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The Big Story: Charity Cases




It’s the season
of giving thanks

and giving back.

ut for many ECPs, charitable
works are a way of life year-round.
And “doing well by doing good” is
smart for so many reasons:

You make a difference. This is the
most obvious reason people volunteer
their time or money: They know they’re
having an impact, whether it’s in their
own community or around the world.

People expect it — and young adults
are demanding it. As Christie Garton wrote
on, millennials “demand
a ‘participation economy’ that allows them
to contribute, co-create and shape the giving
behaviors of brands they love.”

It helps you attract and keep quality
people. Employees appreciate it when their
bosses take action to build a better world. You
can volunteer as a team at a local event, choose
a charity to support with donations or give staff
paid time off to pitch in for the cause of their choice.

A recent survey done for Transitions Optical
showed that more than 80 percent of all adults
believe eyecare professionals should be involved
in their communities. So from the INVISION files,
here are some case studies of how ECPs, vision care
companies and allied organizations are working for
a better world.





One of the largest global vision care charities,
Optometry Giving Sight is the force behind World
Sight Day Challenge held each fall, as well as a major
funder of year-round efforts to train local people
worldwide to deliver eyecare.


THE NEED: Worldwide, more
than 600 million people are blind
or have poor vision because they
lack access to eye exams and glasses.
There simply aren’t enough
ECPs to go around. In India, for
example, the Brien Holden Vision
Institute estimates that 115,000 optometrists
are needed to serve the
population of 1.25 billion people,
but there are just 9,000.

THE ACTION: Optometry Giving
Sight raises funds to train local
people worldwide to deliver eyecare
services at community vision
centers. It works with a multitude
of international partners and major
vision care companies — and each
year, ECPs across America get
involved in the World Sight Day
Challenge in lots of fun ways. For
example, Vision Clinic in Springfield,
MO, has organized a 5K race
to benefit the cause each year since
2012. This year, about 150 runners
took part and raised $4,000. (The
clinic kicked in another grand to
make it an even $5K for the 5K.)
Vision Clinic is a member of Vision
Source, which is raising a million
dollars to help build an optometry
school in Haiti, a country where
there are currently just three eye
doctors to serve 10 million people.

The I Care & Share program
offers ECPs a way to get involved
year-round. Because a little money
goes a long way when it comes to

getting eyewear in developing
countries, about $5 or even less can
provide a pair of glasses. Dr. Lee
Dodge of VisualEyes Optometry
in Sherman Oaks, CA, recently
adopted the cause. “Patients love
the fact that we donate a pair of
glasses every time they purchase
a pair of glasses from us,” he says.

THE RESULTS: Optometry
Giving Sight CEO Clive Martin estimates
that all told, “close to 1,000
optometric practices, companies
and schools” took part in the World
Sight Day Challenge this fall and
about 50 are now supporting I
Care & Share. Optometry Giving
Sight has established more than
70 sustainable eyecare projects in
38 nations since 2007. More than 4
million people have received basic
eyecare services; over 2,600 people
have been trained; and 100 vision
centers are up and running.




In mid-December,
people from all across
San Francisco, CA, will
line up to visit Project
Homeless Connect for
its biggest annual event.
Whether in the legendary
Bill Graham Auditorium
or under temporary
tents elsewhere in the
city, PHC offers guests a
chance to get one-stop
help with an array of
basic human services,
including vision care.

THE NEED: PHC was launched
in 2004 by then-San Francisco
Mayor Gavin Newsom. Optician
Karen Flynn heard about it and volunteered,
but “I didn’t leave with
warm fuzzy feelings about helping
people,” she recalls, remembering
long lines and many people turned
away. “I was mad.” She met highmyope
people who’d gone a year or
more without glasses, and others
who were “wearing the closest Rx
available from the bin of eyeglasses
at Goodwill.” In many cases, the
need was even more urgent, since
many people had serious underlying
health conditions that a screening
could reveal. “This was a major
public health crisis that could be
solved with a relatively low amount
of money,” Flynn says.

THE ACTION: Flynn started
working the phones to get donations
from vision care companies.
“The first people to step up were
SALT, Oliver Peoples, DBL Lab and
VSP,” she says. As word spread,
frame sales reps started planning
their trips to volunteer at PHC
events; ECPs traveled from afar to
help; whole offices closed for a day
to lend a hand; and the donations
kept flowing.

Flynn eventually turned over
the volunteer coordination duties
to fellow vision industry veteran
Robert Bell (who writes about
his PHC experiences on page 56)
so she could focus on opening
her new shop, The Optician in
Berkeley, CA. Returning to action
this fall, she was delighted to see
how things have grown. “Man,
to see four auto-refractors and
eight lanes at the last event was so
great,” she says. “Another beautiful
thing is seeing the collaboration.
Practices that could be rivals are
all working toward a common goal
and having fun.”

