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Performance

The bottom line—it’s what business is all about. Want to know how ECPs think they are doing financially? Well, we asked. Here you can compare revenue, owner salaries, revenue drivers and rising costs.

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28. Looking at the last two years, would you rate either of them as the “best” or “worst” ever in terms of your business’s financial performance?

Best
43%
Worst
8%
No, they weren’t particularly different from any other year
46%
We haven’t been in business for two years yet
3%
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29. In what area are you seeing costs rise the most?

Inventory
35%
Staff
34%
Equipment
9%
Advertising and marketing
7%
Rent/location
10%
Other
5%
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30. Who is your toughest competitor?

Other local independent optical businesses
20%
Corporate optometry chains
20%
Big Box stores
20%
Internet retailers
31%
Other
9%

31. The No. 1 factor driving your sales is:

32. What were your total sales last year? (If you have more than one store, please tell us the average per store.)

33. What one thing are you doing now to drive sales that you weren’t doing five years ago?

While the most-cited categories in this and the accompanying question No. 34 indicate clear trends, the presence of similar categories on both lists (packaging products, insurance, recalling, etc.) suggests that the jury is well and truly out on sales-driving methods in today’s evolving retail landscape.

Top 10 in Order:

  1. Social media & online marketing/email blasts & newsletters
  2. Pushing multiple-pair sales/packages/bundling
  3. Traditional marketing/TV/radio/billboards
  4. Focusing on website, SEO optimization, Google/Yelp reviews
  5. Focusing on independent eyewear lines
  6. Accepting insurance plans/tying incentives to insurance or self-pay
  7. Pre-appointing/shorter exams/boosting patient numbers/recalls
  8. More focused hiring/filling of key positions
  9. Doctors selling from the chair
  10. Online store/online sales of glasses; CLs

34. What one thing were you doing to drive sales five years ago that you’ve stopped doing?

Top 9 in Order:

  1. Advertising in traditional media (print, TV, radio, billboards, yellow pages)
  2. Promotions/packages/discounts/competing on price/bundling
  3. Accepting insurance/offering out of network discounts
  4. Flyers/postcard/door-to-door mailings
  5. Selling low-cost frames/poly lenses
  6. Paper/phone recalls
  7. Poor hiring choices/putting up with poor employees
  8. Trunk shows
  9. Networking/community outreach

Note: The No. 1 category was far and away the most cited, accounting for nearly 1 in 4 responses, and for nearly 3 times as many responses as the No. 2 category.

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35. What’s the most unethical thing a direct rival has done to you in the name of competition?

We all like to think of eyecare as a noble calling. But let’s face it: It’s a jungle out there, and our respondents let us know about it. Here’s a somewhat depressing roundup of the depths to which some ECPs will stoop to get ahead.

  • “Copied a review from their Yelp page and made a fake account and posted it to our page—then took a good review from our page and posted it to their page. It was so obvious…and weird!”
  • “Kept a patient after referral for emergency.”
  • “Upon my leaving his eyecare biz and starting my own optical boutique, the vengeful doctor who was my previous employer wrote an email to a patient stating that all inventory in my new shop had been embezzled by me, from him. She ran and showed it to me. She is now my faithful client, and he had to close shop and relocate to another town. Ha Ha!!”
  • “Told a frame company that my office was 30 minutes away to get the same line I carry, but they were really only eight minutes away.”
  • “We swapped store locations with a competitor. Now, when our patients show up at our old location, our rival gets them in the exam room before he tells them we are at a different location. Also, he tells them he doesn’t know where we are located, even though it used to be his old office!”
  • “Sent people to my store to view product so they can order it with their insurance at their location.”
  • “Purchased an app so that when people search for our practice, theirs comes up first.”
  • “There is a local shop known for helping patients claim their insurance benefits for the year when they haven’t purchased any eyewear for the year. They give this money to the local shop as a ‘credit’ and come back when they want to use all this ‘credit’ towards getting new eyewear. Essentially helping patients commit insurance fraud.”
  • “Lenscrafters Corporate came into my office as a secret shopper and offered my wife, who is my optician for the past 20 years, a job. Sneaky!”

36. As the business owner, what did you earn (salary + share of profit) last year?

Note: At the top end of the earnings scale were owners of a private practice with a strong focus on retail, with 20 percent of these ECPs earning more than $250,000 a year. At the other end were owners of eyewear boutiques with no OD, 58 percent of whom earned less than $75,000 a year.

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

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AAOF Announces 2019 VSP Global Scholarship Recipients

Nearly $200,000 was awarded to several top performing fourth-year optometry students.

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(PRESS RELEASE) ORLANDO, FL – The American Academy of Optometry Foundation (AAOF), the philanthropic arm of the American Academy of Optometry (AAO), and VSP Global announced the recipients of this year’s Practice Excellence Scholarships. Nearly $200,000 was awarded to several top performing fourth-year optometry students in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada, as well as four additional international students from Australia.

