What are your thoughts on charging for small jobs and repairs?

To be sure, those simple adjustments, temple tips replacements, nose pad swaps and broken screws typically don’t cost that much… though your time, expertise and the rent you pay do. In some situations, such as if you’re in a small town or it’s a loyal customer, it may be worth it to accept the cost as a marketing expense. But if you find a disproportionate number of people coming in asking you to service for free eyewear they bought online or elsewhere, you may want to post a small, tactful sign near your front desk stating that you charge a small fee for such services. If the person appears to have potential as a repeat customer, offer to credit the money back toward a future exam or purchase within a three- or six-month period.

Lately, my father, who founded our family practice, is working less and taking more cash out. There has always been an understanding that I’d eventually buy the business. I want to grow it, but I can’t unless we start reinvesting our profits.

Well, it is your father’s practice. He built it. He’s at a different stage of life and wants something different than you do. That’s the joy of being the founder, and the curse of being the successor. Still, you don’t necessarily have to buy it. In fact, you may decide your future lies elsewhere (spend some time with something like the Edge Retail Academy’s Gap analysis — invmag.us/051803 — to see if the store can deliver the lifestyle you want). If separate paths look like the best option, you obviously want to leave on good terms. At this stage, we’d recommend bringing in a mediator. Sit down with your father (and mother) and lay out your plans. Reassure him you want to come up with a plan that allows both of you to achieve your goals. And do it soon. Otherwise, you’ll be 10 years older, your father will still be alive, hopefully, and you’ll be in the same position you’re in today.

 

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What do you think of using personality tests when hiring for a sales job? I prefer to go with my gut.

Personality tests have their place, as does your gut, but we don’t think either should be your primary means to judge a candidate. The tests can’t capture those all-important inflections, gestures or other nuances. As for intuition, it’s got a poor record as a hiring tool. Much better is to do your homework. Study the candidate’s resume (history is the best predictor of performance), call references, and pay attention to how well they sell themselves in the interview. This is a sales job, after all.

Do ECPs ever hire someone specifically to answer phones?  

For larger practices it’s worthwhile to hire a “voice of the practice”, says Pauline Blachford of Pauline Blachford Consulting, an optometric consultancy. “The telephone...offers a two-way conversation where information, feelings and emotions are expressed and heard,” she says. While answering the phone is their primary role, there’s no shortage of additional tasks they can handle, like reminding patients of their upcoming appointments; priming patients coming in for exams to purchase eyewear by asking them to bring in their existing glasses; contacting those who bought eyewear 5-10 days after the dispense to ensure all is going well; and notifying patients when their new eyewear is ready.

I’m trying to get a social media presence going but it’s so time-consuming. I have doubts it’s really worth the time.

It’s a cliché but leave your social-media management to a younger employee who “gets it.” It does take time and, equally important, requires an authentic and enthusiastic voice. If that’s not you, relinquish your “handle” to one of those Gen Y whippersnappers. 


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

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