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ECPs Share Their Favorite and Least Favorite Habits

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ECPs share their best and worst habits to inspire you to get on the right track in 2017

 STORY BY INVISION Staff

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Epictetus

Ah, good old Epictetus. The crustiest of all the Stoic philosophers. Always ready with a quote that makes you think you could rule the planet … if only you could muster up the tiniest smidgen of discipline.

Here’s another from William James, brother of Henry James.

“All our life, so far as it has definite form, is but a mass of habits — practical, emotional and intellectual — systematically organized for our weal or woe, and bearing us irresistibly toward our destiny, whatever the latter may be.”

INVISION, like Epictetus and William James, believes strongly in the power of habit. The right habits will change your life. Let’s rephrase … the right actions, however small, repeated every time, and accumulated over a period of months and years, will change your life.

If you had asked for every referral, if you had always limited yourself to one bite of cake, if you did always try for an add-on sale (or three), if you had gone out for that run every morning, if you did always carry business cards and remembered to hand them out — if you had done all of these things, do you have any doubt that your life and business would be very different?

Two of our favorite books on the subject of building better habits are The Power Of Habit by Charles Duhigg and Willpower: Rediscovering The Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney.

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We asked eyecare providers about their habits — those they feel have most contributed to their success as well as those they feel might have held them back.

Maybe some of what you read will inspire you to make changes of your own in the New Year.

If so, here are a few things to remember when building new good habits or killing old bad ones.


LITTLE ACTIONS, REPEATED OVER TIME, BECOME IMMENSE

1. Take the case of English novelist Anthony Trollope (1815-1882). He forced himself to produce one page of 250 words every 15 minutes. And he wrote 2-1/2 hours per day. If social obligations forced him to miss a day, he made up the words he had missed writing the next day. He kept careful track of his production in his notebooks, which he managed very seriously. The result? One of the world’s most famously prolific literary careers.

TO GET IT DONE, GET IT SCHEDULED

2. If you’re going to read the complete sales oeuvre of Jeffrey Gitomer, write designer profiles for every collection in your inventory, or exercise your way to fitness, you need to firmly schedule these activities. Don’t just tell yourself, “Oh, I’ll find time during the day somewhere.” Because you won’t. This is especially true in the early days of building a new habit.

MAKE IT CLEAR WHEN YOU’RE FOLLOWING YOUR PLAN

3. Shoot to create what the authors of Willpower call “bright lines” when defining a habit. That means that it is always perfectly clear when you are adhering to your targeted habit and when you are not. “I will ask every new customer I see for an email address” has very bright lines. But bright lines aren’t always possible. For instance, if you’d like to be more social, saying that you will “meet more people” is vague and unspecific. In such a case, it might be better to create an “implementation resolution” — a statement in “if-then” format, such as “If I’m standing in line at a supermarket or store, I will always talk to the person behind me or in front of me.”

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DON’T TRY TO DO IT ALL AT ONCE

4. Too many people begin a new year with a dozen or more daily to-dos and do-no-mores. It’s an impossible task, because every time you fail to adhere to one of your new rules, it makes it more likely that you’ll fail to adhere to the rest of them. Says Duhigg: “Willpower isn’t just a skill. It’s a muscle, like the muscles in your arms or legs, and it gets tired as it works harder, so there’s less power left over for other things.” Instead, commit yourself to changing one behavior per month. Ensure that you stick to that one habit, building it into your routine and making it as automatic as possible, before moving onto the next.

ANALYZE — THEN TRY TO RE-PROGRAM — BAD HABITS

5. Let’s say you have the waistline-obliterating habit of attacking the plate of baked goods in your practice at the same time every afternoon. To change the habit, ask yourself why you’re eating. Are you honestly trying to satisfy your hunger? Or is the knoshing more of a way to break up a boring routine? If you get hungry at that time every day, keep something handy you can eat without guilt to satisfy you when hunger hits. If you’re really just bored at that time, schedule a 15-minute walk outside the office then.

START TODAY

6. Another quote, this one from author Karen Lamb: “A year from now, you may wish you had started today.” Have a life- and business- changing year!



