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Robert Bell

Where the Hell Was Robert Bell?

There’s a charitable organization in San Francisco doing amazing things.




IF YOU’VE BEEN READING my column for INVISION for the past two years, you may have noticed I haven’t written anything lately. It’s not that I didn’t want to, or that INVISION didn’t want me to but, I found myself in an unlikely position that demanded almost every waking moment of my life.

So, where was I?

For the past nine years, I’ve been involved with a charitable organization in San Francisco called Project Homeless Connect. I began by volunteering and quickly became emotionally overwhelmed with the need this community had for vision care and eyeglasses. The fact that I could contribute to making someone’s life better, well, I couldn’t walk away from that. 

After seven years, the program was growing like a wild weed. I approached PHC and told them that the more volunteer work I did, the more it created. I suggested they hire me as a consultant for a month or two… three, tops… just so I could get ahead of things.

No one anticipated what was coming.

To make a long story short, by investing my full-time attention to this program, it exploded exponentially. After three months, they asked me to stay on. I said I’d give them a year and then I’d have to go back to my consulting business, EyeCoach (non-profit work, though very rewarding, doesn’t pay that well).


The workload was insane. Instead of four events a year, the Vision Services program began having 30 events a year (the need is unbelievable!) Additionally, I started holding “Vision Hours” in PHC’s office, twice a week, to fill outside prescriptions. Just because I was paid for eight hours a day didn’t mean I limited my work to eight hours a day. Again, if you’ve ever read a column of mine, you know I tend to make up my own rules. A 14-16 hour day? Yeah, that sounds about right.

There simply wasn’t any time to do anything else, including a monthly column for INVISION.

But, I’m back now! Though, I will always volunteer with PHC.

However, this is a sales column, so let me share an EyeCoach moment of “control” with you, that I developed during Vision Hours at PHC. It’s something that sets respectful boundaries or ground rules that you may find useful in your daily work life. I know it was a huge time saver for me!

“So, the way this works is that I’m going to start putting frames on you as a starting point and reference for me. If I don’t like them on you,” I’d say with tongue in cheek and a wink, “you don’t get to look in the mirror.” I’d then wait for the smile, chuckle or laugh. “But if I do like them, you get to look in the mirror and I promise you, you will not leave here today without something you absolutely love. Fair enough?”

You cannot imagine how effective it is to take control like this, right upfront. You should always set your ground rules, from the start, with your customers: This is the way I work or this is the way it works here.


Your customers want to deal with an expert. Taking command at the start in this way shows them your confidence and that you know what you’re doing.

It’s so nice to be back. See ya next month!

Amongst the other things Robert Bell does in the eye care industry, he helps to oversee the Vision Services Program for California CareForce and inspires others to volunteer in their own communities throughout the United States. You may contact him at [email protected] or send him a message on The Vision Volunteers page on Facebook.


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