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Every once in a while your place needs an update but rarely is there the time or money for a major overhaul.

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How do you manage a minimal business renovation on a budget, but create a big impact? Well we asked several ECPs who have done just that, and had a couple design experts weigh in too. Here are some ideas to refresh your space, whether your budget is $5,000, $2,500, $500 or mere pennies.

$500-$1,000

After 50 years in business, David Goodrich of Goodrich Optical in Lansing, MI, found a quick and inexpensive way to update the business his father founded: a logo redesign. “We updated the logo design with new signage,” says Goodrich. “I put together an idea of what I was thinking and had a commercial company finalize the design. The banner gets people’s attention and it’s been interesting hearing folks say they have lived in the area for umpteen years and never knew we were here.” Total cost: less than $500

The folks over at Dr. Bladh O.D. in Diamond Bar, CA, are masters of the small refresh project. According to Josh Bladh, last year they spent about $500 on new chairs from Flash Furniture for the reception and dispensing areas. “It made the whole ambiance of the office brighter and feel newer,” he says. “We received so many compliments within the first month that I waited to do any other upgrades. The average patient comes in every 15 months, so it took over a year for people to get used to it.” And they just finished another (admittedly slightly more expensive than $500) project. “I set my sight on what the patient sees when they walk in,” says Bladh. “Behind our front desk was a plain wall and I wanted to do something with it. I decided on a rock wall with our logo coming out of it. It took us two days and looks amazing! We did the work ourselves to save on labor costs.” Total cost: $775 (rock wall $600 from Lowe’s, custom sign $175 from signs.com.)

 

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The staff at Dr. Bladh OD added a logo to the wall behind reception. It took them two days (they did it themselves) and cost $775.

 

$1,000-$2,500

“We have been open seven years and looking to make some small changes,” explains Dr. Cynthia Sayers of EyeShop Optical in Lewis Center, OH.  So far, she has changed out some furniture — “Ikea is a great resource!” — and repainted the walls to freshen things up. “We also added a ‘community wall’ where other small businesses can post their business cards,” she adds. “Patients love the feeling of ‘shop local’ these touches have created.” Total cost: About $1,000

Robin Hoek of Allen D. Hoek, OD, in Ripon, CA, describes their plain Formica front counter as extremely outdated and “straight out of the ‘80s.” Knowing that the cost and logistics of putting a brand-new counter in was not going to be easy, Dr. Hoek and his daughter-in-law, Mallory, had the idea to reface it. They refaced the front with Pergo flooring to give it the look of reclaimed wood and added a new granite top. Dr. Hoek and Mallory did all the work on the front and a local business put on the granite. “It is the first thing patients see when they walk in,” she says. “We receive so many compliments on the new counter.  Even a few requests for Dr. Hoek to go to patients’ homes and help them!” Total cost: about $1,700

 

$2,500-$5,000

Dr. Texas Smith of Dr. Texas Smith & Associates in Citrus Heights, CA, has been in business for 50 years so this isn’t his first rodeo when it comes to a refresh.

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They recently gave the place a facelift and got creative with cost. “We painted, redid the carpet, got new chairs for the reception rooms and bought new dispensary tables,” he says. “We did some optical bartering.” Total cost: $2,500

Sometimes the biggest bang for your renovation buck comes from removing something, not adding it. At Combs Eyecare & Eyewear in Western Springs, IL, they updated their one-time pediatrician’s office by ripping off the protective wall laminate. “We laid new carpet and stripped off the old green laminate that was on the lower half of the walls,” says Kathy Maren. “Then we painted and added a chair rail and baseboards that match the maple frame boards up front. Not a lot, just a facelift, and it looks wonderful!” Total cost: $2,500

 

$5,000+

Even if your renovation costs creep up, often the payoff is worth it. Take it from Dr. Selina McGee of Precision Vision in Edmond, OK. “I spent about $5,000 and it was hugely impactful.  We painted, added new signage, decluttered, bought all new optical shelving and new furniture. The ROI has been immeasurable.”

