Formerly Optician Success but still the same tasty, weekly nuggets of random goodness; tips, stories, and science hand-picked to help you find the most success in your optical retail business/career.
Adapt yourself to the life you have been given, and truly love the people with whom destiny has surrounded you.
― Marcus Aurelius
Opticians Will Always Be Third - Part 2
Are opticians doomed to remain at the bottom of the totem pole of the three O’s or is their fate even worse?
Opticianry is at a crossroads and very few are awake enough to realize it. As I mentioned previously, even amongst the downward pricing pressures, vision plans, and online sales, there is still opportunity in optical retail. But, taking advantage requires a huge shift in the way we think about opticians and about optical retail. The consequences of not making that shift, however, will almost certainly result in a fate worse than being at the bottom of the O’s.
It’s been suggested (by opticians) that we need a new “super optician.” I’m sure we can agree moving forward, to maintain any real success in optical retail, opticians have to be more than they are now.
The knee-jerk reaction (again, among opticians) is, “Yes! Opticians need more education, more requirements, more professionalism, more certification, more licensing, more medical training…”, blah, blah, blah.
But, here’s the truth. Opticians are not at the bottom because they lack certification or college degrees or National standards for licensing. Remember, optical retail makes up more than half of the revenue in the industry. Opticians are at the bottom by choice.
The ABO-NCLE—oh so, sadly—made the case crystal clear with its new video, “Please Doctor Sir, May I Have Some More?” Honestly, I don’t know whether this video is more insulting to opticians or doctors. They did an amazing job at both.
Look, I understand that today we need a doctor’s Rx to sell a pair of glasses and more often than not, doctors are the ones hiring opticians, not the other way around. But, make no mistake there will be a very different dynamic 5-10 years from now. Opticians will either be a driving force in optical retail or will be far less than they are today (in numbers, skill, and stature).
For now, all the groveling, scrub-wearing, and fancy doctor-word using in the world will not move opticians up that totem pole, garner any more respect, make a practice more profitable, or change the fact that most docs only want someone that can fill the Rx on the way out the door, as cheaply as possible.
In fact, the only thing that going all-in on the “medical professional” bit does for the optician (that includes calling customers “patients”), is firmly plant the profession at the bottom of the totem pole where the market will ultimately bury it.
Remember - OMD: 11-12 yrs of school, OD: 8 yrs of school, optician: 0-2 yrs of school
In this hierarchy, the optician has a very clear ceiling. No amount of optician schooling will change that. There is no there there.
As a point of emphasis: A patient can fill his own Rx online. How can a doctor justify paying any more than she does currently for someone to do it in-house? (I’m sorry, but the arguments from ABO-NCLE video are less than convincing.)
But, there’s another way.
To change the optician's fate and give brick and mortar optical retail a future we have to get opticians off the pole.
...I’m talking about the totem pole of O’s!
I’ve mentioned many times before that we still have the luxury of being one of the last industries to be completely turned on its head by the Internet. That won’t be the case for much longer. For now. we can look around and see the effect the internet is having on other industries, particularly anything having to do with retail.
The most obvious trend is this: The middle is disappearing.
Meaning, that if you are beige, if you are still trying to cater to everyone, you don’t matter. Nobody cares.
The only markets that remain with any stability are the very high, the very low, and the very niche.
Because, if you are beige, why would I waste my time, energy, and money on you? If you don’t specialize in something I care about (namely me and my quirks) and provide something I can’t get anywhere else, I’ll just go online and be done with it.
The sad thing is that the majority of opticals/opticians out there are not just beige. They’re an aged, grime-layered shade of beige that repulses you when you see it because you know it’s not just there out of neglect. It’s maintained and protected with a sense of self-righteousness. It’s presented to patients with the attitude that they shouldn’t want or need anything else and indignation when they dare question its value or relevance in a world that is quickly passing it by.
I’ll try not to belabor the point, but “medical”—as we know it—is beige. It’s very necessary, yes. But people do not go out of their way to shop for medical. In fact, they go out of their way to avoid it. They don’t enjoy medical on a Saturday afternoon. Medical is at best a necessary evil.
