Connect with us

Benchmarks

9 ECPs Share What Adding an In-House Lab Has Meant to Them

So much for the cons: When it comes to the pros, we decided to ask around.

mm

Published

on

THE PROS AND CONS of having an in-house lab depend on where you’re standing. Where some ECPs see an expensive headache —  which someone else can handle anyway — others see a money-saving customer-winner that’s actually a lot of fun. The size and shape of your market, your personal and professional priorities, your comfort with gadgetry and the age of your business all factor in. As should recent changes in the industry, in particular the nature of distribution, evolving lens technologies and shifting consumer behaviors. If you’re a one-woman or –man operation, it’s probably not for you. Some folks have plenty of manpower but find that having a lab makes employee management a little bit too complicated. For others, it’s a case of “let labs be labs, let opticals sell eyewear.” So much for the cons: When it comes to the pros, we decided to ask around. Here’s what ECPs with successful in-house labs had to tell us.

Sonoma Eyeworks Santa Rosa, Ca

Cindy Harmon at Sonoma Eyeworks in Santa Rosa, CA boils the pluses of having an in-office lab down to three things: It allows you to provide exceptional customer service; it differentiates you from other practices; and it serves as a business builder. Her full-time manager, Wayne Wilmsen, has greater quality control on one-of-a-kind frames, custom drill mounts, and “does so much more than just edge lenses,” she says. As an extra bonus, “Our lab is somewhat visible, so it allows customers to witness the complexity of fabricating eyewear. It’s very easy to discount the reasons for investing in laboratory technology and the additional staffing. We’ve always felt it is one of the silent partners in our success.”


D’ambrosio Eye Care Lancaster, Ma

“I love it,” says Jocelyn Mylott of the in-house lab at D’Ambrosio Eye Care in Lancaster, MA. “I wish more managed care would allow us to edge in-house; saves so much time for the patient.” Quality is a key factor in in-house edging at D’Ambrosio, which now has five locations but made the decision to set up a lab with the launch of the third office. The sheer volume of orders warranted the move, Mylott says, given the cost of edging, shipping the frames back and forth and time lost during that process. “Per job it’s cost effective to edge in-house and you save the job turn time two or three days. Money and time make it worthwhile,” she says. Other advantages include the stock lens costs, which are lower. Considering the cost of digital progressive lenses nowadays, any cost saving you can squeeze out on single vision is to be grabbed, she says. “We can also use our stock lenses to provide promotions to patients at a more affordable price.” The lab now serves as a central ordering hub, with a courier driving between the five locations. All orders originate from the opticians. Those that D’Ambrosio’s lab can handle are taken care of in-house. Orders that need to be sent out are submitted by the lab staff, which reduces employee errors. “All product is drop-shipped to the lab, centralizing receiving and invoicing. We also offer patients who cannot be without their frame an option to wait for their order while we finish their new lenses.”


Cherry Optometry Chelsea, Mi

“I love my Santinelli!” confesses Paula Koch, OD, at Cherry Optometry in Chelsea, MI. She decided to get an edger to increase turnaround on jobs, and quickly discovered that edging is not only satisfying and fun, but lends a personal dimension to the transaction. “Patients love glasses done quickly — I think of it as ‘Amazon Prime’ for eyeglasses. And they like the personal attention they get with me making their glasses.” When a patient comes in with a broken frame, there’s something deeply satisfying for us both about being able to cut them into another frame right then and there. “Talk about a ‘WOW!’ Patients are thrilled.” Koch’s Santinelli rep, Jaysun Barr, invited her to join the Opening Eyes program, which provides exams and makes glasses for Special Olympians. Her son comes in to help cut the lenses for the program. “It’s a little thing but it allows me to keep my kids involved in the business.” 


Alberta Eye Care Portland, Or

The motivation for Alberta Eye Care’s purchase of an edger (they now have one in both offices) was long-term cost savings. By buying stock lenses in bulk, explains co-owner James Armstrong, they saw significant savings on their cost of goods, allowing them to offer competitive pricing and faster turnaround. But a second benefit emerged: quality control. Armstrong finds that jobs edged by his opticians have fewer errors than those from an outside lab. Lastly, “Without our lab, we would not be able to afford to continue working with children in the Oregon Medicaid program.” Alberta stocks Trivex and 1.67 with AR, which Armstrong says saves money and reduces delays related to lab edging.