THE RESULTS: In addition to
the big events, PHC holds “Every
Day Connect” clinics at its office
and elsewhere. Over the next 12
months, Bell says, PHC expects to
make up to 2,500 pairs of glasses,
perform about that many eye exams
and dispense more than 5,000
pairs of OTC readers.

“The goal, which has always
been Karen Flynn’s dream, is to
be able to provide vision care to
anyone in need and to everyone
who asks for it,” Bell says. That
goal is in sight for 2016, he adds.
“As a byproduct, we’re trying to
provide a national model of what
a vision charity can be.”



Being a big, vertically integrated vision care
company has its advantages, including the ability
to mobilize eyecare for people who lack it due to
income, distance or disaster. For 60 years, VSP
Global has leveraged its companies — including
VSP Optics and Marchon Eyewear — plus its
vast network of ECPs to bring vision services into
underserved communities across the United
States and around the world.

THE NEED: Communities can
lose adequate eyecare resources
for a variety of reasons. Ten years
ago, after Hurricanes Katrina and
Rita struck the Gulf Coast with
a one-two punch, VSP Global
pitched in to provide eyecare and
replace glasses for residents and
first responders affected by the
storms and to re-equip doctors
whose practices had been damaged
or destroyed. VSP Mobile Eyes
evolved from that experience —
and for the 2015 World Sight Day
Challenge, the mobile eye clinic
was back in New Orleans’ Lower
Ninth Ward to provide no-cost
eye exams and glasses to nearly
200 people in need.

THE ACTION: Also this fall,
VSP Global marked its 60th anniversary
with several special events
including the largest multi-city
mobile clinic in the company’s
history, with 1,637 people receiving
care in California, New York and
Ohio over a five-day period. And
in what’s become an annual outreach
event now in its sixth year,
NBA star Tyreke Evans returned
to his hometown of Chester, PA,
to sponsor a no-cost eyecare clinic
for children and adults, plus a free
basketball camp for 132 kids in
elementary through high school.
After learning some sweet moves
from the New Orleans Pelicans
star, students took home backpacks
filled with school supplies,
apparel and athletic gear donated
by VSP.

THE RESULTS: Through Eyes
of Hope programs, including VSP
Mobile Eyes and partnering organizations
that include Optometry
Giving Sight, VSP Global businesses
have donated more than
$173 million in free eyecare and
eyewear. “By the end of 2015, VSP
will be very close to hitting the 1
million mark for helping those in
need,” notes VSP Global spokeswoman
Maryam Brown.



INFO: and

Wes Stoody was shocked when he learned that one
dollar’s worth of Vitamin A could help save the life
— and maybe the sight — of a child in the developing
world. He had no optical background, but he
decided to launch an eyewear line and partner with
independent ECPs to do something about the issue.

THE NEED: While in college,
Stoody learned about the work
of Dr. Al Sommer, who discovered
how just two low-cost doses of Vitamin
A supplements each year can
save a child’s sight. Recalling this
in an interview with iamselfless.
com (see it at,
Stoody says, “I couldn’t believe
that most Americans had no idea
that Vitamin A deficiency even
exists; that about a million kids a
year die or go blind from Vitamin
A deficiency; and that Vitamin
A supplementation is the most
cost-effective solution to any of the
world’s health problems.”

THE ACTION: Stoody hired a
freelance eyewear designer and
started emailing with the president
of Helen Keller International, a
100-year-old organization that
combats blindness worldwide.
By the end of his senior year, he’d
begun the manufacturing process
for Aframes, naming models for
countries where HKI does its work.
The frames were soon discovered
by independent eyecare pros. “Patients love the story behind the
eyewear line and the shapes are
trendy with classic colors,” says
Dr. Courtney Dryer of 4 Eyes Optometry
in Charlotte, NC.

THE RESULTS: So far, Article
One has helped bring a year’s worth
of Vitamin A to 7,000 children in
such countries as Bangladesh,
Cameroon and Senegal, with $2
from each pair sold benefitting the
cause. Article One’s website also
encourages direct donations to
Helen Keller International.

As for the company’s new
name, it comes from Article One
of the United Nation’s Universal
Declaration of Human Rights:
“All human beings are born free
and equal in dignity and rights.
They are endowed with reason
and conscience and should act
towards one another in a spirit of

Stoody says he and business
partner Cole Sanseverino have improved
design and manufacturing
over the past few years to make an
ever-better product that’s now carried
by about 65 optical shops — so
the time was right for a new brand
before the company gets much
bigger. “First and foremost, we
want to be a great eyewear brand,”
Stoody says.


