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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 21 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INVISION's editors at editor@invisionmag.com.

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Tip Sheet

Stop Expecting So Much and More Tips for February

But always bring donuts if you’re running late.

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staffMore Donuts

Want to add some fun to your store? Take a tip from Sherrie’s Jewelry Box in Tigard, OR, where “you’re never late to work if you bring donuts,” owner Sherrie Devaney told INVISION’s sister publication INSTORE magazine.

TRADE SHOWSGood Expo Days

Headed to Vision Expo East? Follow the advice of marketing consultant Andrea Hill and take along a collapsible instant hot water carafe “because coffee is the beginning of a good day” and those Starbuck’s lines can get brutal.

hiringValue Added

Anand Sanwal, the CEO and co-founder of fast-growing tech company CB Insights, has an interesting take on the best question to ask a job candidate — “Tell me how you prepared for this interview.” Not only does the reply likely reveal a lot about how the person’s commitment to the position — do they care? — but it hints at their work ethic and analytical capabilities, he says. In the case of good candidates who have done their homework, they may even have fresh ideas about the way the company functions. “All of a sudden it goes from an interview to a conversation and that is a really encouraging sign if someone is adding value at that stage,” he told The Twenty Minute VC podcast.

psychologyKeep It Real

The problem with high expectations is they often result in future disappointment. Meanwhile, low ones tend to make you glum since there’s not much to look forward to. The answer? Stop expecting, says Jason Fried, who has written several books on work. “I used to set up expectations in my head all day long. But constantly measuring reality against an imagined reality is taxing and tiring.” Expectations also keep you mentally living in the future and deflated when events don’t measure up — even if what happens is pretty good. So, in 2019, don’t expect so much.

planningUse Will-Do Lists

When making your daily to-do list, don’t pick 20 things you hope to do that you think add up to one day’s work: you’ll overestimate your capacities. Instead, pick the three or four most important things, and really commit to doing them, even if you think they’ll take you only a couple of hours, suggests Luciano Passuello at litemind.com.

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merchandisingProtect Your View

Yes, the job market is tight and you may be short staffed, but hang those Help Wanted flyers on a local bulletin board or near your counter, not as some retailers do, in your front window. “Your front window is your customers’ first impression of your store,” says merchandising expert Tom Crossman. “Don’t make it a messy one.”

TIME OFFShort and Sweet

There seems to be a belief that a “proper” vacation requires at least a week. But as psychologist Thomas Gilovich told the Boston Globe, “If you have to sacrifice how long your vacation is versus how intense it is, you want shorter and more intense.” That’s because we remember and judge our experiences not in their entirety but according to how they felt at their emotional peak, and at the end. Yes, time feels scarce in the modern world. But you have no excuse for not having a memorable holiday this year. Start planning now!

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Finding the Best Tax Professional for You and More Questions for February

Getting a head start on what could be a volatile year, and more advice for February.

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2019 seems like it’s going to be a volatile year. What should we do to get ready?

Eight years of economic growth and cheap credit allowed many business owners to gaze far into the future and craft successful, long-term strategies, but it does seem those times are coming to an end as trade wars, rising interest rates, political turmoil, spooked financial markets and ongoing technological change cast a shadow over what otherwise is still a strong economy. In such a shifting, unstable environment where visibility is low, Donald Sull, a London Business School professor, recommends “active waiting.” Contemplate alternative techniques, explore likely scenarios and focus on general readiness. This is a time of threat but also opportunity. “Keep your vision fuzzy and your priorities clear,” Sull says. “Maintain a war chest and battle-ready troops. Know when to wait — and when to strike. When you grab an opportunity or move to crush a threat, amass all your resources behind the effort.” At the same time, continue making routine operational improvements such as cutting costs, strengthening distribution, and improving products and services. “Though mundane, these initiatives foster efficiency, which can position you to snatch a golden opportunity from rivals’ jaws,” Sull says. It all sounds rather dramatic, but then high drama surely awaits.

Podcast: More Ways to Motivate Your Own Eyecare Business Team
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: More Ways to Motivate Your Own Eyecare Business Team

Podcast: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?
INVISION Podcast

Podcast: Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Podcast: Try Not to Blink Talks About the Business of Cannabis, and Its Role in Modern Healthcare
Try Not to Blink

Podcast: Try Not to Blink Talks About the Business of Cannabis, and Its Role in Modern Healthcare

The sales experts you quote often recommend role-playing exercises. But my sales staff always slinks away when I suggest them. How can I get them to play along?

