Who’s Afraid of the Internet?

By JoAnne Sommers

Does your business have an online presence? If not, you have plenty of company. According to RBC’s 2013 survey of Canadian small businesses, only 46 per cent of respondents have a dedicated website, and less than half (48 per cent) of them sell their products and services through their websites.

Those findings shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone familiar with last year’s survey of Canadian ECPs by Breton Communications. It found that about one-quarter (25.8 per cent) of respondents did not have a dedicated website, while 11.2 per cent said their practice still did not have Internet access.

At the same time, according to Statistics Canada, more than 80 per cent of Canada’s population is online; and a report by Boston Consulting Group predicts that Canada’s Internet economy will grow 7.4 per cent annually through 2016.

“With the majority of consumers choosing to research and shop for products and services online, businesses without a web presence are missing a significant opportunity,” says Jim Mulligan, national director, Retail, RBC Royal Bank. “Businesses need to be visible where consumers choose to be, so investing in an online strategy is fundamental to attract new customers and stay competitive. »

Mulligan’s comments are borne out by the results of RBC’s survey; it found that 38 per cent of businesses that have eCommerce-enabled websites generate over one-quarter of their revenue through online sales. Fully 22 per cent of those surveyed say that more than half of their revenue comes from online sales.

Given that the Internet economy represents a significant opportunity for small businesses, why do so many of them continue to resist it?

Dana Sacco, RO, is a licensed optician with Rossland Optical in Whitby, ON, and a Predictive Index trainer and consultant. Sacco, who has had a web presence for over 10 years, believes the reason for the reluctance stems from the fact that most ECPs have little or no actual business education.

“They’re highly skilled and good at what they do but most lack specific business training. That makes it difficult for them to embrace modern, visionary business practices,” she says.

For Sacco, a web presence is not an add-on – it’s an absolute necessity. “If you don’t have one these days, it’s like not having a debit machine,” she says. “Many people begin the buying process by looking for information about products and services online. If they can’t get that information at home, you’ll lose out on at least half of your potential client base.”

Extending her client base to reach a global market is the focus of Sacco’s current efforts. “I’m getting into online sales in partnership with several exclusive designer brands that are not available through Internet-based companies like FramesDirect.com,” she notes.

Having a web presence doesn’t have to cost a lot, nor does it require much technical expertise. In fact, a lot of solutions are available at low to no cost. Competition in the website business has forced down prices for domain registration and hosting. It is also possible to design your own website using automated software provided by web hosting companies, such as Go Daddy and Homestead Technologies.

Several years ago, Sacco, who admits she’s no techie, invested in Web Builder, a software program from Millbrook, ON-based CBS Group that enables her to maintain her own website. “It’s very user-friendly. I just log into the site and it lets me update specific content areas. And Google Analytics provides me with valuable information about the people who visit my website.”

Sacco says her website is a critical aspect of her social media effort. “I have a Google blog on Gmail where I express my opinion on various subjects. It’s all part of realizing my business plan.”


While only 39 per cent of Canadian small business owners surveyed by RBC promote their business on social media, it is easy, inexpensive, and potentially profitable to do so. That’s especially true if you have a blog that generates fresh content to share. Blogs can be easily set up with services like Google’s www.blogger.com. These are mini-websites. Check out what they are capable of and consider whether you need a full-blown website or simply a blog. Once you have your website and/or blog established, you can begin building a social media presence. It can be overwhelming to know where to begin so we suggest that you set up a professional presence on LinkedIn and join Google+, where you can establish groups or circles of people based on your affiliation with them (e.g. customers, colleagues, community affiliations, family and friends). You can then invite others to join your circles, which is a great way to establish or re-establish contact.

You can use Google+ like a blog and share information with your customers or potential customers, gearing the information to their needs and their relationship with you. This is a great business-growing tool and is considered by many to be the next wave in social networking. You can learn about Google+ in Guy Kawasaki’s book, What the Plus!, which is available as a Kindle download (Not there yet? You can download a Kindle reader to your computer for free!). There are also great instructional videos on the Google+ website.

• If you need help getting started with your online presence, there are many books available about ecommerce, including Starting an Online Business All-in-One For Dummies.

• Google Analytics is free of charge. You can set up the web tracking code by visiting http://support.google.com/analytics/answer/1008080?hl=en.

