What advice do you have for dealing with bad apples and the guilt you feel about possibly firing them?

Other than to look past the short-term mental anguish and focus on the ultimate benefits that will accrue to your bottom line, staff morale, to that unhappy misplaced worker, and to your own sense of mental being, not much. Average performers make for an average business. Bad employees make for even worse. When we’ve asked about this in the past, your peers all agree: Read up on your legal responsibilities and pull the trigger. No more delaying. No sugar coating the speech (that invites trouble). “We got rid of two full time employees that had bad attitudes. Best move ever,” says Kristina Swartz, owner of the The Eye Site in Mishawaka, IN. “Trust your gut when it comes to employees,” adds Paula Hornbeck, of Eye Candy & Eye Candy Kids in Delafield, WI. “Over the years, I’ve had an uneasy feeling about an employee several times but hesitated to make a decision. Looking back, I should have let them go sooner and not drawn it out.” This applies even if it leaves you short-handed. “We made the decision to let someone go, and not replace them for several months,” recalls Stacey Harlander of CNY Eye Care in Syracuse, NY. “This left me as the sole optician, and it really forced me to see where I could improve patient flow, and learn to manage my own time and tasks more efficiently than in the past.” Don’t let another day pass. Go do it.

Should I use a paper or email newsletter?

Email newsletters are easy to assemble and distribute. They are cheap and trackable. And … they are easy to ignore. This is not to say you shouldn’t use them — there’s lots of evidence email marketing is more effective than the much more hyped social media options. But it also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t occasionally experiment with good old ink and paper. At a time when the average email user gets more than 100 messages in their inbox every day, it’s hard to get noticed, whereas a nicely produced flier in their real mail box might just tweak interest in a special offer or your regular services. And it’s not that much more expensive. A mail service provider will typically design and distribute your newsletter for less than 50 cents apiece and perhaps best of all, using an option like the U.S. Postal Service’s Every Door Direct Mail you can affordably target an audience by mail audience by age, income, or household size. It’s guaranteed in-the-hand delivery a spam message could only dream of. Even with a response rate of only two to three on 2,500 newsletters, that’s 75 potentially new customers or patients. A viable return!  

I’d like to capture some of the feeling of spring with flowers. What kinds do you recommend?

Daffodils are the traditional flower symbolizing spring but really, just about any variety will work. Color authority Pantone has named ultraviolet as its color of the year, which suggests opting for lavender, orchids, violet tulips, and African violets to send a signal that your optical is in touch with fashion trends. If a broader spectrum appeals, white roses or chrysanthemums always add a touch of elegance, blues and greens calm shoppers and encourage contemplation, while yellows and oranges will signal the coming summer. Roses (but not red ones, which are closely associated with Valentine’s Day) are still among the most popular flowers in the U.S., but be aware that they don’t fare well under hot lighting. Just be sure to go with fresh flowers. True, the silk copies have lasting power, but they tend to bring to mind grandma’s sofa-side arrangements rather than the excitement of the new season.

As I start thinking about doing my first trunk show, is there anything people don’t tell you?

Oh, just that it’s a TON of work. There’s the prep — figuring out the theme, the discounts, coordinating with your vendors to ensure they can be there, plotting decorations, food, and getting started on the marketing (creating ads, emailing your patient base, handing out flyers, building a “selfie wall,” and probably more important than anything else, working your phone contact list. If you’re offering medical services, it’s crucial you nail the appointments), and, finally, the day itself. If you’ve never done a trunk show, see what help your vendors might be able to provide. ZEISS for example, offers its Event in a Box, which it promises brings a Blue Apron-like ethos to holding an event.  

I’ve heard the late fees and extra interest we pay to vendors are tax-deductible expenses? What about the IRS’s late filing penalty?

It’s true that interest, late fees, and penalties are all considered legitimate business expenses. But not IRS penalties. But why are you paying delinquency penalties in the first place? If you can’t get an extension and don’t have the cash, you should still submit a return by the deadline — then you’ll only have to pay the 0.5 percent per month rate for being late. Late filing is a symptom of a financial carelessness that doesn’t augur well for your company.


This article originally appeared in the April 2018 edition of INVISION.  

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