This year, in honor of the 3rd World Congress of Optometry held in conjunction with the Academy meeting in Orlando, Florida, VSP Global added an Australian Practice Excellence Scholarship, open to students from four institutions: Deakin University, Flinders University, Queensland University of Technology School of Vision Science and the University of New South Wales.

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“The Practice Excellence Scholarship is another example of our commitment to optometry’s next generation, and we are honored to extend this recognition to optometry students in Australia, a country in which we have a strong optometrist network,” said Gordon Jennings, OD and VSP Global Board Chairman.

Two students from each school or college of optometry as well as one student from each Australian institution were selected by nomination from their individual institutions to receive the scholarship. Since 2010, VSP Global has provided more than $2.4 million in scholarship support to hundreds of optometry students.

The scholarships are funded through VSP’s Global Charitable Fund and are administered through the AAOF. Scholarship recipients were selected based on key criteria including the student’s commitment to enter the independent practice of optometry, and their clinical and academic performance.

“We are very grateful for the continued partnership we have with VSP,” said Pete Kollbaum, OD, PhD, FAAO, and President of the American Academy of Optometry Foundation. “Through VSP’s continued support of this partnership they are demonstrating their commitment to advance optometry, the Academy, and, most importantly, the clinical care patients are able to receive. We are very grateful for their foresight in supporting these very deserving future leaders and their dedication to support the future of optometry.”

Each scholarship included a travel grant to participate in the American Academy of Optometry’s 98th annual meeting, Academy 2019 Orlando, which was held on October 23-27 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL. The recipients were recognized at a special reception sponsored by VSP Global.

The 2019 Practice Excellence Scholarship recipients are:
  • Illinois College of Optometry
    Lauren Kunkel, Aaron Motacek
  • Indiana University School of Optometry
    Mary Marte, Kalyn Wendholt
  • Inter American University of Puerto School of Optometry
    Samantha Chan, Travis Lipscomb
  • Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
    Taylor Hall, Danielle Zapata
  • Michigan College of Optometry at Ferris State University
    Steven Gibbs, Ankur Patel
  • Midwestern University Arizona College of Optometry
    Jennifer Dryden, Liza Stremick
  • New England College of Optometry
    Alexa Caruso, Chelsey Kritzer
  • Northeastern State University Oklahoma College of Optometry
    Sahab Astani, William Colton Cheek
  • Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry
    Phoebe Pan, Kaitlin Brown
  • The Ohio State University College of Optometry
    Alex Lamorgese, Adell Walters
  • Pacific University College of Optometry
    Liandra Jung, Ashley Stone
  • Pennsylvania College of Optometry at Salus University
    Andrew Muckin, Emile Seitz
  • Rosenberg School of Optometry
    Patrick Clark, Kelly Tran
  • Southern California College of Optometry at Marshall B. Ketchum University
    Alyssa Pack, Emiko Vasquez
  • Southern College of Optometry
    Katelyn McGee, Trevor Shealy
  • State University of New York College of Optometry
    Abigail Cash, Alicia Jones
  • University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry
    Mason Childers, Mohammed Haque
  • University of California Berkeley School of Optometry
    Stephanie Tran, Rebecca Stapornkul
  • University of Houston College of Optometry
    Ashley Nguyen, Megan Wagner
  • University of Pikeville Kentucky College of Optometry
    Kristen Lantz, Jacob Webster
  • University of Missouri -St. Louis College of Optometry
    Kelly Deering, Abigail Smith
  • University of Montreal School of Optometry
    Antoine Aidans van der Poel, Lara Tchakmakian
  • University of Waterloo School of Optometry and Vision Science
    Komal Patel, Angela Zhang
  • Western University of Health Sciences College of Optometry
    Kenny Huynh, Aiko Seffinger
Australian Practice Excellence Scholarships
  • Deakin University
    Emily Banks
  • Flinders University
    Dylan Bentley
  • Queensland University of Technology School of Optometry and Vision Science
    Derek Shiu Him Lay
  • University of New South Wales
    Ivy Kol

For more information, visit https://www.aaopt.org/home/aaof.

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Take Control—and Get a Free Pair of Art Optical Contact Lenses

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The Big Survey: Marketing and Operations

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47. 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%

 

NOTE: There’s a saying that the only way to grow in business is to innovate or advertise. We suspect 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.