Dr. Bladh, OD Diamond Bar, Ca

Far from being a cool option, at Dr. Bladh OD in Diamond Bar, CA, a lab is viewed as a necessity. They’ve had their edger for nearly 20 years, and repeat patients know their Rx is usually in stock. The original aim was to provide quicker turnaround time; in the beginning they were lucky if their lab could get glasses back in two weeks. “Back in the day,” says Josh Bladh, “edgers required patterns, if anybody remembers that. We purchased a patternless edger when they came out and it changed our lives… we were able to have the job done in less than a week and when retail chains started to say glasses in an hour or less, it wasn’t a novel idea for our patients.” Bladh summarizes the main benefits as differentiation from non-lab practices and “being able to under-promise and over-deliver” -— staff tell patients their glasses will be ready in 7-10 working days, just in case, “But we know full well that if the lens is in stock we might be able to have that job done in less than an hour. We love exceeding patient expectations!” The practice only stocks CR-39 and Polycarbonate single vision lenses. They stock slightly higher powers than “normal” parameters, but anything with Transitions or AR coating they order. Those typically only take a couple days to get in, and the office usually has someone who knows how to cut lenses in five days a week. “A lot of our second pair $99 special deals get cut before the nice expensive pair because they’re just looking for a basic pair as a backup.” 

Advertisement
EYEcare Plus antioch, tn

When Kevin Schmidt, OD, launched his practice, he provided most of the glasses out of his own lab. That changed after a while, but with recent industry developments bringing a higher percentage of antireflective coating and new digital designs requiring even more outside lab use, “I had to decide again to be in the lab business. Financially it has increased my AR percentage to numbers I never thought possible.” Schmidt has been able to add digital design, while still providing it as an upgrade to pay for the new equipment. “Turnaround time is unbelievable and patients are even happy occasionally with the great service,” he jokes. Running a seven-location practice, he’s taken some extra tech on board, using a robotic edger to return lenses to the other six locations; they only have to be inserted into the frame. “Schneider Box AR coating and two digital generators in a practice our size is unique, and sputter mirror coating has enabled us to do almost any Rx in house,” he says.


Optical Alternatives Milford, Ct

Optical Alternatives in Milford, CT, has edged in-house since it opened, says Dorothy Reynolds. They stock single vision with AR and find that being able to tell customers they can have their glasses that day helps make a sale. And there’s a feel-good factor in being able to provide single vision lenses if someone has broken their glasses, especially when in Milford visiting family. “It allows patients to use their own frame without having to give that frame up for a week,” she points out. Besides which, “It gives children a thrill, and some adults too, to see their glasses lenses being ‘made.”


Casa De Oro Eyecare Spring Valley, Ca

Jeff Grosekemper recalls how the doctor at Casa De Oro Eyecare in Spring Valley, CA, wanted to install edging equipment to save money; they found many insurance companies would let them do in-house edging — mostly single vision but some were OK with multifocals too. “Uncuts cost less in the long run — less labor cost so the equipment will pay for itself over time, and then create profit.” Grosekemper can cut stock lenses in-house in 15 minutes, which appeals to patients. Also, uncut lens orders arrive quicker, which allows him to cut down overall wait time by a few days. “Plus, I know it will be done right the first time,” he says with a laugh. As for the lab itself: “Love it. Gives me something different to do. We’re a small office so I do pretesting, sales, dispensing, repairs, billing, etc. It’s fun to escape to the lab and make lenses. Having the in-house lab lets patients know that we are fully equipped to handle little emergencies and everyday problems that come with wearing glasses.”


Eye Can See Eyewear Mcdonough, Ga

Being able to provide badly needed in-house finishing-lab services to the two small communities it serves is a huge advantage for Eye Can See Eyewear in McDonough, GA, says practice manager William Chancellor. So much so, in fact, that they have one at each location. “We can say, ‘I can have those glasses ready for you today.’ The surprise that we have that ability is a great value in itself!” The cost reduction of not having to use an outside lab keeps a lot of money in house and that is passed on to the employees. Eye Can See carries a good assortment of power ranges in single vision CR39 and single vision Polycarbonate with AR. “Ninety-plus percent of our orders are edged in-house, saving our practice thousands of dollars a year in edging fees. It truly warms our hearts to see a child be able to receive glasses for the first time the same day and say our name…Eye Can See!” says Chancellor.

