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Charming-in-Chief

16 ways to win your employees' love without losing their respect.

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IT’S FUNNY HOW, when you ask people what makes a good boss, they’ll probably tell you about their worst one. It’s human nature to remember every insult and injury from  the insufferable jerk who made going to work a miserable experience and forget the kind, mentoring soul who quietly boosted your confidence.

Another way to look at it: Enduring a horrible boss is the workplace equivalent of having to kiss a lot of frogs before finding your prince or princess. When we asked the INVISION Brain Squad to tell us about your best bosses, some of you shared tales of your worst. One person wrote:

“My current boss is the best boss I’ve worked for. I think the difference between him and some others is that he is down to earth and does not have that ‘God’ complex that he is better than others. I have worked for a couple of doctors who walk around with their nose in the air and an air of superiority and treat you like trash. Being treated not only as a human but as an equal goes a long way.”

It’s true that toxic bosses from the past can offer useful lessons to small-business owners. As Robert Sutton, author of Good Boss, Bad Boss, says, “It is a lot easier to learn from that guy than to be that guy.” (He also quotes Eleanor Roosevelt, who said, “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”) But many ineffective bosses are good people who haven’t had positive examples of how to lead and manage people. This is especially true in small retail businesses, where the owner becomes a boss by default.

The first step to being a great boss is realizing there’s always room to improve. One great way to do it? Learn from other retailers’ experiences — check out our accompanying profiles of some especially memorable bosses — and learn from writers and thinkers who’ve studied how smart bosses inspire their teams to produce great results. Here are some of their top tips.

 

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1. MAKE TIME FOR EVERY EMPLOYEE

As the boss, you’re kind of a big deal, even if you only have a few employees. “That’s why an employee who wants to talk about something inconsequential may just want to spend a few moments with you,” says author Jeff Haden. “You have a choice. Blow them off, or see the moment for its true importance: A chance to inspire, reassure, and give someone hope for greater things in life.”

2. Let people be themselves

Bosses often get their rudest awakening when they realize employees have their own ways of doing things, says Marcus Buckingham, author of First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. If you force people to follow your playbook, then two things happen: “They become resentful — they don’t want to do it. And they become dependent — they can’t do it. Neither of these is terribly productive for the long haul.”

3. Rescue mission

Your greatest success may come from mentoring your least promising employee, Haden adds. “Your remarkable employees don’t need a lot of your time; they’re remarkable because they already have these  qualities,” he notes. “If you’re lucky, you can get a few percentage points of extra performance from them. But a struggling employee has tons of upside; rescue him and you make a tremendous difference.”

4. Steady on

Google studied more than 10,000 observations employees made in quarterly reviews, and found that human interaction, not tech skills, was the best indicator of success. As Adam Bryant wrote in The New York Times, the highest-rated managers “were even-keeled bosses who made time for one-on-one meetings, who helped people puzzle through problems by asking questions, not dictating answers, and who took an interest in employees’ lives and careers.”

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5. BUILD TRUST

Counterintelligence expert Robin Dreeke has co-written a book called The Code Of Trust with five rules for leadership: suspend your ego, be nonjudgmental, honor reason, validate others and be generous. Dreeke adds that it’s important for bosses to identify goals and priorities, but then let go of them and work to understand what other people value, because doing so builds trust. As Dreeke says on a Knowledge@Wharton podcast, “This is my manual on how not to be the person I was born to be. This is my manual on how to overcome that Type-A hard charger that just barrels forward and ruins relationships because they think it’s all about them.”

6. Be memorable

In her book Work Happy: What Great Bosses Know, Jill Geisler shares three things employees never forget: a boss who apologizes when he or she is wrong (preferably in public, if that’s where the earlier criticism took place); a boss who reacts to a worker’s boneheaded errors with wisdom, knowing just how long to let people stew over their own mistakes; and bosses who respond to personal achievements and losses (big and small) with encouragement or empathy. On the flip side, she lists three things employees never forgive: a lying boss, a boss who takes credit for the staff’s work or ideas, or a boss who behaves differently around superiors than around the troops.

