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Tip Sheet: Take Consistent, Small Steps To Finish That Big Project

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Divide Job

Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs. Henry Ford said that 100-odd years ago and it remains true today, whether you apply it to a big project at work or self-improvement. The Japanese call this Kaizen, or change for the better. Spring is the perfect time to try this concept — so for the next month, commit to devoting just 15 minutes a day toward small steps on a big project. Divide, conquer and watch your business bloom.

This article originally appeared in the April 2016 edition of INVISION.


MAKE IT A GAME

The most successful salespveople have a knack for remembering people. As a consultant for a major brewing company, author and consultant Marcus Buckingham devised a program to test a critical skill for a good bartender: remembering customers, by face and by their favorite drinks. Bartenders who could remember a total of 100 different customers and their favorite drinks were named members of “The 100 Club,” with a cash prize and a special button to wear on their uniform. There were additional levels, rising up to the world-class “500 Club.” But Buckingham underestimated — eventually, an English bartender surprised everybody by becoming the first member of “The 3,000 Club.” Could you come up with a similar program for your business?


TALENT SCOUT

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Do you think of your staff as “payroll,” “employees,” “human resources” or “talent”? Author Seth Godin thinks you should view them as “talent,” arguing that such an understanding holds the key to success in today’s skills-based business environment. “What if you started acting like the Vice President of Talent? Understand that talent is hard to find and not obvious to manage,” Godin writes on his blog. “Talent is too smart to stay long at a company that wants it to be a cog in a machine. Great companies want and need talent, but they have to work for it.”


EVERY MESSAGE IS A BRANDING MESSAGE

“Oh, it’s just a ‘help wanted’ ad. The only people who are going see it are people looking for jobs.” Wrong way to think. You need to view every type of business activity as a chance to engage people and seed your story. That means doing things like adding your company slogan and Web address everywhere and making the extra effort to ensure that your company logo appears correctly. You might even spend a few extra dollars for the featured ad option. Make sure that every place your brand can be seen, no matter how small, sends a message of quality.


FIND THE RIGHT COMBINATION

You’re always looking for a way to incentivize a purchase of an annual contact lens supply. Annual supplies make things easier on you and your clients. For example, the Clinic For Vision in Albertville, Alberta, Canada, offers a $25 discount on sunglasses with any annual contact lens supply.

BECOME A MEETING MISER

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Meetings are an invaluable part of any successful business, but they can also be tremendous time-wasters. And since time is money, well, you get the point. To get an idea of how much a one-hour meeting costs your business, use the meeting cost calculator at Meeting King (invmag.us/meetfast). Multiply that number by the number of meetings you hold weekly, monthly or annually, and you’ll see quite a large number. Don’t get us wrong — meetings are absolutely essential. But they’re also filled with wasted time and effort. Having a firm grasp of what each meeting costs should inspire you to trim the fat.


HAVE A SIT-DOWN

From Seth Godin’s The Big Moo, take a cue from entrepreneurial hotelier Chip Conley of Joie de Vivre properties. Make it a habit to sit down with your new hires after about three months. But don’t give them a performance review — ask them to give your operation a performance review. After three months, they’ll have been on the job long enough to know how things work, but their eyes are still fresh enough that they’ll be able to see things you’re missing. Odds are good that they’ll have a few great ideas to contribute, Godin says.

 

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What the Law Says About Retailers Who Say They’re Selling at ‘Wholesale’ Prices and More Questions for March

Unless it’s true, it might be a criminal offense in your state.

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How can I improve the open rates on my email marketing bulletins?

A few years ago, MailChimp.com did a survey of some 40 million promotional emails and found that those with the highest open rates (from 67 to an amazing 80 percent) were the ones that were — surprise, surprise — the least promotional. Typically, they had subject lines that told the recipient what was inside (they didn’t confuse e-bulletins with promotions or vice versa), they used the company’s name in the subject line, and had straightforward subject lines — they weren’t too “salesy” or pushy (this also helps you avoid spam trigger words). Most email providers will allow you to write subject lines of up to 60 characters but you should try to keep it short and to the point, between 30 and 40 characters and no more than five to eight words.

