Habits of Successful Strategic Thinkers
One thing that has not changed through the years of owning and operating an optical lab is this: While you are the boss, you still spend too much time on the day-to-day operations of your lab. When, then, do you have time to become the strategic leader your lab and your customers need and expect of you?
Turn the clock back. When you first started your lab, there was just you and your partners. You did every job. You sold, took telephone orders, did lab set up and fabrication, maintained the equipment, emptied the trash and phoned in for pizza while you worked into the evening. Now you have a more mature and successful business, with employees to do the daily work. Have you truly made the transition from a "daily doer" to "being strategic"?
If you find yourself resisting "being strategic" because it sounds like a corporate job or responsibility, you're not alone. Every lab owner and manager that I have known and spoken to over the past three decades has said repeatedly that their job is to deal with what's directly in front of them on a day-to-day basis, because it always seems more urgent and concrete. The reality is if you do the day-to-day work without being strategic, you put your lab at risk. While you concentrate on firefighting, you most assuredly will miss myriad opportunities, not to mention missing possible enterprise risks and emerging shortcomings of the business.
One reason the job of being a strategic leader is so tough is that not everyone really understands what it entails. Let's be honest: It is hard to be a strategic leader if you don't know what strategic leaders are supposed to do.
Hedley Lawson, Contributing Editor
Managing Partner | Aligned Growth Partners, LLC
firstname.lastname@example.org | www.alignedgrowth.com | 707-217-0970
First in a two-part series.
Essilor Acquires Optic Blue
Essilor International has acquired a majority stake in Optic Blue, a prescription laboratory based in Lubbock, Texas with annual revenue of around $3.5 million. Optic Blue was founded in 2006 by Jason Blue, who remains president of the company under the partnership arrangement with Essilor. Vision Monday ranked it 25th among U.S. independent labs in its 2011 Top Labs Report. Optic Blue's key markets are Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma.
Soltis Keynotes Optical Synergies Meeting
The Optical Synergies/Premier Vision buying group hosted its annual conference at The Grand Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Destin, Fla. from February 16 to 18. The event, which featured educational presentations, workshops, vendor exhibits and presentations, drew 100 attendees.
This year keynote speaker Rene Soltis, senior director of meetings and education for the Vision Council, spoke about "How to Motivate People in a Production Environment". She also conducted a leadership workshop focusing on "Key Leadership Tactics as Well as Assessments of Key Leadership Styles". Chris Landers, manager of the Optical Synergies/Premier Vision buying group, commented, "We were so pleased with Rene's participation this year and our members as well as vendors walked away with tools to better manage their businesses."
Headquartered in Monmouth, Ill., Optical Synergies consists of 80 member laboratories. Premier Vision includes 40 independent integrated retailers.
Adam Cherry Acquires Majority Stake in
Cherry Optical, a leading independent optical laboratory based in Green Bay, Wisc., has announced that Adam Cherry has acquired a majority stake in the ownership of the company. Cherry Optical was founded by Joe and Lynn Cherry in 1999. Their son, Adam, has worked for Cherry Optical since its inception.
"Obviously, I am impressed with the talent and growth Adam has brought to Cherry Optical for the past 13 years," said Joe Cherry." Adam has led our growth in digital manufacturing and Mei milling technology and will continue with our recent expansion into AR manufacturing. Being able to continue what Lynn and I started into the next generation makes us proud and ensures our customers have an independent laboratory option for many years to come."
Cherry Optical has 38 employees and services customers in Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin and across the country. Vision Monday has listed Cherry Optical among the Top 25 independent labs, and the lab was twice recognized by Inc 500 magazine as one the fastest privately owned businesses in the U.S. Cherry Optical's annual "What's New University," held at Lambeau Field in the largest single-day optical industry event in the nation.
Dan Sadovsky of K-Mars Optical
By Judith Lee
To compete more effectively in the optical business, you might say Dan Sadovsky developed the ultimate in customer service.
He created for his customers a whole new way of providing eyewear. K-Mars hosts an online frame and lens store with start-to-finish capabilities.
Eye care practitioners may order frames and lenses directly from the K-Mars website and dispense the fabricated eyewear to the patient. For patients who prefer online shopping or have requested their Rx, the ECP may also refer the patient to the ECP's "own" online EyeStore – hosted and operated by K-Mars.
Launched back in 2006, the online store has taken Sadovsky's lab business from 50 pairs a day to 450. But he says his purpose was and is to help his customers survive in the global eyewear market.
"The original concept was simple – to bring the price advantage of stock finished lenses to everyone," explained Sadovsky, who was an early adopter of value priced, digital progressives.
He noted the rising tide of internet sales, and decided to take a proactive approach to online dispensing.
"You can sit back and watch the business slip away, or you can change to succeed," Sadovsky said.
For his business, it meant an enormous investment in software, and that is an ongoing expense. He simplified operations to improve efficiency and cut costs.
"We are operating on a very thin profit margin. This is a reality for the entire market. The day of the 'super-profits' is gone," he observed.
As his lab business has grown, he has added staff, but conservatively. He also makes sure everyone is working smarter.
Back in 2006, he says some ECPs and labs "looked down their noses" at his concept, but unrelenting downward pressure on prices has changed all that.
"The Internet has opened up opportunity – and not just to 'cheap' merchants. It facilitates business for everyone, including eye care practices. If shopping online is an alternative that patients are looking at, let them have it. After all, this expands one's clientele and generates additional income from those online shoppers," Sadovsky said.
The ECP can continue to provide quality frames and lenses through a reputable service like K-Mars. Sadovsky said his lab stands ready with a turnkey system for any ECP who wants to offer an online eyewear option: "You can either do this, or let the Chinese steal all your customers."
Six Ideas to Distinguish Your Business
By Michael Karlsrud
Over the years the face of eyeglass distribution has changed from being a local business based on relationships and speed, to one of globalization and price. And it wasn't that long ago that the three cornerstones of competition were price, quality and service. You could usually get two out of three, but seldom would you ever get all three in the same product. Today, those three cornerstones are no longer differentiators for companies, rather expectations by your customers to be in the game. So how do you remain relevant in a world that is very global, highly commoditized, and demands price, quality and service with every job?
First, stop being a vendor and become a strategic supplier with your clients. Notice I didn't use the word "customer." Vendors have customers. Strategic suppliers have clients. It's a big deal because it's an attitude of how you and your employees see themselves in the marketplace. Strategic suppliers and their relationships with clients are like holding a mirror in your hand. What you see is mere reflections of what you have to offer and the value you bring to them as a supplier. Are you innovating, challenging the status quo or bringing new ideas to current business situations? Or, are you doing what you have always done while your competition reinvents itself with new technology and solutions? If you have a vendor mentality, it's all about getting jobs out the door. If you are a strategic supplier, you will be meeting on a quarterly basis to review your client's business plans to see what products or services you can provide to decrease pain points, or increase desired outcomes.
Learn more tips about moving your lab by checking out the entire article at http://www.labtalkonline.com/ under the FEATURES section.
Mike Karlsrud is CEO of 6 Calls, a sales and marketing company.