7. See yourself through their eyes

Stanford University professor Robert Sutton has made a career out of writing about how to survive difficult people in the workplace and in life. After he published his book The No Asshole Rule: Building A Civilized Workplace And Surviving One That Isn’t, he received all kinds of stories about difficult bosses, enough to fill a sequel (which eventually came out last year in The Asshole Survival Guide: How To Deal With People Who Treat You Like Dirt). But he heard about effective bosses, too, people who took “diverse and intertwined steps to create effective and humane workplaces.” He suggests that the best bosses pay close attention to how their employees see and hear them, from facial expressions to tone of voice.

8. Encourage feedback

You need to know what your employees are thinking, but they may not be willing to tell you in their employee review or even in the more casual one-to-one meetings that you’re hopefully having with them at regular intervals. Whether it’s a suggestion box in the break room or a confidential survey or focus group facilitated by a third party, give your people opportunities to suggest ways you can improve as their boss. Then let down your defenses, and take their feedback seriously.

9. Chill out

It’s true that passion can inspire performance, but if you’re always yelling at your employees, it’s worth asking whether your emotions are helping or hurting business. “Personally, I’m going to assume that successful screamers make it in spite of the screaming, not because of it,” writes Jay Goltz on The New York Times’ “You’re the Boss” blog.

10. Put people before goals

It’s good to have sales targets, but that shouldn’t be your primary focus. Without great employees, no amount of focus on goals and targets will ever pay off, says Jeff Haden, who writes frequently on how great bosses got that way. “It’s your job to provide the training, mentoring and opportunities your employees need and deserve,” he adds. “When you do, you transform the relatively boring process of reviewing results and tracking performance into something a lot more meaningful for your employees: progress, improvement and personal achievement.”

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11. Demythologize crisis

We’re living at a time when “our institutions seem to be in serial meltdown,” says Elizabeth Samet, a professor of English at the United States Military Academy, in her introduction to Leadership: Essential Writings By Our Greatest Thinkers. “If we live in a world of crisis, we also live in a world that romanticizes crisis—that finds in it fodder for addiction to the 24-hour news cycle, multiple information streams and constant stimulation.” Sound familiar?

But humans cannot thrive in a state of constant turmoil, so do what you can to cultivate a low-drama life and workplace. Listen to music instead of the news or talk radio on your way to work. Eat well, get adequate sleep and exercise, and take time to play—and help your employees do the same things. Researchers at the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic found that a workplace-based stress management program boosted employee morale and vitality, with positive changes still evident a year later.

12. Unpack your power trip

12 In a conversation with psychologist Ron Friedman at the Peak Work Performance Summit, author Dan Pink cited research showing that when we feel powerful, we’re less likely to see other people’s perspectives. That’s why it’s helpful to “dial down your feelings of power just a little bit” to see the world the way your employees do.

13. Admit you don’t know it all

You had the vision and talent to launch your small business, but that doesn’t mean you naturally have the skills to be a great boss. It’s smart to look for mentors and seek opportunities for leadership growth. Writing on Bloomberg.com, Rebecca Greenfield profiles executive coach Ben Olds, who helps bosses learn to have difficult conversations, harness their emotions and just plain listen. Few people are beyond help. For Travis Kalanick, founder of Uber, “Olds would want to understand what provokes him. To find that out, he would talk through some regrettable incidents, in the hope of improving his emotional intelligence and avoiding bad behavior.”

14. Deal with the small stuff

“Nothing kills team morale more quickly than problems that don’t get addressed,” says Jeff Haden. Even petty issues — squabbling employees, tardiness and negativity — are distractions that merit your action. “Small problems always fester and grow into bigger problems. Plus, when you ignore a problem, your employees immediately lose respect for you, and without respect, you can’t lead,” he says. “Never hope a problem will magically go away, or that someone else will deal with it. Deal with every issue head-on, no matter how small.”