Teen Sees Color for the First Time — Watch Her Reaction
Videos

Teen Sees Color for the First Time — Watch Her Reaction

Video Shows Just How Fabulous Eyeglasses Were in the ’50s — Take a Look
Videos

Video Shows Just How Fabulous Eyeglasses Were in the ’50s — Take a Look

He Recorded a Song with His Optometry Equipment — and Absolutely Killed It
Videos

He Recorded a Song with His Optometry Equipment — and Absolutely Killed It

Constant Contact, another service provider, recommends you state a clear benefit to opening the email. Email messages that have an “exclusive” offer in the subject line, such as “Private event” or “For select customers only,” can generate an additional 24 percent open rate, according to its studies. Of course, you don’t want to be too dry. Your content should be as friendly as possible. Open with the recipient’s name, use a tone that reflects your personality and end with your signature line. Most important, give them something they want. If they’ve opted in and you are responding to their interests, you too might be able to get super-high open rates.

One of the questions I always get, and hate, is “Do you have to charge sales tax?” How should I answer this?

Here’s a simple way to defuse this sneaky discount ploy. Look at the customer directly, smile, and say, “Actually, I don’t charge sales tax. I collect it.” They’ll get the point. And while everybody wants the best deal possible, they’ll probably trust you more for it. Because if you’d cheat on your taxes, why should a customer or patient trust you to take care of their vision?

My store seems like a reality TV show: unnecessary drama. Addressing it only seems to add fuel to the fire. Is there a way to bring it under control?

You’re not alone. After profitability concerns, this is the No. 1 headache of business owners, says business coach Lauren Owen. Drama and discord create stress and hurt productivity. There is no quick fix but there are a number of things you can do, starting with regular meetings. “Scheduled, well-run meetings are essential to clear communication and team building and addressing potential conflicts,” says Owen, adding that such meetings are conspicuously absent at stores with drama issues.

Other steps include confronting your drama queens, addressing your underperformers (there is often a hidden cost in the resentment they cause), performing a cost-benefit analysis on your high performance/maintenance employees (sometimes they just suck all the energy out of a store), and finally taking a good look at yourself. “Some people actually like drama, despite what they say,” Owen says. “If you were really honest with yourself you might understand that the drama is satisfying some need of yours. Attention? Power? Control? Do you avoid all conflict, even healthy conflict, at all costs?” And are you giving your staff a clear sense of purpose — that eyewear is about something much bigger than business?

My practice has never grown the way I had hoped … or hired for. To keep going, I feel we need to downsize. How can I do it without destroying staff morale?

Layoffs are tough. You can’t have high productivity without good morale, and you can’t have good morale unless people have confidence that the company has a future and that the business is going to treat them fairly if things get worse. Employees need to know that you respect and value their contributions and don’t just view them as a resource.

Sometimes, however, you have no choice but to order layoffs. In that case, remember three rules.

1. Do them all at once. Dragging things out will destroy morale.
2. It’s better to cut too much than to cut too little.
3. Make sure all remaining employees understand that what you’re doing is saving their jobs.

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Tip Sheet

Earn Some Low-Tech Loyalty and More Tips for March

Like an inexpensive way to tell your customers about what’s new.

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merchandisingSign Language

When you go to a trade show, your vendors immediately tell you what’s new, right? Of course they do. You can do the same. Merchandising consultant Larry B. Johnson says the best way to draw interest from regular customers is to put a whiteboard on an easel (total cost: $79) just inside your door with all of your new products written on it.

Teen Sees Color for the First Time — Watch Her Reaction
Videos

Teen Sees Color for the First Time — Watch Her Reaction

Video Shows Just How Fabulous Eyeglasses Were in the ’50s — Take a Look
Videos

Video Shows Just How Fabulous Eyeglasses Were in the ’50s — Take a Look

He Recorded a Song with His Optometry Equipment — and Absolutely Killed It
Videos

He Recorded a Song with His Optometry Equipment — and Absolutely Killed It

planningBuy-In Gets Results

The staff at Midwest Eye in Downers Grove, IL, were intimately involved in planning its renovation. The result was an office full of individual character, that is functionally attuned to staff needs, and, according to practice manager Pam Peters “a space we all love to work in.” Natalie Taylor, one of our 2018 America’s Finest judges, concurs: “The office’s flow is great — a separate desk for check-in and check-out, wall-mounted TV, and optical kiosks all show the collaboration of staff in designing the space.”