• RBC hosted a three-part webinar series on social media, which you can view/download at http://www.rbcroyalbank.com/business/campaign/fall2012/webinar-series.html.

Mastering Financial Literacy

By JoAnne Sommers

What is your level of financial literacy? Perhaps not as high as it should be, judging by the results of a recent Angus Reid Public Opinion survey and financial literacy quiz of Canadian entrepreneurs.

The online survey of 500 small business owners across the country, conducted on behalf of Intuit Canada*, posed questions such as, “what is the role of the balance sheet?” and “how can short-term cash flow be improved?” The results indicated that the vast majority of participants face a serious financial literacy skills gap, said Jeff Cates, managing director of Intuit Canada.

“A large number of small business owners (83 per cent) scored either basic or below basic on the quiz (i.e., six correct answers or fewer out of 10),” he noted.

Intuit, a provider of financial and tax management software, suggests a likely root cause of the poor showing: while about half of the small business owners surveyed realized that they needed to spend time on financial management, only 11 per cent of them had sought professional help and resources.

“Starting a small business is one of the most empowering journeys one can take, but it’s also marked by an unrelenting series of obstacles – from understanding tax requirements to juggling inventory to managing payroll,” said Cates. “In order to succeed, small business owners must have the financial literacy skills needed to navigate these obstacles. Unfortunately, the majority do not.”

He pointed to recent Statistics Canada numbers showing that while 85 per cent of small businesses survive their first year, only 51 per cent are still alive after five years.

In addition to starting a business on a sound financial footing, Cates calls the ability to understand and manage everyday financial realities and challenges, “the key to long-term success [and] essential to reversing this trend.”

The survey results are very sobering, said Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the 109,000-member Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB).

“Thousands of Canadians go into business each year, not because they are financial gurus, but because of other talents or opportunities. Many quickly learn of the massive demands on their time and attention – particularly in dealing with red tape, taxation and finance. While many entrepreneurs have terrific business instincts, they can become even more successful if they take the time to improve their financial literacy.”

Fortunately, there appears to be a willingness on the part of many entrepreneurs to do so. The Intuit study revealed that fully 88 per cent of respondents want to build their skills; another 42 per cent want to spend more time with an accountant, 24 per cent would like to attend information sessions with other small business owners, and 22 per cent want online tutorials to improve their skills.

Thanks to the efforts of government, banks, industry associations and non-profit organizations, there is a wide range of tools, resources and support designed to boost financial literacy among small business owners. Last fall, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, a federal government body mandated to protect and educate consumers – including small-business owners – about financial services, launched a free financial toolkit. Appropriately named “Your Financial Toolkit”, it includes videos, tools, case studies and 11 modules that can be completed in workshop settings on issues that include credit and debt management, income tax and financial planning.

Canada’s banks have experts available to work with small business clients and provide advice, either one-on-one or through business planning seminars, training opportunities, coaching podcasts, publications and seminars dealing with subjects ranging from efficient business management, business planning and funding sources to recovery of accounts receivable.

Scotiabank, for example, offers specialized programs and products that are designed to help small business owners get started on the right foot. In addition to its products and services, the site features advice-laden blogs and videos on a wide range of financial management issues. Scotiabank also offers new small-business customers its Running Start for businesses planning guide, as well as a complimentary copy of Intuit’s Easy Start accounting system.

BMO Bank of Montreal’s SmartSteps for Business is a new online tool that provides entrepreneurs with a customized plan to make their banking more efficient, while taking care of financial needs that go beyond their businesses.

And RBC Royal Bank of Canadaoffers what it calls ‘Definitive Guides’ for personal financial management for business owners. The current package includes guides on succession planning, growing and streamlining your business, as well as personal financial management.

Ultimately, it’s up to small business owners to take advantage of such services. Owners can’t be experts in everything but they can strengthen their businesses significantly by availing themselves of the skills and knowledge of those who are.

*The firms had operated for at least one year and employed up to 100 staff.

Keeping Track of Your Cash Flow

By JoAnne Sommers

It’s a truism that cash flow is the life-blood of business. Your company can usually survive for a time without sales or profits but if you don’t have enough cash to pay your suppliers, creditors or employees, you’ll soon be out of business.

Cash is king regardless of business size, says Nancy Harris,Richmond, B.C.-based vice-president and general manager of Sage Simply Accounting (becoming Sage 50 Accounting, Canadian Edition, in October 2012). However, she adds, “it’s sometimes more difficult for smaller businesses to develop good cash practices because they are often stretched very thin.”