15. No harassment. Period.

The #MeToo movement of the past year has made it clear there are no longer any gray areas when it comes to recognizing and dealing with workplace sexual harassment. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission website has information on how to deal with this new reality. Go to eeoc.gov and look for “Promising Practices for Preventing Harassment.” Hire and promote all kinds of people who can give your company a wider lens on the world (and attract a broader range of customers, too).

16. INSPIRE THEIR BRILLIANCE

Buckingham suggests that managers identify and encourage their employees’ best traits and talents. In fact, he says that’s the one defining characteristic of the best managers. “Great managers know they don’t have 10 salespeople working for them,” he says. “They know they have 10 individuals working for them.” Rather than be obsessed with your employees’ weaknesses, encourage them to do things they love to do, whether that’s window displays, social media or greeting customers.

 


 

BEST BOSS I EVER HAD

Few people are as influential in our lives as our bosses. We asked the INVISION Brain Squad to tell us about their most memorable and effective mentors at work. Here are a few of your stories.

 

Angie Patteson, OD
Sunset Eye Care, Johnson City, TN

BEST BOSS: Torrey Carlson, OD
LESSON: Be a leader

A few years before purchasing my practice, I had an excellent boss at LensCrafters. He gave all of his doctors total autonomy to manage patients as we deemed appropriate. There was no push to fit certain brands of contacts or cut corners on our exams. I respect him greatly for that.

Dr. Torrey Carlson owns five LensCrafters leases, and I worked most often with him in his Kingsport, TN, location for five years. Even though he has several leases, employees, and associate doctors, when he is seeing patients his focus remains solely on them. I can’t imagine how many thoughts run through his head on a daily basis, but he is able to put patient care at the top of his priority list.

At this point in his career, he could probably delegate all patient care and just have an administrative role, but instead he works on the weekends and travels to all five locations to see patients during the week. This is a valuable lesson for any doctor. I hope that my employees also note that I work diligently. A boss will tell their employees: “Go to work.” But a true leader says, “Let’s go to work.”

 

Jessika E. Arena
The Eye Center, Asheville, NC

BEST BOSS: P.J. Endry, OD
LESSON: Mistakes are ok

Dr. P.J. Endry, my current boss, is the best I’ve ever had. He’s in practice for all the right reasons, to take care of his patients, and that trickles down to staff and creates a very positive environment to work in. He also understands we all work to live, not live to work, and family always comes first.

I’ve been working with him for nearly 11 years and believe he creates a positive work environment by caring about his employees. He’s interested in our lives outside of work in a genuine way, our families, hobbies, interests, and even our struggles. His approach to employee relationships is similar to his holistic patient care.

The greatest lesson I have learned from Dr. Endry is that it is OK to make mistakes, that just because you don’t know or understand something, that doesn’t mean it can’t be learned, and that sometimes when we are in the process of learning we are going to make mistakes, and that is OK. You are not your failures.

 

Danielle Jackson, OD
Jackson Eye, Fairburn, GA

BEST BOSS: Evan Barnett
LESSON: To lead is to serve

My first job as a teenager was working at a small water park in Garland, TX. I returned every summer for seven years because of my amazing boss, Evan Barnett, the general manager.

I learned so much from Evan by observing his interactions with people. He was always level-headed and upbeat, always smiling and genuine. He never assigned a task that he wasn’t willing to do himself and effortlessly made every employee feel special by treating us all as equals. Our respect for Evan was rooted in our admiration for him.

He told me something once that has always stuck with me. I asked him why nothing ever seemed to bother him. He said, “Why would I complain about anything to you? I’m your boss. I work for you. My job is to solve your problems, not add to them.” That idea of servant leadership and working for your employees in the same way you want them to work for you has molded how I interact with my staff and is the core of our upbeat and positive office culture.

 

Julie Uram
Optical Oasis, Jupiter, FL

BEST BOSS: Wally Willrick
LESSON: Confidence

My first boss was my best boss. My first job was at The Donut Shop. I was 14 years old and opening up alone at 5:30 in the morning. My boss, Wally, was wonderful; he gave me structure and made me the employee I am now.

