Lab Advisor
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A MONTHLY BRIEFING FOR OPTICAL LABORATORY OWNERS AND MANAGERS

NOVEMBER 2009

Made possible by an unrestricted grant from Transitions

Dollars and Sense

Maintaining Customer Loyalty

The lab business is dedicated to serving the eye care professional. Labs provide products and services to these professionals who in-turn prescribe and dispense the products to their patients or customers. Labs often complain of competitors discounting, loose warranty policies, etc. aligning the loyalty of the ECP with whoever provides the best price. Pervasive price competition effectively reduces profits across the market and often pressures the ECP to buy from the lab offering the cheapest price.

Maintaining Customer LoyaltyThe ultimate consumer of the job the lab produces probably has no clue and likely cares not where the job is produced. They are motivated by having a quality product at a good value from someone they trust. Manufacturers are becoming more successful at influencing the ultimate consumer through brand advertising, but that advertising doesn’t influence the customer’s loyalty to the lab.

Labs already provide a lot of services to the ECP including continuing education, cooperative advertising, and staff training. These services promote loyalty between the ECP and the lab, but it doesn’t guarantee it.

Can a lab enhance the loyalty of the consumer to the doctor/optician that in-turn requires the ECP’s loyalty to the lab? One possibility is for the lab to offer consumers a loyalty card program in which coupons flow from the lab to the ECP to the ultimate consumer. Consumers would get a discount on their eyewear, and the ECP would get a credit from the lab in exchange for contact information sent to the lab. The lab would then send special incentives for the consumer or anyone the consumer passed the incentives on to through the ECP. The only way the consumer could get the special incentives is to ask their ECP to send their Rx work to the lab. Such a program would not eliminate price competition, but it could make the ECP think twice about where they send an Rx.

—Jason A. Meyer is senior vice president, HPC Puckett & Company. Based in San Diego, Calif., HPC Puckett & Company specializes in mergers and acquisitions of wholesale optical laboratories. You can send comments or questions about this article or any other Dollars & Sense articles to Jason Meyer at jam@hpcpuckett.com.

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Lab Notes

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OLA and Vision Council Explore Synergies

Optical Laboratories Association (OLA) and The Vision Council have announced they are exploring ways that the two associations can combine their efforts and activities for the benefit of their respective members, including combining the annual OLA meeting with International Vision Expo West. An open forum to discuss the collaboration between OLA and The Vision Council will be held during the December 4 General Session at The OLA 2009 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. with representatives from both organizations. For more details, click here.

Essilor Acquires Orion

Essilor of America has acquired Orion Progressive Lab, a Madison-Wisc. prescription laboratory with nearly $5 million in revenue. Orion’s key executives, Joe Graber and Richard Mancusi, will continue to be involved with the company, according to Essilor.

Expert OpticsExpert Optics Hosts 30th B-Day Bash

Expert Optics of Shorewood, Ill. hosted 300 eye care professionals and their guests on Sept. 27 to celebrate its 30th Anniversary. The celebration took place aboard the cruiser Ft. Dearborn as guests were treated to an architectural tour of Chicago’s skyline along the Chicago River. Clients from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin were then treated to dinner and cocktails at Lizzie McNeill’s Irish Pub. Expert Optics president Greg Ruden, pictured above, left, and his father, CEO Don Ruden, right, led the festivities.

Expert OpticsIcareLabs Adds Crizal In-House Processing Capabilities

Essilor of America recently completed the technology transfer of its patented Crizal process at St. Petersburg, Fla.-based IcareLabs. With access to Essilor’s Crizal EXT technology, IcareLabs can now fully manufacture Crizal lenses including Crizal, Crizal Alize and the new Crizal Avance lenses with Scotchgard Protector.

IcareLabs’ Danny Payne, project engineer (l), Scott Payne, CEO (c) and Skip Payne, president are seen above inspecting the new Crizal coating facility.

