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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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Best of Eyecare

The Big Survey 2019 – The Basics

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THE BIG SURVEY 2019

Who is the American ECP? How does he or she do business? What are the main challenges they face? Our inaugural Big Survey set out to find the answers and 505 owners and managers of American vision businesses answered our call. Here are the results.

The Basics

We find it’s always best to start at the beginning … the basic stuff that makes up so much of your business’ identity. The Who, What, How and Where are all here; we’ll get into the fun stuff — like how much and what’s selling ­— later on.

1. Need to swing on chandeliers? Head to Missouri: 60 percent of stores have these fixtures.
2. They don’t take kindly to strangers asking questions in South Dakota. It, along with Louisiana and New Mexico, were the only states not to be represented in our survey.
3. Michigan ECPs are some of the hardest working in the industry: 25 percent work more than 50 hours a week.
4. Eyewear trend capital? That might just be New York where 21 percent of ECPs thought of themselves as being primarily in the fashion business (as opposed to health or retail), the highest level in the land.
5. Move over Austin. Connecticut was tops for self-declared weirdness with ECPs there giving themselves an average score of 8.2 out of 10 on our oddball scale.
6. Ohio ECPs have been listening to our sales experts – 44 percent use role-playing in training staff.
7. Florida had the most male owners and managers in our survey at 76 percent. Washington state had the most female owners at 86 percent.
8. Is there something in the water in the Midwest? ECPs in a band of states from Illinois to Ohio to Missouri were the happiest vision professionals (along with their cousins in NJ), with half or more (50-57%) ranking themselves 9 or higher out of 10 for professional satisfaction.
9. North Carolina vision businesses have among the highest turnover rates in the country, with 72 percent saying their staff stay less than 4 years.
10. Californian ECPs were the least likely to own their places of business with 82 percent renting. Must have been those pesky legal limitations…
11. Kansans were most likely to be open on Sunday with one in four stores and practices open on this traditional “rest” day.

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1. How many locations does your business have?

One
74%
Two
13%
Three to five
8%
Six or more
5%

2. Please indicate the type of location that houses your store:

Free-standing building
43%
A strip mall
22%
Business park or office building
16%
Downtown storefront
9%
Lifestyle center
3%
In a hospital/medical wing/health center
3%
The Internet
1%
Mobile practice
1%
A mall
1%
Other
2%

3. Do you own or rent your business property?

Own
39%
Rent
62%
NA (For online and mobile only businesses)
2%
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4. How well are things going in your business this year?

COMMENT: As our heat map shows, there’s very little to be blue about for an ECP right now. Note that white indicates states with statistically invalid responses. Figures in parentheses represent the number of survey responses.

5. How would you describe the market where your store is located?

Large city
15%
Medium-sized city (250,000-1 million people)
24%
Small city (25,000 to 250,000)
29%
Country town (up to 25,000)
13%
Resort area
1%
Other
1%

6. How long has your business been in operation?

COMMENT: Businesses that have been in operation for 11-20 years seem to be this survey’s sweet spot. Not only did they slightly edge out other lengths of time in business, as seen above, but those in business for that long also reported the highest proportion of revenue between $500K-$1.5M (50%).
Wondering what the rest of this group’s demos looked like? Well, 59 percent classified themselves as a private practice with a strong focus on retail, 49 percent were in the South and 39 percent operated out of a freestanding building in a small city or suburb. Forty-five percent of owners in business for that long reported salaries over $100,000 and, best of all, the majority reported their satisfaction with their professional life at an 8 or higher (66%).

7. Which description of your business do you most closely identify with?

Hospital or VA setting
1%
Medical model private practice, no retail
1%
Medical model private practice, small dispensarybuilding
22%
Private practice, strong focus on retail
53%
Corporate optometry location
3%
Eyewear boutique, employed or leased OD
10%
Eyewear boutique, no OD
9%
Mobile optician
1%

8. How big is your (main) location?

Less than 500 sq. ft.
4%
500-999 sq. ft.
10%
1,000-1,499 sq. ft.
24%
1,500-1,999 sq. ft.
17%
2,000-2,499 sq. ft.
15%
2,500-2,999 sq. ft.
11%
3,000-3,999 sq. ft.
8%
4,000-5,000 sq. ft.
6%
More than 5,000 sq. ft.
5%

9. Check the paid services you offer:

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America's Finest

Want 15 Years of Growth While Keeping Your Team Close and Building the Optical of Your Dreams? This Tennessee Practice Can Show You How

They knew that if they treated patients right, the business would succeed.

