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Tip Sheet

Plan a Business-Building BBQ and More Tips for May

A successful bank holds one every week.

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Brainstorming

Alone Time

Not making any headway with your “brainstorming” sessions? Go it alone. In his book “Free Prize Inside”, Seth Godin cites a psychology study that shows that a team of four, each brainstorming alone, came up with twice as many ideas as the same team brainstorming together. Best approach? Assign team members to brainstorm alone, then bring everybody together to share — and critique — the ideas, he says.

COMMUNICATION

Talk the Talk

Jargon has a well-earned reputation for being confusing and annoying, but perhaps never more so than when it comes to insurance. Get rid of the words “covered,” “allowance,” “overage,” “add on,” “eligible,” and “out of pocket” from your patient communications, says industry consultant Mark Hinton, arguing these words cause “tension and anxiety.” “They don’t belong in retail,” he says.

MERCHANDISING

Let Light Shine

Edward Dean Butler travels the world as a consultant to the optical trade and just about everywhere he goes, he runs into a pet peeve – badly lit eyewear retailers. “Many, many optical stores are so badly lit that business actually suffers,” says Butler, who founded the Lenscrafters chain. Good lighting requires expertise, he wrote in a commentary on invisionmag.com. But here are three things to look out for:
1. Never light frames from the back. They look washed out and you can’t see the real colors. Instead, light them from the front using a tungsten filament color.
2. Use professional lighting colors, not high kelvin/blue-white. So-called warm white is not horrible, but professional lighting colors (salmon pink, believe it or not) are far better. “Go to the mall and look at the lighting colors in national chains,” he recommends.
3. Never use bright lights. “Surface imperfections and dust show up and turn off customers,” he says.

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RECRUITMENT

Outside the Box

It’s easy when recruiting to become so rigidly fixed on certain criteria that you overlook someone who could bring a whole new dimension to your business, says Betty Aretz, owner of The Eyecare Boutique in Wexford, PA. “Look outside the box,” she urges, citing the example of “someone with an accounting degree can calculate insurance quickly.” Take this great quote from Mark Twain, cited by Tom Peters in his book “Re-Imagine!”: “The best swordsman in the world doesn’t need to fear the second-best swordsman in the world. No, the person for him to be afraid of is some ignorant antagonist who has never had a sword in his hand before; he doesn’t do the thing he ought to do. He does the thing he ought not to do, and often it catches the expert out and ends him on the spot.”

MARKETING

Barbecue Business

A bank in Seattle, WA, lets prospects know about its “hot” loan rates and friendly service by holding a barbecue every Friday in the bank’s parking lot. The bank manager cooks the hot dogs and hamburgers, folks come by to talk and eat, and all receive info on the bank’s services. Perhaps you might let your customers know about your “hot” sunglass deals in a similar manner?

Since launching in 2014, INVISION has won 23 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at editor@invisionmag.com.

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Ask INVISION

Promoting Healthy Competition and More Questions for Year’s End

Also, proper staff gift-giving etiquette and getting the most out of staff trainers.

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How do I tease out a prospective hire’s innate strengths and weaknesses during an interview?

Marcus Buckingham, a leader of the strengths-based school of business management, suggests asking this question (and revisiting it periodically if you do hire the person): What was the best day at work you’ve had in the past three months? “Find out what the person was doing and why he or she enjoyed it so much,” he says, adding it’s key to keep in mind that a strength is not merely something someone is good at. “It might be something they aren’t good at yet. It might be just a predilection, something they find so intrinsically satisfying that they look forward to doing it again and again and getting better at it over time.” The theory is that the best businesses are those that fully leverage the strengths (unbridled upside) of their employees as opposed to trying to fix up their weaknesses (never more than incremental gains).

Podcast: Is Eyecare in Canada Really More Like the US Than We Think?
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: Is Eyecare in Canada Really More Like the US Than We Think?

Podcast: What Exactly Does it Take to Become America’s Finest Optical Retailer?
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: What Exactly Does it Take to Become America’s Finest Optical Retailer?

Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries

How can I promote competition among staff without it turning my store into the setting of Lord Of The Flies?

The key to fostering healthy competition, according to new research done by a team at Harvard Business School, lies in how you communicate the competition. When employees feel excited, they’re more likely to come up with creative solutions and new ways to better serve customers. When they feel anxious or worried they might lose their job or be publicly humiliated, they’re more likely to cut corners or sabotage one another. Leaders can generate excitement by highlighting the potential positive outcomes of competition (such as the recognition and rewards that await outstanding performers) rather than creating anxiety by singling out low performers (think of the steak knives scene in Glengarry Glen Ross).

What is proper etiquette for gift-giving in the workplace?

Your watchwords should be considerate, fair, and inclusive. Aim for gifts that can be shared and enjoyed by everyone such as food. (If people have diet restrictions, they can simply pass on the offering without making a big fuss.) If you do decide to give gifts to every staff member, steer clear of knick-knacks. Most people can barely see their desks as it is. The last thing they need is another coffee mug or pen-and-pencil set. Keep it clean. Do not consider gag gifts that rely on sexual innuendo or ethnic stereotypes to be funny. Do not give anything that could remotely be considered intimate. And be generous down the chain. Give your assistant or intern at least as nice a gift as the one you give your manager.

I’d like to hire a trainer for my staff, but I’m worried about the return on investment?