SUBJECT: Hicks Brunson
Eyewear, Tulsa, OK

The Brunson family has outfitted
people in Tulsa, OK,
with glasses for nearly a century.
And for nearly that long,
the family has had deep community
service ties. Daniel
Brunson, the great-grandson
of business founder Hicks
Brunson, currently makes
eyeglasses each month for
at-risk teens through Youth
Services of Tulsa. “I remember
one girl who couldn’t see
past a foot in front of her,
and she hadn’t had glasses in
years,” Brunson told his local
newspaper. “Giving glasses
to someone in that situation,
it changes their world and
enables them to get around
better and to hold a job.”
Brunson also likes to partner
with brands that are a force
for good. For example, he admires
Sama Eyewear’s Sheila
Vance’s efforts to help drugaddicted
youth as a tribute to
her son, who died of a heroin


SUBJECT: Look + See Eye Care,
Minneapolis, MN

Dr. Sarah Jerome of Look + See Eye Care in
Minneapolis, MN, has traveled with Volunteer
Optometric Services to Humanity (vosh.
org) to Mexico (2009), Latvia (2011) and Fiji
(twice, 2013 and 2015). On this year’s sojourn,
she says, “We traveled from tiny island
to tiny island and set up a medical clinic in
a school or a home, and we had to load bins
with equipment, medication and glasses into
a boat so we could set up a clinic for a day.”
Among the people Jerome met and served
(above): a woman who needed cataract surgery
and her daughter, who got glasses so she
could read and sew.

Back home, Jerome and her team volunteer
for many causes in the Twin Cities.
They do free vision screenings for area
schoolchildren; take part in charity fun runs;
and even raised money to train Toby, a guide
dog for the blind. For Jerome, such activities
are a chance for her to give something
back. “When I was growing up, my siblings
and I were raised by a single mother and
there were times when we relied on the help
of strangers to get by,” she recalls. “I have
always been grateful for that.” Jerome says
she feels fortunate to have had good education
and abundant opportunities that have
put her in a position where she can do good
for others, “whether it’s here in my community
or somewhere far away. I know not
everyone can leave their office to volunteer
in another country, so I do it because I can.
It’s incredibly rewarding both personally and


What’s your favorite cause? Whether it’s faith-based
activism, environmental sustainability,
helping animals or children’s charities, you can
find an industry partner that’s doing good work
in that area.

  1. 141 EYEWEAR
    As its name says, 141 matches
    each purchase “one for one” with
    a gift of Rx eyewear to someone in
    need. (See photo at right.) Owner
    Shu-Chu Yamaguchi says that’ll be
    about 7,500 pairs in 2015. Rosemary
    Anderson High School in the company’s
    Portland, OR, backyard is
    one beneficiary. Each year, Myoptic
    Optometry gives free eye exams to
    the students of this alternative high
    school, and kids get to pick out a
    pair of 141 glasses. Ossip Optometry
    and Ophthalmology in Indiana also
    offers 141 frames at its annual Day of
    Giving to people without access to
    affordable eyecare and eyewear.


    This Long Island, NY, company
    is involved in local projects
    galore including Big Brothers Big
    Sisters, for which it held a recordbreaking
    clothing drive; a Stuff-the-
    Bus school supplies drive with the
    local United Way; food drives for
    the Long Island Cares Harry Chapin
    food bank; and projects to benefit
    the World Sight Day Challenge. The
    company offers eight paid volunteer
    hours each year, and its CVO Cares
    committee researches new ways to
    give back to meaningful causes.

    Founded by husband-and-wife
    team Jim and Amy Schneider,
    Eyes of Faith supports global missions
    projects through its Wear &
    Share program and offers Hope
    showcases for ECPs to browse and
    select frames at their convenience.

    Every holiday season, L’AMY
    offers a one-for-one program
    for its brands. Opticians sign up to
    keep track of pairs sold, and L’AMY
    donates frames to charities such
    as Lions Club International, New
    Eyes for the Needy, Volunteer Optometric
    Services to Humanity and
    Eyewear for Kids. Since starting this
    program six years ago, L’AMY has
    donated more than 10,000 frames.

    On World Sight Day 2015, social
    media feeds filled with photos
    of celebrities (including Georgia
    May Jagger, above, and Randy Jackson)
    sporting “hand glasses” with
    the hash tag #HelpTheWorldSee.
    The campaign was from OneSight,
    Luxottica’s nonprofit arm, to call
    attention to new findings that 1.1 billion
    people worldwide lack access to
    glasses. (See more details at invmag.

  6. MODO
    Through its Eco brand, Modo
    Eyewear is restoring deforested
    lands and helping farmers learn
    sustainable practices. Eco’s “One
    Frame One Tree” project with Trees
    for the Future has now planted more
    than a million trees. Eco frames are
    made from either recycled or biobased
    materials, and packaging is
    made from recycled soda bottles.