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Spring Hill Eyecare, Spring Hill, TN

OWNER: Rob Szeliga, OD; URL:springhilleyecare.com; FOUNDED: 2005; YEAR OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2018; ARCHITECT AND DESIGN FIRMS: Rob Stensland, Optometric Architects (architect); Amy LeAnn Szeliga (interior designer); EMPLOYEES: 13 full-time, 4 part-time; AREA: 8,300 sq. ft.; TOP BRANDS: Dailies Total 1/Multifocals, Kate Spade, Costa, Shamir, neurolens; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/springhilleyecare; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/springhilleyecare; BUILDOUT COST: $1.6 million


ROB SZELIGA MOVED to Spring Hill, TN, about 30 miles south of Nashville, with his family as a teenager in 1993. They were in the vanguard of an influx that has seen the population grow from 1,200 to over 40,000. He graduated from Southern College of Optometry (SCO) in 2005 and opened Spring Hill Eyecare “ice cold.” He and his wife Amy had a clear idea of what they wanted the business to be: a practice that offers the total package and only refers when surgery is needed. “I spent 100 percent of my time and energy growing my practice — not filling in elsewhere,” he recalls. “Luckily, I had strong support — a wife teaching elementary school and my mom and two sisters as my first employees. We knew that if we treated patients right, the practice would grow.” They started with 1,200 square feet, their newborn son Jackson literally growing up in the office. “My second lane didn’t have a phoropter, it had a crib,” says Szeliga. By their 10th anniversary they already had one major expansion under their belt and needed another.

Spring Hill Eyecare owner Rob Szeliga OD with his wife Amy and family.

The Szeliga’s found their dream location in a vacant 1870 farmhouse, but the structure would require demolition if it was going to work. “Without the proper approach, this would not be well received in a community growing as fast as Spring Hill, and quickly losing its small-town charm,” recalls Szeliga. They posted a letter on their blog explaining their plans, and this honest approach elicited overwhelmingly positive feedback online.
In the months before the house and barns were demolished, Szeliga would leave work, change clothes and get busy reclaiming their great features, including 11 fireplace mantles, original barnwood/beadboard, old doors (now frame boards), giant parlor doors, live edge maple breakroom tables milled from original trees, wavy glass muntin windows, and a cast-iron tub flower bed. The new building’s layout centered around preserving a giant, centuries-old oak tree.

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The juxtaposition of the salvaged fixtures and curios with the practice’s modern equipment lends a unique vibe to the exam rooms, each of which has a theme, including “garage” (the practice’s logo painted on a 1940s truck door) and “music” (with 100-year-old instruments) to name just two. Spring Hill Eyecare’s dry eye treatment center is called The Greenhouse after the one on the original property. “You go in the room with dry eyes facing old rusty tools,” says Szeliga. “When you get up from the massaging chair your view is of lush plants and flowers; you leave refreshed.”

Catering to the town’s expanding demographic, the team sees everyone from InfantSEE babies to geriatric patients. Among its numerous specialty facilities is a 900-sq-ft. sports vision/vision therapy center.
Szeliga used to spend about $400 a month on newspaper ads, but he says that all changed when, for a one-time fee of that same amount, he hired a patient to install a marquee sign under the practice’s street sign. “When the sign is not describing an upcoming event, we try to keep it full of puns or statements about pop culture, particularly eye-related ones.” He says simply keeping this sign funny and relevant generates enough community feedback and new patients that he doesn’t bother much with traditional marketing anymore.

Word of mouth is Spring Hill Eyecare’s other main form of advertising, much of it generated by creatively cultivating ties with the community through charitable and other events.  Examples include Kids’ Day and a Pre-Parade Hot Chocolate Party every year before the Christmas parade. “We even begged to get the parade path extended to go by our new location to keep this tradition,” Szeliga says. Spring Hill Eyecare sponsors many schools, teams and causes, but they also enjoy creating their own charitable events, like their “Give A Gobbler” Thanksgiving turkey campaign. The team “gobbles” loudly for donations. “For larger donations even our doctors gobble!”