Wally taught me how to count change, wait on customers, answer the phone, clean; he taught me to treat people like you want to be treated and laugh a lot, but most important he taught me responsibility and confidence. I was very shy when I started working for Wally. It got me out of my shell and made me more outgoing and pretty much who I am today. He is still a great friend and mentor.

 

Shimul Y. Shah, OD
Marysville Family Vision, Marysville, OH

BEST BOSS: Danny Gottlieb, OD
LESSON: Attention to detail

I worked for Dr. Danny Gottlieb for three months during my fourth year of optometry school. It wasn’t that long but he made quite an impact in a very short period of time. His wife (at the time) Rhonda also worked at the office and it felt like such a family owned company where each person who worked there was independently invested in the company.  

Dr. Gottlieb was attentive to his patients and to my learning process. He taught me how to listen, how to document and how to have the most efficient communication process between patient, doctor and staff.

His protocol was to write a report at the end of each appointment for the patients and their family to summarize the concerns, what testing was done, the conclusion and the recommended treatment. The attention to detail was incredible. Sometimes he even allotted two hours to do a comprehensive assessment and document the results so they would make sense to the patient.

He shaped the way I speak to patients and make sure to address their concerns, even if I don’t have an answer.

 

Travis LeFevre
Krystal Vision & Sunwear, Logan, UT

BEST BOSS: Michele Johnson
LESSON: Learning is a gift

5 Some people say working with family is a nightmare, but speaking from experience, that’s not always the case. At Krystal Vision we have five employees, four of whom are family, spanning three generations (grandmother Michele, mother/daughter Ami, and myself, son/grandson Travis). Michele has been an optician for almost 45 years and started Krystal Vision nearly 20 years ago. Since I began as an optician six years ago, she’s been my boss and mentor and has slowly let Ami and I take on parts of Krystal Vision and work alongside her.

She’s been my favorite boss, not only because she’s my grandmother, but because she pushes me to learn and grow. She’s an expert at adjustments, troubleshooting, and finding the perfect frame for the pickiest customers. She’s my go-to person to bounce new ideas off, and has taught me how to buy smart and look for frames that give us an option for anybody in our community.

It takes a lot to be a good boss and mentor, but Michele has surpassed that and become a better boss than I could have ever wished for.

 

Nytarsha Thomas, OD
Visionelle Eyecare, Zionsville, IN

BEST BOSS: Penelope Suter, OD
LESSON: Success is never an accident

I met Dr. Penelope Suter as one of my five required clinical rotations at PCO. I had a strong interest in peds/VT and (bonus!) my fiancé lived in Bakersfield, CA, near Dr. Suter’s practice. She ran a busy peds practice while writing a traumatic brain injury textbook for one of the California schools under a stressful deadline. She didn’t want to take on students until her book was complete, but after we spoke (read: “after I begged”) she agreed to take me on as an intern.

In the short time I spent at her office, I learned many valuable lessons about working with tiny humans. However, my main takeaway was more valuable. Since I started practicing, other women ODs have told me women can’t open a business on their own (Who will cook for your husband? What about maternity leave? Who will raise your children? For god’s sake, what about the laundry?!?) She showed me that, although it is difficult, if you work hard enough, nothing can stop you from having it all.

She is the reason I opened my practice and is still my mentor today.

 

Heather Nagucki
Brodie Optometry, Perrysburg, OH

BEST BOSS: Robin Bennett
LESSON: Work should be fun!

I was lucky enough to work for Robin Bennett at The Sunglass Shoppe in Petoskey, MI, when my husband’s radio job moved us to Northern Michigan. She took me on in the middle of winter when she probably didn’t need another employee and fully immersed me into a small community. She showed me the ins and outs of owning a small business. I learned a lot of creative ideas from her. We also had a ton of fun!

We went to chamber/Women in Business meetings, community fundraisers and trunk shows. She even took me to my very first VEE and taught me how to buy for multiple locations. I learned more about marketing a business, being part of a community and dealing with special product than I ever had before at any other job.
She also made sure I found friends and fun when I moved there. I never sat at home—for that I will always be thankful. I still call her whenever I need advice. She is an amazing person!