Our reason for existing at INVISION is to make ECPs better ECPs, and we believe professional trainers can help you enormously. To get your money’s worth, focus on two things: 1.) Hard skills. Overinvest in training that helps to increase ability versus motivation. Yes, it’s nice to have your staff leave a training session all fired up, but for lasting results that will give you that return on your investment, focus on small but vital aspects of your staff’s sales skills. It could be when to pause in a presentation or how many features to stress. Break tasks into discrete actions, practice within a low-risk environment and build in recovery strategies. 2.) This is just as important. Follow up. Bring in a trainer, but only if you yourself are willing to buy into their lessons and do ongoing training and reviews.

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Tip Sheet

Add Fun to Your Meetings and More Tips for Year’s End

And while you’re at it build an anti-flu kit and get personal.

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Set Clear Goals

According to a study cited in Inc Magazine, 63 percent of employees reported that they wasted time at work because they weren’t aware of what work was a priority. As a leader, make sure staff knows what your key goals are heading into the holiday season: Is it to reach new customers, take really good care of your VIPs, hit aggressive new sales targets? Everyone should have no doubts.

Prep a Flu Kit

Flu activity typically starts to pick up around now. This year, be prepared with a “wellness” box in the store. A small business medicine kit might include: EmergenC, cough drops, Vitamin C drops, pain medicine, alcohol wipes, Lysol and more.

Stop at Five

In an era when we overshare information and data, here’s a bracing email policy to live by from Tim Ferriss:  Limit all email responses “regardless of recipient or subject” to five sentences or less. The rationale, he explained in his weekly bulletin: “It forces me to be concise, to choose only the essentials of what I want to say, and limits the time I spend replying to email. Keep them short, but powerful.”

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We’re All Early Birds Now

With all the emphasis in recent years on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, consumers have learned that deals don’t get any better as the season progresses and the selection dwindles. What to do? Be ready for them now, says management consultant Kate Peterson, CEO of Performance Concepts, “with a system of refreshing best sellers and calling attention to gift items through placement and signage.”

Personalize Cards

If you’re sending holiday cards this year, do not send a greeting with nothing but your signature. Frankly, sending nothing works better, says Harry Beckwith, author of What Clients Love. Instead, write a short note — how about “Thinking about one of my favorite customers as the holidays approach …” or even “Happy, happy holidays to you…”

Fun Up Meetings

In the coming weeks, your sales meetings should be getting longer and more intense as you prepare for the holidays. Alexi Venneri, author of Balls! 6 Rules For Winning Today’s Business Game, suggests lightening the mood by having a bit of fun. For one meeting, you might ask staff members to bring in high-school yearbook photos. For another, bring in a guest speaker. Or have staff write down five or so of their favorite things … and let the others guess who created each list.

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Ask INVISION

When to Let That Questionable New Employee Go and More Questions for October

Plus its all fun and games until someone gets drunk at the company holiday party … how to protect your business from potential trouble.

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How do you know when a new employee can’t be saved? How much time should you give someone?

When you have coached someone carefully and repeatedly, invested large amounts of energy and they show no signs of improvement, that’s a solid signal you probably need to act. The clincher comes when their co-workers start showing their frustration and stop trying to help the person. This is often at about the three- or four-month mark. A lot of bosses will let it drag on past that, but it’s really in everyone’s interest for both parties to pursue new opportunities.

Podcast: Is Eyecare in Canada Really More Like the US Than We Think?
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: Is Eyecare in Canada Really More Like the US Than We Think?

Podcast: What Exactly Does it Take to Become America’s Finest Optical Retailer?
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: What Exactly Does it Take to Become America’s Finest Optical Retailer?

Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: Why Optical (and Especially Optical Retail) Is Lagging Behind Other Industries

I’m planning an end-of-year company party, but one concern is that somebody could get drunk, have a car accident, and I might get sued. Got any advice on protecting myself?

These days, the Grinch must be a lawyer. Concerns about liability for alcohol-related incidents, sexual harassment, and workers’ compensation claims have led many companies to forgo holiday galas entirely. You don’t have to. But if you’re really afraid, lawyer Anil Khosla, writing in Inc. Magazine, suggests the following steps to reduce your liability: “1. To distance the business from the party, make it an entirely social event, don’t invite clients or vendors, and make sure employees know that attendance is voluntary. 2. Plan accordingly. Hold your gathering off-site, if possible. That may shift some of the potential liability to the hotel, restaurant, or caterer. If you must have an on-site party, hire an independent caterer. Don’t permit anyone from the company to serve alcohol and instruct bartenders to stop serving anyone who seems inebriated. Lawyers advise avoiding an open bar — or, at the very least, limiting it to the first hour. Also, close the bar at least one hour before the party ends. 3. Consider providing transportation to and from the event. Make sure that cabs will be available and appoint someone to suggest cab rides home for people who have had a few too many.”

I haven’t got around to writing a will yet. What would happen to my business if I died unexpectedly?

When there’s no will, state law (“interstate succession” statutes) usually takes charge of your estate. “Each state has precise laws about who gets what when there is no will, and there are differences among the states,” says Norman M. Boone, MBA, CFP, a nationally renowned financial adviser. “In California, for example, the spouse inherits all the deceased spouse’s community property, but the separate property is shared with the children. In New Jersey, your spouse gets the first $50,000 of your estate and one-half of the rest; your children get everything else. If the children are minors in either state, then the court appoints someone to manage their property (including your business), and then supervises their activities, which involves more intrusion and more expense. The children receive their inheritance at age 18. For singles, the assets are parceled out to relatives in an order determined by state law. Usually, children, parents and then siblings are first in line. Friends, lovers (even domestic partners) or charities are left out.” Without a will, there is always a chance the estate will be fought over by the above claimants, a process which can drag out and potentially ruin a business. Don’t like those prospects? What are you waiting for? Write that will!

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