We spend a lot of time training staff. How do we ensure we’re keeping them in a competitive environment?

The good news — and the bad news — about retention is that it is not all about money. A competitive salary is obviously important but employee longevity is often more about other issues like the friendships people have at work, the opportunities to grow, the challenge and satisfaction they get from their career. And sometimes it’s about the benefits. The bad news is that working out what keeps people engaged, happy and wanting to stick around can be difficult. One of the best ways to get such insights is “stay interviews,” held periodically with your most valued workers. Specifically, ask your employee: “Can you identify some of the things that could contribute to you doing the best work of your life?” or, more simply, “Please tell me why you like working here and what I can do better.” (Employment website Monster has a list of “stay” interview questions you can ask here: invmag.us/071804.) Establishing retention in a systematic way starts with your hiring process. Some people just aren’t cut out for working many years at one employer, especially a small one. They have entrepreneurial ambitions, they really are driven by money or looking out for No. 1, their families demand the benefits offered by a bigger employer — whatever. As you gain experience as an employer you’ll develop better instincts when it comes to hiring the kind of people who will stay. But it doesn’t hurt to be upfront. Tell job candidates, “This is a long-term position for the right person. If you don’t see yourself here in three years, please tell me.”

I’ve been summoned to meet an IRS auditor. Any last-minute tips?

Accept that the fresh-faced inquisitor across the desk is the boss and show him the due respect. Don’t argue if you disagree with something. If the auditor wants to disallow a deduction, state once why you don’t agree. If they’re not swayed, hold your tongue. Antagonizing an auditor will only encourage him or her to search for other areas of potential tax liability. Remember that you can plead your case with several layers of people above your auditor, and ultimately all the way to tax court if you feel you’ve been wronged. Surprisingly, most IRS auditors aren’t tax experts. Most are fairly recent graduates whose major was in an unrelated field, so don’t feel intimidated, and don’t underestimate your own tax knowledge. At the same time, while it’s not bad to be congenial, this is not a social event. You’re there to discuss only the sections of your tax return in question. The more you talk about other areas or things that you’re doing, the more likely the auditor will probe into other items.

 

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What’s the protocol for phones when you want to take that call, but can’t grab it? Is it better to answer it and put it on hold? Or let it go to voicemail?

Pauline Blachford of Pauline Blachford Consulting, an optometric practice consultancy, prefers the latter for two reasons: The client who is being taken care of when the phone rings deserves the undivided attention of the staff member. Often, the caller that just has a “quick” question takes time. This could be frustrating for the staff person and the patient. “It also breaks the train of thought of the service provider and causes a disconnect between the two,” she adds. “I would do everything possible to take care of each client without distraction.” However, Blachford says that if you do choose to pick up and put the caller on hold, you must ask whether they consent to be put on hold. When it comes to voicemail, the greatest fear for incoming callers is that they never know when their call will be returned. Blachford recommends that the recording say something like: “Thank you for calling ABC clinic. We are presently taking care of another client. Your call is important to us; please leave your name and number and we will get back to you within the hour.”

If I join a group marketing effort, am I responsible if their advertising is misleading? What about the advertising of a brand I carry? 

Wherever your name or store is represented, you have responsibilities. If you are part of a group advertisement, adding your logo to a prepared ad or endorsing a product, you must do your homework to ensure the ad is not misleading. Know whom you’re dealing with and ensure you know where and how your name/logo are being used.


This article originally appeared in the July-August 2018 edition of INVISION. 

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