    The optical industry generates
    a lot of materials that can be
    reused. Working with Innereactive
    Media, Marchon commissioned
    seven artists to create art from eyewear,
    lenses, frame parts, cases and
    printed materials that would otherwise
    wind up in landfills. The company
    hopes to expand Re-Visions of
    Art and collaborate with customers,
    charities and schools to work with
    established artists in communities
    worldwide to make more art.

    A portion of proceeds from all
    Paws N Claws Eyewear sold
    benefits the American Society for
    the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
    The company recently made
    its largest donation yet: $11,000.

  9. TOMS
    First with shoes, later with eyewear,
    TOMS was a “buy one, give
    one” pioneer. Dr. Angie Patteson of
    Sunset Eye Care in Johnson City,
    TN, likes the story behind the line’s
    temples, which include portions to
    represent the patient; TOMS; and
    the person assisted with the purchase.
    “How cool is that?!” she asks.

    “Art education shapes and
    saves lives,” says Velvet Eyewear
    founder Cindy Hussey, so the
    company and its foundation work
    with organizations to recycle materials
    and raise funds so schools can
    continue to have strong arts programs
    even in times of tight budgets.




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Cover Stories

How Eyecare Businesses Can Win the Hearts and Minds of Their Customers




Loyal customers — not the ones who choose you because you’re the closest optical, or in the building they work in; we mean the ones who cross town to see you, the ones who are genuinely loyal — bring immense benefits. To name just a few, they reduce the cost of every sale, they tolerate price increases and the odd gaffe by a new employee, and perhaps most importantly in the eyecare business: they generate referrals. But how do you win these mythical creatures over? We asked ECPs about some of the more creative ideas they’ve come up with for winning the undying love of their customers.


The business district in Decatur, GA, holds an annual wine crawl through about 30 businesses, and Decatur Eye Care wasn’t about to let their customers miss out. Held in early March, all the businesses open their doors on the weekends, and put out appetizers and quality wines. “It’s a great way to introduce new people to your business and meet current patients in a more relaxed environment,” shared owner, Tom Brillante, OD. Similarly, Avenue Vision in Golden, CO, decided that instead of the traditional frame show, they’d collaborate with area artists and craft breweries. According to Becky Furuta, the result is “an event with a local vibe and a lot of cross-marketing. It’s an easy way to tap into other parts of the community with whom you don’t normally do business, and to bring a local focus to the business.” Who wouldn’t be back?


Of course, nothing inspires loyalty quite like a reward in the hand. Far be it from us to encourage the pursuit of instant gratification, but an analysis of 20 brands by digital agency Hawkeye found that the most popular loyalty programs have one thing in common: “customer experience [i.e., the reward] is delivered close to the actual purchase.” That’s what Ames Eye Care in Ames, IA, discovered when they started their referral program, which according to Susan Ames has brought them many new patients. “When a patient refers a new patient and that patient has their exam, both patients can choose either a $50.00 credit in office toward glasses or contacts, or they can receive a $25.00 Amazon gift card,” says Ames.


Precision Vision’s Loyalty App.

One of the more interesting trends among ECPs who are serious about locking in customer loyalty is developing a reward program app. Buena Vista Optical in Chicago, IL, asks patients to sign up with their phone number. Every dollar invested in their vision, and every patient referred gets them points they can cash in for their next eyewear purchase. “We have already used it for two-and-a-half years and we feel this app has definitely kept our patients loyal,” says co-owner Diana Canto-Sims.

Precision Vision Edmond in Edmond, OK, has an app with a loyalty program that’s still in its infancy, but owner Selina McGee, OD, is confident it will become a key channel for making meaningful connections with patients and customers. “One aspect that I’m really excited about are the loyalty points that can be tracked with it,” says McGee. “We can reward our patients for investing in their health and education, as well as save them a few dollars along the way.”

Having your own app can allow you to get really creative with marketing: the goal is to get people to register. (Domino’s famously awards pizza points to anyone who uploads a picture of themselves eating pizza—even if it’s a competitor’s. Of course, you have to register to upload.) According to The Manifest tech blog, nearly half of small businesses it surveyed spent less than $25,000 on theirs. There are various ways to go about it: DIY app builders, hiring outside developers and relying on tech savvy staff are the most common options.