After years covering some of the farther flung corners of the world of business journalism, Heath has more recently focused on covering the efforts of independent eyecare professionals to negotiate a fast-changing industry landscape. Contact him at heath@smartworkmedia.com.

Advertisement

SPONSORED VIDEO

SPONSORED BY KENMARK

Jump In — the Water’s Fine!

With a salute to summer’s shimmery, mermaid colors and warm weather-loving shades, Kenmark Eyewear celebrates this summer’s Aloha spirit with eyewear from Vera Wang, Kensie, Zac Posen and the Original Penguin Collection!

Promoted Headlines

Benchmarks

Harnessing the Power of the Selfie to Boost Social Media Engagement, Drive Foot Traffic … and Have Fun

These five practices added an extra dimension to the optical experience and became genuine destinations.

mm

Published

on

ONE OF THE defining characteristics of our modern retail world is that no purchase or experience, whether it’s buying sneakers or sitting down to a gourmet burrito, is really complete until it’s been photographed and posted to social media. iPads are even showing up in clothing store changing rooms. Like it or not, people are going to bring cameras into your store; the question is how to take control of that experience. Selfie walls or stations are a great way of doing this; they grow your social media following, increase customer engagement, drive foot traffic and boost your store’s fun quotient. There are sophisticated options out there—fully integrated systems for retailers, like Halo by Simple Booth, or The Digital Booth’s rental services, which are great for events—but you can get results using a smartphone and a colorfully branded sliver of free wall space in your optical. These five practices show us how it’s done.

Falls City Eye Care
Louisville, KY

Falls City Eye Care boasts two features that get customers taking snapshots of themselves. One is their trusty Polaroid camera—patients and friends are urged to snap a couple of photos, post one on a cork board in the optical and take the other home. The other is a 12-foot sculpture of a pair of frames in the front yard made especially for owners Dr. Michael and Theresa Martorana by a local artist. Falls City Eyecare now sees a steady stream of small groups and individuals stopping by to take selfies with the giant specs. City ordinances prevent them from labeling the sculpture, but customers usually find ways of slipping in a store-related hashtag themselves, Theresa says. “We were easy to walk right by on a busy fun street. Once the sculpture was created and painted, we became a destination.”

Advertisement

Eye Love Optometry
Pinole, CA

EYE LOVE OPTOMETRY’s iPad-based selfie photo station allows photos to be taken and sent to smartphones and e-mail or shared on social media. Branded galleries can be made public, while owner Park L. Hsieh, OD and his team are sent marketing reports to track performance. Patients are given a “Selfie Card” that says, “We love that you love EYE LOVE OPTOMETRY! This is a ‘SELFIE CARD,’ so share your photos of your new eyewear with friends on INSTAGRAM/FACEBOOK.” The station uses Simple Booth’s Halo software, which makes the service fully customizable. “The appearance of the selfies taken are all consistent and in line with our desired brand,” says Hsieh. The sharing function leads to re-engagement long after the experience is over, he adds. “It’s a wonderful word-of-mouth marketing tool, which I think is invaluable.”

Eye Candy
Delafield and Mequon, WI

Eye Candy has smartly branded, professional-looking selfie stations at both of its locations in the Milwaukee area. The stations themselves are alcoves bound by three floor-to-ceiling walls, each covered in custom vinyl wallpaper with the Eye Candy logo. Owner Paula Hornbeck says her original inspiration for the design was the photo wall at the Oscars. When customers pick up their new eyewear, staff ask if they can take a picture for the store’s social media. “Some are shy and decline,” says Hornbeck, “but most are flattered and we encourage them to show us their personality. They take a seat on the stool provided and we take candid shots of them rocking their new look with our iPad. Some are silly, but they always look like they’re happy and having fun.” Family members are invited to join in the photo session. The images are used on Eye Candy’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. Hornbeck says the selfie stations are a definite plus for the business. “Friends and family will go on our FB and IG to see their loved one’s new look and hopefully get excited about coming in to get their own.”