 

Julie Fanselow was the original editor-in-chief of INVISION magazine and now contributes to the publication.

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We Asked ECPs Which Famous Names Bought Their Eyewear

And boy did they get to bragging….

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FOOTBALL ICONS, RECLUSIVE troubadours, presidential candidates, Hollywood A-listers, and childhood heroes: We asked our readers to indulge in a little shameless bragging and tell us about some of the famous faces that have propped up their eyewear.

Rick Rickgauer, Vision Associates
Girard, PA

“The day Gene Hackman stopped in I happened to be off,” recalls Rick Rickgauer of the day the bona fide Hollywood legend strolled into a LensCrafters in Tuscon, AZ. (Rickgauer has since moved on to Vision Associates in Girard, PA.) “My lab manager called me to tell me Mr. Hackman was in the store. ‘If I drive all the way down there and you’re lying to me,’ I told him, ‘I’ll $#@* you over good.’ So, I hopped in my car and drove the 30 minutes to work. And there he was, all 6’4” of him in all his star quality. I’ve seen Gene Hackman in more movies than I can count. I don’t know what I expected of him, at the time, but he was the most mild-mannered person. Totally oblivious that he was a major motion picture star.” But it was baseball legend Ken Griffey Sr. that left Rickgauer nearly speechless. “I was a bumbling idiot. In the mid-’70s I was a huge Cincinnati Reds fan when they were known as the Big Red Machine, winning multiple World Series along the way. Ken G was a big cog in that machine. His son, Ken Griffey Jr. was all the rage. One of the best players ever to play the game. I proceeded to tell Ken G that, to me, he was the original Ken Griffey, not his famous son.” In retrospect, Rickgauer wonders if it would’ve been better if he had been speechless. “To this day, I still feel like an idiot for saying that.”

Nancy Revis, Uber Optics
Petaluma, CA

Nancy Revis, owner of Uber Optics in Petaluma, CA, had heard that singer/songwriter, actor, and one of her personal heroes, Tom Waits, a resident of neighboring Occidental, was often spotted in her town. “Why was he not coming into my shop?” she asked herself. “I have the cool eyewear and he has cool taste! Tom Waits always has cool eyewear on!”

Then about seven months ago, Revis and staff members Jess and Elizabeth were having what they thought was a regular workday. “Elizabeth was closing a sale at the computer desk and in walks a woman, a younger woman — her daughter — and Tom Waits! I instantly started sweating. It was actually happening — Tom Waits was walking into my store. Everything seemed to slow down and I started to sweat.” Revis managed to get a greeting out, and “Tom went right over to the sitting area and just chilled out. He was watching me help his wife and giving feedback. Nodding only. He looked so cool. Crazy huge grey curly hair. I offered him water but he declined. He sat there and grabbed a Rolling Stone. I mean… Tom Waits was sitting in my store and reading a Rolling Stone. Jess hadn’t seen that he was in the shop because she was checking in jobs. I walked to the back and all I said was… ‘Oh my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!’ and then walked back out. She came out and her facial expression said, ‘HOLY S**T!’ His wife loved cat eyes and so do I … so, I ended up selling her an Oliver Peoples that I wear… the Marienella in black.”

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Musicians seem drawn to Uber. Revis recalls John McCrea, of the band Cake, as being “so super cool. I asked if he would model for me but he didn’t want to. But, I was so stoked that he bought glasses from me. He was hilarious and sweet.” And she has struck up something of a friendship with actor and pioneering punk rocker John Doe of the band X. “He became my customer the moment I opened because Pat with Moscot was his friend… he sent him a pair of glasses and I was the liaison. He let me take his photo wearing Moscot on a few occasions. Just recently he was in town performing with the Psychedelic Furs and swung in to say hi. He fell in love with a pair of sunglasses and modeled them for me. I told him to let me take his photo wearing the sunglasses that he loved… He sent me a pic of himself in NYC wearing the Moscot sunglasses.”