ECPs who believe “discount” is a dirty word, look away now. But while you’re doing that, those flex dollars will be flowing somewhere else. Just ask Robert McBeath, retail operations manager at Edina Eye in Edina, MN, which runs half off all in-stock frames December through January. McBeath has been doing year-end frame sales for a long time, turning those inventory dollars into cash the practice can distribute, rather than pay taxes on. “We stop buying frames in October and run the sale as an inventory reduction sale with reduced prices only on in-stock merchandise. That saves the ‘see-a-different color’ dilemma. We put up posters in the office, add the promotion to the website, push it on Facebook and sometimes an e-blast,” he says. The Dec. 1-Jan. 31 timeframe catches year-end and New Year flexible spending money. Patients have come to expect it and many contribute to their FSA knowing that if they over-contribute they can always use the money for eyewear. “I have a few that routinely come in at the end of the year to use up their flexible spending. It does keep patients coming back,” McBeath confirms.

Edina Eye’s clients aren’t the only ones waiting for the year-end season. Mark Perry, OD, co-owner of Vision Health Institute in Orlando, FL, reports that their end-of-year frame sale —50 percent off, held on a Friday and Saturday — has been going strong for 10 years now “and it gets larger every year.”


At Vision Solutions in Lamar, MO, they call it “top-of-mind awareness.” All their marketing, according to Bryan Hartgrave, is coordinated to optimize this awareness of the practice, and targeted specifically to people living in the communities it serves. One of the best ways it’s found to do this is to implement a social media blitz several times a year, and they’ve also worked on geo-targeting their offices on search engines. “We maintain a daily social media presence with a balance of fun and educational content highlighting different themes throughout the year,” says Hartgrave. They do a frame show twice a year, and social media is a significant part of promoting it and other events and initiatives.

Coming full circle, Diana Canto-Sims at Buena Vista Optical mentions that she’s had good results with Facebook Live, which they do twice a month. She says the practice gets quite a bit of traction with more than 7,000 impressions per video and over 1,000 people reached. “We love this because it is free and 100 percent organic. Some of our videos get up to 40 shares. As a result of our Facebook Lives we usually get two or three bookings per video, not to mention more followers, likes and engagements,” she says. “Our Facebook page has over 4,000 followers. People feel they already know our staff before they come in because they have seen them on Facebook Live and we are very relatable.”


Let’s face it: All customers are not created equal. The truth is, it pays to identify your best customers and do something special for them. Central Texas Eye Center in San Marcos, TX, have moved away from traditional trunk shows to focus on VIP private events every few months. “Our really good customers absolutely love that we close the store for them and make things personal,” says Leah Johnson. Once a VIP show is scheduled, invitations are emailed to all of CTEC’s clients. “The invitations clearly say ‘VIP event; you’re invited! Appointments are required to attend.’ If someone is interested in one-on-one attention, in a party like setting, they will respond and schedule their event appointment. These types of guests really appreciate that we close the doors to the public for the show,” says Johnson.

CTEC experiences better sales at VIP events over trunk shows, because people are committed to purchasing instead of being there to look.
“We weren’t afraid of losing money by closing the doors, and found out these are really profitable events,” she says.

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Cover Stories

Get Your Mojo Back




Burnout. According to retail consultant Vince Rath, it starts “when we experience the world in a way that doesn’t align with our expectations,” leaving us feeling that we’ve lost control of our lives.

Whatever the factors involved in your particular case of burnout — and it affects everyone sooner or later — the basic solution will always lie in making some kind of conscious change. And even if you’re still loving every day at work, don’t wait till you’re tapped out; implement one or all of these fixes now, whether it’s to recharge your mojo, or to just keep things copacetic…


Researchers call it the “helper’s high.” Donating your time or volunteering can release dopamine, the feel-good chemical that causes the sensation you get when you eat chocolate. According to Psychology Today, “Brain scans show a surge of dopamine when we give or volunteer our time.” Annette Prevaux-Matejko of The Visionary in Allen Park, MI, makes time to “donate services and materials to someone who is down on their luck. Making a real difference in someone’s life makes me feel better about everything.”


Melody Wilding, a performance coach and human behavior professor at CUNY Hunter College in New York, identifies “under-challenge burnout” as one of the three main types (the others being “overload burnout” and “neglect burnout”). What does Jeff Grosekemper at Casa De Oro Eyecare in Spring Valley, CA, do to ward off boredom or crankiness when it threatens? “I switch jobs with my co-worker. Right now I’m pre-testing and she is selling.” Caitlin Wicka at San Juan Eye Center in Montrose, CO, tried a different approach.

“Getting more involved with training and with patient interactions helps with burnout,” she says. “Seeing the positive feedback on social media really helps me.” If you’re an administrator, ask your boss if there’s a task you can be assigned occasionally out front. Nikki Griffin, owner of EyeStyles Boutique in Oakdale, MN, gets back out on the sales floor to “do my thing. I get all my energy from fitting an amazing pair of eyewear and lifestyle dispensing. The administration side of owning is a soul suck.”