Often tackling just one project at a time, especially when you have a list of things, helps keep each project in perspective. At Urban Optics in San Luis Obispo, CA, office manager Hanna Cook shared the projects they’re currently doing to update their location of more than 20 years. First, a friend did a whole new sound system. The new system was about $2,500 and includes a smart TV mounted in the waiting area. They use Spotify and the album covers rotate on the screen for every song. “We are all huge music lovers so this was important to us, and we can play anything through Spotify,” she shares. “The feedback has been great; our patients love it! We’ll  utilize the TV for marketing at night. We’re next door to a popular restaurant/bar that’s open late and people in line can see the TV.” But there are more projects in the works. “We aren’t doing a complete overhaul, but next up will be paint and new carpet. We are going to paint ourselves, which definitely cuts the cost and helps us stay on budget,” says Cook.  “The key for us is just one project at a time. That’s how we stay on budget. It’s important to keep things fresh, not only for our patients but us too. It keeps things interesting and prevents us from getting bored,” she concludes. Total cost: $5,000.

 

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IDEAS FOR UPDATING ON A DIME

HIT THE WALLS

“We had some really nice pictures professionally framed, which allowed us to support another local business, and we rotate them out every few months,” says Harris Decker of Eye Designs of Westchester in Scarsdale, NY. Diana Sims at Buena Vista Optical in Chicago, IL, does something similar by mixing up her wall art. “We replace our wall decor with proprietary images every year. We re-use the frames and go to Vistaprint.com for posters. The total investment including shipping is around $200 and a few hours of set up.” Dr. Chani Miller at Park Eye Center in Highland Park, NJ, understands the importance of an impactful wall too. “For less than $500 we added super cool wall art from Wayfair, TJ Maxx and from a local artist (my daughter). It made a huge difference.”

BARTER BABY!

We already know Dr. Texas Smith used optical bartering for his renovation but this approach is more common than you may think. “Our owner has bartered eyecare services and materials for an amazing overhaul and renovation,” shared William Chancellor of Eye Can See Eyewear in McDonough, GA. “This has kept cost more manageable and creates an amazing atmosphere for our patients.” After all, many contractors are small business owners too and offering a comprehensive eye exam and complete pair, yearly contact lenses or vision therapy, could be the difference between composite floors or reclaimed wood.

TAP THOSE VENDOR MONIES

Susan Kantor at Central Phoenix Eyecare in Phoenix, AZ, got new displays by utilizing their Essilor MarketBuilder credits. “It was almost completely covered and we were able to dump our outdated cases,” she says. Dawn Christman Munoz of North Valley Eye Medical Group in Mission Hills, CA, regularly taps her reps. “I request all the cabinets, racks, mirrors, and other POP I can from every vendor,” she explains. “I change up the displays with new POP every time I get frames and return any I can’t use. When they are outdated, I donate them to our local opticianry school.” But keep this in mind from Eric Zuckerman of Pac Team America, a display, packaging and exhibition solutions company. “Update your store and windows consistently and in a timely manner. Having an out of date presentation can translate as the store having an out of date collection.”

REFRESH FOR FREE

Environment creates confidence, says Zuckerman. “To make a store clean and presentable is different from making it the most modern experience known to man.” Simple, clean and presentable doesn’t have to be a major renovation.

“A little cleaning can be a huge upgrade with so little expense,” agrees Lisa Trippi of Eyesight Solutions in Mt. View, CA. “It’s the same as spring cleaning our home. Remove wall decor. Clear counters. Organize filing systems. Purge old records. Take things displayed high, like plants or pottery, down. Dust shelves and clean windows and window coverings. Rearrange to keep clutter to a minimum,” she details. A thorough cleaning is the start of a fresh appearance. Consider it as routine as inventory.