Other memorable Uber clients include Oscar-winning movie sound designer Chris Boyes, songwriter George Merrill and the actress Jane Levy (and her mom).

William Chancellor, Eye Can See Eyewear
McDonough, GA

As an Army veteran, William Chancellor says it was a personal pleasure to sit down and dispense to Herman Cain, the former presidential candidate from the Atlanta area, who has a history of offering praise and support for the military. (The experience took place at Chancellor’s previous office, DePoe Eye Center, which has several Georgia locations. He is now the practice manager and licensed optician for Eye Can See Eyewear in McDonough.) “Having the pleasure of meeting him in person was a wonderful experience. He was very humble and authentic. Who can’t appreciate his quote, ‘Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.’” Chancellor recalls dispensing Silhouette Eyewear to Cain. “I would listen to his syndicated talk show daily and supported him in his bid for the White House in 2012.”

Julie Uram, Optical Oasis
Jupiter, FL

Jupiter, FL, is home to a disproportionately high population of sports pros. Not surprising, then, that Julie Uram often looks up to find former football players stooping to squeeze through her doors. “Well, it seems as though I have many retired football players or coaches [coming in]: Joe Namath, Ron Wolf and Dan Henning. Funny story about Joe Namath, the other day a customer recognized him and asked if he would speak to his brother on the phone. Joe did and told him when he was in the area they should get together! Then the guy was all excited, and Joe said, ‘Oh, I was really just kidding…’ It was quite a funny moment.”

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Tom Brillante, OD, Decatur Eye Care
Decatur, GA

The Atlanta area now rivals Southern California as a center of the U.S. film industry. So much so that these days you’re as well positioned in the Peach State as on Rodeo Drive for superhero sightings. Ask Dr. Tom Brillante of Decatur Eye Care in Decatur, GA — or at least ask his employees. He spotted Cress Williams of The CW’s Black Lightning. “I didn’t know who he was, but the rest of my staff did. Such a nice guy! For a superhero, I expected him to be a lot more arrogant. Maybe his other super power is humility.” Kevin Bacon and Billy Bob Thornton filmed a part of their indie film Jayne Mansfield’s Car right downstairs in the courtyard. Most recently — and most personally thrilling for unashamed retro-soft rock fan Brillante — was his brush with Peter Olson, one of the lead singers for “the greatest ’70s/’80s cover band of all time — Yacht Rock Revue. Definitely check them out, they tour the country throughout the year and I’ve probably seen them about 10 times now,” Brillante says.

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America's Finest

Want to Know What ‘Start-to-Finish’ Service Really Looks Like?

This Fort Worth, TX practice reinvented itself into a boutique optical with high tech examinations.

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Clear Eye Associates + Optical, Fort Worth, TX

OWNER: David Moore, OD; URL: cleareye.com; FOUNDED: 2007; YEAR OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2017; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: Norman Ward Architect, EyeDesigns, and Entirely Interiors; EMPLOYEES: 12 full-time, 1 part-time ; AREA: 11,000 sq. ft.; TOP BRANDS: ic! berlin, Rolf, Dita, Barton Perreira, Face à Face; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/ClearEyeOptical; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/cleareyeoptical; YELP: yelp.com/biz/clear-eye-associates-optical-fort-worth-2


EXPERIENCE,” SAYS DR. DAVID Moore, “is in the eye of the beholder.” Put another way, each patient has preferences unique to them, whether they care most about time, convenient and upfront pricing, carefully curated and unique frames, or a high-tech examination experience.

‘In today’s market you have to do a little of everything to be competitive,’ says Clear Eye owner Dr. David Moore.

It’s a lesson Moore learned over 10 years in private practice at Clear Eye Associates + Optical in Fort Worth, TX and fully implemented by introducing a new concept in 2017; an optical boutique procuring mostly independent lines. “The idea was the easy part. Overcoming, retraining and rethinking how the current consumer wants to shop has been the challenge. The age-old idea of personalized service, customer experience, and product expertise has become the linchpin for growing the business,” Moore says.

