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America’s Finest Optical Retailers entries show just how good independent ECPs are


Published in the July/August 2014 issue

INVISION recently asked me to be a judge for its inaugural America’s Finest Optical Retailers competition. I’m always eager to find (or rediscover) ophthalmic businesses that “get it.” I had a wonderful time reviewing the entries, and they inspired me to jot down many comments.

Editor Julie Fanselow told me she was only able to use a few of my comments with the story starting on page 34. But she identified a few themes that I make in my work with my optical and optometric clients, and asked me to share them here:

What story does your business tell? Without a doubt, my favorite aspect of Silver Linings Opticians’ website is its “Commandments” tab. The commandments themselves are brilliant. What this New York City shop’s website does is to tell a great story without actually having to write it all out. It’s a perfect mix of copy and images. It keeps you glued to your seat and you don’t want to leave until the story is done. I almost feel like a young boy, sitting on my mother’s lap, listening to her start, “Once upon a time…” Excellent job.


Do you know your market? And are you unafraid to absolutely own that niche? We definitely see this trait with the owners of Modern Eye in Philadelphia, who won me over with this statement in their entry: “It has to do with sparking interest and creating involvement. Everything has a story and we enjoy telling it. From the exam room to the sales floor , we engage our patrons in the process. We are outspoken and plainspoken. And we like to have fun.” Then there’s the fact they answered the question “How are you meeting the challenges of online and big-box competition?” with “How can online and big-box compete with us?” That garners them a score of 100 from me.

Speaking of online competition, in the home of, Seattle’s Eyes on Fremont knows a key part of its demographic are the people buying from Warby Parker. But with its own line of $175 frames, this company is saying, “You want something stylish and affordable, come to the experts and be assured of style, quality and service you won’t get online” without having to actually say it. Brilliant!

What makes you different — and better? In its entry, Look + See Eyecare of Minneapolis wrote, “We start by talking with our patients about lenses first because that’s what sets us apart.” They get it! The fact that they talk about lenses first differentiates them from the pack of average ECPs.

Most ECPs default to show frames first because it’s the easiest way to go. It’s also the laziest way to go. By talking with patients about their visual needs first, the folks at Look + See involve their patients in helping them become part of finding their own eyecare solutions.

With its strong environmental ethic, Eye Impact of Houston also knows how to stand out from the pack. There are a lot of people and companies who claim to be green, but I find an incredible consistency with this doctor, from living above his practice to the green lines he sells to his building’s materials and the future installation of solar panels. All tell his community that he’s responsible and walks the talk. And that’s just good business.

Robert Bellis creator of the EyeCoach system and a regular contributor to INVISION. See his column on “The Road to No” on page 54, and contact him at





People Want to Buy Premium Products

Walman Optical Presents—Industry Myths Busted! It’s up to every ECP to explain that “premium” doesn’t mean expensive—it means “customized to your needs.”

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You Can’t Meet Everyone’s Needs, So Why Try?

Know your niche.




Know your niche as a retailer and stay true to that niche. Don’t try to meet everyone’s needs – if you try you will compromise somewhere else. – Carter Johnston, OD, Physicians Optical Luxury Eyewear, Oklahoma City, OK

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Robert Bell

The Single Best Tool to Help Your Staff to Sell In and Outside the Office

Plus it has the added benefit of showing them you value them.




JUST BETWEEN US, have you ever fantasized about wanting to give a playful smack to a patient or customer because they did something incredibly stupid? Or, they didn’t do something they were supposed to do in the no-brainer category?

No? Liar!

Well, here’s a no-brainer scenario in which I’d like to smack (playfully!) a hefty percentage of optometric business owners. Ok, honestly, I wouldn’t hurt or embarrass any of you. However, I’ll tell you this: this “no-brainer scenario” makes me pull my hair out of my head. And, folks? I’m bald!

What’s the no-brainer scenario? Business cards.

“But Robert, I have a business card.” I’m sure you do, doctor. Does everyone on your staff have one, too? Everyone? Uh huh. I’m losing more hair as we speak!

From your front desk personnel to your licensed opticians, everyone on your staff should have printed business cards with their name on it, their title (if they want one), the name of your practice, your location(s), your phone number and your website.

Everyone on your staff should be required to carry a few in their purses or wallets 24/7.

Why? So many reasons! Here’s one example from one of my favorite conversations with an optician:

Optician: I was in a Target once and standing behind this woman wearing the most G-d awful glasses. I was thinking, “Omg, who the hell did that to you?”

