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The Experts’ 90-Day Plan for Peak End of Year Performance.

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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 [email protected]

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at [email protected].

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