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Tom Bowman: Open the door to new business

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Create and promote a practice Vision Benefit Plan and fill your appointment book, help other local firms

BY Tom Bowman

Published in the July/August 2014 issue

Many marketing ideas only bring in patients one at a time. This slow-drip approach isn’t especially effective, and it can be a drain on your budget.

But what if you could create a marketing tool that truly tapped into a huge underserved market — including families whose children have new vision care benefits — and filled your appointment books much more quickly, too?

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Small business owners and managers typically have two distinct challenges: hiring good employees, and keeping good employees. The best people also look for companies offering the best benefits. But extra benefits are expensive — and they often involve a lot of extra administrative headaches.

That’s where an in-house Vision Benefit Plan comes in. Offer one, and you can help fellow local small businesses while building your own market share.

The best Vision Benefit Plan would be one where there is no charge to the business to offer it to their employees. That alone should grab their attention!

There may be “fine print” in major vision plan agreements that say you give up the right to offer a custom vision benefit plan through your practice. However, most vision plan companies focus their attention on businesses that have over 400 employees, which means that there are a lot of local businesses that vision plan companies will never attempt to reach. They are yours to capture.

A small business with 25 employees could add that many or more new patients to the practice. Employees will typically utilize any benefits that their employers provide for them. Pitch your practice as a family vision care specialist. (The Affordable Care Act’s essential benefits for kids get them in your door; your vision care plan can keep the parents there, too.)

As you create your Vision Benefit Plan brochure, consider these points:

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  • Tailor savings so they help your patients but won’t hurt your bottom line like some existing vision benefit plans do. Consider giving a simple 25 percent savings on both goods and services.
  • There are no discounts on planned-replacement contact lenses “due to our already low prices” that rival those found online..
  • Have a local printer create a punch-out membership card on the brochure that each member gets..

Who will promote your program? It could be a staff member, or you might hire an outside source. A radio advertising salesperson could add your vision plan service as another option to what they currently sell since they are meeting with business decision-makers every day. Of course, you should promote it on your website and social media, too.

Consider paying outside marketers on a commission basis: something like $100 for each company that they sign up, but no commission is paid until the first employee from that company comes in for services. This will help ensure that the marketer meets with a decision maker who will tell each employee about the vision plan and its benefits. That’s good money for the promoter — and an incentive that they make sure the services get used.

The promoter should call the decision-maker of each company and briefly explain what the plan has to offer. Then they’d set an appointment to field questions and deliver promotional materials.

Participating companies would either hand the Vision Benefit Plan brochures to each employee or add them as payroll-stuffers in their next paycheck (and leave some extra brochures for new hires). A poster by the time clock, newsletter items and announcements at staff meetings are other ways to remind employees of their new vision benefits.

Your own Vision Benefit Plan helps local small businesses and brings new patients to you. It’s a win-win marketing method you can start today..

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It’s Time to Change the Way You Think About Failure

It’s nothing more than feedback to improve.

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WHEN THINKING ABOUT failure and what it means to fail, it often carries a negative connotation. We associate failure with loss and tend to get down on ourselves for it, especially in our careers and personal life. I’m here to tell you that not only is failure the greatest part of personal growth, but it’s a push to do and be better. Changing your perspective of failure from a negative to positive allows you to go through life, with its curve balls, at peace. Believing that failure is just feedback is an important key to life. Let me explain why.

In a growing field like the optical industry, fear of failure is the ultimate setback for ECPs. When speaking to colleagues about their next goal and what they want to achieve for themselves, I consistently hear something along the lines of, ‘’What can I do to be different… I’m not sure if I can compete with ___. I need to make sure it will work.” Uncertainty plays a big part as well; when you’re unsure of how things are going to play out you have doubt… which leads to fear of failure.

Humans struggle to get comfortable with the unknown. Whether your goal is to open a business, become active on social media, start an organization, design your own eyewear line – fear of failure should be your last thought. It’s just another way of holding you back from pursuing things with your full potential.

As I’ve advanced my career in opticianry, created a platform for myself as a public figure and as an independent eyewear influencer, I’ve run into fear of failure regularly. For those of you currently dealing with fear of failure, here are my top tips for combating it:

Turn failure into constructive criticism. You know that famous quote, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again?” Well, it’s true. Turn your failures into life giving you constructive criticism. It allows you to look at your mistakes in full, take notes on how/why it didn’t work out and then reevaluate it and try again.

Be kind to yourself. We are our worst critics. Being kind to yourself is key. When dealing with failure, try not to talk down to yourself. Don’t compare what you’ve done to others and give yourself daily affirmations to keep going. Remember: You are what you think, so always think highly of yourself.

Set attainable goals and never give up. Its OK to dream big, but it must go hand in hand with thinking logically. Try breaking down bigger dreams into smaller goals and celebrate each successful step taken.

Have a reliable support system. When you associate yourself with like-minded individuals, addressing failure with a supportive group of friends or colleagues can put it in perspective. Knowing you’re not alone and having people to offer their insight and opinions can help you to feel more confident when trying again. Also, it’s never a bad idea to bounce your ideas off of others and get different perspectives.

I can’t stress enough the importance of failure in life. The most successful people you can think of have experienced failure and made plenty of mistakes. Failure should never be a reason to give up, but the push you need to keep going and move forward. If everything has been easy for you, that means you’ve only done the bare minimum. Take more chances this year, think bigger, and take the steps necessary to make your dreams happen!