Central to the concept is customer immersion in what Moore refers to as the “CLEAR experience,” from the time they book and select their arrival item — be it a cappuccino, chocolate or craft beer ­— to the personal handwritten “thank you” note and custom cookie that arrive for them in the mail in a special CLEAR box. Staff follow this up with a call a few weeks after the customer has received the product to make sure they are satisfied.

For those who haven’t booked, “We try to impact our patients prior to their appointment so we begin with a tailored check-in experience. Our staff presents a menu, with offerings ranging from chocolate to cappuccino or a seasonal cocktail.”

According to Moore, the store and the service are designed around creating an experience and offering products that appeal to the aficionado. “Our intent is to cater to people that want to feel special, where their time is valued, and their needs are met.”

EyeDesigns and architect Norman Ward were able to create a modern design with Lum lighting that highlights the detail of the frames and allows customers to look their best.

Frames are displayed by brand but in a carefully controlled way. “We want patients to recognize brands from distinct signage that looks like our store, versus our store looking like 20 different brands,” Moore says.

When Moore discusses pricing policy, the value he places on being “upfront” and “transparent” quickly becomes apparent. But he admits that achieving this goal is complicated by the presence of so many different insurance plans with different pricing.

“Our team has done a great job learning the plans and developing methods to more quickly give accurate pricing for customers,” he explains. “For uninsured customers, we have selected products that provide value and state-of-the-art fashion while fitting within their budget. We feel that giving customers lens pricing first then allowing them to select the perfect frame is the most transparent way for customers to purchase spectacles.”

Moore says digital marketing is second only to personal referrals as a driver of growth at Clear Eye. “We do well with Google, Facebook, and are growing our Instagram presence. What we have learned is that in today’s market you have to do a little of everything to be competitive. Photography is key to making everything pop.”

Having an on-site lab is important to Moore because it enables the practice to customize lenses and lens shapes. And quick turnaround is something they pride themselves in. “Our Mr. Orange edger helps us do this,” says Moore. “The edger has been great for us. Although we are a boutique optical, we want to provide the most comprehensive eyecare possible.” The practice prides itself on a full range of equipment as well as top-level dry eye treatment.

This no-stone-unturned approach would seem to be Clear Eye’s signature achievement, whether it’s online, at reception, in the optical or the exam lane. As Moore defines it: “Expertise and personalized service in a modern, clean aesthetic that provides a unique experience for our customers.”

PHOTO GALLERY (18 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About Clear Eye Associates + Optical

1. QUICK CLEAN. Clear Eye’s optical features the OpticWash, a device Moore describes as a “car wash for glasses … an ingenious inven­­tion that does a great job of cleaning frames and lenses.”

2. GET THE MESSAGE. Patients are sent a text after their glasses purchase with details on their frames. The text contains links to the product’s brand story so that the customer can learn more about their frames prior to them being completed.

3. SMELL OF SUCCESS. The list of items offered to patients prior to their arrival goes beyond just drinks and sweets; even the music and scent have been selected specifically for customers.

4. NO SURPRISES. Price transparency is one of Clear Eye’s core goals. To ensure this is maintained, the practice makes a point of working up special handouts with pricing information on lens benefits and cost.

5. FULL TREATMENT. Clear Eye takes special pride in its dry eye treatment. “Dry eye impacts our core demographic to such an extent we felt the need to have the technology to solve this problem for our patients,” says Moore.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

  • Interesting color scheme; the natural wood looks great and is a contrast to the whites. Offering craft beer is a great idea too. Mick Kling, OD, Invision Optometry, San Diego, CA
  • The “CLEAR” logo is handled in a very nice way, where it is important to the conversation but does not dominate it. Their dedication to making information accessible to the customer is evident in their materials, and the delivery of a customized cookie and a handwritten note is a charming touch. Brent Zerger, l.a. Eyeworks, Los Angeles, CA
  • Texting a customer cool details on the frame they’ve purchased is CLEARly brilliant and impactful! Their “Seeing Good” campaign is wonderful: they donate generously AND they’ve “branded” it. One of the best URLs I’ve ever seen; simple and in line with their overall brand. Robert Bell, EyeCoach, San Francisco, CA

