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Dollars & Sense

Will You Survive?

Your business is another year older.  Now what?  Are you going to do the same things next year that you did this year?  For some of us the answer is “yes!”  For others we are just darn glad the year is over and we can start anew.

Last month, we talked about budgets and while you were at it, I asked you to take a deeper look into your customers and let the data be a mirror to your business.  If you did your homework, you should have come away with a reality check of what is really happening and where you are vulnerable in the year to come.  Now what?

Let me share with you my observation of this last year working with laboratory clients.  Overall, I have been amazed at the lack of action being taken by independent owners to change their future.  Many throw their hands up as if to say “What can I do?”  Second, the Internet is full of free information and advice on marketing, social media, sales, marketing, operations, etc., yet I know few who ever take advantage of it and apply it.  Third, doing nothing is not an option for any business owner in any industry, yet I see it in ours.

I know this isn’t anything new, but it’s certainly coming to a point where it cannot be ignored.  Competition in our industry is only going to escalate and pricing pressure is going to drive prices lower.  Online stores are popping up daily, media attention is applying consumer pricing pressure, and doctors are starting to wonder why they even have an optical dispensary.  Compounded with other corporate and independent lab competition and you cannot look at this New Year without some concern.  The good news is that we are not the only industry to go through this.  The bad news is not all of us are going the make the change.  Charles Darwin is very often misquoted when people say “it’s the survival of the fittest.”  What he really said was “It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive, but those who can best manage change.”

As we approach 2015, let’s all agree that doing nothing is not an option.  Change is all around us and we need to find a way to “best manage change.”

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. or


Tracing Points Good Things Happen Weekly

Lab Notes

Lab of the Year Finalists

The U.S. Transitions Lab of the Year title has been awarded annually since 1991 to an independent lab demonstrating a strong commitment to supporting Transitions Optical and its products and programs. The 2014 finalists include:

•           Expert Optics – Since its beginnings in 1979, Expert Optics has operated as an independent laboratory. Headquartered in Shorewood, Illinois, the full service, wholesale distributor delivers a wide range of high-quality optical products and services to eyecare professionals. Expert was named a finalist for the award previously in 2012.

•           Optical Prescription Lab (OPL) – Since 1977, OPL has operated as a family-owned lab headquartered in Pelham, Alabama. Today, OPL provides premium optical products to eyecare professionals throughout the southeast. OPL is has been named Transitions Lab of the Year in 2011 and 2013 and has also been honored as a finalist three times previously.

•           Walman Optical – Walman Optical is an employee-owned company headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Established in 1915, the company is the largest independent ophthalmic company in the United States, with more than 40 branch offices in 19 states. Walman was named Transitions Lab of the Year in 1997 and has also been named a finalist three times.

Rochester Optical Sets Its Sights on Asia

Rochester Optical, the US-based frames and optics manufacturer, has its sights firmly set on the Asian Market. While attending HKTDC Hong Kong Optical Fair, Rochester Optical’s chief executive, Patrick Ho, confirmed that the company’s incredibly successful first showing at the Fair in November 2014 was the first step towards establishing an Asian branch of its global network.  He also revealed that the company is planning to open an optical center to sell its frames and lenses in Hong Kong before the end of the year.  During the Hong Kong Optical Fair, Rochester’s solutions for smart glasses attracted an unprecedented amount of attention from all sectors of the industry. Promoted as a highlight of this iconic event by the organizers, demand for Rochester Optical’s patented range of prescription lenses and frames designed for use with smart glasses was even higher than anticipated.  To find out more about Rochester Optical’s range of products or for more information on the company visit or call (585) 254-0022.

OptoTech Opens Germantown Facility

OptoTech will be opening a new customer support center in Germantown, Wisc., in early 2015. This 17,000 square foot facility will be dedicated to ophthalmic optics whereas the existing facility in Pennsylvania will continue to serve precision optics customers. The Germantown facility will be staffed with sales, service and marketing personal. Industry veteran, Matt Schmidt-Wetekam has been retained as consultant to assist in the establishment, staffing, and sales of the new customer support center. 

OptoTech’s new customer support center will house a customer training facility, machine demo rooms for surfacing technology, and a clean room environment for AR and Hard Coating equipment. Additionally a full selection of surfacing and AR consumables as well as machines, parts and accessories will be on hand. Using their online service support system, OptoTech customers will have access to personalized service support 24 hours a day.