Son Nguyen, OD, recalls a radical change in the optical that shook things up at Bakersfield

Eye Care Optometric Center in Bakersfield, CA: “Adding mostly independent frame brands to our practice. Our opticians were skeptical at first about eliminating some of the biggest name brands in our business, but, as a result, we’ve been told it has made them fall in love with their jobs all over again.” Mark Perry, OD, of Vision Health Institute in Orlando, FL, finds renewal by trying “to focus on some new and different aspect of optometry.” This has included accepting externs from two different optometry schools into his clinic.


Paula Hornbeck at Eye Candy & Eye Candy Kids in Delafield, WI sums up her revitalization strategy in one word: “Silmo!” Similarly, William Chancellor of Eye Can See Eyewear in McDonough, GA, tells us that, “Trade shows rejuvenate me. Attending Vision Expo West was a big exciting show that made the heart fonder!” Learning something new is another popular way for ECPs to find their second wind. Christine Howard at Attleboro Vision Care in Attleboro, MA, says, “Networking and attending conferences always ‘refills my cup’ when I’m feeling drained.” Sometimes, just nosing around another optical will do the trick. BJ Chambers at Carrera Optical, in McQueeney, TX, will occasionally visit a competitor, “and then I feel better about myself.”


Burnout isn’t always a function of too much work. Repetitive or unstimulating work can land you in the same psychological territory as doing too much — feeling numb. “I’ve found coming up with a new project or marketing campaign to be rejuvenating,” shares Carissa Dunphy at Duvall Advanced Family Eyecare in Duvall, WA. “It brings the excitement [back] into what we are working on and it’s great for workplace morale.”


Jeff Migdow, MD, an integrative physician in Lenox, MA, told the Everyday Health blog in a recent posting that even a few minutes of physical movement serves as a powerful stress reducer, forcing us to breathe deeper and helping us “feel more like ourselves.” You don’t have to wait for the weekend or even until you get home: “Burnout is usually a sign that your work and your life outside the office are no longer in balance,” says Becky Furuta of Avenue Vision in Golden, CO. “I have always made sure to plan an hour in the middle of every workday to go for a run or a ride. I come back happier, more productive, and feeling good about where I am.” Robert M Easton, Jr, OD, in Oakland Park, FL is surely the gold standard bearer among ECPs in this category: “I do kickboxing, bodyworks, walk on the beach and weight lifting to lift the stress,” he tells us.


We think of electronic devices as stress inducers, but your phone just might be your ticket to peace of mind. “I meditate and practice mindfulness daily, sometimes at work, using the Calm iPhone app,” says Vlad Cordero at Focus Eye Care in Hackensack, NJ. Sometimes burnout can edge into something more serious. A 2015 University of California study suggests that nearly half of all people who start a company say they have struggled with some form of mental illness. Don’t be afraid to get outside help. Tom Brillante, OD, of Decatur Eye Care in Decatur, GA, champions his “Regular visits to my therapist. Can’t recommend it highly enough.”

Billy Isgett at Eyecare of Florence in Florence, SC, shared what works for him: “Prayer.”


Jen Heller reminds of us another sure-fire way to get your mojo going: “I read INVISION! It gets me excited about frames, fashion, new developments.” Sorry, we had to. But okay, she has more: “I’m also rejuvenated by just sitting and entering claims payment, or reconciling the books. Somehow looking at all the details of everything we do calms me down when I’m stressed, and reminds me that we’re superstars on a daily basis.”

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Cover Stories

21 Tips for Motivating Your Team




Behavioral researcher and author Alfie Kohn likes to tell a joke that many small business owners can no doubt relate to:

An elderly man who lives near a school is regularly harassed by a group of students. So, one day he approaches them with a deal: He’ll give each one a dollar if they’ll all return the next day and yell insults at him at a pre-ordained time. They do so eagerly and receive the money as promised. But the old man also tells them he will only be able to pay them 25 cents the next time. More or less still happy to be paid, the children are there again the next afternoon to taunt him, whereupon the old man explains that, henceforth, the daily reward for hurling abuse at him will be one cent. “A penny?” The kids are highly offended. For such a pathetic amount of money it’s not worth the effort. Forget it, they say, and never bother him again.

Like all good jokes, there’s more than a little truth in Kohn’s tale. Humans just don’t behave in seemingly rational ways, never more so than when it comes to money and the energy they are willing to exchange for it. Rewards work in some cases, but in others, they seem to not only deter quality work but bring out people’s worst sides.

The things that we humans tend to pursue with the most care and deepest motivation — like preparing dinner for a family reunion, coaching a Little League team, building a treehouse or running a marathon — are things that are challenging and complex and sometimes even painful. This suggests the things that motivate us — and which sustain peak performance — are things like a sense of achievement, progress, the welfare of others, what other people think of us — the intrinsic stuff. It also implies sustained performance is a result of people acting because they choose to — not because they feel they have to.

