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John Marvin

Maintaining a High Performance Inventory

Take this path to big dividends and large profits.

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IT’S NOT UNCOMMON for optometry practices to manage their frame inventory using a stock ordering system. This means that opticians sell the frames off the board leaving a need for replacing an empty space. If they have undisplayed frames, they will take the “under-stock” and put it in the empty space. This process continues until the frame rep visits to place a replenishment order.

It is also not uncommon for frame stock to “creep” into inventories that lack variety and fluctuate in value over time.

It is estimated that at least 50 percent of most private practice inventories turn one or less times a year (a turn is a sale). Only about 25 to 30 percent turn more than three times a year.

If a private optometry office has an inventory of 1,000 frames, then only about 250 to 300 are turning enough to generate profits. Another 50 percent hardly turn at all. This happens year after year.

Many optometry dispensaries have too many frames because they carry too many brands from too many manufacturers. A brand should have a minimum of 40 pieces to be properly merchandised. If you like a brand, then make a commitment to it.

Don’t purchase 18 pieces to “see how it will sell.” This is often done and when repeated over many months results in having 30 or 40 brands in inventory.

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Limiting your number of manufacturers has several benefits. One is that you’re now important to that manufacturer; purchasing three or four brands each with 40 pieces gives you power. You’ll be able to negotiate unconventional exchange provisions, free shipping, better pricing (because you’re purchasing more). Selecting the right vendors is an important decision and should not be done casually.

You’ll want to know the sales representative but also their management. Make sure they have a large enough portfolio of brands that you can select more than one to display. Discuss up front your expectations on exchange policies, pricing and close out opportunities. It is your business and they should accommodate you, not force you to work on their terms.

An effective display and presentation of inventory should look like this:

  • A total of 800 frames in inventory
  • A total of 20 brands, each with 40 pieces
  • The 20 brands should be from no more than three or four manufacturers if possible

This inventory is a “display only” and opticians place an order for the frame the day it is sold. If the office finishes in-office, the frame is shipped directly to the office. If it will be finished at a lab, then the frame is drop shipped directly to the lab.

Using a computerized inventory enables an office to produce a daily, weekly and monthly report of the highest selling frames they carry. By not selling “off the board” these high selling frames are available every day for patients and customers to purchase.

When your sales reps visit the office, the report of their brands will show which frames should be exchanged due of lack of sales which continually optimizes the appeal of the frame inventory.

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Using this approach increases the turn rate of a large portion of your inventory and doesn’t limit profit generated thanks to the ever-increasing customer appeal of your frame display.

If a brand consistently doesn’t perform, replace it all together with another brand, preferably one from the same manufacturer. If that’s not feasible, replace it with a brand from one of your other manufacturers.

By ordering frames each day from fewer manufacturers, they’ll gladly provide free shipping because they’re shipping several at once.

You will also receive smaller invoices more frequently which are much easier to manage from a cash flow perspective. Large orders placed by frame representative to restock openings in the display create large invoices they expect to be promptly paid.

This approach to managing your inventory creates a high performing optical paying you big dividends and large profits.

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John D. Marvin has more than 25 years of experience in the ophthalmic and optometric practice industry. He is the president of Texas State Optical and writes about marketing, management and education at the practiceprinciples.net blog. You can email him at jdmarvin@tso.com.

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John Marvin

The 4 Key Elements to Building a High Performance Team

It isn’t experience, skills or talent… it’s all in the mindset.

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MANY PEOPLE BELIEVE that the New Zealand All Blacks Rugby team is the greatest team in the history of sports. This means all sports, any team all over the world. They are three time world champions and have a winning percentage of 77 percent over the past 100 years. They have not lost at home in the past 10 years.

What is it that creates a high performance team? It is not merely talent. There are many professional sports teams with a roster full of superstars, but which do not live up to their potential. It is not the money invested in payroll; the New York Yankees have famously spent far more money than other teams but often fall short of even making the playoffs. The 2008 World Series Tampa Bay Rays had the 29th payroll ranking out of 32 teams.