For Vision Council Members…Sunglass Specialty Report Now Available

The Vision Council’s third edition of the Action Sports Sunglass Report is now available for download. This report, which was compiled from U.S. adult respondents, examines participants who have either purchased plano sunglasses at any time or are currently Rx sunglass wearers. The report analyzes action sports sunglass usage and habits by action sports participants versus non-participants, as well as the respondents’ familiarity with certain action sports brands. If you have any questions or comments regarding this report, or any of the information contained within them, please contact Brin Miller, The Vision Council’s Research Analyst, at (703) 740-2251 or [email protected].


Tracing Points Good Things Happen Weekly

Focus On...

Insights December 2014

By Judith Lee

Insights asks your customers what they want from their optical labs. Each month, we ask questions you might like to ask, and bring you the answers from ECP’s, optical dispensers, retailers and practice managers. While the individuals aren’t 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 professionals answering our questions this month:
Carolee Boyd, OD, Owner, Drs. Kline & Boyd Optometrists, Glens Falls, NY

Amy Endo, Practice Administrator & Master Optician, Edwin Y Endo OD and Associates, Hawaiian Islands

Q. What one thing could your lab do for you to make your life easier?
Dr. Boyd: Provide a few added, out of the ordinary redos per month for those very difficult patients that require more than one redo because they are just so persnickety with material or base curve etc.
Ms. Endo: Regular staff education on products and services.

Q. What does your lab do best?
Dr. Boyd: Our lab provides us with periodic in-service trainings for our entire team, which I am convinced keeps us on top of our game and allows us to keep current with all the latest advances in optical products. They really are our partners in business and we rely on them heavily throughout the year. Our successes are also there successes!!!
Ms. Endo: Call backs on back orders or short delays.

Q. What one thing does your lab do or has done, that makes you think, “I’ll never change labs.”
Dr. Boyd: They continue to help us stay up to speed with the latest technology - currently digital - and assisting and educating our team to move our patients into the latest and greatest products available to them.
Ms. Endo: Provide incentives and vouchers to try new lens products

Q. What would have to happen to make you want to switch labs?
Dr. Boyd: It would take new owners who didn't care and significant cost increases for us to give our lab up!
Ms. Endo: If a frame is defective and breaks at the laboratory, some labs will reorder and replace for us. It adds time and postage costs for the account. I can understand if the lab does not have an account with a certain frame vendor, and we do have certain labs that bend backwards to replace frames on their end to alleviate extra work for an account, even if they do not have an account with a certain frame vendor. 

Q. What is the biggest pet peeve when it comes to ordering from a lab?
Dr. Boyd: Unforeseen delays, which do not happen very often.
Ms. Endo:&


Tracing Points Good Things Happen Weekly

LabTalk Spotlight


By Christie Walker

US Optical was created on March 1, 2008 by three brothers…Ralph, Ron and Robert Cotran. Before US Optical, the brothers owned another lab, Optogenics, which they sold to Essilor in 1999.  With the advent of free-form and other new lens and coating technologies, the Cotrans decided to get back into the independent lab business. “We are entrepreneurs and wanted to create another viable Independent lab to help consumers see better, much better, and this time digitally better,” said Ralph Cotran.

Currently the third largest independent lab in the US, US Optical produces 1700 jobs per day. With 106 employees, US Optical prides itself in its 24 hour turnaround time on uncut lenses, calling itself, “The Fastest Lab in America.”

“US Optical is the largest supermarket of free-form lenses,” said Cotran. “We give ECPs endless choices. We have also invested in automation with five free-form generators, 12 digital polishers, four Zeiss AR machines, two Crizal and digital AR machines, and two MEI edgers—the fastest edgers in the world.”

LabTalk reached out to Ralph Cotran to find out what makes this independent lab tick.

Q: Being an independent optical lab today means you need to keep up with the Jones (Essilors, HOYAs and Zeisses). What is US Optical doing to keep one step ahead of the competition?

US Optical has excellent relationships with Essilor, Hoya and Zeiss. For example we are considered a Zeiss aligned lab where we have access to their latest lens technologies and best AR coatings. We are usually the first independent lab to launch their new products outside their network and were the first to test Zeiss' Photofusion photochromic products. We are one of the largest Zeiss lens and AR coating processing distributors outside of Zeiss' lab network. We just installed Zeiss' PURECOAT Plus and Allure plus.

We were also recently the test lab for Essilor's Transitions VII and just finished successfully testing a new cloth that activates Essilor's Optifog.

With Hoya we continue to bring their new products to US Optical and are about to sign an additional contract with them to install all their new backside free-form lenses. As you know they recently acquired Seiko's patent for backside progressives.