That may be because the focus is negative, says sales trainer Dave Richardson. Make the role-playing positive and fun. First, play the role of the salesperson and let your salespeople critique you. Then, when it’s your turn to play the customer, instead of saying, “Here’s what you did wrong,” start off by telling the person what you felt they did well and what you would change if you had the opportunity. Always finish on a positive, encouraging note, Richardson says.

Our marketing team’s images were recently lifted and used by the vendor for their advertising without crediting us. When I contacted them, they said, “We’re sorry; it was the intern’s fault.” How should I handle this?

If it was “the intern’s fault,” who approved the final vendor layouts? But regardless of whose fault it is, you should get some compensation for the use of your images, says business management consultant Kate Peterson. The vendor would have paid for the images had they used any other marketing professional to create them, so they should have no issue with paying your in-house team. “I would suggest that the retailer assign a fair price (what she typically pays her team per image) and send an invoice directly to the head of the company with pics of their ads and an explanation. If applicable, tell them you will apply the amount of the invoice against an outstanding balance,” says Peterson. “The key here is to remain positive and confident, as opposed to challenging. Assume they are expecting to compensate, and communicate in a tone that expresses confidence in their interest in doing the right thing.”

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My business is only four years old and up until now I’ve done my own taxes but now I’d like to find a tax pro. Where do I find a good one?

Online directories such as CPAdirectory.com, Accountant-Finder.com and AccountantsWorld.com are a good place to start. Most will allow you to search by name, location and industry focus. The National Association of Tax Professionals also offers an online database of tax preparers, and the American Institute of CPAs has one for CPA firms. If you do contemplate hiring a tax preparer you found online, request referrals to past clients so you can ask about the quality of the service they received. A possibly better strategy is to ask people in the industry. This is because your ideal target should have some experience doing returns for vision-related businesses as every industry has its own rules and deduction options.

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Tip Sheet

Keep Your Mouth Shut and More Tips for January

Why don’t you hold your opinions first and ask theirs?

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DESIGNThe Big Picture

Thinking of adding a mural to your building? See if the government will pick up part of the bill. Joe Declet of Fins and Skins in Pinellas Park, FL, told Invision’s sister mag PETS+ that he got tired of telling customers to look for the “ugly orange building,” so when his lease needed renewing, he negotiated adding the mural. Working with a local artist, he now has a 30- by 50-foot mural depicting a coral reef — and the city chipped in with a $1,500 grant as part of a beautification program. Hello Instagram Influencers!

MEETINGSHold Your Piece

According to Simon Sinek, a typical meeting follows a pattern: A manager outlines a problem, says what he thinks, then asks for opinions. But it’s too late then, he says. Managers who withhold opinions benefit in two ways: “One, it gives everyone…the feeling they have been heard. And two, you get the benefit of hearing what everybody thinks,” says the author of bestseller Start With Why.

SALESGuaranteed Gain

If you offer private label frames you should offer your own warranty as well. J. Galt Eyewear in Lexington, KY, does that with its basic frame and lens package, which guarantees a unique look and more at a fixed price of $175. “We include poly-carbonate lenses with scratch coat and anti-reflective coatings along with a one-year scratch and breakage warranty,” says co-owner Dawn Stratton, OD.
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SALESPromise They’ll Look Better

There’s a big untapped market out there: women who wear contacts because they think they look better without frames. It’s a segment Mary Nyitray, owner of Optical Arts in Toledo, OH, targets with relish. “I’ve had so many women who wear contact lenses because they hate the look of themselves in glasses,” she says. “But contacts won’t make you look better. When I work my magic, I can camouflage the wrinkles or dark circles, give your face color, and make you look healthier and younger,” she says.

PlanningGetting Better Every Day

If you’re still searching for a guiding principle for 2019, consider this from Gretchen Rubin, author of the bestselling The Happiness Project: “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.” That applies not only to your life’s work daily basis but also the things you spend your money on. Do you really need that huge SUV if you only drive to work and back?

MARKETINGBetter Off Blue

Ever have a subject that you’ve talked about until you’re “blue in the face?” And figured it was time to give up because it didn’t seem to be having an effect? Well, don’t stop just yet. Bob Nelson, author of 365 Ways to Manage Better, says that it’s often just when you’re getting tired of saying a message over and over that it truly starts to take hold. Repeat the message until you start hearing it back from your employees. Then you’ll know it has sunk in.

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