Cash flow problems are the number one contributor to business failures, according to David Wilton, director of small business for Scotiabank inToronto. “Even a profitable business will fail if it doesn’t have the cash to pay for expenses when they fall due.”

That’s why it’s essential to ensure that your company’s cash flow is as predictable as possible, says Wilton, who adds that the first step is to create a cash flow plan. Scotiabank offers an interactive Cash Flow for Business™ tool on its Growing for Business website that allows you to analyze your cash flow situation and create sound projections. By documenting the anticipated receipt and expenditure dates of cash, you can determine whether you have a positive or negative account balance at any given time.

“Look ahead at least 12 months and try to anticipate the ebbs and flows of cash entering the business,” says Wilton. “Map that out against your anticipated expenditures for fixed items, including rent, wages and lease payments, plus variable expenses, such as inventory. That allows you to calculate your net cash position.”

Harris recommends that you engage a professional, such as an accountant, early in the process. “They can tell you how to put together a budget that will provide a lot of insight into your situation via cash flow projections, sales, and reports that show what’s overdue and could be collected. You can run inventory reports and see what you have on hand, what has been selling and what hasn’t. That way you’re not over-ordering things that don’t move quickly.”

Using the services of a professional frees you up to do what you’re good at, she explains. “Small business owners are usually passionate about their businesses but managing their finances may not be a strength. If you have an accountant to help keep your books straight, it frees you up to focus on what you enjoy – marketing, sales and finding new customers.”

Here are some tips that will help you to avoid cash flow crises:

Budget Proactively
Proactive planning helps by creating a formula for knowing how much cash you should have on hand, based on the ebbs and flows of your business, says Harris.

“Determine your annual budget, then factor in seasonality,” she explains. “That allows you to forecast when times will be tight from an inflow perspective. Then you can manage your cash accordingly, stockpiling money when you’re busier to help when things are tight.”

Invoice Promptly
Cash collection calls can be overlooked when you’re busy but you should avoid letting receivables get out of step with payables, says Harris.

Prepare invoices as soon as you deliver goods or services to the customer. If you wait to prepare your invoices at the end of the month, for example, you may be adding as many as 30 additional days to your cash flow conversion period.

• Accelerate the Rate at Which Cash Enters Your Business
One way to do this is to make sure you’re set up to accept both credit and debit cards. That provides immediate payment, minus the card issuers’ fees. By getting the cash right away, you don’t have to borrow while awaiting payment.

• Investigate Credit Worthiness
If you decide to set up accounts receivable, get a credit history for anyone who wants to charge purchases and decide whether you’re willing to risk not being paid.

• Pay on Time (But Not Too Soon)
The flip side of cash flow is expenditures, says Wilton. Check suppliers’ payment terms and determine when payment is due, then use an automated banking process to pay on the due date so you’re not subject to late penalties. Waiting to pay until the due date helps keep your cash flowing.

• Have a Backup Plan
Prearrange credit in the form of an operating line of credit and/or credit cards before you need it. Many business people enhance their likelihood of success by making available personal resources in the form of cash contributions and loans.

“You are best equipped to handle cash flow challenges when you make arrangements in advance,” Wilton says.

Creating a Job Description: a New Perspective

By Dana Sacco

manangingyourbusinessAs your eyecare practice expands, it becomes necessary to add new people, something that will change the dynamics of your existing team.

Let’s look at adding a front-line secretary. Here are some questions to consider:

  • To whom will this person report?
  • Does the new candidate’s personality complement the leader’s strengths and weaknesses and create a balance in the workplace?
  • How many staff will be affected by the new person’s responsibilities?
  • Is this an independent or a collaborative role?
  • How quickly and effectively can this person learn a new role?

Why consider so many things for such a junior position? Because turnover is expensive and bad hires result in wasted staffing and financial resources, interrupted customer service and possible errors made during training. If the person stays beyond 90 days, it can be very costly and possibly unpleasant to fire them.

My consulting practice is based on organizational behaviour. I use the Predictive Index®, a scientifically validated behaviour assessment, to understand the personalities of people and how they interact. Now I want to apply this same concept to the job description, using the PRO-Performance Requirement Option™ (PRO) or job description.