The final thing to appreciate about motivation is that it flows and morphs. Sometimes a surprise slice of free pizza will get the best out of an employee. Other times it is a heartfelt one-on-one talk. To unlock every employee’s fullest potential, you will have to experiment — every day and every week. In the following pages, we present a few ideas to help you on your way in this most vital and often mystifying field.


1 Success in guiding employee behavior happens in the thousands of daily interactions and decisions between you and your staff. “Great managing is about release, not transformation,” says Marcus Buckingham, an author, talent expert and founder of The Marcus Buckingham Company, a strengths-based management organization. “It’s about constantly tweaking your environment so that the unique contribution, the unique needs, and the unique style of each employee can be given free rein. Your success as a manager will depend almost entirely on your ability to do this.”


2 “As a rule, money tends to be a poor motivator. You have to look deeper if you want to understand what motivates people. Leadership is not about imposing your will on others, it has more to do with understanding people,” says Dr. Steve Vargo, a business consultant with IDOC and author of Eye on Leadership, An Optometrist’s Game Plan For Creating A Motivated and Empowered Team. Buckingham concurs: “A manager’s most precious resource is time, and managers know that the most effective way to invest their time is to identify exactly how each employee is different and then to figure out how best to incorporate those enduring idiosyncrasies and how to translate them into outstanding performance.”


3 The psychology of motivation has moved away from the big goal approach in recent years and much more toward the idea of small wins. Indeed, Teresa Amabile’s research at Harvard has found that the most motivating thing is “any” progress in meaningful work. Says Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at the Fuqua School of Business: “The question for your staff should be, ‘Can I do one small thing to get better today?’ And the answer to that question is always, ‘Yeah, I’m sure I can.’”


4 Logging certain aspects of your life can be a surprisingly powerful practice — not because there’s much value in the record you create, but because the very act of recording exerts an interesting psychological effect. Get staff to spend a couple of days recording their time use in detail, productivity experts advise, and they’re likely to find themselves using it more efficiently. The first observation is likely the discovery that they are frittering away many hours.


5 The Protestant work ethic basically equates labor with discomfort and looks darkly at levity in the workplace. But there is little in the way of science to support it as an approach to doing good work. Indeed, berating oneself for not working harder runs contrary to establishing a mood that gets things done. A fun environment, on the other hand, promotes innovation, healthy risk-taking, good morale and improved social connections.


6 Promote positivity, says Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, explaining that an optimistic mindset boosts intelligence, creativity and energy levels. “In fact, we’ve found that every single business outcome improves. Your brain at positive is 31 percent more productive than your brain at negative, neutral or stressed, and 37 percent better at sales,” he says on his widely-viewed TED talk. Much of the reason has to do with a better ability to deal with challenges and setbacks. But just how to do it? Achor recommends meditation, gratitude lists, more exercise and acts of kindness like sending a 2-minute “thank you” email every morning.


7 In 1965, Howard Leventhal, a psychologist at Yale, wanted to see if he could scare students into getting a tetanus vaccination (still rare then) with a presentation of lurid images of patients struck by the disease. The students were duly alarmed — but not enough to get vaccinated. Leventhal found there was one intervention that made a difference, prompting 28 percent of students to get a shot, compared with 3 percent of the others. It was a campus map, showing how to get to the clinic and the hours it was open. Subsequent research has underlined the remarkable power of such step-by-step plans. Got something you want your staff to do? Give them a figurative baby-step map to get it done.


8 In Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivations, Dan Ariely cites the case of different European countries’ success in getting their citizens to sign up to be organ donors on their drivers’ licenses. The disparity is huge and much of it comes down to a simple tweak in form design. In countries where people have to actively opt out, the willingness to donate is much higher. “It’s not because it’s easy. It’s not because it’s trivial. It’s not because we don’t care. It’s the opposite,” Ariely says of the study’s findings. “And because we have no idea what to do (in such a case), we just pick whatever it was that was chosen for us.” Design a work place where the default option is work, and people will be productive.


9 There’s no shortage of apps to help your staff boost their productivity and stay motivated. One of our favorites is stickK (, a free goal-setting platform created by behavioral economists at Yale University. Make a resolution and then if you don’t follow through, a pre-agreed amount of money will be sent to an organization you really detest. You then decide what’s worse, getting to work on time 20 times in a month or handing your cash over to Bernie or Donald or whoever else gets your hackles up. Another,, will remind you by email about anything you want, but does so at unpredictable intervals so that your brain can’t easily adapt to ignoring the prodding.


10 One of the most predictable and poignant (or pathetic, depending on your viewpoint) things about humans is our need to bathe in the warm glow of a compliment. Our brains light up even when we know the flattery is insincere. Think then of the power of a sincere compliment. Be on the lookout for chances to praise your team members.