Robin Brush

EyeOptics, Omaha, NE

GOOD: Giving constant praise. Constant training. Constantly leading by example.

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BAD: Taking on other projects that keep me off the floor.


Zachary Dirks, OD

St. Peter Eyecare Center and Belle Plaine Eyecare Center, Saint Peter, MN

GOOD: Serving patients as individuals and building relationships with them.

BAD: Allowing staff turnover to distract me from taking “next steps.”


Angel Miller

Cynthiana Vision Center, Cynthiana, KY

GOOD: Definitely, that I am cross-trained everywhere.

BAD: I am terrible about getting to work on time. I am always one or two minutes late.


Kevin Count

Prentice Lab, Glenview, IL

GOOD: My ability to identify my “why” which is shaping my plan forward.

BAD: Looking for faults and waiting for the bottom to fall out.


Wendy Salle

Salle Opticians, Atlanta, GA

GOOD: I always set goals.

BAD: Staff management is an exhausting task sometimes and I may let a few things slide that I shouldn’t.


Beth Landberg

Hermann & Henry Eyecare, Pickerington, OH

GOOD: I remember our patients’ names, their families, etc. and they really like that.

BAD: I try to do it all and don’t delegate when I can to a staff that is perfectly capable of doing it just as well as I would have.


Sandy Slang

Ophthalmology Associates, Cudahy, WI

GOOD: Our patients always come first; we offer good customer service.

BAD: Trying to stay organized and on top of things.


Joe Miller

Eye Care & Vision Associates, Buffalo, NY

GOOD: My work ethic and fairness.

BAD: Not setting a higher priority on marketing the practice.


Harry Roth

eyeQ Opticians, Millburn, NJ

GOOD: I start everyday with an achievable goal.

BAD: I give in to distractions.


Jess Gattis

Thomas Vision Clinic, Leesville, LA

GOOD: We really strive to keep staff morale up.

BAD: We are shy to approach our patients/customers about multiple pairs because we assume no one is financially able to purchase more than one pair.



Jennifer Leuzzi

Mill Creek Optical, Dansville, NY

GOOD: Taking the time to listen to my patients. Also being involved in community service groups and being present in the community for good things.

BAD: Saying things are no charge when I should charge.


Chris Welch

Square Deal Optical Supply, Johnson City, NY

GOOD: Sharing my product knowledge.

BAD: Our old fashioned office practices.


Shimul Shah, OD

Marysville Family Vision, Marysville, OH

GOOD: Making daily lists of things that must be done.

BAD: Procrastination!


Meredith Nowak

Coffman Vision Clinic, Bend, OR

GOOD: Changing the look of our optical.

BAD: Talking about money before product.


Gina Stafford

Mountain View Optical, Fairbanks, AK

GOOD: Being more flexible with patient complaints.

BAD: Not focusing enough on marketing.


Heather Kaikuana

Eye Care, Hawaii Hilo, HI

GOOD: We know our products and we relate them to the patient’s lifestyle so they better understand why they should get the no glare or no line.

BAD: We need a little work on our optical hand-offs and doctor recommendations.


 

Joselle Stumph

EyeGuys Optical, Spokane, WA

GOOD: The ability to wear many hats and adapt to whatever is thrown at me.

BAD: Not giving enough positive feedback to my staff.


 

Kristen Atkins

America’s Best Contacts & Eyeglasses, Burlington, NJ

GOOD: I hired a superb staff who are goal driven.

BAD: Not being able to do as much one-on-one training as I’d like.


 

Pam Peters

Midwest Eye, Downers Grove, IL

GOOD: Coming up with fun, new ideas, and including staff on creativity and decisions.

BAD: Not completing some of the activities we introduce.


 

Jeffrey Safarik, OD

Newport Mesa Optometry, Costa Mesa, CA

GOOD: Maintaining a consistent quality of care.

BAD: Not training staff.


 

This article originally appeared in the January 2017 edition of INVISION.

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Best of the Best

How This Colorado Practice’s ‘Office Culture Blueprint’ is Boosting Referrals

And how they persuaded their team to embrace a new mindset.