When you break it down, all high-performing teams have certain traits in common:

Shared Leadership

A team that reaches toward its full potential does not rely on one person for leadership. Each member of the team steps up when required to provide leadership. Each member respects the talents and abilities of other team members and follows another when the job requires.

Leadership in difficult situations requires different skills, and a high-performing team recognizes that each member brings their own talents and skills.

An Achievement Mindset

High-performing teams are focused on accomplishment. They are unified toward reaching their goal, be it winning a championship or hitting a sales target. They understand that accomplishment is not a once in a while endeavor, but the result of habits executed consistently each hour of each day. They don’t understand or accept the concept of close enough. Successful teams take the view that either they got the job done or they didn’t. Failure to them is not an option; they figure out a way to make success happen.

Integrity and Respect

High-performing teams believe in the dignity of each team member. They perform their responsibilities with honesty and integrity. They know that cutting corners when offering a service is not good for the customer or the practice. If a mistake has been made, they own it. They don’t make excuses or blame the customer. They truly believe that while the customer isn’t always right, they are always the customer. They do not encourage or tolerate team members who do not live up to the same standards of integrity.

High-performing teams respect each other by listening and considering the views of others. When faced with a challenge, they work together instead of believing that they alone have all the answers. They understand that collaboration among many can produce a better result than the opinion of one individual.

Look for Opportunities

High-performing teams are continually working to improve their skills, their services, their products and their processes for delivery. They foster an environment of continual training, understanding that it is the excellence of consistent execution that delivers to the customer.

They encourage learning of new technology, new products and an ongoing review of how the work flow process can be improved. They don’t believe in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” To the contrary, they believe that they must break it to see how they can make it better.

Developing a high-performance team requires selecting team members with the right mindset. This mindset is more important than years of optical experience or years in a particular position. The owner or hiring manager’s job, in many ways, is to select the right people, give them direction and then get out of their way.

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John Marvin

Leading with Honesty and Authenticity Even When You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

It is OK not to know everything, but it is not OK to remain ignorant.

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OWNING AN OPTOMETRY practice with retail is a multi-faceted responsibility. First, you have a full-time job as a clinician and generator of revenue. Second, you have a full-time responsibility to manage the business and lead your employees. It’s easy to avoid any responsibility you don’t enjoy, and most doctors don’t enjoy managing a business. So, what are you supposed to do?

Running a business takes leadership. There’s a myth that leaders know all the answers. In John C. Maxwell’s The 21 Irrefutable Laws Of Leadership, Law #2 is The Law of Influence: “The true measure of leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less.”

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As the owner, people look to you for leadership. They expect you to know what you’re doing. What happens when you don’t? “Fake it until you make it?” Terrible advice. People don’t react well when they believe you are dishonest and inauthentic. If you are dishonest, it tells your staff that dishonesty is okay in your business. Here are some ways to maintain your influence, even when you don’t know what to do or have all the answers:

Relax and Investigate

It’s OK not to know everything. No one does. It’s not OK to remain ignorant. In today’s connected world, you can learn anything you need to know. Think of your practice as a DYI project. There are YouTube channels, chat boards and forums on management and small business ownership, and countless articles on personnel, inventory, sales, accounting, management, and leadership. Write out a development plan using your calendar. Growing business and leadership skills takes constant education. You didn’t learn optometry in your first semester.

Network with Others

I often say others have done some of my best thinking. Seek out people who can teach you the skills to run your business. There are hundreds of networking opportunities for small business owners. There are organizations you can join, like Small Business Administration Community Groups. You can learn about all of the resources the SBA offers through a local office. One of their most valuable resources is SCORE, a completely free, country-wide network of business mentors. Experience is not the best teacher; other peoples’ experience is the best teacher.

