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The Vision Council


Dollars & Sense
The Vision Council

Do You Know Your Customers?

We have about 700-800 labs across the United States competing for the same 30,000 doctor doors.  The industry has grown at best one percent year-over-year for the last five years.  We continue to launch new products one right after another. We saturate the market with choices and options that force our customers to shut down when asked to make a decision.  This is the perfect time to ask one simple question; do you know more about your customers than they know about you?

Do you know what keeps them up at night?  What threatens their livelihood? Do you know what they need?  What they want?

I am coming to believe we live in a world driven by data yet few access it, process it or make decisions based upon what it tells us.  There are four pieces of data that can make a huge impact on your business.  Once you gather it and put it all together you will create a picture of your customers so that you can accurately react to it.  The four data points are; overall market, social, sales and service data. 

Marketing data will give you clues to where the industry is heading, like a map that gives you clues on what is going to happen next.  Social media data allows you to hear what customers are saying in the present; what’s on their minds today.  Sales data drives an understanding about the solutions or products your customers are choosing to address their challenges. Finally, service data tells you what your customers are struggling with in their practices and might tell you where you can provide the greatest value to them immediately. By combining the information from all of these diverse data sources, you will have a better chance at answering the four questions posed above and improving your business to better serve your customers.

Good selling!

Michael Karlsrud is the owner and CEO of k-Calls, a tele-services company that serves the optical industry with its two divisions; Telecare and Business-to-Business.  www.karlsrudcompany.comor


The Vision Council

Lab Notes

Labapalooza Rocks at the Rockhouse

Labapalooza, the lab industry’s most anticipated party of the year, will be on Thursday, September 18th, from 6:00– 8:00 p.m., at The Rockhouse at the Venetian.  This annual celebration pays tribute to wholesale laboratories with a line-up of festivities, including the much anticipated VisionMonday’s Top Labs and LabTalk’s Optical Website of the Year Awards. Presented by VisionMonday, LabTalk and the Optical Lab Division of The Vision Council. This event is by invitation only.  Optical lab owners and managers can contact LabTalk editor, Christie Walker via email to receive an invitation: [email protected]

Registration is Open for the Optical Lab Division Annual Meeting

Online registration for the 2014 Optical Lab Division meeting is now open. The annual event will be held in conjunction with the continuing education and exhibits at International Vision Expo West, September 17- 20, in the newly renovated Sand Expo and Convention Center in Las Vegas. Educational programming at this year’s Optical Lab Division meeting will begin on Wednesday, September 17th in the afternoon. 

There is no cost to attend the Optical Lab Division meeting for members of The Vision Council. Members who register receive complimentary access to all breakfasts, lunches, special events and educational programming. Non-members can register for lab education at $50 per session (per person). For more information, and to register for the event visit

Baseball Great Pete Rose is Keynote Speaker at Lab Division Meeting

The 2014 Optical Lab Division Meeting will feature a keynote presentation from all-time Major League leader in hits, Pete Rose.  In his session, “Be Aggressive and Three Ways to Treat a Person,” Rose will present on the foundation of productive leadership, learning the best way to treat others to ensure the most productive outcome possible. The Optical Lab Division’s programming committee, headed by Drake McLean of Dietz-McLean Optical, has brought together thought leaders, specialized experts and panelists to tackle four trending industry topics of importance to labs:

  • Legal and Regulatory Affairs Update for Optical Lab Industry
  • The Circle of Service: Building Your Brand Through Better Service
  • Third Party Reimbursement and Managed Vision Care, What it Means to Optical Labs
  • New Products and Technologies Impacting Optical Labs

For more information, and to register for the event visit

Longtime Zeiss Employee Darryl J. Meister Dies at 42

Darryl Meister, ABOM, a longtime ZEISS employee, a leading authority on ophthalmic optics, and a beloved figure in the optical industry died suddenly and unexpectedly at 42. Darryl was largely self-educated in the field of optics, and was one of the youngest opticians ever to earn the ABO’s Master certification. He joined the company in 1996 in the Technical Services department, eventually becoming technical marketing manager.  He held multiple patents on ophthalmic lens designs. Darryl wrote for a wide variety of optical industry publications including LensTalk and LabTalk magazine. He was a frequent contributor to, and was never too busy to answer questions from his industry colleagues.