48. WWhich of the following social media/business networks do you actively use on a professional basis?

Facebook
88%
Google
50%
Instagram
46%
LinkedIn
19%
Twitter
13%
YouTube
7%
Pinterest
5%
Other
5%

49. How many in-store events (incl. trunk shows) do you hold a year?

0
46%
1–2
37%
3–4
12%
5–11
3%
12 or more
2%

50. Is your marketing mostly intended to build brand awareness or prompt an immediate action from customers?

Brand building
38%
Direct response
41%
Not sure
21%

 

NOTE: ECPs are better served by advertising that makes their business top of mind when a customer needs medical help or frames, says Wizard of Ads author Roy H Williams. Sometimes a direct response campaign is needed, but be sure “to make a highly impressive offer or you’ll be…disappointed.” Using such campaigns, be sure you aren’t simply training your market to wait for the next big sale.

51. What is your Google My Business (Review) rating?

5 stars
39%
4.5 stars
32%
4 stars
9%
3.5 stars
3%
3 stars
1%
2.5 stars
0%
2 stars
0%
1.5 stars
0%
1 star
0%
Don’t have one
16%

52. How many Google Reviews does your business have?

0
12%
1-10
24%
11-20
20%
21-30
9%
31-40
9%
41-50
6%
51-75
5%
76-100
5%
101-150
4%
151-250
3%
More than 250
3%

53. The economy is in its longest expansion ever. History says it must come to a stop sooner or later. Are you doing anything now to get ready for the next downturn?

The 5 most popular answers were:

  1. Reduce/eliminate debt
  2. Save money
  3. Streamline inventory
  4. Create budget-conscious frame/lens packages
  5. Growing/strengthening patient base

Want actual specifics? These are some respondents’ standout strategies:

  • We are fine tuning the patient experience to increase patient retention in the future.
  • Increase marketing.
  • Opening a second location in a more affluent area.
  • Reducing inventory away from giant companies that expect you to buy more than you can sell.
  • Limiting hiring and paying down debt aggressively.
  • Selling the business and retiring.
  • Praying.
  • Getting expenses under control now.
  • Trying to cut debt and increase margins without affecting quality.
  • Staying debt free.
  • Putting money into savings every month and being careful about how much we spend on frames.
  • Buying less and keeping less back stock.
  • Controlling inventory and staffing.
  • Carrying a budget frame lens package.
  • Added in-house edging to manage overhead costs and offer less expensive lenses.
  • Consolidating costs, expanding customer loyalty/dependence on private label brand to capture benefits-only and prescription-only customers.
  • Staff training to improve customer service and patient experience.
  • Building the war chest to buy when others start to fail.
  • Ensuring reserve account is at a high enough level.
  • Staying open later, making fewer purchases, consolidating buying groups, looking at services (phone, internet) to see if we can trim.
  • Creating eyeglass packages to compete with online retailers based on price then we’ll blow them away with service for a similar price.
  • Taking a hard look at our demographic and reevaluating frame brands and lens offerings so we have the proper mix and are purchasing the best way.
  • Buying extra frame and lens stock at good discounts. Also, actively asking current patients for referrals.
  • Retaining 15% of net profit for the economy downturn. I have nine months of business expenses saved.
  • Preparing to sell package deals and considering a sale to private equity.
  • Moving towards a medical model.
  • All cash buying.
  • 11% of each transaction is put away for a downturn.
  • Postponing future expansion.
  • Limiting extra inventory; reducing look alike styles.
  • Voting.
  • Building a nuclear bunker and buying lots of canned food.
  • Been selling CBD products in office for two years.
  • Direct shipping eyewear to reduce cost in office.
  • Invested in private label brands and have more flexible terms with our frame lines.
  • Offer package plans starting at $29 and up; many patients already    use this.
  • Controlling inventory. We are already seeing a much slower year this year.
  • Holding more cash.
  • Not accepting vision plans! Private pay and medical care are the most reliable in depressed economies.

54. Check the features your business has:

Customer bathroom
85%
Sofa/sitting area
66%
Satellite radio
33%
Free wifi/charging station
32%
Bar/beverage area
29%
TVs used for promotional purposes
28%
Paperless patient registration
24%
Kids’ room
23%
TV for entertainment purposes
21%
Viewing window into the lab
16%
iPads for patient or display purposes
15%
Chandeliers
10%
Selfie wall
8%
Store pet
7%
Fireplace
5%
Fish tank
4%

55. How long since you last remodeled?

1 year or less
19%
2 years
14%
3-5 years
34%
6-10 years
18%
More than 10 years
15%

 

NOTE: It’s been over 6 years since one-third of our ECPs remodeled. That’s leaving it a bit long, says Lori Estrada of Fashion Optical Displays. “The rule is to remodel/refresh every 5-7 years, but only the more progressive doctors seem to do that. A remodeled dispensary typically sees an increase of (at least) 15 percent,” she says.

56. What days is your business open?

Sunday
7%
Monday
92%
Tuesday
98%
Wednesday
96%
Thursday
98%
Friday
96%
Saturday
55%

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