Optical Retail Success 127
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.
When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.
Turning Opticianry on Its Head
Being a qualified optician—even a highly-qualified optician—is not enough; essential yes, but to be successful in optical, particularly beyond the next 5 years, as difficult as it may be to accept, the optician has to be much more.
If you’re a frequent reader of Optical Retail Success, you’ve probably heard that message more than a few times. I am going to attempt to expand upon the theme a bit more today. As you might guess, helping optical professionals become “more” is important to me and important to Laramy-K.
What exactly do I mean by “more?” We’ll get to in a minute.
It turns out, that just getting opticians to “qualified”—the necessary first step to becoming “more”—is itself an uphill battle. We seem to have a belief in the industry that ABO certification is somehow the gold standard in qualifying opticians. Granted, ABOC is often necessary and maybe even a (small) step in the right direction. But the ABO bar is too low both historically and unquestionably so, in the face of changes coming our way.
As such, while we do it with remarkable success, it may come as a surprise that our training program, OpticianWorks is not focused on preparing opticians to pass an ABO exam. The program is designed to help students learn the skills necessary to become really good opticians—only a tiny part of which is necessary to pass the exam. Beyond the optical curriculum, the program also encourages students to develop curiosity and gain the experience necessary to become great opticians. Finally, we aim to have students apply their curiosity and learning outside the profession to gain unique skills and knowledge which they can then apply to their careers (or business) to achieve their own version of optical retail success. See the Ultimate Guide To Becoming A RockStar Optician. https://opticianworks.com/ultimate-guide-successful-optician/
We do all this for some very important reasons, which we’ll also get to in a minute.
Sadly, however, one of the most frequent emails we get from OpticianWorks students reads something like this, “I love OpticianWorks and want to thank you so much for all that you do! I passed the ABO yesterday. Please cancel my membership.”
It’s clear we have work to do in getting the message across that the ABO is not the finish line. It’s barely the beginning.
We’ll keep trying.
So, you might ask, “why?” Why would a small, independent lab spend so much money, time, and effort on producing free videos every week, offering a complete training program to newbie opticians (it’s not for the $9.99/month, I can tell you that), and attempting to inspire the more seasoned among us to be “more.”
For starters (and admittedly selfish reasons), the opticians and docs that want to be “more” are precisely the kind of people we want as lab customers. We thrive on working with people who are the best at what they do—those always looking to learn, to become better, and to do more for their customers—because they inspire and push us to do the same. So, that’s obviously a message we’re trying to send.
Next, I am a firm believer that approaching anything in life with a growth mindset not only leads to greater satisfaction—passion, even—but also enables us to accomplish more than we ever thought possible. I’m sure we’ve all seen far too many people willing to get by doing the bare minimum or less. I’m also sure we can agree that if we could inspire more satisfaction and passion in the industry, we’d all be better for it.
Finally and most pressingly, we are approaching a time—sooner than many of us think—when we’ll start to see a significant fall in the demand for brick and mortar optical and along with it, the demand for opticians. Notice, I didn’t say “fall in the demand for brick and mortar optical retail.”, because those focused on retail and customer experience are those with the best chance to stick around. We see clear evidence of this with the number of successful online businesses investing heavily in brick and mortar retail experiences right now.
On the other hand, optical dispensaries insisting on sticking to the “patient” experience, complete with waiting rooms, appointments, sterile environments, scrubs, and dated magazines—well, that’s a different story. People love to shop. They love to have fun and interesting experiences. People do not love going to the doctor and they do not love being your “patient.” So, if it’s a straight-up choice between dealing with the later or ordering online, you can guess where my money is.
Last week, I told you about a technology, supported by Essilor, unveiled at CES, that enables people to measure their “eyeglass numbers” as often as they like from a smartphone, then purchase eyewear online without a prescription. The technology may not yet be perfect, but that’s not the point. The point is that, as much as the AOA thinks it can win its war on the future, this is what’s coming and along with it, a paradigm shift that we need to be ready for. When “patients” no longer need prescriptions, how can dispensaries possibly hope to sell “medical devices?”
You might be tempted to argue that there will still be people that require an optician’s expertise to achieve ideal or even decent vision, but my guess is that most opticals will not be sustainable on difficult prescriptions alone. What’s more, we will eventually get to the point where the technology will work for difficult prescriptions as well. There is no reason it can’t or won’t.
Now, back to the “more.” What is “more” and how does it save us from what lies ahead? Well, that is up to you. Because what lies ahead is largely uncharted territory. There is no roadmap, only a new direction. There will be those willing to learn new skills and blaze new trails and those that insist on maintaining the current course. There is no doubt that the act of charting your own course is fraught with danger and uncertainty, but it’s equally clear that the path to the status quo is far riskier.
So, while I can’t give you a roadmap. I can point in a direction. We need to learn to appeal to shoppers and experience seekers, to collectors, to freaks and statement makers. We need to come to grips with the fact that the B&M optical retail of the future (particularly independent optical retail) will not, cannot be for everyone. We need to seek to provide unique offerings around which we can build community and culture. The exciting thing—the scary thing—is that you get to decide exactly who your customers will be, who your tribe is, what unique offerings you will bring them, and how those offerings will be delivered.
To that end, becoming “more” happens when you combine your unique interests and abilities with the needs of your tribe and the need for opticians to become artists, marketers, community builders, tastemakers, customer experience designers, and storytellers.
That is a far cry from the ABO
...or a state license.
...or an opticianry degree.
Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
—The Great and Powerful Oz
The Wizard of Luxe
If it makes you feel any better, optical isn’t the only industry facing real challenges on the horizon. In an era of ever-increasing transparency, consumers are starting to ask, “Is luxury all smoke and mirrors?”
...except that luxury and optical retail are closely related, so this probably won’t make you feel any better.
“The biggest danger that the luxury business faces is irrelevance,” Mickey Alam Kahn, editor in chief of Luxury Daily, says. “There is no other way to sugarcoat this: the luxury business is facing an unprecedented identity crisis. What is its product? How relevant is it to the quality-seeking consumer’s wants, needs, and lifestyle? How much sunlight to let in before the brand mystique slips out the back door? Is the product really made where the label says it is? Do its values resonate with its target audience?”
Consumers are smarter, more informed, able to discern value and prize authenticity. When they look at luxury brands, too often what they find there is smoke and mirrors, not authentic luxury. The problem is not with the customers but with the brands that use these tricks of luxury branding and marketing rather than build authentic luxury into their products and brands from the ground up. Brands too often revert to using luxury as a veneer, not as substance.
Substance. It obviously lies in the authenticity of the brands you carry, but more importantly, it’s what being “more” is all about.
OpticianWorks Video Of The Week - Changes At OpticianWorks
A behind-the-scenes look at updates recently made to the OpticianWorks training program and exciting things coming in 2019. Could NCLE prep finally be on the way?
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!