 “Darryl was one of our global experts in eyeglass lens optics.  His selfless contributions to industry forums, committees, education and product development are too numerous to recount.  His passing leaves a great gap in our Company, our industry, and our hearts,” said Uli Krauss, Chairman and CEO of Carl Zeiss Vision.

A fund has been established to provide financial support for Darryl’s children to continue their college education.  Information can be found at .


The Vision Council

Focus On...

Insights - August

By Judith Lee

It happens to every lab at some time: A customer with whom you’ve done business for a while (even a long while) decides to go with another lab. The customer had not complained to you, and you really have no idea why they left. Wouldn’t it be great if you could get inside their heads and find out what they want or how to better serve them? 

Our new column, Insights, will be asking ODs, opticians, retail outlets and practice managers, what they want from their optical labs. Each month, we’ll ask different practices to answer some questions you might like to ask, and bring you the answers here. While the individuals won’t be talking specifically about you and your lab, you might ask yourself, “Does my lab do this or does my lab offer that?” Read up to gather insights into the way your customers think and then make changes and adjustments to make sure your lab is the best it can be.

The two optometrists answering our questions this month:

Burt Dubow, OD, Insight Eye Care, St. Cloud, MN
Three practice locations, uses four different labs 

Albert Pang, OD, Trinity Eye Care, Plano, TX
One location, uses one lab 

Q. What one thing could your lab do for you to make your life easier? 

Dr. Dubow: Meet with me more often to keep me updated on new developments and how our practice is doing with their service. 

Dr. Pang: Providing a personal rep who will get to know me, know what I usually order, know my practice, and give me advice on alternatives

Q. What does your lab do best? 

Dr. Dubow: Accurate results in a timely fashion.

Dr. Pang: Accuracy, reliability, fair price.  

Q. What one thing does your lab do or has done, that makes you think, “I’ll never change labs.” 

Dr. Dubow: Nothing. Business is business (I am willing to change labs for sound business reasons). 

Dr. Pang: Providing a rep I can always turn to and answer my questions and give me advice, who will watch my back. 

Q. What would have to happen to make you want to switch labs? 

Dr. Dubow: Better pricing or service, different alliances offering a better relationship, failure of expectations being met, etc. 

Dr. Pang: All three things I mentioned above plus reps who are not able to answer my questions. 

Q. What is the biggest pet peeve when it comes to ordering from a lab? 
Dr. Dubow: I don't like when labs rely on the old way of doing business whereby they treat our relationship as a friendship rather than a business relationship. 

Dr. Pang: Not knowing what type of products they can process in-house and what products they have to outsource.


The Vision Council

LabTalk Spotlight

Branding Your Lab

By Phillip M. Perry

Say the word “Coke” and your mind probably conjures up the refreshing image of “a cool, bubbly drink.”  Now say the name of your optical lab. What image comes to mind? More important, what image comes to your customers’ minds? If the picture is as compelling as the one for the world’s largest beverage company you have succeeded in creating a “brand” that can add real dollars to your bottom line.

As attractive as a shiny store brand sounds, chances are your own could use a little polishing. Or maybe you have not given the idea of building your brand very much thought in the first place, given that you are not a giant corporation like the   Coca-Cola Company. When it comes to working on your public image, though, size is not an issue. “Branding is not just for big businesses,” says Ken Banks, CEO of KAB Marketing,   a consulting firm in Florida’s Tampa Bay area ( “It also helps small operators stand out and get noticed. Indeed, a strong brand can help any retailer (or lab) compete with the big box stores (corporate owned labs).”

