindsight is 20/20. Reflect on your 2019 goals, where you thrived and where you didn’t. What worked? What didn’t? What changes do you need to make in the year ahead?

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

Dawn Christman at Munoz North Valley Eye Medical Group, Indian Hills, CA: “I will be looking over our current stock and our sales reports for the year. I have a few objectives. First would be to identify frames that are not selling. With these I will either try to exchange out for better styles or identify as a sales item. I will put together frame and lens packages and frame only pricing to increase sales while reducing stock. I will take a look at the frame lines that are not selling well to determine if we are going to go forward with the lines in 2020 or replace them. I want to identify lines I don’t already carry that may fit well in our office. This way I can put together a list to work from when selecting new lines for 2020. As for best-selling lines I will consider if we wish to increase, or leave as is, the number we carry in stock. I will also work on identifying what areas our opticians need or want assistance in to develop educational goals for 2020.”

Don’t do this alone: schedule staff check-ins now through the end of the year. Ask for their perspective on what is working, what isn’t and how your practice can be improved. Your frontline employees will no doubt have insights about the technology they use and what they’ve heard from patients.

Ask your staff about their personal and professional goals in 2020. Consider how your practice’s goals align with those of your employees. This can help you identify mutually beneficially training opportunities, as an example, that will engage an employee who can contribute new skills to your practice.

HINTON

Strategic, matched communication between departments to encourage patients to include the additions prescribed by their doctor. Often what I note when working with practice teams is the doctor will prescribe a specific product for a patient solution and the team member forgets to follow through. At such a busy time of year specifics sometimes get missed; it’s important for the team to stay focused.

14 Days Out…

Stay motivated, finish strong and go into 2020 with your plans in place and armed with as many “lessons learned” as you can.

BLACHFORD

Intel and insights are really only useful if acted upon. With two weeks left in the year, begin your preparation and planning for 2020. What issues were identified by your staff, and what needs to be purchased, discussed or clarified to address those pain points? Develop solutions and set a plan in place for ensuring you build on your strengths and shore up your weaknesses as a business. If you need to hire more staff or provide additional training to your team, do your research and legwork now.

Right before year-end, finalize all of your numbers for the year and analyze them. These will be your baseline figures for 2020 — ones you’ll use to develop your goals, such as reducing your number of unbooked appointments by a certain percentage.
Set your 2020 targets, share them with your team and keep them accessible and visible. Everyone should be on the same page and reminded every day of what they’re working towards (which should include some kind of compensation or reward for meeting a given target).

HINTON

At this point, Hinton urges a review of his tips from 1 month and 6 weeks out.

And right before the year ends… Review your white board, first-quarter goals with “what,” “when” and “who.”

Write and rehearse new dialogs to engage patients into first-quarter goals.

New Year multiple-pair strategies: “Who” and “when.”
To finish strong, try daily huddles with specific focus; all hands on deck; end-of-day outcomes from the huddles.

KARLSRUD

Don’t let up and keep the focus on your KPIs! The year is ending soon and so is the opportunity to earn the incentives put forth on day 90! Motivate right to the end.

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

Selena Jachens at Urban Eyecare & Eyewear, West Des Moines, IA: “We are planning a huge 2020 party! We are also bringing in a new line and featuring one of our best brands in our fall trunk show.”


EXPERT BIOS

PAULINE BLACHFORD consults with optometrists across North America on how to reduce un-booked appointments, increase eyewear sales, and improve employee engagement and productivity. She writes regularly for the Canadian Journal of Optometry and is a frequent speaker at industry conferences and events. For more information, visit paulineblachford.com.

MICHAEL KARLSRUD is a 20 year optical industry veteran. He currently runs a coaching consultancy focused on executive development, leadership, management and sales. He is the author of Selling By Design, A Field Guide to Selling, and hosted “On The Road Sales Coach” and “The Customer Service Download” supported by The Vision Council. In addition to coaching and speaking internationally, he is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls Business School. For more information, visit karlsrudcompany.com.

TRUDI CHAREST is the co-founder of 4ECPs, a business resource company for eyecare professionals. 4ECPs has six divisions: Training, Marketing, Social Media, Payment, Jobsites and Events. A licensed optician with over 25 years of extensive eyecare experience, she is well known for designing, developing and facilitating training and marketing programs for ECPs across North America. For more information, visit marketing4ecps.com.

