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Robert Bell: My Gift To You




advice from optical sales consultant Robert Bell

You have the power to make a difference in your community.

This article originally appeared in the November 2015 edition of INVISION.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead


I have seen the gentle touch of an optician’s fingertips, caressing someone’s ears, adjusting temple tips, transform an angry, street-dwelling young man into a smiling, appreciative soul who hugged and held on to this optician.

I have seen an optometrist pull out a chair, warmly welcome and listen to an older, disheveled woman who said with a tear in her eye, “I am so grateful. No one ever looks at me, let alone listens to me.”

I have seen an optical industry veteran put a behemoth of a man, with a scowl on his face, into a +3.00 over-the-counter reader and witness this massive entity start to hysterically cry. When he was able to catch his breath, he exclaimed, “Now, I can fill out a job application!”

I have seen a retired optician burst into tears when she dispensed a petite, red luxury eyewear frame to a diminutive, very myopic, homeless woman (who had been wearing a windshield of an old, plastic men’s double bar frame for years). She looked at herself in the mirror, slowly smiled and said, “Maybe people won’t think I’m homeless anymore.”

That melted the entire room.

Robert Bell, Scott Balestreri and Karen Flynn are volunteer leaders for Project Homeless Connect Vision Services in San Francisco. Photo by Jamey Thomas

Stories of transformation. For people in need and — here’s the surprising part — for those eyecare professionals who give of themselves!

About eight years ago, an optician “suckered” me into volunteering my time, just for one event, for a San Francisco charity called Project Homeless Connect. I say “suckered” because, until that point, I didn’t think I was the volunteer type. But I was the one who put that large gentleman into a +3.00 reader, and I was absoultely blown away by his reaction and response. I haven’t missed a PHC event since. I was, in a word, transformed!

I went on a recruiting spree. I wanted other local ECPs and industry people to join us … yes, of course to help our neighbors in need, but for another reason as well. How selfish would I be if I didn’t offer this extraordinary feeling of fulfillment to others? The hardest part of recruiting was getting someone to volunteer for the first time. After that? They beg to know when the next event is because they can’t wait to do it again! You should see the smile on my face right now.

I am honored to be part of this extraordinary group of eye doctors, professors of optometry, opticians, optometry students, pre-optometry students, industry executives and sales representatives who volunteer in providing vision services through Project Homeless Connect.

So in concert with INVISION’S Big Story this November, I wanted to share my experience with you and ask you directly: What can you do in your community?

For those of you (and I know there are a lot of you) out there who already volunteer your services, you make this world a better place. As a human being, I am personally grateful. For those of you who haven’t yet volunteered your talents as an ECP in your community, please do. Try it. Just once.


It doesn’t have to be with a homeless organization. It could be at nearby school or at an assisted living home. You can contact your local clergy or an organization like United Way and say, “I want to raise my hand. I want to help give the gift of sight. How can we go about doing this?”

Yes, if you get involved, your gift of vision will most likely change someone’s life. My gift to you? It will change yours! Much love. Happy holidays!

Robert Bell has trained salespeople throughout North America over 30 years in the optical business and created The EyeCoach Selling System specifically for ECPs. He oversees the Vision Program at Project Homeless Connect and dedicates this column to Karen Flynn of The Optician in Berkeley, CA, who “suckered” Bell into volunteering for the very first time. Email Bell at with questions about how to start volunteering in your community.




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Danielle Richardson

Daily Habits that Kill Productivity

These four things will obliterate your focus.




DISTRACTIONS. DISTRACTIONS. DISTRACTIONS. In a perfect world, there would be none. We’d wake up, have our coffee, and head to work for a productive day crossing everything off our to-do lists. I’d love to visit this dream optometry land but realistically, on any given workday, there seems to be 100 things vying for our attention. It’s super easy to get off course and lose focus.

We can’t control everything that pops up to disrupt our flow, but we can control our actions. Many of us have pesky habits that kill productivity and make it hard to focus. Identifying and making modifications in our habits can help the day run more smoothly. Do you suffer from these productivity killers?

Social Media Breaks. Raise your hand if you’re guilty of checking social media during the workday. We all are! Punctuating the day with social media is the easiest way to kill productivity. You don’t need to post a status ranting about your complicated contact lens fit. It’s estimated the average person will spend about five years, or 116 minutes per day, on social media in their lifetime. Reclaim those minutes spent mindlessly scrolling and focus on the task at hand.

Multitasking. By far this is the worst habit we all have. Being a clinician requires us to do multiple things at once, but multitasking can have the opposite effect of the one we seek. The more we try to juggle, the more we stretch ourselves thin; in fact, studies have shown multitasking can reduce productivity as much as 40 percent. As a yoga teacher, I often invoke the principle of “be here now.” Be present to what you are doing at the moment.

Not Sleeping Enough. It’s counterintuitive, but you cannot be your best self without those 8 hours of rest. Arianna Huffington is trying to create a sleep revolution for good reason. We live in a society that praises entrepreneurs who run on three hours of sleep, but have we asked ourselves why? Sleep deprived people are more at risk for high blood pressure, obesity, and other adverse health conditions. Instead of picking up an extra cup of coffee to improve your focus, try heading to bed earlier.