Me: Did you say anything to her?

O: Um, no.

M: Why not?

O: Whaddya mean, “why not?” What was I going to say?

M: Oh, any number of things. How about, “Hi there. I’m Darla. I was looking at your glasses. I’m an optician. Then … are you happy with them? … or how long ago did you get them? … or where did you get them? Anything to get her talking about her glasses.

O: Why?

M: So you could engage her, find out if you, as an optician, could be of help to her. If so, then you could’ve given her your business card and said, “Here, take my card. Next time you need glasses or an eye exam, come in and ask for me and I promise I’ll take very good care of you.” Then, before you give her the card, you say ‘I’m gonna write on the back of my card to give you $20 off on a pair of sunglasses, if you’re able to come in within the month.’

O: (spurts out a laugh) Yeah, right. Like my OD would pay for business cards for me. Get real. She’s too cheap.

Lord, I’m so bald.

Doctors, by purchasing business cards for your staff (such a minimal investment that can reap in beaucoup rewards), you do the following things:

  • You’re telling them they, as your employee, are important to you.
  • You’re telling them they are an integral part of your team.
  • You’re telling them you’re proud to have them on your team.
  • You make them think you appreciate them and show them so with something tangible.
  • This usually makes them proud of where they work and proud of working for you.

Either you’re proud of your practice and the people who work for you, or you’re not. If you’re not, please disregard what you’ve read here. If you are, well, you know what to do next.

Once your staff is stocked up on cards, it’s time to train them. For Robert’s business card sales training tips visit

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Danielle Richardson

Feel Like Your Wellness Routine Could Be Missing Something? It’s Probably Sleep

We spend nearly a third of our life sleeping, which makes getting quality sleep as essential as a healthy diet and regular exercise.




WHEN YOU THINK OF your health and wellness, how often do you think of sleep? Chances are not often — but you should. Sleep is the newest frontier in wellness as public health consciousness continues to increase and we move to a more holistic idea of health. We spend nearly 1/3 of our life sleeping which makes getting quality sleep as essential as a healthy diet and regular exercise.

The National Sleep Foundation defines quality sleep as occurring when you’re asleep within 30 minutes of laying down, wake no more than once, and sleep for at least 85 percent of the night. Unfortunately, quality sleep is an uncommon occurrence as the CDC reports a third of American adults experience poor or inadequate sleep on a regular basis. An estimated 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from sleep-related problems or disorders, such as sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, or restless leg syndrome. As a country, we need to get some rest!

Sleep deprivation increases the risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and triples the risk for type 2 diabetes according to Johns Hopkins sleep researcher Patrick Finan, PhD. Those not getting adequate sleep suffer from a weakened immune system, irregular metabolism, and obesity secondary to increased levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Not limited to just the physical body, sleep deprivation can also manifest as cognitive impairment and/or mental health changes including depression, irritability, anxiety, forgetfulness, and brain fog. Poor quality sleep is far less recuperative, which causes us to not feel rested when do we wake up.

Sleep depends on a number of factors, our body’s internal regulating system is chief among them. Our Circadian Rhythm functions as the body’s biological clock and regulates the experience of alertness vs. sleepiness. This rhythm is sensitive to fluctuations in hormone levels, particularly cortisol and melatonin. Cortisol peaks in the morning allowing us to be alert and focused throughout the day. The secretion of melatonin — which helps us sleep — is highest at night.

These days, our minds are moving a mile a minute and we’re constantly on light-producing digital devices even though increased high-energy blue light exposure from devices decreases melatonin production and causes insomnia or sleeplessness. The disrupting culprits aren’t limited to devices though; increased stress, irregular work schedules, frequent jet lag, and sleep disorders can also disrupt our cycles.

The CDC recommends 7-9 hours of quality sleep for adults and more for teens and children. Here are some easy ways you can get better sleep tonight:

Build Consistency. It’s important to wake and head to bed around the same time each day — even on the weekends.

Use Sleep Monitoring Technology. Smartphones and wearable tech devices can help monitor the duration and quality of your sleep through downloadable applications and Bluetooth technology.

Sleep Habits. Limit screen time and diminish light sources in the bedroom. Additionally, use the automatic setting on your phone to warm the screen at night.

Bonus — Zen Out! Use essential oils or pillow sprays in scents like lavender as aromatherapy to help you sleep. Also consider meditation, light music, or other soothing sounds as a relaxing way to send yourself to bed.

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