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Getting to the Truth of How Your Employees Really Feel and More of Your Questions for September

Including how to build your own board of advisors and keeping your confidential information confidential.

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I’d like to set up a board of advisers for our practice. Ideally, what sort of people should I invite to join it?

It’s an Olympic year, so let’s aim high. Your dream team would probably look like this:

  • An industry vet … Yes, nothing under the sun is really new.
  • A truth teller… Devil’s advocates can be annoying but as you consider plans and potential you need someone who will challenge assumptions and ask, “Yes but what if …”
  • A cheerleader … This could be a loyal customer but anyone really who appreciates what you do and gives you heart.
  • A change-shaper … Someone with a finger on the pulse of technology and business trends.
  • A networker … Mr. Community. Someone with connections who knows what’s going on in the hood.
  • A numbers guy … Optimism is great, but sometimes it simply doesn’t stand up to financial scrutiny.

Keep in mind these aren’t lifetime commitments and possibly even set a founding policy that board members should change at regular periods. Old age is not a prerequisite and you should be willing to get out of your comfort zone — maybe even invite someone whose business model is contrary to yours. Offer to join other people’s boards too. You’ll likely get back as much as you put in.

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How can I get genuine insights into how my team is feeling about the workload or the way we do business?

It’s true, broad feedback questions like “How are things?” usually won’t yield useful answers from your employees. Not only are they not quantifiable, but they are often dependent on someone’s mood or emotions that day. To get more tactical, try scaling questions. Here’s an example: If an employee seems overwhelmed, ask how stressed they are feeling on a scale from one to 10. Should they answer 8, use these scaling questions to zero in on how you can help:

  • What could move you from an 8 to a 7?
  • How would a 10 look? 3 How about a 1?
  • What keeps the score from being worse?
  • When was the last time the score felt good? What was different about that time? How can we apply that today?
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How many days should I aim to take off a year?

According to a study by the Center for Creative Leadership, the typical American small business owner works more than 60 hours a week. That sort of load demands a week off every three months to reboot your brain, rest your body, free up your mind for expansive planning, and to give staff some room to shine. This last point touches on the heart of the matter — a better question to ask yourself may be, what have I done to prepare my staff to take over so I can take a vacation? That comes down to three things: Training, empowerment and trust. If your staff is not ready to step up and take over while you’re away, your optical business will never reach its full potential — and you’ll never get a proper break.

We have a small-to-medium-sized optical and my team has access to most of the business information we keep on the computers. Is there any need to contractually protect that information?

There is legal precedent where courts have ruled against business owners who did not do enough to signal their business information was private and proprietary. Apart from labeling such information as confidential, here are some other things you should do:

  • Allow computer access to critical information only on a need-to-know basis.
  • Restrict access to physical copies.
  • Advise employees client lists are confidential. Require a separate log-on for confidential pages or files stating that, by logging on, employees agree to keep the information confidential.
  • Require employees to sign confidentiality agreements. It should be part of the onboarding process.
What’s the best format for a customer testimonial?

Any 8-year-old knows — it’s video. Notes with those lifeless words lying there on the page can’t compete. They ask the customer to do too much work and are too easy to ignore. What you want is your own mini-infomercial featuring your best customers expounding on why your store or practice can’t be beat. “Video is active, alive and believable. Video is power,” says sales trainer Jeffrey Gitomer. Do what you can to get some video testimonials and display them wherever you can — on your website or playing intermittently on screens in your store.

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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