Advertisement

The Eyeglass Lass
New London, CT

What became The Eyeglass Lass’s selfie wall wasn’t originally designed for that purpose. Owner Siobhan Burns wanted to do something with the wall, which is visible from the street. “Local artist Rob Guess covered the wall with funky, graffiti-style eyes. The next day I asked someone to pose in front of it for their ‘glamour shot’ and boom: the selfie/eyeball wall was born.” It’s a low-tech affair. Says Burns: “This one woman show uses portrait mode on her phone!” Simple as it is, the feature “has turned into something great; people recognize frames from posts on social media, and ask if they can have their picture taken before I get a chance to ask them,” Burns says. “If we only see airbrushed models with frames superimposed on their faces, we don’t stop and think, ‘Oh yeah—I could wear that!” Besides which, “It’s another special thing that will stick out to your clientele that wraps up the individual experience they’ve had working with you.”

Optical Connection
Studio City, CA

Armen and Rita Kanberian at Optical Connection had an empty wall they didn’t know what to do with. They decided they wanted an area dedicated to fun. “We imported this beautiful patterned wallpaper from the U.K. and custom ordered our neon light hashtag, #wellframed. This has been such a great hit with clients, especially during our fun trunk shows and events,” says Rita, adding that the feature is now a firm customer favorite. “Having a place to have fun and see yourself try on different frames is what we love… We had a client who bought a dress with glasses and came in just to take pictures.”

Continue Reading

Benchmarks

How 6 ECPs Designed, and Use, Their Business Cards

Even in a digital era, they find them to be an essential business tool.

mm

Published

on

THE HUMBLE BUSINESS CARD is the great survivor of our tech-driven retail world. They have few rivals when it comes to making a memorable first impression; handed to departing customers they become little ambassadors for your uniqueness — and a great vehicle for impromptu incentives. They’ll be around as long as folks have pockets. But people don’t hold on to cards as long as they used to, so it’s important to make them memorable … There are many reasons that 27 million of them continue to be printed every day. We do urge you to spare a thought for the planet though and choose an eco-friendly option, of which there are many. (To name two, Rhode Island-based Moo makes cards out of cotton from T-shirt remnants, and Botanical Paperworks of Canada produces “plantable” cards made from seed paper.) We asked six ECPs to flash their cards and share with us how they use them.

Optical Oasis
Jupiter, FL

Julie Uram’s parents met an artist during a trip to Key West and happened to mention their daughter was opening an optical with a thatched roof and sand-covered floor. He designed her a card there and then. She hands them out both inside the store and out, and occasionally recruits relatives for the task. She has given cards to doctors who practice in town; on the back of these she stamps a $50 coupon. She believes customers that take them do hand them on: “I do ask customers how they found me and they will tell me from either a customer, a doctor, or Google.”

Advertisement

Kenneth D. Boltz, OD
Dublin, OH

When Dr. Ken Boltz was setting up his new office in 2016, he needed a card with the new location and number in a hurry. He designed it himself, figuring he’d call a professional later. But his chart-inspired card went down so well, he kept it. “I keep cards with me at all times, as do all my staff. Each of us has a goal to hand out at least five each week.” They occasionally place a label on the back offering a complimentary retinal scan (value $39) with an expiration date. “This seems to stimulate those new contacts to call and make an appointment sooner rather than later,” he says.

Socialite Vision
Palm Beach Gardens, FL

Dr. Adam Ramsey sees his cards as an extension of his office, and spares no expense. He recently worked with a designer through numerous revisions “until the shine on the copper lettering was just right.” Given their ability to attract new clients, he advises, “don’t go low cost — go high quality.” He carries his cards everywhere and keeps a stash in his car. He also mails them to businesses from which he would like to receive referrals, including MDs without opticals and opticians without ODs. Not only does Ramsey ask staff to carry them, he even bought them fancy cardholders. “You need to instill that pride in them with their own cards. It’s their office too!” he says.