11 For the most part, people want to work; they gripe when things like meetings stop them from doing so. Indeed, a 2006 study showed there’s only one group of people who say meetings enhance their wellbeing — those who also score low on “accomplishment striving.” In other words, people who enjoy meetings are those who don’t like getting things done. The key question for distinguishing a worthwhile meeting from a worthless one seems to be this: is it a “status-report” meeting so employees can tell each other things? If so, handle it with email or paper. That leaves much fewer “good” meetings, whose value lies in the meeting of minds, for example, a well-run brainstorming session.


12 One of the reasons slot machines are so addictive is the unique power of “intermittent variable rewards.” As Pavlov showed with his dog, random rewards are more motivating than predictable ones. Make a bonus guaranteed, and it loses its power to motivate. Give employees a perk out of the blue, such as free lunch instead.


13 The power of words tends to be fleeting, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to harness their uplifting power. Whether it’s on the notice board, a store Pinterest page, or the fridge door, look for places to adhere words of wisdom. Update regularly.


14 “Acknowledgment is a kind of human magic,” Ariely says. Indeed, some neuroscientists go as far as to say we need attention almost as desperately as we need food and warmth. Studies suggest that almost 50 percent of people who leave jobs quit because they feel underappreciated. Therefore, simply acknowledging a team member’s contribution can go a long way in making them feel appreciated and motivated.


15 Recent research says there’s something behind the bad apples theory: If a toxic worker sat next to a nontoxic worker, the toxic worker’s influence won out, with proximity increasing the probability that one of them would be terminated by 27 percent. Firing someone is, of course, a last resort measure. But if you have provided training, counseling and patience and the person evidently does not have the inclination to be there, it’s time for you to go your separate ways. And there’s also the sobering impact it has on other staff; firing the least productive employee serves to show staff that their jobs are not sacred.


16 In her book, The Gratitude Diaries, Janice Kaplan cites a recent survey of American workers:

81 percent of respondents said that they’d be willing to work harder for an appreciative boss.

70 percent said they’d feel better about themselves and their efforts if their boss thanked them more regularly.

And yet, gratitude at the workplace appears to be a pretty rare thing, with just 10 percent of the survey respondents saying they were regularly thanked. Want a more motivated staff? Be more generous with the thank-yous.


17 Define excellence vividly and quantitatively. “Paint a picture for your most talented employees of what excellence looks like. Keep everyone pushing and pushing toward the right-hand edge of the bell curve,” says Buckingham.


18 Kind words and deeds count when it comes to motivating colleagues. According to research by Dan Ariely, complimentary remarks and pizza outpaced cash bonuses as ways to encourage workers to put forth more effort and show greater productivity. The results mirrored previous research by the London School of Economics and Political Science showing that people will work harder if they believe their work is appreciated.


19 Don’t assume employees know that you think they’re doing well or poorly. You have to tell them. According to Gallup research, employees whose managers hold regular meetings with them are almost three times as likely to be engaged as employees whose managers do not. “To get the best coaching outcomes, always have your 1-on-1’s on your employee’s turf not yours. In your office the truth hides,” says Buckingham, who recommends you spend at least 10 minutes with each employee each week, asking them just two questions: What are your priorities? How can I help?”


20 Spend the most time with your best people. Talent is the multiplier, says Buckingham. The more energy and attention you invest in it, the greater the yield. In one example from First, Break All the Rules, they studied great employees in data entry roles. Initially, they found that top performers were 50 percent better than average. However, after investing in them, they were nearly 10X better than average. “Ever get bogged down trying to squeeze passable work out of a bad employee? How did it feel?” he asks.

Spend the most time with your best people. Talent is the multiplier, says Buckingham. The more energy and attention you invest in it, the greater the yield. In one example from First, Break All the Rules, they studied great employees in data entry roles. Initially, they found that top performers were 50 percent better than average. However, after investing in them, they were nearly 10X better than average. “Ever get bogged down trying to squeeze passable work out of a bad employee? How did it feel?” he asks.


21 Consultants Brian Moran and Michael Lennington aren’t big believers in the value of a year, at least when it comes to setting goals. A year’s too big to get your head around, they argue in their book The 12-Week Year, and there’s too much unpredictability involved in planning for 10 or 11 months in the future. Besides, it’s awful for motivation: the New Year surge of enthusiasm fades rapidly, while the feeling of racing to the finish line — that extra burst psychologists call the “goal looms larger effect” — doesn’t kick in until autumn. In its place, they advocate dividing your year into quarters, and to think of each 12 weeks as a stand-alone “year” — a stretch long enough to make significant progress on a few fronts, yet short enough to stay focused.

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