Vision Council Upgrades DCS Software Simulator

The Vision Council has released an upgraded version of its popular DCS Simulator software program. This software is designed to test laboratory machines for conformance with the widely-accepted Data Communication Standard (DCS). The DCS Simulator software helps equipment manufacturers prepare their machines prior to shipment for “plug and play” installation at delivery.

The simulator is available to member companies of The Vision Council at no charge and to non-members for a fee. For more information and to obtain a copy of the DCS Simulator, contact Jeff Endres, technical director, at jendres@thevisioncouncil.org or at (703) 740-2245.

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Focus On

April BondsApril Bonds @ Toledo Optical

Since 1947, Toledo Optical has remained a family-owned and operated lab providing fabricated, customized ophthalmic eyewear to eye care professionals in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Pennsylvania. April Bonds, a 14-year employee who is the surface room team leader, plays a critical role in the lab’s success.

Bonds establishes protocol for workflow, and ensures that systems are controlled, followed and efficiently producing the desired outcomes. Outside of the surface room, she works with other team leaders to troubleshoot processes as well as perform routine maintenance on lab equipment.

On a typical day, Bonds arrives at the laboratory around 6:00 a.m. After unlocking all the doors, she begins turning on internal systems such as the AR chamber. After small office tasks, Bonds begins daily machine calibration and begins the production process. The majority of her day consists of assisting in the production procedures, filling in areas that need help and completing difficult Rx jobs.

The company and its people are two of the priorities Bonds highlights when asked about her passion for the job. “We know that we are providing something important, and we work very well together as a team,” said Bonds. “Toledo Optical is a fun place to work for...the family atmosphere and how they really care about their employees keeps everyone happy and smiling.”


LabTalk Spotlight   November 2009

November LabTalkWeathering the Economic Storm
Economic downturns require extraordinary leadership. They require brutal honesty. They require action. If your lab is feeling the effects of the current recession (and who isn’t?), don’t despair.

First of all, remember that you’re not alone. And most importantly, find the courage and creativity to take proactive steps to improve business today—while poising it for growth when the economic climate improves.

What steps, you ask? We sought the advice of four different optical labs—each of which provided insights, tips and practical strategies on surviving the economic storm.

Our contributors were Brondstater Optical America, Inwood, W.Va.; Harbor Optical, Traverse City, Mich.; Interstate Optical, Mansfield, Ohio; and Precision San Diego, San Diego, Calif. Here’s what they had to say:

According to Susie Lesher, vice president of sales, business is definitely different today—with the lab processing fewer jobs. Fortunately, the lab remains confident in its client relationships—and optimistic about the future.

“We’re adapting by first realizing that our market will respond upward eventually—and I believe it will be sooner than most people think,” she said. “Thankfully, Brondstater Optical America takes a highly personalized and consultative role in working with our clients and that—together with our reputation of being highly performance-driven—has provided us with strong customer loyalty.”

To learn how today’s labs are surviving, even thriving, amidst an economic slump, log onto www.labtalkonline.com where you will find Weathering the Economic Storm, listed under the Features section.

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Make What You Say, Pay!

Out of Sight, Out of Mind, Out of Business

Make What you Say, Pay!

I had a professional wake-up call recently when I met with a client to discuss possible follow-up training to a negotiating seminar we had done for her team. She mentioned her need for presentation skills and when I said I could help her with that, she replied, “Oh, I am working with someone else for presentations training. I didn’t know you did that.” Didn't know? How could that be? I have written books on presenting, consulted on a zillion presentations across many industries, run hundreds of training and coaching sessions for people from groups of junior and seasoned reps to CEOs going out on road shows. And she didn’t know????

Well, shame on me. I reviewed all my materials from my business cards to my website and realized it was easy for her not to know the range of services I provide. I had obviously fallen down on marketing. So I changed everything, even my email signature, to explicitly describe the value I believe I bring to clients. Now, if someone doesn’t hire me, it won’t be because they didn’t know what I do.

Keeping clients aware of what you do is a real challenge. Eileen Sutton took this one step further and recently sent this email to her clients. I love it because it is brief, it is friendly, and it works.