One of the foundation cornerstones of the 1870s farmhouse that once stood on the site is displayed in the optical.

Szeliga says that while there are ECPs with flashier sites, he’s proud of the genuine feel he’s achieved with Spring Hill Eyecare’s online presence. “Too many websites have just generic stock photos … Our most popular posts are those involving personal photos or stories about myself, my family and my team.”

He credits the trust he has established with his prized team for much of Spring Hill Eyecare’s success. And it’s a quality he repays handsomely. A believer in continuing education, he has taken his team to the state optometry meeting for the last 10 years and to IDOC’s Orlando meeting the last five. But it’s not all work and study. “For our 2018 Christmas party I rented a Hummer limo for a Christmas lights tour and created a jigsaw puzzle to reveal clues about their Christmas gift: a four-night cruise to the Bahamas to celebrate an excellent 2018,” he says.

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Crucially, through all the rapid growth, the practice has never lost the close-knit feel of the early days. “While I no longer have family working at my office,” says Szeliga, “we’ve been able to keep the family atmosphere for 13 years.”

PHOTO GALLERY (26 IMAGES)

 

Five Cool Things About Spring Hill Eyecare

1. TV STARS. Szeliga’s repurposing of the old farmhouse that once stood on the site of the practice was featured in DIY Network’s Nashville Flipped series.

2. GOOGLE TOUR. Its website features a Google virtual tour: the photographers liked the building so much they shot extra rooms in exchange for being able to feature them on their website.

3. NEVER LEAVING. The coffee bar has two TVs, charging stations, customized coloring books for grownups, mini-fridge and a Keurig coffeemaker.

4. ACCOLADES GALORE. Office manager Melanie Jenkins was named Tennessee Paraoptometric of the year in 2018, SECO Paraoptometric of the year in 2019 and AOA Paraoptometric of the year in 2019.

5. WALKING ADS. At a community event this year staff had low-cost suns made with their logo and a sticker: “Redeem for $25 off a pair of sunglasses.” Only a few people did, but “others [wore] them around town,” says Szeliga. Next year’s target: high school marching bands.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

  • Outstanding community engagement throughout the planning and construction of their new location. Honoring the legacy of the former structure by incorporating materials and elements is a testament to their respect and concern for the community they serve. Nathan Troxell, PPG, Monroeville, PA
  • Spring Hill Eyecare has built an optical business that’s people- and purpose-focused, and they’ve fostered a growing business by organically growing their practice, while remaining true to providing quality eyecare in a welcoming environment. Stirling Barrett, KREWE, New Orleans, LA
  • The space is bonkers! Overall one of our faves! Leigh and Todd Rogers Berberian, Todd Rogers Eyewear, Andover, MA
  • The focus on local, independent optometry is evident across all aspects of the business. The website shines. It is easy to maneuver, has all the info one would be looking for and the imagery is great. I felt like I knew the practice and the doctor after visiting. The themed exam rooms are also a great idea as they create a relaxed, eclectic environment for their high-tech functions. Beverly Suliteanu, Westgroupe, Ville St-Laurent, Québec, Canada

 

Fine Story

Beneath a window in Spring Hill Eyecare’s optical, customers will find a hefty, timeworn, earth-stained rock that, while adding natural charm, clearly bears the marks of human shaping. It was one of the foundation cornerstones of the 1870 farmhouse that once stood on the site. The stone was hand-cut in the 1860s. Says Szeliga, “Opening my practice cold was a lot like the process of forming this hand-cut stone. It took patience — and patients! Like the old house, we started with a strong foundation that was built on two pearls I learned early: ‘What’s good for the patient is good for the practice,’ and ‘See everything we do from the patient’s point of view.’ Trends and tech are constantly changing…but we continually grow based on our strong foundation.”

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Benchmarks

Harnessing the Power of the Selfie to Boost Social Media Engagement, Drive Foot Traffic … and Have Fun

These five practices added an extra dimension to the optical experience and became genuine destinations.