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Robert Bell

Celebrate Failure, Just like Deacon Blues

Because you can’t have success without failure.

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THEY GOT A NAME for the winners in the world.

I … I want a name when I lose

They call Alabama the Crimson Tide

Call me Deacon Blues”

— Deacon Blues by Steely Dan

I love that lyric. It’s clever. It expresses so much, so powerfully and concisely. “I want a name when I lose.” Brilliant.

Why do I think it’s brilliant? Because no one, to my knowledge, has ever captured that sentiment before on something as common as losing. It’s as though it’s a celebration of failure.

Hey, and why not?

In the movie, National Treasure, Nicolas Cage’s character, says “You know, Thomas Edison failed nearly 2,000 times to develop the carbonized cotton-thread filament for the incandescent light bulb … And when asked about it, he said “I didn’t fail; I found 2,000 ways how not to make a light bulb,” but he only needed one way to make it work.”

The point is that no one, can be successful at anything without failing first … or 2,000 times. Yes, there are instances of success on the first try but those often can’t be sustained.

Failure makes us stronger! Smarter! And, in most cases, more determined.

Want to know my first failure selling?

I was 21 and starting up a contact lens distributorship with a partner. He was going to run the business end of things and I was responsible for selling. After all, I was the son of an optical sales legend. But, to be honest, I’d never sold anything before. How hard could it be?

It took us about two weeks to set up the business. Every day during those two weeks, I’d pass this optometrist’s office thinking they’re going to be my first call and, hopefully, my first sale. Every day, as I passed by that office, I thought: “You’re mine. I’m gonna get you!”

Finally, the day arrived. It was time to make sales calls. This should have been the easiest call ever. All I had to do was walk in and say, “Hi, I’m a contact lens distributor. We have the lowest prices on brands you probably already buy. Here’s my price list. If you’d like to order, please give us a call.”

Doesn’t get simpler than that.

So, I walked into that OD’s office.

“Hi, may we help you?” the very nice receptionist said.

“Yes. I, uhhh … ummm …” I started to hyperventilate. I couldn’t catch my breath. I was so nervous, my system shut down and … well, I threw up on their waiting room floor. Bent over, I started crying from embarrassment. Thank goodness, the receptionist and doctor — who ran out at the commotion — were the nicest people. They helped calm me down and clean me up.

I drove home, went straight to my room, hit the bed in fetal position (probably sucked my thumb, too) and stayed there feeling like a complete loser. The ultimate failure. Call me Deacon Blues!

Fast forward to today. Here I am, a sales trainer and sales strategist who’s successfully trained thousands of salespeople and has been writing for INVISION Magazine for the past five years. Success borne of failure!

So, don’t get down on yourself when a customer says, “No.” Think, “Well, at least I didn’t throw up like Robert did.” But, also, think about how you might be better next time. What does a successful sale look like and how do you get there?

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Danielle Richardson

Stop Trying to Be Perfect

It’s just making us sick.

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PERFECTIONISM IS THE SISTER of failure, and she keeps many of us stuck and unhappy. Perfectionism takes different forms but is generally defined as a personality trait marked by a person’s striving for perfection, creating unreasonably high standards, and engaging in harsh self-critical analysis. This will sound familiar if you’re an overachieving personality type; perfectionism runs deep in many of us.

Thomas Curran Ph.D., a personality psychologist, and physiologist Andrew Hill published a study showing how perfectionism has increased over time. Their study of over 40,000 American, Canadian, and British college students between 1989 and 2016 showed an increase in levels of perfectionism, affecting males and females equally. They correlate this increase with Western society’s “emphasized competitive individualism” that began en masse in the 1980s.

A 2017 World Health Organization report also showed a record number of young people are suffering from serious depression or anxiety disorders. Curran and Hill postulate this rise is not related to a coddled, emotionally weak generation, but “may stem from the excessive standards that they hold for themselves and the harsh self-punishment they routinely engage in.” In short — perfectionism is making us sick.

The links between modern society and perfectionism are inextricable. Living in the digital age, where everyone and everything has become a “brand,” there is an immense amount of pressure to maintain a perfect appearance. As doctors, we are always striving to appear competent, knowledgeable, and like we have it all together. To overcome perfectionism, we have to be willing to release our rigid ideas of how things are “supposed” to be. We can still strive for excellence while extending ourselves grace to not be perfect. Below are two techniques to help you get started.

Make Peace With Failure

Failure is not a dirty 7-letter word, but rather an opportunity to learn and grow. Failure as a learning exercise is being taken seriously at Columbia University’s Teachers College where a center dedicated to studying failure’s educational purpose, the Education for Persistence and Innovation Center, was recently created. Failure is also a fundamental cornerstone of science, for there are many failed attempts for every successful experiment. This should encourage you to know that it’s OK to fail. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, so don’t be discouraged — get out and shoot!

Try Self-Compassion

Kristin Neff, Ph.D., one of the world’s leading experts on self-compassion, defines it as being kind and understanding instead of mercilessly judging and criticizing yourself for various inadequacies and/or personal failings. As a yoga teacher, this is a quality I and my students work to cultivate. It may seem counterintuitive, but treating yourself as you would treat a friend in need is a simple way to exercise self-compassion.
You don’t have to be perfect. Embrace the ups-and-downs and be kind to yourself. Your journey will be far more enjoyable!

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