REARRANGE THE SPACE

Chris Clark of Mullis Eye Institute in Panama City, FL, achieved a new look just by rearranging furniture. “We moved around displays and worked with frame companies to get their displays for frame purchase. It works well,” he says. Ruth Mellergaard, of design group Grid 3/International, suggests rearranging things for a new flow and energy. She says low budget improvements are simply a matter of creative thinking. “In a center aisle store you can walk down the middle right to the reception desk,” she says. “Make an island, so they have to flow more, like water. You can’t make people look at things but you can slow them down. There may be a way to reuse your existing cases to create more of a meandering path.”

The new flat screen at Urban Optics highlights their love of music and doubles as a marketing tool to those outside after hours.

 


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

 

Having built a career in service journalism, Dee has been covering the eyecare industry for over a decade. As editor-in-chief of INVISION Magazine, she is passionate about telling independent ECPs stories and can be reached directly at dee@invisionmag.com.

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Here’s How Eyecare Pros Are Spending Their Advertising Budgets

The pie is getting sliced ever more finely.

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IN INVISION’S FIRST annual Big Survey, we asked more than 500 ECPs which medium accounts for the biggest chunk of their ad and marketing spending. Print is still on top, but the marketing budget pie is getting sliced ever more finely — and nearly 1 in 5 ECPs claim to be passing on the plate all together.

Which gets the largest portion of your marketing budget?

Print
13%
Community events (including sponsorships)
12%
Direct mail
10%
Other social media marketing
8%
Paid search (PPC, Google Ads, etc.)
7%
Facebook
7%
Email marketing
7%
Radio
5%
SEO
5%
Television
2%
Billboards
2%
Other
3%
Don’t advertise
19%

 

Looking at the above results, it’s seems likely the 19 percent of ECPs who said they don’t advertise are relying on word of mouth to sustain their business. Still, it appears to pay to be more active: 25 percent of the ECPs who told the Big Survey the last two years had been their worst ever also don’t advertise. That compares to just 14 percent of those who said those years had been their best ever. Also worth considering: In a separate question, we asked ECPs to name the most significant thing they were doing to drive sales five years ago that they’ve stopped doing. The top answer? You guessed it—advertising in traditional media. Check out the survey to see how your spending fits in to this complex picture.

The 2019 Big Survey was conducted from August to October and attracted responses from more than 500 American ECPs. Look out for the full results in the November/December issue of INVISION.

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Best of Eyecare

The Big Survey 2019 – The Basics

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THE BIG SURVEY 2019

Who is the American ECP? How does he or she do business? What are the main challenges they face? Our inaugural Big Survey set out to find the answers and 505 owners and managers of American vision businesses answered our call. Here are the results.

The Basics

We find it’s always best to start at the beginning … the basic stuff that makes up so much of your business’ identity. The Who, What, How and Where are all here; we’ll get into the fun stuff — like how much and what’s selling ­— later on.

1. Need to swing on chandeliers? Head to Missouri: 60 percent of stores have these fixtures.
2. They don’t take kindly to strangers asking questions in South Dakota. It, along with Louisiana and New Mexico, were the only states not to be represented in our survey.
3. Michigan ECPs are some of the hardest working in the industry: 25 percent work more than 50 hours a week.
4. Eyewear trend capital? That might just be New York where 21 percent of ECPs thought of themselves as being primarily in the fashion business (as opposed to health or retail), the highest level in the land.
5. Move over Austin. Connecticut was tops for self-declared weirdness with ECPs there giving themselves an average score of 8.2 out of 10 on our oddball scale.
6. Ohio ECPs have been listening to our sales experts – 44 percent use role-playing in training staff.
7. Florida had the most male owners and managers in our survey at 76 percent. Washington state had the most female owners at 86 percent.
8. Is there something in the water in the Midwest? ECPs in a band of states from Illinois to Ohio to Missouri were the happiest vision professionals (along with their cousins in NJ), with half or more (50-57%) ranking themselves 9 or higher out of 10 for professional satisfaction.
9. North Carolina vision businesses have among the highest turnover rates in the country, with 72 percent saying their staff stay less than 4 years.
10. Californian ECPs were the least likely to own their places of business with 82 percent renting. Must have been those pesky legal limitations…
11. Kansans were most likely to be open on Sunday with one in four stores and practices open on this traditional “rest” day.