MacPherson Opticians
Arlington, VA

Kate Giroux worked with a designer to come up with MacPherson’s logo. She has them made for herself and staff, and they all carry them. She will use them to note a discount for customers who need an incentive to come in. Giroux adds that all of her referring doctors use her cards on her behalf when patients ask where they should have their eyeglasses fit and fabricated. “I have even had a few chain optical stores ask for my cards when those opticians cannot fit anything over a + or – 6D power lens or deal with complex compounded prism jobs.”

Advertisement

Hudson River Eye Care
White Plains, NY

It pays to have a graphic artist in the family — Dr. Larah Alami’s cousin came up with Hudson River’s wordmark and card design. “We have our cards displayed in dispensers, but don’t use them much outside the business,” she says. Doctors and opticians all have named cards, but not support staff. The practice prints up separate cards for discounts on suns with a CL purchase, but hands out a large number of business cards to people stopping in who need to call for appointments. “I don’t think it’s possible to operate without them,” Alami says. “It’s probably one of the first things we did when we opened.”

Goodrich Optical
Lansing, MI

Owner Dave Goodrich’s self-designed cards are mostly intended for use outside the store, including by staff. “I give them to people I meet, I use them for ID at other businesses. I’ve left them with a tip after good service at a restaurant.” When it comes to incentive write-ins, he tends to leave that for his “repair” cards, which allow folks to put money spent on a solder or repair toward new glasses. “I know we get five to 10-plus customers a year from a business or repair card,” he says. “I consider them a marketing tool rather than advertising since they are usually given to people asking about our services.”

Continue Reading

Benchmarks

We Asked ECPs Which Famous Names Bought Their Eyewear

And boy did they get to bragging….

mm

Published

on

FOOTBALL ICONS, RECLUSIVE troubadours, presidential candidates, Hollywood A-listers, and childhood heroes: We asked our readers to indulge in a little shameless bragging and tell us about some of the famous faces that have propped up their eyewear.

Rick Rickgauer, Vision Associates
Girard, PA

“The day Gene Hackman stopped in I happened to be off,” recalls Rick Rickgauer of the day the bona fide Hollywood legend strolled into a LensCrafters in Tuscon, AZ. (Rickgauer has since moved on to Vision Associates in Girard, PA.) “My lab manager called me to tell me Mr. Hackman was in the store. ‘If I drive all the way down there and you’re lying to me,’ I told him, ‘I’ll $#@* you over good.’ So, I hopped in my car and drove the 30 minutes to work. And there he was, all 6’4” of him in all his star quality. I’ve seen Gene Hackman in more movies than I can count. I don’t know what I expected of him, at the time, but he was the most mild-mannered person. Totally oblivious that he was a major motion picture star.” But it was baseball legend Ken Griffey Sr. that left Rickgauer nearly speechless. “I was a bumbling idiot. In the mid-’70s I was a huge Cincinnati Reds fan when they were known as the Big Red Machine, winning multiple World Series along the way. Ken G was a big cog in that machine. His son, Ken Griffey Jr. was all the rage. One of the best players ever to play the game. I proceeded to tell Ken G that, to me, he was the original Ken Griffey, not his famous son.” In retrospect, Rickgauer wonders if it would’ve been better if he had been speechless. “To this day, I still feel like an idiot for saying that.”

Nancy Revis, Uber Optics
Petaluma, CA

Nancy Revis, owner of Uber Optics in Petaluma, CA, had heard that singer/songwriter, actor, and one of her personal heroes, Tom Waits, a resident of neighboring Occidental, was often spotted in her town. “Why was he not coming into my shop?” she asked herself. “I have the cool eyewear and he has cool taste! Tom Waits always has cool eyewear on!”

Then about seven months ago, Revis and staff members Jess and Elizabeth were having what they thought was a regular workday. “Elizabeth was closing a sale at the computer desk and in walks a woman, a younger woman — her daughter — and Tom Waits! I instantly started sweating. It was actually happening — Tom Waits was walking into my store. Everything seemed to slow down and I started to sweat.” Revis managed to get a greeting out, and “Tom went right over to the sitting area and just chilled out. He was watching me help his wife and giving feedback. Nodding only. He looked so cool. Crazy huge grey curly hair. I offered him water but he declined. He sat there and grabbed a Rolling Stone. I mean… Tom Waits was sitting in my store and reading a Rolling Stone. Jess hadn’t seen that he was in the shop because she was checking in jobs. I walked to the back and all I said was… ‘Oh my God! Oh, my God! Oh, my God!’ and then walked back out. She came out and her facial expression said, ‘HOLY S**T!’ His wife loved cat eyes and so do I … so, I ended up selling her an Oliver Peoples that I wear… the Marienella in black.”