Stressing About Things You Can’t Control. Stress is an emotional drain that depletes us of the energy necessary for focus and productivity. You don’t have to be a Zen monk to understand the philosophy of letting go of what is outside of your control. Anxiety and worry are the background chatter running through most of our heads and, when left unchecked, they can affect our behavior, making it hard to focus on the present. Nix this negative habit by picking up a mindfulness practice to help de-stress and refocus on your internal locus of control.

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John Marvin

Too Many Eyecare Practices Skip This Crucial Step — and It Hurts Them in the Long Run

Instead, most just hope for the best.




This article originally appeared in the March/April 2014 issue of INVISION.

DID YOU KNOW that in growing your business, you can decide what type of practice you want and the kinds of customers you want to serve? It really is up to you. So ask yourself: What kind of optometry do you want to practice? What sort of eyewear do you want to sell? Who is your “ideal customer”?

Most practices never really set these goals. They just open their doors and hope for the best. But this means your practice is left to circumstances and the ups and downs of economic, demographic and regulatory changes. By deciding not to decide, you choose to let others decide what kind of practice you own.

If you do not have a clear picture of the practice you want and the patients that you desire to serve, here’s what you need to do: Take one hour. Shut off the computer and phone. Close the door. Focus on deciding what you want.

Using paper and pen, with words or pictures, create a detailed description of the characteristics of your ideal patient. How old are they? Are they male, female, low income, middle income, high income, do they have families? Are they urban or suburban, millennials or baby boomers? Do they pay for their care with cash or with third-party payments?

The bottom line is this: Who are your high-value customers? Who are the customers or patients that will bring you the most business and cause you the least grief, year after year? You won’t necessarily exclude patients who do not fit your ideal. But this exercise will begin to guide decisions on how you will run and grow your practice. You’ll get insight into your practice’s physical design, its policies and — most importantly — the types of products and services that appeal most to those whom you desire to serve.

There is not a single best “type” of practice. Your business is yours; you get to decide. Some very successful practices focus on high-end frames, with professional optometry services offered as a convenience. Other optometrists feel a call to serve Medicaid or low-income patients and help them see the best they can. Our field includes practices that cater to children, or to athletes. Each model has its advantages and disadvantages. The important point is that you must decide on what type of practice and patient that you most want to serve. Once you’ve made this decision, your next steps will become logical. You’ll see a clear path of actions to create the type of practice that will appeal most to your target group of customers.

You will look at your business anew, asking, “Is this the kind of place my desired customers will want to visit? Do our customer service policies and conveniences appeal to my high-value customer? What type of inventory will they find most appealing? What type of services best suit their needs?”

You’ll also have new insight on how to best communicate to this group of customers. What are the issues that are most important to them? What community activities will provide you with the greatest exposure to them? What are their favorite social media platforms, radio stations and TV networks? How can I best go about building a relationship with them?

It is a fundamental truth that people associate with those most like themselves. So use this truth, and focus on getting referrals among friends and family of your best customers. The more you appeal to the customers and patients you have decided you value the most, the more referrals you will build from this group.

Building a successful practice is not about finding a magic gimmick or chasing after the latest trendy idea. Building a successful practice comes from making yourself appealing to those you wish to serve. And it beats simply hoping for the best.


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Editor's Note

I Remember My First Time… Do You?

Looking back to the first time.




I remember the first time I saw INVISION — Vision Expo West, 2013. It was my ninth VEW with another trade magazine and an industry friend showed it to me. He said, “Have you seen this? It looks really good. You should see if they need an editor.”

I heard the grumblings … “Who are these people?” “They’re crazy if they think they can launch another magazine in this industry!” “They didn’t even spell ophthalmologist correctly.” (To be fair, that first H is tricky.)

But it did look good, and it did need an editor. So I emailed David Squires, INVISION’s editorial director, and my current boss, and told him it was great but he needed an editor who knew the industry. Bold move to be sure, but he wrote back! He’d hired someone three days earlier. Bummer.

I followed INVISION’s progress and appreciated how it surprised the naysayers. (Still does.) Two years later, David wrote again. The editor was leaving—was I still interested? Of course! Three weeks later, I was the new editor-in-chief of INVISION magazine.

I could not be happier to be celebrating five years of this incredible magazine! In fact, I’m so happy, we dedicated the entire Big Story to the idea of joy in the workplace and how important being happy is to finding success in what you do (page 36).


Speaking of what you do … you know what you do … And I know … But there are probably a lot of people you encounter day-to-day who don’t really get it. So, in Long Story Short (page 44), readers share their ECP elevator pitch; a couple of sentences that explain to a stranger what they do. Read ’em over … I’m sure no one will mind if you steal an idea or two.

I know my pitch: “I run the best magazine for independent eyecare businesses in the U.S. It’s called INVISION. You should check it out.”

Do you remember your first INVISION experience? I’d love to hear it. Drop me a line at and tell me the story of the first time you saw the magazine. Until then…

Best wishes for your business,

Dee Carroll


Five Smart Tips From This Issue

1. Great marketing doesn’t just happen, it needs to be planned. (Manager’s To-Do, page 20)
2. Looking for a way to make your best customers feel “ecstatic” that takes less than 5 minutes? (Intelligence Cover, page 49)
3. Health insurance for you and your small team is NOT a fiscal impossibility. Learn more. (Columns, page 54)
4. Personality conflict on staff? Here’s how you should handle yourself. (Ask INVISION, page 56)
5. Full-length dispensary mirrors give customers a complete picture of themselves in their new frames. (America’s Finest, page 68)

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