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1. How many locations does your business have?

One
74%
Two
13%
Three to five
8%
Six or more
5%

2. Please indicate the type of location that houses your store:

Free-standing building
43%
A strip mall
22%
Business park or office building
16%
Downtown storefront
9%
Lifestyle center
3%
In a hospital/medical wing/health center
3%
The Internet
1%
Mobile practice
1%
A mall
1%
Other
2%

3. Do you own or rent your business property?

Own
39%
Rent
62%
NA (For online and mobile only businesses)
2%
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4. How well are things going in your business this year?

COMMENT: As our heat map shows, there’s very little to be blue about for an ECP right now. Note that white indicates states with statistically invalid responses. Figures in parentheses represent the number of survey responses.

5. How would you describe the market where your store is located?

Large city
15%
Medium-sized city (250,000-1 million people)
24%
Small city (25,000 to 250,000)
29%
Country town (up to 25,000)
13%
Resort area
1%
Other
1%

6. How long has your business been in operation?

COMMENT: Businesses that have been in operation for 11-20 years seem to be this survey’s sweet spot. Not only did they slightly edge out other lengths of time in business, as seen above, but those in business for that long also reported the highest proportion of revenue between $500K-$1.5M (50%).
Wondering what the rest of this group’s demos looked like? Well, 59 percent classified themselves as a private practice with a strong focus on retail, 49 percent were in the South and 39 percent operated out of a freestanding building in a small city or suburb. Forty-five percent of owners in business for that long reported salaries over $100,000 and, best of all, the majority reported their satisfaction with their professional life at an 8 or higher (66%).

7. Which description of your business do you most closely identify with?

Hospital or VA setting
1%
Medical model private practice, no retail
1%
Medical model private practice, small dispensarybuilding
22%
Private practice, strong focus on retail
53%
Corporate optometry location
3%
Eyewear boutique, employed or leased OD
10%
Eyewear boutique, no OD
9%
Mobile optician
1%

8. How big is your (main) location?

Less than 500 sq. ft.
4%
500-999 sq. ft.
10%
1,000-1,499 sq. ft.
24%
1,500-1,999 sq. ft.
17%
2,000-2,499 sq. ft.
15%
2,500-2,999 sq. ft.
11%
3,000-3,999 sq. ft.
8%
4,000-5,000 sq. ft.
6%
More than 5,000 sq. ft.
5%

9. Check the paid services you offer:

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Best of Eyecare

25 ECPs Share Their Elevator Pitches

25 ECPs put who they are and what they do for a living in a sentence or two… or three.

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OK… You’ve slipped into the elevator just as the doors are closing. The woman on your left is wearing poorly fitting frames that are totally wrong for her. The gentleman to your right is squinting as he tries to find the button for his floor. You sense a golden opportunity, but the floors are already ticking by. You’ve got until those doors open again to tell these potential clients what you do and how you can help them. It’s time to dust off your “elevator pitch.” Our Brain Squad members are rarely at a loss for a few well-chosen words, so we asked them their best pitches. Here’s what they had to say to those future customers and patients on the subject of… you.