 

Fine Story

Clear Eye donates 100 frames each month to a local charity clinic as part of its “Seeing Good” campaign. “Although we don’t publicize or market this, we feel that local is important. We are fortunate enough to be able to partner with Community Clinic in Fort Worth, which is run by the University of Houston College of Optometry. They see thousands of patients a year at little to no cost in the First Christian Church downtown. Donating frames is our way of helping the local community.”

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Best of the Best

This California Lens Lab Has an Inspiring Recovery Story

They were burned to the ground in last year’s wildfires. Six months later, they’re thriving.

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SOMETIMES, THE THINGS that make you the best of the best are born of tragic necessity. On Nov. 8, 2018, the Camp Fire, the deadliest wildfire in the U.S. in a century, raged through the Northern California town of Paradise, destroying it entirely. Eighty-six people died in the blaze, which destroyed more than 18,000 structures. Among them was Paradise Lens Lab, which the day before had just celebrated its seventh anniversary.

THE FIRE

“I was headed to work a little before 7am,” recalls owner Gary Bates of that day. “It was a clear day but off to the side, where the sun was coming up over the hill I could see either clouds or smoke around the sun.” After about an hour at work, Bates headed to a lookout point 200 yards away. “The flames … were racing up the hill towards the back of the lab.”

A brief discussion about what they might be able to save was soon abandoned. “The Fire Department was telling people it was time to run.” There were five staff including Bates working that day; all got out, but all lost their homes. A few days later it was confirmed that the building and all its equipment was lost.

The rebuilt Paradise Lens Lab in Chico, CA. ‘It took us about three weeks to get our first edger and start the buildout,’ says owner Gary Bates.

THE REBUILD

That weekend, Bates and wife Tammy’s first thought was to move to Oregon. “But we just decided we had too many people relying on us. We had to give it a shot. That day we were out looking for commercial real estate” in Chico, CA, 15 miles west of Paradise.

Already reeling from the loss of his business, a second shock followed: “I thought I was insured fully, you know, rookie business owner.” Bates’ insurer informed him that on the $400,000 worth of equipment and stock he’d lost, he was covered for just $3,500. Help was at hand, however. Prior to opening Paradise Lens Lab, Bates, who’s been in the optical industry since 1989, had worked at Coburn Technologies. He was able to marshal some contacts there to get some edgers delivered within a matter of weeks. Later, Satisloh came through with a donation of brand new digital equipment. And a group of local doctors he does a lot of work for gave Bates $50,000 to help him start back up. “The generosity and kindness was amazing right after the fire,” he says. Most importantly, Bates’ customer base came through, pledging to stay with him.

Not everyone was so helpful, though. According to Bates, one major industry player “actually tried to poach my business. They went into all my shops, and promised them all this awesome pricing to ‘help them out.’”

Thankfully, things moved fast. “It took us about three weeks to get our first edger and start the buildout.” He was able to take some customers back almost immediately, though some were asked to be a little patient, as he didn’t want to underserve anyone. “Within a month and a half we were able to get them all back and provide excellent service for them all.”

THE POSITIVES

Many in this situation would see it as an insurmountable setback. But the Bateses have been rewarded for their determination. He says that whereas before Paradise Lens relied on conventional surfacing, with the new equipment, they can now process digital freeform lenses. Amazingly, business is actually up about 32 percent from before the fire. “We’ve gotten more customers; people have reached out to us wanting to give us their business.” And while they still live in their travel trailer, because of a post-fire housing shortage, they’re philosophical. “At least we have a travel trailer,” Bates says.

The rebuild at Paradise is now fully finished. “We’ve been complete for about three months now. It took us just a little over three months to build out and get all the equipment, get everybody trained and up to date,” he says.

PHOTO GALLERY (13 Images)

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