As an employer, it’s important to take time to better understand the roles people must play to be successful on the job. If I hire based strictly on knowledge, skills and experience, not only am I gambling on the fit but also on the productivity and general happiness of the person in the position. But if the candidate’s natural behaviours strongly correlate to those required to do the job, I set that person up for success and ultimately contribute to the success of the eyecare practice.

Most people are familiar with interview questions such as: “Are you a team player?” And most candidates sell themselves as being collaborative. But about half of all personality types are not innately collaborative. Therefore, if the actual job description requires collaboration you have a 50/50 chance of accidentally finding a “team player”.

The purpose of defining the role with a scientifically derived benchmark is that you can strategically hire to that benchmark. You can use the online PRO tool to create what you believe will make a person successful on the job. The PRO is a three-page list of common workplace behaviours, each of which is matched to a subset of defined personality traits. The result of selecting the behaviours necessary for the role is depicted in a graph, which has four dots representing different behaviours. Next, use the Predictive Index to assess the list of job applicants. The results of the Predictive index are also depicted in a graph. A trained analyst can derive a lot of information from the graph, including the most predictable and observable behaviours of the person under stress, their energy level and capacity to absorb stress, their decision-making style and engagement.

Here is a sample Pro I created for a position for which I am hiring. It has a distinct “checkmark” pattern. In this case, the meaning of the dots is not relevant. Simply observe the orientation of the graph to the mid-point triangle.





Now, compare the following graphs that show the Predictive Index results of three candidates. Again, the meaning of the dots is not relevant. In the graph for Tina, note the orientation of the dots to the mid-point and notice that instead of a checkmark pattern this candidate has a “Z”-shaped graph. The significance lies in the differences. Tina would experience great stress if she had to alter her behaviours to match the PRO for an extended time.






The next candidate, Dee, has a pattern similar to the PRO and would not have to alter her behaviour to fit the role. We can conclude that because the behaviours are natural forDee, she will thrive in the role.





The last candidate, Linda, has a check mark pattern but it is the opposite of the pattern depicted in the PRO. Like Tina, Linda would be a proverbial “fish out of water” in the role of optometric secretary.






Dee’s graph, which resulted from the five-minute Predictive Index assessment, closely matches the graph created by the PRO. Each dot represents behavioural characteristics and is consistent with a group of behaviours defined by over 500 PhD-level scientific validations. IfDeehas skills, education and experience to supplement her natural ability (check résumé and references) she would be a very strong candidate.

It is a proven fact that engaged employees are more productive. A management strategy designed around data generated by scientifically validated behavioural assessments is a very credible and powerful way to develop your business. Most importantly, unlike other behavioural assessments, the Predictive Index is compliant with hiring standards and does not expose your company to the risk of litigation.

Understanding Human Capital

By Dana Sacco

managingyourbusinessWikipedia says that human capital is the stock of competencies, knowledge and personality attributes embodied in the ability to perform labour so as to produce economic value. My question to optometrists and opticians who are building, nurturing and evolving eyecare practices is: do you put enough emphasis on understanding human capital in your business?

Selection and recruitment based on a diploma or degree plus experience can work out well, and sometimes the talent gap in eyecare leaves us short of options. But often the skills and the personalities needed are not aligned.

Consider the financial implications of adding the wrong person to your team. The cost of a staff turnover is anywhere from 1 to 3.5 times base salary, according to ADP payroll services, one of the world’s largest providers of business outsourcing solutions.

To grow your team effectively, make sure that the people you bring on board have the core behaviours needed for longevity beyond 90 days. Is your company focused on cutting costs? Start with better « fit to role » (i.e. hire people who will naturally demonstrate the behaviours required for their specific roles with the company). Looking for an associate? Improve on boarding time (the speed at which new hires integrate into their roles) by understanding exactly how to coach and mentor new associates to success.

There are affordable, science-based methods to help you identify a person’s true core behaviours, allowing you to maximize your investment in the people you hire. The Human Capital Media (HCM) Research and Advisory Services Group recently released its findings on the annual Leadership Development survey, led by the Business Intelligence Board, Chief Learning Officer magazine. The findings, published in The Aberdeen Report (http://www.predictivesuccess.com/Free-HR-Report.html), speak to best practices in the field of human resource management and development. I have summarized the results as follows:

The report highlights how the effective use of assessments is incorporated into talent management practices in best-in-class organizations. Over 640 organizations participated in the study, more than 200 of whom used the Predictive Index® (PI®), a scientifically validated assessment that provides real-time data on people’s core personalities and behaviours.