Dear Anne,
Sometimes we don't let our inner circle know of our achievements. So far this year, I've positioned a private-equity firm, a $20B asset-management firm, a Latin American investment bank, and a cash-management firm representing 300 banks nationally.

If you're aware of a financial firm that's in the market for a clearer, more profitable identity, perhaps I can help. My new brochure is attached, and consultations are complimentary. Thanks so much for your time.

Happy to help in any way in return.
Let me know.
Very best,
Eileen

How are you reminding your clients and network about your current services?

Anne Miller
Make What You Say, Pay!
www.annemiller.com.

New Products

Briot Alta Pro

Briot Alta Pro

Manufacturer: Briot USA
Description:
High speed, flexible edger for retail and wholesale labs
Features:
New high-speed motor operates up to 43 percent faster. New edging wheel dedicated to high curvature lenses (Tilted Bevel System) allows operator to change bevel angle to match angle of frame groove, and to adjust the back facet up to 3mm. Water consumption reduced to about 1/3 the average per lens processed on other edgers, also making Alta Pro an environmentally friendly edging technology. Offers all the edging and drilling functions of Briot’s Alta NX edger including angled drilling, synchronized grooving, automatic beveling, front and back safety beveling, rimless and bevel polishing. Can be used in a VCA/OMA environment or linked with the Alta XS or XL tracer-blocker. Available with Briot or Weco block configurations.
(800) 292-7468
www.briot-usa.com

Ice 900

Ice 900

Manufacturer: Santinelli International
Description:
“Intelligent” CAD blocker for retail and wholesale labs
Features:
Integrated Shape Imager (ISI) photographs any demo lens, including those for rimless drill mounts, and identifies hole position. ISI function is supported by a “wizard tutorial” directly on blocker’s screen, featuring computer generated renditions of its operation. Advanced Shape Editor function edits shapes in completely customizable fashion. Data management feature allows for storing, searching, and recalling of traced data.

Compact unit lets operator send data to lab through an internet portal or, in a lab environment, directly to an LMS. All-new motorized lens blocking process takes only two seconds, increasing productivity. Unique Tilt Display allows the LCD operation screen to be viewed from 27 degrees to 60 degrees from vertical, making it ergonomically friendly whether sitting or standing. After setting up layout and clamping lens, display changes to blocking display automatically. “Aero-nautical” color-coded system virtually eliminates operator error. Layout and grinding conditions are easily entered by use of “quick jog” dials. Operator also has ability to enter these conditions using touch screen.
(800) 644-EDGE, ext. 349
www.santinelli.com

1.74 Transitions FSV

1.74 Transitions FSV

Manufacturer: Seiko Optical Products of America
Description:
Ultra high-index plastic photochromic lens
Features:
Made with the same new, improved 1.74-index monomer as Seiko’s 1.74 AR lens. Both lenses use Seiko’s patented MX aspheric design, which corrects primary lens aberrations and provides spherical fitting button in center of lens for instant accommodation. Uses Transitions VI technology in gray.
Availability:
Minus spheres from -3.00 to -10.00, in 0.25 diopter steps, out to a -2.00 cylinder.
(800) 235-5367
www.seikoeyewear.com

NuPolar Color Wheel

NuPolar Color Wheel

Manufacturer: Younger Optics
Description:
Polarized lens demonstrator
Features:
As a patient holds the Color Wheel up to their eye and looks through the polarized film, they will be able to see how glare is removed from their environment. Patient can rotate an inner wheel to switch between the five different NuPolar colors: Gray 1 (tintable), Gray 3, Brown, Copper, and Green-15. The benefits of each color choice are listed to help patients determine the NuPolar color that will work best for them.

The NuPolar Color Wheel is free-standing, designed to sit conveniently upon any optical shop dispensing table or frame board. It can work in conjunction with the NuPolar Glare Demonstrator already in use at many NuPolar dispensaries.
(800) 877-5367
www.youngeroptics.com

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Andrew Karp
Editor, Lab Advisor
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Christie Walker

Christie Walker
Editor, LabTalk
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