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EYE CARE CENTER of Colorado Springs, CO, has a large specialty contact lens practice that owes its success in part to the referrals it receives from ODs and MDs in Colorado Springs, Denver, Pueblo and as far away as California. You don’t maintain a referral-driven practice without top-level service, and with so much on the line, sometimes it pays to codify what’s expected of staff. But no one responds to a laundry list of rules. “We have found we have to re-educate ourselves and any new team members we hire,” says co-owner Sara Whitney, OD, and this realization recently led the practice to develop its own “office culture blueprint.”

THE IDEA

Translating a vague desire to get the best out of your team into a set of tangible principles is harder than it sounds. “We made a feeble attempt to create a culture statement a few years ago,” recalls Whitney, “and we never finished it because we didn’t really know how to implement it.” Practice founder and co-owner Dr. Reed Bro eventually came across the concept of “above the line behavior,” an approach based on personal responsibility. Whitney says the beauty of this concept is that it encourages “behaviors that create a positive event for the next person in the chain.” The goal is to “resist the temptation to blame…to complain for the sake of complaining, or become defensive.”

Dr. Reed Bro and Dr. Sara Whitney

THE EXECUTION

Whitney, Bro and office manager Mindi Andrade developed what would become the office’s cultural blueprint over several months. It takes its starting point from a few core beliefs. These are matched with a set of encouraged behaviors and desired outcomes. Your core beliefs, Whitney says, “are the reasons you decided to start practicing optometry or open a business.”

Once these basic elements were finalized, the managers initiated a transitional phase in which they used the vocabulary that forms the core of the blueprint in day-to-day interactions with one another and with staff. “We did not present the blueprint to the team until we were comfortable that we were able to personally apply the core beliefs to any situation,” Whitney says. They launched it at the beginning of January, when people are making resolutions and personal improvements. “We printed up the culture matrix on a card for each member of the team.”

Whitney says you can tell right away which staff will be on board and who will resist. “We lost three team members around the time the blueprint was rolled out. It may have just been a personal decision for the employee, but it can cause you to momentarily doubt your decision to demand these behaviors.” It’s important to be strong and stick to your guns at this stage, she says. Remember that the key beliefs you identified as the basis for your blueprint are important. “They are the reason you get up in the morning and come to work,” she says. “Expectations … make some people uncomfortable. They will resist change, and you have to let them move on.”

THE REWARDS

Whitney says the blueprint has delivered its targeted outcomes: an enhanced sense of community, patient satisfaction, trust, loyalty, adherence to treatment plans, and referrals. But there are personal benefits too. “I think those who have embraced this new mindset will be able to see it spilling over into their personal lives.”

Ultimately, Eye Care Center of Colorado Springs’ aim with the blueprint was to cultivate behaviors that grow the business, and so far, that aim is being met. Says Whitney: “We have developed the mindset that being presented with a challenge is our opportunity to get ahead of the problem and to possibly even be someone’s hero.”

Do It Yourself: Develop an Office Culture

  • DON’T RUSH IT. “Take time to define your beliefs over a period of weeks or months,” says Whitney.
  • WALK THE WALK. “Live out behaviors that support your beliefs,” Whitney advises. “You are the biggest example of your practice culture.”
  • TWO-WAY STREET. An office culture doesn’t have to be static: Survey your team periodically and ask for feedback.
  • COMMUNICATE. If you don’t, a blueprint is just a list tacked to a wall.
  • STAY STRONG. A change like this might cost you an employee. But stay the course or it’s not worth the paper it’s written on.

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Best of the Best

Tennessee Practice Throws Itself an Epic Birthday Party, Creates New Tradition

This patient-appreciation event made for a great business-building tool.

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ANDREW AND ELIZABETH HOWARD, optometrists and co-owners of LaFollette Eye Clinic in Jacksboro, TN, pride themselves on a level of service that has patients coming in from Ohio, Texas, and Florida. As the practice’s 30th anniversary approached in October last year, they decided a one-day trunk show wouldn’t reach as many people as they wanted. An occasion like this warranted something special.

