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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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America's Finest

A Simple Formula Keeps This Vancouver Optical Growing After 40 Years

They created a safe space for self-expression.

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The Optical Boutique, Vancouver, British Columbia

OWNER: Sue Randhawa; URL:theopticalboutique.com ; FOUNDED: 1979; EMPLOYEES: 2 full-time, 1 part-time ; AREA: 1,000 sq. ft.; TOP BRANDS: Anne et Valentin, Theo, Jacques Marie Mage, Face á Face, LPLR ; FACEBOOK: facebook.com/theopticalboutique; INSTAGRAM: instagram.com/theopticalboutique


Randhawa enjoys the juxtaposition of antique or vintage aesthetics and The Optical Boutique’s fashion-forward frames.

THE OPTICAL BOUTIQUE was founded in 1979 and quickly became a key destination for eyewear connoisseurs in Vancouver. Sue Randhawa worked alongside the original owners for 15 years before purchasing the business in 2007. Having already built a rapport with the clientele, she opted for a minor update rather than a wholesale reinvention. But that would soon be forced upon her when the building management unexpectedly invoked a clause in the lease that allowed them to tear the site down for a complete rebuild. “What began as an unfortunate circumstance evolved into an awesome opportunity. I was involved in the entire design process [of the new store]. It was amazing to be able to see my vision for the space become a reality.”

The Optical Boutique is unmistakably the expression of a personality, rather than the sleek product of a design consultancy. Frames reside in antique draws, set off by vintage signage; they’re draped over old books with cracked spines and perched atop ancient typewriters. Randhawa’s touch is evident in large features like the store’s brick accent wall, its display cabinets, and the antiques she collects during frame-buying trips. She particularly enjoys the juxtaposition of antique or vintage aesthetics and The Optical Boutique’s fashion-forward frames.

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Randhawa tries to travel at least twice a year to European shows for buying and chooses selections with her diverse clientele in mind. “I choose collections that are handmade, unique, colorful, and whenever possible logo-free.”

The store is located in Kerrisdale, a “tight-knit” community, in Randhawa’s words, on Vancouver’s West Side that skews to the older and wealthier, though The Optical Boutique has established a city-wide reputation and is drawing a growing number of people from other demographics and neighborhoods thanks to its well-tended online presence. “Our average client is around 60-70 years old and is anything but typical. One of the things we hear often in the store is how diverse our collection is,” she says. “We often have clients in the neighborhood who come in with their friends to get a minor adjustment and end up staying to visit and browse.”

The team at The Optical Boutique strives for a nurturing environment. “We encourage positive self-talk, as the majority of people, when confronted with a mirror, become their own biggest critic. This type of service does not go unnoticed as we receive numerous recommendations based on the experience we provide.” So numerous, in fact, that Randhawa doesn’t really bother with traditional marketing. “We have spent 40 years sticking to our simple business model — to sell quality products at a reasonable price and focus on providing the best customer service possible,” she says. “It speaks volumes to us that we get most of our new clients from them seeing and loving our eyewear on existing clients and being referred in to us.”

Having said that, she does have a strong presence on social media. “I really do try to follow a posting schedule, but I find that my organic posts, the ones that I share because I like something about the image, seem to resonate more.” The store’s Facebook and Instagram accounts reflect Randhawa’s deep engagement with the local fashion scene. “The images I post illustrate the way we work; each person is different and has their own fashion journey. I like to show other women they can have fun with their eyewear.”

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Randhawa credits her staff of “unique and complementary individuals. Each has their own perspective, style, taste, and personality. I love that we all bring different strengths to the table. Some days it feels like we spend more time laughing than working.”

It says a lot about Randhawa’s achievement at The Optical Boutique that to her, entering the store “feels like coming home. I have had clients tell me it feels more like visiting a friend than an optical store. This is a place where clients become friends and people feel safe to express themselves.”

PHOTO GALLERY (13 IMAGES)

Five Cool Things About The Optical Boutique

1. MATCH MAKER. Randhawa has relationships with all of Vancouver’s major lens manufacturers “so we have the diversity to find the right lens on an individual basis.”

2. FASHION FIXTURE. The team are regulars at Vancouver Fashion Week. “I love seeing the designers’ concepts come to life. It’s so much fun to be a part of their journey and to collaborate with them.”

3. INFLUENCER. @theopticalboutique was voted one of the “Top 25 Vancouver Fashion Instagram accounts to follow” by a local online newspaper.

4. DOOR-TO-DOOR. Randhawa makes house calls. Sometimes with a small collection of frames to do a complete fit in the home, other times just to say hi. “It’s a lovely interlude in my day.”

5. GIVING BACK. Every year the business provides a scholarship to an emerging designer or student who shows at Fashion Week.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAID

  • Sue’s love of fashion and eyewear is evident; but what strikes me even more is her desire to help patients discover their personal style: “Each person is different and has their own fashion journey.” Nathan Troxell, PPG, Monroeville, PA
  • Sue’s passion and enthusiasm for quality, individuality and culture clearly translate into a unique story with a strong dose of personality — all with a distinct point of view. Stirling Barrett, KREWE, New Orleans, LA
  • There are some awesomely creative things about this shop — and the social media looks as slick and cool as the website. Leigh and Todd Rogers Berberian, Todd Rogers Eyewear, Andover, MA
  • The best marketing tool The Optical Boutique has is Sue. Her active involvement in the local fashion scene and her unique and eclectic style provide amazing PR that cannot be bought. Beverly Suliteanu, Westgroupe, Ville St-Laurent, Québec, Canada

 

Fine Story

Randhawa and her team have worked hard to disabuse their clientele of the idea that they have to match their eyewear to their clothes. “For so long people have been worried that their new glasses won’t ‘go’ with what they’ve got in their wardrobe, but this has to stop,” she says. “We try to educate each client that our goal is for the eyewear to be harmonious with their own coloring, and that means they won’t have to worry about matching it. In fact, sometimes having a contrasting color can be quite striking.” Randhawa tries to show through her own eyewear that glasses can be an excellent way to make a statement, add some color to a complexion, or even elevate an outfit. “I think what we’ve created at The Optical Boutique is a safe space for people to try to test their own boundaries and explore their inner creativity in a way they might not have even considered before,” she says.

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Finish Strong, Start Stronger

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

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

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90 Days Out…

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

MICHAEL KARLSRUD
founder, Karlsrüd Company

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

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

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

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

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

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

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

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

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

TRUDI CHAREST
co-founder, Marketing4ECPs

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

Launch Q4 “Use It or Lose It” campaign.

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

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

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

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

Create a promotions and execution calendar for 2020.

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

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60 Days Out…

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

PAULINE BLACHFORD
founder, Pauline Blachford Consulting

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

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

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

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

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

MARK HINTON
CEO and president of eYeFacilitate

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

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

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

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

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

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

CHAREST

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

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

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45 Days Out…

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

BLACHFORD

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

HINTON

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

Social media bump time.

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

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

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30 Days Out…

OK folks—it’s time to execute!

BLACHFORD

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

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

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

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

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

HINTON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KARLSRUD

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

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

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

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

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

21 Days Out…

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

BLACHFORD

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

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

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

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

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

HINTON

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

14 Days Out…

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

BLACHFORD

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

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

HINTON

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

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

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

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

KARLSRUD

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

BRAIN SQUAD TAKE:

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


EXPERT BIOS

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

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

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

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

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Very Important Patron

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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