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Here’s Your Chance to Join INVISION’s Monthly Survey Panel, the Brain Squad!

It's only four minutes a month, and yet it provides so much to members.

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The Brain Squad is INVISION’s monthly survey panel, made up of owners and top managers of eyecare businesses across the country who have volunteered to participate. Each month, members are emailed a short survey consisting of multiple-choice and short, open-ended questions. Responses are used in departments and feature stories throughout INVISION.

ABOVE: See Brain Squad members in their INVISION gear — from left to right, Ron Catterson, Caitlin Wicka, Robert Easton and Dr. Jamie Lawson.

JOIN NOW!


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

How long will it take to respond to surveys?

If you thoughtfully answer every question, a survey can take five to 10 minutes to fill out. If you answer only multiple-choice questions, you could be finished in 60 seconds or less.

What kind of questions are on the surveys?

Questions cover month-to-month business and product trends, plus big-picture strategy and policy issues. In a single survey, you might be asked for your fastest-selling eyewear and sunwear brands, methods you use to motivate and energize your team, and your wildest dinner-table stories about your business.

See a sample of a recent Brain Squad survey here.

Will my information remain anonymous?

Individual responses remain anonymous on multiple-choice questions. Text-based questions are frequently published along with your identifying information in INVISION. While you are allowed to request that your response to an individual question remain anonymous, the best strategy is — if you don’t want it published in print or online, don’t share it.

So what’s in it for me?

  • Valuable data no one else has. Each time you complete a Brain Squad survey, you can see all responses from your fellow panelists (without identifying information included). You’ll get tons of useful ideas, many of which INVISION doesn’t have space to publish.
  • The thrill of seeing your name in print. And, if we include you in one of our feature departments, also your face, your staff and your business. Not to mention, as a Brain Squad member, you’ll be heard loud and clear by INVISION editors on the issues that matter most to you.
  • A better INVISION. Each edition of our magazine relies heavily on Brain Squad content. Which means each new person who contributes makes INVISION a better, more useful resource for all eyecare professionals.
  • Plus, a really cool t-shirt. Once you answer your first Brain Squad survey, we’ll send you a free INVISION Brain Squad t-shirt. Wear it proudly as a sporty symbol of your eyecare nerd-hood.

Check out Brain Squad members sporting their very own “Eye Geek” t-shirts.

JOIN NOW!

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 21 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at editor@invisionmag.com.

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In the first of this three-part series, Dr. Eric White, Complete Family Vision Care, talks about managed care, and how to put your practice on the path to profitability.

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Inbox: Letters From Our Readers for November-December 2018

We always love to hear from you!

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  • “Awesome. Awesome work as always!” — William Chancellor, Eye Can See Eyewear, McDonough, GA
  • I enjoyed the subject matter greatly. This is one of the few issues I actually took home to take the time to carefully read, as the subject matter (Happiness/Joy) is something that I’ve been grappling with this year in particular. Unfortunately burn-out is very prevalent in our industry. Thank you for all that you do. I look forward to your publication every month. — Vlad Cordero, Focus Eye Care, Hackensack, NJ
  • Your magazine gets better and better. I look forward to each month’s issue more than any other industry publication. What makes Invision stand out is how it makes me feel as though it’s written with me in mind. — Mitch Kaufman, Marine Park Family Vision, Brooklyn, NY
  • Once again it was great! Always read it from cover to cover. It’s fun when we see something we’ve written printed in it. Or when my OD friends let me know we’re in there. — Jill Sweig, OD, Oyster Bay Optics, Oyster Bay, NY
  • Keep up the damn good work and I hope to meet some of you at an Expo one day. — Rick Rickgauer, Vision Associates, Girard, PA
  • I actually loved the last issue. I was in it and made copies of the article to have at the dispensing table for customers to read and they seem to very much enjoy it. — Julie Uram, Optical Oasis, Jupiter, FL
  • Love your magazine. Looking forward to my next half century in the optical field. — Texas L. Smith, OD, Dr. Texas L. Smith & Associates, Citrus Heights, CA

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America's Finest 2019 Entries

America’s Finest: Before You Start

The very first step is to make sure that you’re eligible.

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HERE’S SOMETHING IMPORTANT: Before you start your America’s Finest Optical Retailers contest entry, let’s make sure you’re eligible. This is especially important because the rules have changed slightly this year.

Eligibility Criteria

Here are the eligibility criteria (posted on the contest rules page):

  • Your business must be based in the United States or Canada. (Once again, we extend our apologies to Steve’s Eyewear Emporium of Outer Mongolia.)
  • Your business must not have previously placed in the top 12 in INVISION’s America’s Finest Optical Retailers contest.
  • Your business must have been open at least one year before the date you enter the contest. As long as your business has been open a year, it’s OK if the location you enter is newer.

Now: Are all three of the above things true of your business? If so, you’re good to go!

Logging In

Between now and March 15, you will always log in to edit your contest entry at the following URL: invisionmag.com/afor

Bookmark it. You’ll also want to make a note of the email address you use to sign up for the contest. Or else we’ll be receiving more than a few calls from eye who can’t remember which email address they’d used. For sake of convenience, you might make a note of your password, too. As long as it’s unique (i.e., it isn’t the same password you use for other sites, like your email), there’s not a real serious security risk if someone happens to find the Post-It note on which you scribbled it.