Advertisement

Musicians seem drawn to Uber. Revis recalls John McCrea, of the band Cake, as being “so super cool. I asked if he would model for me but he didn’t want to. But, I was so stoked that he bought glasses from me. He was hilarious and sweet.” And she has struck up something of a friendship with actor and pioneering punk rocker John Doe of the band X. “He became my customer the moment I opened because Pat with Moscot was his friend… he sent him a pair of glasses and I was the liaison. He let me take his photo wearing Moscot on a few occasions. Just recently he was in town performing with the Psychedelic Furs and swung in to say hi. He fell in love with a pair of sunglasses and modeled them for me. I told him to let me take his photo wearing the sunglasses that he loved… He sent me a pic of himself in NYC wearing the Moscot sunglasses.”

Other memorable Uber clients include Oscar-winning movie sound designer Chris Boyes, songwriter George Merrill and the actress Jane Levy (and her mom).

William Chancellor, Eye Can See Eyewear
McDonough, GA

As an Army veteran, William Chancellor says it was a personal pleasure to sit down and dispense to Herman Cain, the former presidential candidate from the Atlanta area, who has a history of offering praise and support for the military. (The experience took place at Chancellor’s previous office, DePoe Eye Center, which has several Georgia locations. He is now the practice manager and licensed optician for Eye Can See Eyewear in McDonough.) “Having the pleasure of meeting him in person was a wonderful experience. He was very humble and authentic. Who can’t appreciate his quote, ‘Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.’” Chancellor recalls dispensing Silhouette Eyewear to Cain. “I would listen to his syndicated talk show daily and supported him in his bid for the White House in 2012.”

Julie Uram, Optical Oasis
Jupiter, FL

Jupiter, FL, is home to a disproportionately high population of sports pros. Not surprising, then, that Julie Uram often looks up to find former football players stooping to squeeze through her doors. “Well, it seems as though I have many retired football players or coaches [coming in]: Joe Namath, Ron Wolf and Dan Henning. Funny story about Joe Namath, the other day a customer recognized him and asked if he would speak to his brother on the phone. Joe did and told him when he was in the area they should get together! Then the guy was all excited, and Joe said, ‘Oh, I was really just kidding…’ It was quite a funny moment.”

Advertisement

Tom Brillante, OD, Decatur Eye Care
Decatur, GA

The Atlanta area now rivals Southern California as a center of the U.S. film industry. So much so that these days you’re as well positioned in the Peach State as on Rodeo Drive for superhero sightings. Ask Dr. Tom Brillante of Decatur Eye Care in Decatur, GA — or at least ask his employees. He spotted Cress Williams of The CW’s Black Lightning. “I didn’t know who he was, but the rest of my staff did. Such a nice guy! For a superhero, I expected him to be a lot more arrogant. Maybe his other super power is humility.” Kevin Bacon and Billy Bob Thornton filmed a part of their indie film Jayne Mansfield’s Car right downstairs in the courtyard. Most recently — and most personally thrilling for unashamed retro-soft rock fan Brillante — was his brush with Peter Olson, one of the lead singers for “the greatest ’70s/’80s cover band of all time — Yacht Rock Revue. Definitely check them out, they tour the country throughout the year and I’ve probably seen them about 10 times now,” Brillante says.

Continue Reading

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Subscribe


BULLETINS

Get the most important news and business ideas for eyecare professionals every weekday from INVISION.

Instagram

This error message is only visible to WordPress admins

Error: API requests are being delayed for this account. New posts will not be retrieved.

There may be an issue with the Instagram Access Token that you are using. Your server might also be unable to connect to Instagram at this time.

Error: No posts found.

Make sure this account has posts available on instagram.com.

Error: admin-ajax.php test was not successful. Some features may not be available.

Please visit this page to troubleshoot.

Most Popular