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THE IDEA

“We like to capitalize on milestones as a way to generate interest, and the 30-year milestone was a great opportunity,” Andy recalls. When it comes to event planning, ideas at LaFollette are typically generated and fleshed out in-house by the practice’s eight-person Leadership Team, which collectively boasts decades in eyecare. But, they also enjoy looking at other practices and sharing ideas with other doctors. “This event was a mixture of the two techniques. We traditionally hold one or two open houses or trunk shows a year, but we had never held a week-long celebration,” Howard says.

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THE EXECUTION

It took the team several meetings to brainstorm ideas, then organize them. Various aspects were delegated to different leads on the team. Says Andy: “Involving the team builds engagement, loyalty and morale, and helped us keep our costs down.”

A “Diamonds and Pearls” theme was chosen. According to Andy, these are not only “modern and traditional anniversary gifts, but it’s also a great song by Prince.” The celebration itself featured giveaways, prizes, a 30-percent off sale, snacks and drinks all week, activities such as face-painting for kids, cornhole, and a “photo booth” with a retro-style instant camera for patients who used ’80s-themed props or their own new glasses for digital images that were shared on social media. In addition, demonstrations were held with reps from local crafters and artists’ groups — even a Lion’s Club member who brought in leader dogs for the blind. (A donation drive was held for the Lion’s Club.)

A local artist’s association was invited to bring in artwork; these were joined on LaFollette’s walls by “storyboards” highlighting the practice’s services, including photographs going back to the ’80s. Long-time patients and ex-staff members joined the celebration, and the optical even changed the music to ’80s hits for the week.

The costs were “minimal” given the scale of the event. A giant eyeglasses balloon sculpture was the most expensive item. “We had enough cupcakes for everyone, but they were made by a team member who is a wonderful baker.” All giveaways were donated by local businesses in exchange for marketing.

THE REWARDS

The biggest surprise to Andy was how many people showed up just to wish LaFollette a happy anniversary. Sales were up during the week, but that was secondary to the goal of celebrating and thanking patients, he says. “It was more fun than we’ve had in a long time; that by itself is worth the effort.” He adds: “Now we need to begin looking for another excuse to have a week-long celebration… We had too much fun to wait 10 more years!”

PHOTO GALLERY (10 IMAGES)

Do It Yourself: Hold A 
Patient-Centered Celebration

  • ALL HANDS ON. The key, says Andy, is involving the whole team. “So many people have different talents, and an event like this allows that talent to shine.”
  • CROSS-PROMOTE. Talk to neighboring businesses and see if they’ll contribute prizes in exchange for some free marketing.
  • GO WITH A PRO. Failing to plan is planning to fail. If you don’t have the HR depth that LaFollette has, consider using a professional event planner.
  • WIDE FOCUS. To foster a sense of community, think beyond eyewear. According to Andy, the leader dog for the blind was one of the hits of the week.
  • PICK A MOTIF. Choosing a theme gives you a hook to hang activities on. Practice turning 20? Ask your stylist for “The Rachel.”

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Benchmarks

Ways ECPs Are Benefiting from Short Intro Videos for Their Practices

Practice introduction videos have multiple benefits, and these days they’re a cinch to produce.

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Introducing yourself to potential patients and customers, eliminating the element of surprise for first-timers, and boosting your SEO and Google rankings: Producing a professional-looking intro video for your practice has multiple benefits and doesn’t have to bust your marketing budget. Check out this handful of practices that have embraced multimedia.

Precision Vision

Edmund, OK

Precision Vision in Edmund, OK, designed their video to help patients get to know the practice before coming in. “The video was structured to try and eliminate surprises,” says owner Dr. Selina McGee. It plays on the website and her Facebook page, boosting SEO across channels and driving traffic to the practice. McGee hired a videographer to shoot and edit the video for about $800. “I wanted it to look completely professional.” McGee’s main goal was boosting SEO, but now that she’s got the video up and running she concedes she could probably do an even better job of getting patients to see it. She’s also come to realize it has other potential benefits. “Customers always want to see the real you, so create something authentic that shows your personality,” she advises. “Have fun with it. Remember, your patients and customers can’t buy YOU down the street.”