MARK HINTON is a practice owner, as well as CEO and president of eYeFacilitate, a private practice consultancy. A sought-after ABO/COPE approved practice management expert, with eYeFacilitate he helps practices drive optical efficiencies, maximize managed care revenue and profit, improve capture, and increase revenue through simple systems with a focused process. Contact him at mark@eyefacilitate.com.

Continue Reading

Best of Eyecare

Eyecare Pros Talk About Their Most Important Customers

mm

Published

on

Now let’s be clear… All customers are important. And all customers should be treated as such… but when we asked our readers about their most important customer, we didn’t mean it generally, we wanted specifics. Eyecare is an intimate undertaking and as such sometimes there are people who just become extra special. Second families, friends, lovers … sometimes “Can I help you?” can be the start of a beautiful relationship. And if none of these stories resonates with you, just remember the words of Kyle Kravick of Davis Duehr Dean in Portage, WI: “Most important? The next one through the door.” Because, hey, you never know!

I reconnected with an old schoolmate that later became my husband … for about three years anyway! – Julie Uram, Optical Oasis, Jupiter, FL

My most important patients have been members of C ongress and state senators. It gave me a chance to provide comprehensive eyecare and demonstrate how valuable optometry is to Americans. It also created a relationship in Washington and Tallahassee that helps the profession. – Robert M. Easton, Jr., OD, FAAO, Oakland Park, FL

In 1970, a patient told me about a commercial building that was going up for sale. I now own that building and it houses my practice. Best $12,000 I ever spent. – Texas L. Smith, OD, Dr. Texas L. Smith & Associates, Citrus Heights, CA

I have a family — a grandmother, mother, and three daughters — that have become like family. I’ve done all their glasses and took time getting to know them. Over the years we’ve become closer and closer. There’s nothing like having a second family when your own is far away! Frances Ann Layton, – Eye Associates of South Georgia, Valdosta, GA

About a year after I opened my optical shop, I went through some heartbreaking life changes. Several of my customers rallied and promoted my business, invited me to join the local Rotary Club, and supported my shop. All those things took my life in a better direction; I will be forever grateful! – Jennifer Leuzzi, Mill Creek Optical, Dansville, NY

We did sports vision training for years, and still do occasionally, so there are a handful of athletes we keep in contact with. About half have made the big leagues and the other half are great people who have become some of our biggest advocates.” – Josh Bladh, Dr. Bladh OD, Diamond Bar, CA

Had a patient who lost both eyes during WWII. He lived every day to its fullest with a sense of gratitude and humor that always lifts my spirits, reminding me of the amazing gifts in my life. Thinking of him always makes my day! – Dennis Iadarola, OD, Center For Vision Care, Monroe, CT

Actually, we’re a customer of theirs! My lab rep from Luzerne, Bernie Kastan. I met Bernie on one of my first days over six years ago. The relationship has developed into a friendship. We play golf and we don’t live across the street from each other. There are golf outings that focus on business, but this one will be filled with great conversation. – Rick Rickgauer, Vision Associates, Girard, PA

My most important customer was my husband! I had not seen him for years — we went to high school together — and he came in as I was finishing for the day. He asked for an exam because he was wearing old contacts (they were the dirtiest lenses I have ever seen). I stayed and did the exam. He asked me out and we just celebrated our 25th anniversary! – Kimberly Riggs, OD, Ligonier, PA

I have a nycz patient who has become my go to office handyman. My staff calls him for everything from changing light bulbs to patching cement. (His name is actually Nycz!) – Marc Ullman, OD Academy Vision, Pine Beach, NJ

My most important patient ever was actually a whole family of five children that did vision therapy. I quickly became attached to them as if they were my own. I eventually got invited over to their house and it turned into a great friendship! – Jade Kowalick, Ryczek Eye, St Petersburg, FL

I’ve developed many friendships with customers through the years simply from taking an interest in them and filling their needs. I know the staff thinks they are actually personal friends, but that’s just how I treat them when they come in. – Pam Housley, Texas State Optical of Nederland, Port Arthur, TX

My most important customer became my wife. We met years before we ever dated in the practice, one day it clicked. We’ve been together for 13 years. – Kevin Count, Prentice Lab, Glenview, IL

Continue Reading

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Subscribe


BULLETINS

Get the most important news and business ideas for eyecare professionals every weekday from INVISION.

Facebook

Most Popular