Hi, My name is Diana Canto Sims. I am an eyeball doctor turned eyewear designer for the diverse and the bold. What do you do? — Diana Sims, Buena Vista Optical, Chicago, IL

We help you create a look that is as unique as you are. — Doreen Erbe, Snyder Eye Group, Ship Bottom, NJ

I create complete custom eyewear by hand in Glenview. This includes the frames as well as the lenses. — Kevin Count, Prentice Lab, Glenview, IL

I am the owner and doctor at an eyecare office focused on pampering our patients.  — Nytarsha Thomas, OD, Visionelle Eyecare, Zionsville, IN

I can easily knock 10 years off your look and I promise people will notice! — Jennifer Leuzzi, Mill Creek Optical, Dansville, NY

We sell unique eyewear from all over the world.” (Then give a few specific examples of exotic materials. However, never oversell or seem pushy. Just plant the seed!!!)”  — Scott Keating, OD, Vision Trends, Dover, OH

You know the eyes are the windows to the soul right? Sometimes the windows cannot see; I help with that. I am an optometrist.” — Selina McGee, OD, Precision Vision, Edmond, OK

I refine one of your five senses. I give you vision and insight into your health, with a twist of style, all while having a good time in the process. — Cynthia Sayers, OD, EyeShop Optical Center, Lewis Center, OH

I explain that I run a practice for an eye doctor and that our goal is to make sure each patient sees well and is educated on the products and materials we wear ourselves. — Amy Pelak, Proview Eyecare Optometry, Corona, CA

I help people love their new eyewear, and owning 31 pairs of glasses and sunwear, I know I can find the right pair for you. — Kathy Maren Comb EyeCare & Eyewear, Western Springs, IL

I talk about the unique things our practice offers like sensory and vision therapy. We carry a variety of frames for the whole family. From durable kids, to the fun and funky for mom and dad. We’re not your average eye doctor.” Heather Nagucki, Brodie Optometry, Perrysburg, OH

I compliment someone on their glasses. I may ask them where they got them and always say something nice about their doctor or optician. I know everyone in town after 50 years in Sacramento. If the patient discusses a bad experience then I drop a business card.”  — Texas L. Smith, OD, Dr. Texas L. Smith & Associates, Citrus Heights, CA

I help people see and look better.  — Jason Stamper Eye Care Pavilion, Davenport, IA

I tell them I try not to look like an optometrist! — Dave Schultz, OD, Urban Optics, San Luis Obispo, CA

When I meet people I always try to tell them I’m like a pharmacist for your eyeglasses. — Bob Schmittou, New Eyes Optical, Wyandotte, MI

I’m an optician. Once the eye doctor is done with you I will help you with any optical needs whether glasses or contacts. Basically, I make you look good! — Scott Felten, Fox Valley Family Eye Care, Little Chute, WI

We get to help people see to their fullest potential. It’s the best job in the world! — Caitlin Bruno, Binyon Vision Center, Bellingham, WA

I’m like a pharmacist. I fill the prescription written by the doctor. But in Michigan, your optician doesn’t have to have a license the way your pharmacist does. That’s why there are so many people walking around in ugly glasses that can’t see.  — Dave Goodrich, Goodrich Optical, Lansing, MI

I bend light for a living. — Jon LaShorne, Kirkpatrick Eye Care, Madison, IN

I frame the windows to your soul with beauty. — Frances Ann Layton, Eye Associates of South Georgia, Valdosta, GA

I have no elevator pitch. I just let people know why I love doing what I do.” — Pablo E. Mercado, Mount Vernon Eyecare, Dunwoody, GA

Nice glasses! I bet they cost you a fortune. I’m an optician. Here’s my card. Next time you’re in the market for a new pair, give me a call and I’ll save you money.” — Mitchell Kaufman, Marine Park Family Vision, Brooklyn, NY

Everyone knows what a pharmacist does … so I equate my career as a licensed optician to that. I take a prescription from a doctor and I interpret that prescription. I advise and educate the patient on how to use the prescription written. I generate a product from that prescription and then dispense that prescription as a piece of medical equipment.”  — William Chancellor, Eye Can See Eyewear, McDonough, GA

We help people see the important things in life.” — John Marvin, Texas State Optical Inc., Houston, TX

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