managementDon’t Beat Around the Bush

When you’re delivering good and bad news to employees, always give the bad news first, says Daniel Pink, bestselling author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. He acknowledges this often feels counterintuitive, as many hope to cushion the bad stuff to come. “But that is wrong,” he recently told The Washington Post. “The research tells us this very, very clearly. If you ask people what they prefer, four out of five prefer getting bad news first. Given the choice, human beings prefer endings that elevate.”

techGo Gray

Worried your relationship with your phone is less than healthy? Switch your display from color to grayscale, recommends Catherine Price in her book How to Break Up With Your Phone. (This is so threatening to phone makers’ addiction business model, it’s hidden five levels deep on the iPhone: Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Color Filters.)

managementOn a Roll? Take a Break

According to a Columbia University study, the key to taking effective breaks is to stop even when you don’t feel like it. “Participants who didn’t step away from a task at regular intervals were more likely to write ‘new’ ideas that were very similar to the last one,” the authors explained in Harvard Business Review. So, “if you’re hesitant to break away because you feel that you’re on a roll, be mindful that it might be a false impression.”

marketingLow-Tech Loyalty

Consumers spend more at retailers with loyalty programs. But if creating one seems like a chore, borrow New Jersey pet store Maxwell & Molly’s Closet’s idea: Spend $200 and earn 5 percent off on all purchases for life. Keep it simple.

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Tip Sheet

Stop Expecting So Much and More Tips for February

But always bring donuts if you’re running late.

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staffMore Donuts

Want to add some fun to your store? Take a tip from Sherrie’s Jewelry Box in Tigard, OR, where “you’re never late to work if you bring donuts,” owner Sherrie Devaney told INVISION’s sister publication INSTORE magazine.

TRADE SHOWSGood Expo Days

Headed to Vision Expo East? Follow the advice of marketing consultant Andrea Hill and take along a collapsible instant hot water carafe “because coffee is the beginning of a good day” and those Starbuck’s lines can get brutal.

hiringValue Added

Anand Sanwal, the CEO and co-founder of fast-growing tech company CB Insights, has an interesting take on the best question to ask a job candidate — “Tell me how you prepared for this interview.” Not only does the reply likely reveal a lot about how the person’s commitment to the position — do they care? — but it hints at their work ethic and analytical capabilities, he says. In the case of good candidates who have done their homework, they may even have fresh ideas about the way the company functions. “All of a sudden it goes from an interview to a conversation and that is a really encouraging sign if someone is adding value at that stage,” he told The Twenty Minute VC podcast.

psychologyKeep It Real

The problem with high expectations is they often result in future disappointment. Meanwhile, low ones tend to make you glum since there’s not much to look forward to. The answer? Stop expecting, says Jason Fried, who has written several books on work. “I used to set up expectations in my head all day long. But constantly measuring reality against an imagined reality is taxing and tiring.” Expectations also keep you mentally living in the future and deflated when events don’t measure up — even if what happens is pretty good. So, in 2019, don’t expect so much.

planningUse Will-Do Lists

When making your daily to-do list, don’t pick 20 things you hope to do that you think add up to one day’s work: you’ll overestimate your capacities. Instead, pick the three or four most important things, and really commit to doing them, even if you think they’ll take you only a couple of hours, suggests Luciano Passuello at litemind.com.

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merchandisingProtect Your View

Yes, the job market is tight and you may be short staffed, but hang those Help Wanted flyers on a local bulletin board or near your counter, not as some retailers do, in your front window. “Your front window is your customers’ first impression of your store,” says merchandising expert Tom Crossman. “Don’t make it a messy one.”

TIME OFFShort and Sweet

There seems to be a belief that a “proper” vacation requires at least a week. But as psychologist Thomas Gilovich told the Boston Globe, “If you have to sacrifice how long your vacation is versus how intense it is, you want shorter and more intense.” That’s because we remember and judge our experiences not in their entirety but according to how they felt at their emotional peak, and at the end. Yes, time feels scarce in the modern world. But you have no excuse for not having a memorable holiday this year. Start planning now!

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