What makes a successful brand? The best way to answer that question is to start by busting a common misconception. Creating a brand has nothing to do with dreaming up a creative advertising campaign. “When business people think about a brand they often equate it with a logo,” says Adele Cehrs, president of Epic Public Relations, Alexandria, Va.   ( “But the best logo in the world means nothing without a larger strategy. Good branding is really about repositioning your business in the marketplace.”

In other words, the famous Coke logo would do the company no good if the soft drink were not known as a brand that promised a dependably refreshing experience. Coke has created and communicated a unique story. And that’s what makes a profitable brand.

Find out how to brand your lab successfully by reading the entire article at


The Vision Council

Make What You Say, Pay!

Putting on Your Business Hat

Is there anything more awkward than having to negotiate with clients who have also become friends?  You have these wonderful client relationships. You know about their family lives. They know about yours. It is always a pleasure to see each other.  Then, that relationship hits a potential bump.  It is contract renewal time or, as happened recently with one of my clients, your company shifts its business model, and suddenly your interests and your clients' interests may no longer align perfectly around fees, resources, timing, or deliverables. How do you then handle that potentially difficult conversation to resolve the differences between you?

Switch Hats
Years ago, a mentor solved this problem for me. She advised that when you have to negotiate, or, for that matter, have any kind of difficult business conversation with clients (or colleagues), simply say, “For this conversation, let’s take off our personal hats for a moment and put on our business hats.” 

That simple metaphorical suggestion re-frames the entire dynamic of your meeting.  Vision drives action. That subtle mindset switch does three things for both of you. It

• Injects a needed level of clarity and objectivity into the discussion

• Allows you both to deal and speak up for your needs and views as responsible business people

• Reduces personal discomfort

Then, when your negotiation is finished, you simply say, “Okay, let’s put our personal hats back on” and you are back to your original friendly relationship. Time to go to lunch!

Certain conversations are necessary. You may not be always be able to have your cake and eat it, too, but you can have a difficult conversation and still maintain your relationship.

Words Matter: Make What You Say Pay! ©2012 Anne Miller, author, “metaphorically Selling”

New Products

Which Deblocking Plier is right for you?

As various edgers use blocks from a range of suppliers, matching dimensions is the best way to determine the pliers that are suitable for the job. The new line of Deblocking Pliers from Western Optical Supply are designed to fit hubs that measure 12mm round, 15mm round, 15.75 x 12mm and 15.5 x 14.25mm. Match up the dimensions of the raised hub on your block to the inside dimensions of the pliers jaw (stated with each pliers style).  The Deblocking Pliers #2001, #2002 and #2003 can be seen on the Western Website, where you can watch a live demonstration (Western Optical LIVE! page 21).

HOYA Expands Back Side PAL Offerings

Back side progressive lens technology is being used in the production of additional lens designs by selecting the appropriate semi-finished single vision lens and then the PAL Rx is added to the back surface. Two of the primary advantages are greater availability in materials and larger cut outs to accommodate wrap sun wear. The combination of back side designs with free-form technology has opened up new levels of product availability and improved tried and true designs such as Tact and Sync. For more information visit

New and Improved Optifog Lenses

Essilor has improved their Optifog lenses to keep patients’ vision free from potentially dangerous fog. Optifog lenses include a unique top layer, containing fog repellent properties on both the front and back side of the lens that are activated through the daily use of the Optifog Activator Cloth. Simply wiping the Optifog lenses with the Optifog Activator Cloth can provide long-lasting protection against fog.

Shamir and Rudy Project Team Up

Shamir and Rudy Project are working together to combine Rudy Project’s award-winning, techno-geometric Italian frames with Shamir’s recently launched Attitude III progressive and single vision sun lenses. The companies will create a revolutionary new sport and fashion sun wear line unlike anything seen in the industry before. This ultimate RX solution will be edged at Shamir’s new edging facility located in Los Angeles, CA. For more information visit the Rudy Project Website at


Send us news about your lab's new products, services, special events, tech advances or personnel changes.

Christie Walker

Christie Walker
Editor, LabTalk/LabAdvisor
[email protected]

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