Even though our system was designed to take away choice, to sell product only through the pathway established by that necessary evil (all for the patient’s own good, of course), customers now have options. Consequently, medical/legal requirements and patient shaming are no longer a path to optical retail success and certainly not a means to revive an industry or ensure its survival.
With bigger internet players and more technology on the horizon, those choices will only become more convenient and more plentiful. If there is any hope for opticians and brick and mortar optical, the optical retail experience needs to become the reason people buy glasses. It needs to be the attraction, instead of some legal requirement for a current prescription.
People must want to buy glasses the same way they want to buy shoes or handbags or watches. In case you were thinking it, put to sleep the notion right now of throwing up price comparisons to those objects and numbers of lattes, because your sign doesn’t stand a chance against years of selling the market on the idea that eyewear is a medical device (aka an entitlement) not an object of desire.
Just a side note here: If opticians have a true interest or passion for the medical side of things and want to make that part of their expertise, I am by no means discouraging anyone from doing that. More education is never a bad thing, especially if you can use it to help people. I just want to emphasize that medical will continue to become less and less of a driver for optical retail and if medical is the primary focus of your retail brand, it will mean less business.
Enter the Rockstar Optician
- Rock stars are anything but beige.
- Rock stars don’t have to go to school to become professional rock stars.
- Rock stars never stop learning, growing, and evolving.
- Rock stars work tirelessly to perfect their craft.
- Rock stars ultimately care most about one thing: The fans.
A focus on the fans, not the optician is the way to success and will become essential for survival in optical retail as the internet eventually takes hold and does its thing. I’ll have more next week on what it takes to be Rockstar Optician and how to identify, find, attract, and nurture your fans. For now, I want opticians to consider two things
Embrace the value of your craft. You don’t need medical jargon and associated paraphernalia for validation. In fact, it’s bringing you down and if your livelihood depends upon eyewear sales, it will eventually bury you.
Having the power to change someone’s life for the better through your ability to help them see, to help them look good and feel better about themselves, and to wrap it all up in an experience they won’t soon forget are all opportunities you shouldn’t dismiss lightly. Because they happen to be the key to achieving far greater success and personal satisfaction.
Focus on becoming the best optician you can be, whatever that means to you. We ultimately want customers to engage in the optical retail experience not because they have to, but because they can’t wait to. That’s what fans do.
I hope this is a foregone conclusion by now, but stop looking for someone else to fix opticianry. Regardless of how many people think the answers lie in colleges, the ABO-NCLE, State governments, the OAA, or a crack team of elite opticians, none of them will—or can—fix it. Stop chasing rainbows and look in the mirror.
The only person that can fix it is you.
We don’t need someone else’s vision of a super optician, we need your vision of a RockStar Optician.
Change Your Mind?
I assume since you are reading Optical Retail Success, you have a growth mindset. Of course, I could be wrong. When we're trying to figure out where to go (i.e. grow) next, we may all be more fixed in our thinking than we’d like to believe.
Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset: How Your Beliefs Sabotage Your Behavior
This Is Your Brain On Pain
The truth is that “pain” is anything but evil; you benefit from being challenged. Treat your brain like a muscle. Constant exercise will strengthen your cognitive capacity, not a pill.
A painful learning experience will make you smarter.
“Being a student is easy. Learning requires actual work.”
— William Crawford
A New Podcast
Daniel Feldman over at The Optical Vision Site has a new podcast. It looks to be off to a good start and I’m sure it will only get better. You should definitely check it out.
OpticianWorks Video Of The Week: 5 Quick Tips For Finishing Lab Beginners
Through the OpticianWorks free video lessons, Laramy-K Optical is making every effort to provide better and more accessible education for opticians everywhere, but we’re only able to do it with your support.
You can help keep it going in two ways:
Become a paid member of OpticianWorks.com for access to the best in online optician training (The videos are only a small portion).
Or, even better, open a Laramy-K Optical lab account for the very best in independent uncut work and we'll throw in the OpticianWorks memberships for free! Your customers and your staff will thank you!
I hope you enjoyed this edition of Optical Retail Success.
Here’s to your success in this year and beyond.
Thanks for reading and sharing!