One thing you might want to do is establish a specific person to be your point person for the contest. This could be an owner or an employee, but it should be someone who is relatively computer-literate and who has a little extra time each week to devote to compiling information and photos, and preparing the entry.

And the final note for this week: Historically, a lot of AFOR entrants tend to leave their entry to be completed at the last minute. Some of them still do fine, but many discover too late that they don’t have exactly what our judges are looking for easily at hand — that is to say, they could get it, but not in time for the deadline.

Certainly, preparing your AFOR entry isn’t the most time-consuming thing you’ll do all year. But it does take time — so if you’re going to do it, it makes sense to do it right. You’ll be well served if you or your point person set aside a specific chunk of time each week, perhaps during a time when business is normally slow, to work on it — hopefully using this blog series as a guide.

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America's Finest 2019 Entries

America’s Finest: Basic Info and Stats

Simple guidance for entering the basics.

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YOU’VE DETERMINED that you’re eligible, made note of your login email address and password (and put them in a place they won’t get lost), appointed someone to take the lead on your contest entry, and scheduled a few minutes each week to work on it. At this point, it’s time to start your entry.

Those New Checkboxes Up Top

This year, we have two new checkbox options at the top of the entry page that we need you to check before continuing with your entry.

The first checkbox is to confirm that you understand that all winners of the contest — from first place through honorable mention — are required to give an interview to INVISION editors for a feature story in the magazine.

Quick background: In the past, in our three publications, we’ve had several instances where, after judging was completed, business owners decided that they weren’t happy with where their store finished (“We only want to be featured if we come in first place!”) and refused to be interviewed.

This is unfair to all the other participants, as well as to the judges who spent their time judging the contest. If you can’t handle not finishing first, then please don’t enter the contest. America’s Coolest Stores is an extremely competitive contest, the toughest and most comprehensive in the industry, and to be voted anywhere in our top 12 businesses should be a point of pride and a testament to the extremely cool business you have built.

But if you can’t handle second place, then please don’t waste your time … or ours.

The second checkbox asks if you’d like to have editors review your entry before judging begins and provide hints on ways in which you can improve it.

This is a new service we’ve started offering this year, in an effort to increase the overall quality of entries and to help stores differentiate themselves from competitors. To benefit from this service, you must submit your entry before our early bird March 1 deadline.

Finish your entry, click “Submit”, and our editors will get back in touch with you with a review of your entry and some basic ideas on where you might improve it. For some businesses, this might be better or different photography, or more examples of marketing, or a different approach to your text entry. For some businesses, we might not have any advice at all.

For entries where we recommend additional changes, we will then provide you with a link that lets you revise your submitted entry.

Please remember that, if you submit your entry after March 1, you won’t be able to benefit from this service.

General Info and Business Stats

The general information required is pretty straightforward. One potentially tricky bit: It’s possible that your contact email (see below) will be different from your login email.

For example, maybe you, the owner, signed in initially using your email address as the login. But now you’ve handed the job off to an employee who has their own email.

The contact email is exactly what it sounds like: the email address we’ll use to get in touch with you about your entry. So the contact email should be that of whoever is handling the contest entry. If it’s the same as the login email, that’s fine. If it’s different, just remember that, so that you’re not confused later about which address to use to log in. (That would be the login email.)

You can skip the “Online Presence” section for the moment; we’ll cover it later. For now, go to “Store Stats.”

Again, pretty straightforward. If your location hasn’t been renovated since it opened, enter the same year for “Year Opened Featured Location” and “Year Last Renovated.” (It seems redundant, but that way we know you didn’t just accidentally miss filling that line out.)

Other questions include your number of full and part-time employees, your showroom and total square footage, your top brands and your buildout cost (if you don’t have the exact number, just give us the closest estimate you can provide.)

Finally, we ask for to the people who helped you build your store — the architect and design firms, as well as showcase manufacturers.

If you have any questions about preparing your entry for the America’s Coolest Stores contest, email them to us at coolstores@instoremag.com.

Again, pretty straightforward. If your location hasn’t been renovated since it opened, enter the same year for “Year Opened Featured Location” and “Year Last Renovated.” (It seems redundant, but that way we know you didn’t just accidentally miss filling that line out.)

Other questions include your number of full and part-time employees, your showroom and total square footage, your top brands (including lenses and contact lenses) and your buildout cost (if you don’t have the exact number, just give us the closest estimate you can provide.)

Finally, we ask for to the people who helped you build your store — the architect and design firms that helped make you so cool.

In our next post, we’ll talk about the “Online Presence” section. It would be a good idea, too, to start thinking now about the photos for your entry. Great photos can make a huge difference in how your store does in the contest, so you’ll want to start mulling over who might be able to take those pictures.

If you have any questions about preparing your entry for the America’s Finest Optical Retailers contest, you can ask them in the comments or email them to us at americasfinest@invisionmag.com.

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