Learn from Yourself

Experience is a good teacher if you learn from it. When a decision goes well, think about why it was successful. I strongly suggest keeping a journal of your ideas, experiences and decisions. Sue Forrest has written a great article on Journaling for Small Business Owners. You can read it in her blog at sueforrestagency.com.

Make Time to Learn

The most important step you can take in becoming a successful manager and leader is to plan. You wouldn’t try to see patients without a schedule, why are you running your business without one? Set aside at least eight hours a week dedicated to the business of your business: No patients, just the operational aspects. You can break it into two four-hour sessions or dedicate a full day. This is when you should plan meetings with vendors, interview applicants, review financials, read business articles, network in your community. Eight hours out of a 50-hour week is only about 15 percent of your time. And if you’re not willing to commit at least 50 hours a week to your practice, chances are, you shouldn’t be an owner. That could be a valuable thing to learn.

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John Marvin

Customer Experience Isn’t About Bells and Whistles But Simplicity and Convenience

Espresso bars, large screen TVs and foot massages just distract from what customers really want.

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ATTEND ANY CONFERENCE about retail these days, and you’ll hear the phrase “customer experience.” Well-intentioned speakers talk about creating a differentiating “customer experience.” They say people don’t buy glasses, contact lenses or exams, they buy a “customer experience.” All this talk of “experience” is trendy and meant to convey insight into what it takes to be successful. But what is it? How can we create or improve something we can’t define?

To provide an experience, some ODs add espresso bars, large screen TVs, foot massages or X-Box stations to offer this ubiquitous and ever-elusive “experience.” I submit that emphasizing ancillary activities to create an experience distracts from what customers really want. Yes, I said customers. Part of the problem has been our reluctance to discuss those who purchase our services and products as customers, preferring the term patients.

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Words matter. They convey a certain perspective to our employees and to ourselves. We associate patients with hospitals, clinics and health care institutions. The practice of optometry does have a significant clinical element, but it’s also a retail business selling prescription glasses and contacts. A full two-thirds of the revenue generated for the vast majority of optometry practices is from the retail side. Understanding the customer is critical to being successful. Taking customers for granted provides an opportunity for disruptors to give them what they want, how they want it. There are three keys to demystifying and creating a successful customer experience:

SIMPLICITY. Everyone is busy and bombarded with too much information. We wake up with digital assistance that tells us the news and weather and what our commute time will be. We are flooded with information. Then customers are overwhelmed with decisions when they schedule appointments: What insurance do you have? What is your group number? Which plan are you on? What is your deductible? What does your insurance cover? Followed by purchasing decisions… Do you want the best lenses, better lenses or good lenses? Do you want anti-glare? Lenses that protect from blue light? What is blue light? Do you want computer lenses? What are they? Do you want a protection plan for your glasses? What does the plan cover? And that is just for the first pair of prescription eyewear … what about multiple pairs? People crave simplicity. How can you provide it?

CONVENIENCE. People make purchase decisions based on convenience; not just of location, but also of experience. Amazon sold over $232 billion worth of goods and services in 2018 due to convenience. Open the browser, type www.amazon.com and voila, the retail world is at your fingertips. In most cases, it arrives the next day and the shipping is free. How convenient is it to shop with you?

PERSONABLE. You may be thinking, “Wow, I don’t know how I can compete,” but we can all be personable. One of the advantages of brick and mortar is social interaction with people. We like interaction that is meaningful and rewarding. We want attention and assistance. We love places that are welcoming and pleasant. This is an advantage optometry practices have that cannot be matched online. This is the game changer if you focus on customer service. Hire enough people to provide personable service; it is a worthwhile investment. Equip employees with the knowledge and confidence to make the experience simple and easy to understand. Make sure your delivery processes of services and products are designed with customer convenience in mind.

Creating loyal customers who refer friends, family, and co-workers isn’t about espresso, movies or massages. It’s about giving customers what they want in a way that is simple, convenient and personable.

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