The three big manufacturers (Hoya, Essilor and Zeiss) and the medium size manufacturers like Younger, Shamir (owned 50 percent by Essilor) and Vision-Ease Lens work closely with US Optical in advising us of their new products for launch and in many cases, use us for evaluating and testing of their new products.

Find out more about US Optical and how they are successfully navigating the optical waters by reading the entire article at — the newly redesigned LabTalk Web site.


Tracing Points Good Things Happen Weekly

Make What You Say, Pay!

5 Tips for "First Serve" Delivery Power

When I asked a client why his colleague’s presentation had not gone well, he used a tennis analogy and said, “Basically, he started with his second serve and stayed there.”  Although what this colleague said was valuable, apparently his delivery lacked strength, conviction, and passion, the kind of hitting power that you want to see on a “first serve” in tennis.  Since no one wakes up wanting to hit “second serves” in either tennis or business, what could this person have done to ensure that his energy and enthusiasm “aced” his delivery to support his content?

Five Tips for “First Serve” Delivery Power

The obvious 1st tip is Practice. Run through your presentation several times so that you are thoroughly familiar with the content. (You do not want to lose any power worrying over what a slide means or what should come next in your argument.)  

The less obvious 2nd tip is to Warm Up. People don’t appreciate it, but presenting is an activity very much like a sport. In both cases, your body produces adrenalin to get you ready for the upcoming event. In private, roll your shoulders; stretch your arms back behind you; yawn a big yawn to loosen up your facial muscles; shake your hands; hum to warm up your vocal chords. Jump up and down lightly.

The 3rd tip is to Change Your Mindset from seeing yourself as a reciter of facts and data to a relater of a story about that information.  When you merely present facts and data, it is hard to be personally engaging.  When you tell stories, you   naturally have drama in your voice, variety in your pacing, and changes in your inflections.

The 4th tip is to Make Good Eye Contact .  Look at individuals. Talk to one person at a time for about the length of a sentence or phrase. Really connect with them, much as you would in a social situation. That will lead you to talk conversationally and prevent you from dropping into rigid “monotonese.” 

The 5th tip is Believe! Depending on the purpose of the meeting and your listeners, believe that your product/service can really help; or, that your cause is critically important; or that your advice can transform the company, the situation, or the world!  There is nothing  as powerful for “first serve” presentation delivery as enthusiasm!

Say good-bye to “second serve” presentations and use these tips to say hello to more and more wins.  

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

New Products

Get Those Job Tray Clean

Cleaning caked-on polish from job trays is a near-impossible task. Alternatives such as tray inserts, industrial washing machines, or replacing dirty job trays have been the only available options. Now there’s a solution for removing dried polish from job trays and restoring them to like-new condition: OptiSource’s new Job Tray Cleaner.  With OptiSource’s new formula, the lifetime of a job tray is extended and the problem of scratching lenses from built-up polish is finally eliminated.  The new Job Tray Cleaner works instantly by using a simple spread-on and wipe-off process, and is good for both traditional and robotic-style job trays. This formula has been specially developed not only to remove dried polish from job trays, but also from any other polish-laden surface, making it a must-have for all labs.  For more information visit the OptiSource Website at Check out their E-Catalog at:

Mate the Curve with Eyewire Curving Press

Western Optical Product’s new Curving Press is the ideal way to perfectly mate the curve of the eye wire to the base curve of the lens bevel. The Eyewire Curving Press presses the curve simultaneously in the same place on the top and bottom of the eye wire. Place the eye wire between the matching 6 or 9 base curved blocks and screw closed.  Tighten less for other variations in base curves. The Eyewire Curving Press is also used to narrow the bridge for a better fit and to reduce the frame DBL. The Eyewire Curving Press is part number 7080 and can be seen on the Western Optical’s  Website at where you can watch a live demonstration (Western Optical LIVE! page 30).

New Coating Solutions

HCoating abrasion-resistant coatings for polymeric and other substrates, is the success of Arotek's proprietary IMA (Intra-Molecular Altering) technology. Intra-Molecular Altering within a chemical is based on molecule design to get the desired structure and viscosity, stabilizing there. In contrast to IMA, Inter-Molecular Blending (IMB) of different chemicals leads to either ever-increasing viscosity or too low viscosity to hide surfacing defects after curing. The newly developed product, HCoating-SR, is a continuation of IMA technology development, comprising a latest synthetic substance invented by Arotek, identified by American Chemical Society (ACS), and approved for manufacturing by Environment Protection Agency of U.S. Government (EPA). HCoating-SR further modified the properties of tintable hard coat, offering the best balance of adhesion, abrasion resistance, tinting, and AR compatibility. For more info please go to


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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