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ONE OF THE defining characteristics of our modern retail world is that no purchase or experience, whether it’s buying sneakers or sitting down to a gourmet burrito, is really complete until it’s been photographed and posted to social media. iPads are even showing up in clothing store changing rooms. Like it or not, people are going to bring cameras into your store; the question is how to take control of that experience. Selfie walls or stations are a great way of doing this; they grow your social media following, increase customer engagement, drive foot traffic and boost your store’s fun quotient. There are sophisticated options out there—fully integrated systems for retailers, like Halo by Simple Booth, or The Digital Booth’s rental services, which are great for events—but you can get results using a smartphone and a colorfully branded sliver of free wall space in your optical. These five practices show us how it’s done.

Falls City Eye Care
Louisville, KY

Falls City Eye Care boasts two features that get customers taking snapshots of themselves. One is their trusty Polaroid camera—patients and friends are urged to snap a couple of photos, post one on a cork board in the optical and take the other home. The other is a 12-foot sculpture of a pair of frames in the front yard made especially for owners Dr. Michael and Theresa Martorana by a local artist. Falls City Eyecare now sees a steady stream of small groups and individuals stopping by to take selfies with the giant specs. City ordinances prevent them from labeling the sculpture, but customers usually find ways of slipping in a store-related hashtag themselves, Theresa says. “We were easy to walk right by on a busy fun street. Once the sculpture was created and painted, we became a destination.”

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Eye Love Optometry
Pinole, CA

EYE LOVE OPTOMETRY’s iPad-based selfie photo station allows photos to be taken and sent to smartphones and e-mail or shared on social media. Branded galleries can be made public, while owner Park L. Hsieh, OD and his team are sent marketing reports to track performance. Patients are given a “Selfie Card” that says, “We love that you love EYE LOVE OPTOMETRY! This is a ‘SELFIE CARD,’ so share your photos of your new eyewear with friends on INSTAGRAM/FACEBOOK.” The station uses Simple Booth’s Halo software, which makes the service fully customizable. “The appearance of the selfies taken are all consistent and in line with our desired brand,” says Hsieh. The sharing function leads to re-engagement long after the experience is over, he adds. “It’s a wonderful word-of-mouth marketing tool, which I think is invaluable.”

Eye Candy
Delafield and Mequon, WI

Eye Candy has smartly branded, professional-looking selfie stations at both of its locations in the Milwaukee area. The stations themselves are alcoves bound by three floor-to-ceiling walls, each covered in custom vinyl wallpaper with the Eye Candy logo. Owner Paula Hornbeck says her original inspiration for the design was the photo wall at the Oscars. When customers pick up their new eyewear, staff ask if they can take a picture for the store’s social media. “Some are shy and decline,” says Hornbeck, “but most are flattered and we encourage them to show us their personality. They take a seat on the stool provided and we take candid shots of them rocking their new look with our iPad. Some are silly, but they always look like they’re happy and having fun.” Family members are invited to join in the photo session. The images are used on Eye Candy’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. Hornbeck says the selfie stations are a definite plus for the business. “Friends and family will go on our FB and IG to see their loved one’s new look and hopefully get excited about coming in to get their own.”

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The Eyeglass Lass
New London, CT

What became The Eyeglass Lass’s selfie wall wasn’t originally designed for that purpose. Owner Siobhan Burns wanted to do something with the wall, which is visible from the street. “Local artist Rob Guess covered the wall with funky, graffiti-style eyes. The next day I asked someone to pose in front of it for their ‘glamour shot’ and boom: the selfie/eyeball wall was born.” It’s a low-tech affair. Says Burns: “This one woman show uses portrait mode on her phone!” Simple as it is, the feature “has turned into something great; people recognize frames from posts on social media, and ask if they can have their picture taken before I get a chance to ask them,” Burns says. “If we only see airbrushed models with frames superimposed on their faces, we don’t stop and think, ‘Oh yeah—I could wear that!” Besides which, “It’s another special thing that will stick out to your clientele that wraps up the individual experience they’ve had working with you.”

Optical Connection
Studio City, CA

Armen and Rita Kanberian at Optical Connection had an empty wall they didn’t know what to do with. They decided they wanted an area dedicated to fun. “We imported this beautiful patterned wallpaper from the U.K. and custom ordered our neon light hashtag, #wellframed. This has been such a great hit with clients, especially during our fun trunk shows and events,” says Rita, adding that the feature is now a firm customer favorite. “Having a place to have fun and see yourself try on different frames is what we love… We had a client who bought a dress with glasses and came in just to take pictures.”

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