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Spanish Oaks Eyecare

Cedar Park, TX

Spanish Oaks Eyecare’s video involved some luck. It was professionally done. “However,” says owner Dr. Dina Miller, “we were approached by [a crew] wanting to use our waiting area for a film. So in exchange they offered to do it at no charge.” The video walks the audience through Spanish Oaks’ office, with both exterior and interior shots, before showing Miller examining a patient and reviewing their optomap results. It ends with the patient in the optical working with her optician Bob. “During that part, we let people know how we’re different than most opticals and why ­— we carry only independent frame lines.” The video, whose main goal Miller says is to introduce Spanish Oaks to potential patients and customers, is posted on Facebook. “It’s a great way to … make yourself ‘real’ and familiar.”
She advises other ECPs to make sure the video features actual staff. “That’s one of the most important parts; making it personable. I was tempted to have someone else sit in for me but at the end of the day, I knew that would really take away from the video and its purpose.” And don’t be afraid to edit: Miller opted for voice overs, as they had felt uncomfortable speaking to camera, and added captions for things she wanted the audience to know (for example, the fact that her optician is one of just two people with an active American Board of Opticianry Advanced certification in her part of Texas). “Also,” she advises, “consider having parts where you and possibly your main staff talk to the camera about what’s important to you, what sets you apart from others — not the generic ‘We have the best customer service/patient care,’ etc.”

Ziegler Leffingwell Eyecare

New Berlin, WI

According to Dr. Dave Ziegler, Ziegler Leffingwell Eyecare hit on the idea of making an intro video as a way of giving “strong visual exposure of what it is like to be in our office.” And they found a striking way to do just that, hiring a real estate photographer to use a drone, which opens the video hovering outside the front of the office, then enters through the front door and flies throughout the office. “This flight path through the office is the way our patients experience our office during a typical eye exam,” he says. The video boasts a script written by Ziegler himself; he hired a professional to do the voice over for maximum impact. He felt it was important that the video should be less than a minute long; it’s now posted to the practice’s website, one among many features that he says win their website routine praise. Asked whether the time and expense that went into making the video were worth it, he replies that more than that, “it is necessary” for any practice, in his view.

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Dr. Bladh OD

Diamond Bar, CA

The folks at Dr. Bladh OD, a Diamond Bar, CA practice, understand the power of videos to increase a business’s Google ranking by boosting the amount of content that links back to its website. They signed up with a company called Promo! that allows them to make multiple 15-second videos. “The [Promo!] site has a ton of content with professional videos to use.” Once you edit it, the video is yours to keep. So the video is professionally done, but everything added to it is DIY.
“Video marketing gets so much more traction than pictures or boring blog posts,” reports Josh Bladh. The videos are similar, but each has its own emphasis. Most feature music and a few lines of text to get people’s attention. “Search engines are putting more emphasis on video content so this seemed like the best option to get our foothold with video before paying for anything professional,” he says.
The videos are posted to Facebook and Instagram. “We will add videos to blog posts on our website where relevant.”
In the practice’s experience, consumers typically need six to eight touch points before they’ll call and commit to an exam. So, using videos to boost these contact points for the service’s relatively low monthly fee makes sense. Bladh warns ECPs to do their homework before signing up for such a service, however, as some companies will give you a hard time if you attempt to use any unused video credits after letting your subscription lapse.

Anthony Aiden Opticians

New York, NY

Anthony Aiden Opticians went for a more adult approach in their video, a 30-second short about … a misunderstanding. It may seem like male fantasy, but optician Anthony Gaggi swears it’s based on reality. “My sister’s friend was a stylist; she was working alone one night and…” Well, we don’t want to spoil it; suffice it to say whether you find it hilarious, titillating or offensive, there’s no denying it conveys the store’s edgy, fashion-conscious style. “My goal,” Gaggi says, “was to bring a high-quality fashion video to my website.” The video is also displayed in the store’s windows. A friend who works in TV offered his services for free; Gaggi says clients love it.

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