This data allows us to compare how Predictive Index clients fare compared to best-in-class organizations and the results are impressive. Worldwide PI clients scored significantly higher in seven key areas. Two areas worth noting are:

  • Over 70 per cent of PI users incorporate PI knowledge into their everyday work habits, which is 39 per cent higher than best-in-class companies. PI is more than just a recruitment tool, it helps managers become better leaders.
  •  46 per cent of PI respondents can positively correlate ongoing employee performance results with using PI during the pre-hire process, which is 27 per cent higher than best-in-class companies.

The results of the Predictive Index provide managers with insight into developing better management strategies for those they work with. The result of having valid, reliable (not anecdotal) data about your people means those strategies will translate into results such as better engagement and better performance.

The Predictive Index was created by Arnold Daniels, who used Harvard-based research and an interest in organizational psychology to help the U.S. Eighth Air Force better understand the traits of fighter pilots and improve their success in the field.

After the Second World War, Daniels developed the Predictive Index, a business application that is used and taught by academic institutions, Fortune 500 companies, the manufacturing sector, sales forces and many other organizations. It helps employers maximize talent and, as business guru and author Jim Collins says, “put the right person in the right seat on the bus at the right time”.

If you are launching a business, it is crucial to have people on your team who quickly take “ownership” of building a new business. If yours is a mature business, you can design, train or coach a team to network and take the business to the next level. If you are thinking of retiring and passing the business to an associate or family member, you can prepare for that transition (succession planning) in advance.

In order to compete successfully in a global marketplace, small businesses should invest in affordable solutions that make their teams behaviourally complete and lead them to success. And the PI is one step to acquiring the power to create engaged, productive and dynamic teams.

Engaging Employees

By Dana Sacco

As you watch sales unfold, do you see opportunities your staff is missing? Perhaps it‘s an upgrade to high index or a digital lens design. Do they forget to recommend photochromic lenses or offer a cheaper frame, assuming the patient isn’t willing to pay more? It often seems the process could be handled better, leading to a more desirable outcome. But why?

According to Wikipedia, an « engaged employee » is fully involved in and enthusiastic about their work, and acts in ways that further their organization’s interests. The Kenexa High Performance Institute defines engagement as the extent to which employees are motivated to contribute to organizational success and are willing to apply discretionary effort to accomplishing tasks important to the achievement of organizational goals.

If your staff is not engaged, they are literally going through the motions. This doesn’t necessarily mean they are negligent; they are simply not invested in making the sale. So how can you motivate staff to work more effectively?

It would be great if it was a matter of increasing salaries. But studies show that pay is actually quite low on the priority list for most employees. Location, status, job security and length of work week all rank ahead of it. Remuneration in human resource terminology is considered a housekeeping item. And HR psychologists theorize that as long as such factors are within industry standards, they do not impact engagement.

Ineffective leadership is perhaps the top reason why employees suffer from disengagement. And often the first place to look is in the mirror. Self-aware leaders who understand their own strengths and weaknesses and develop a communication strategy that maximizes their personality have the greatest success in motivating their teams.

Employees who are valued perform better. A thank-you is always nice. Positive reinforcement provides an opportunity to offer feedback and improve trust with employees. Note the language you use with your team. If a client wasn’t offered photochromic lenses, it would be easy to point that out. A more constructive approach is to ask what products were included in the sale.


Practice Leader: John, I noticed you sold Mr. Smith a new pair of glasses. What product selection did he choose?

Dispenser: He bought an acetate frame, progressive lenses and an anti-reflective coating.

Practice Leader: Great! He’ll be happy with the quality of those products. If you had an opportunity to work with Mr. Smith again, would you have done anything differently?

Dispenser: I probably would have asked if he wanted photochromic lenses. He had it last time but I forgot to ask. I’ll call and see if I can upgrade the sale.

When the employee is engaged in problem solving he feels valued. Engagement is contagious and it only takes a little to make an impact.

Many people in the eye care field are highly detail-oriented. It’s the nature of the job. Unfortunately, such people are much less likely to delegate (I’m not talking about core functions here). If you combine detail orientation with a strong sense of authority, you get a micro-manager who doesn’t delegate – especially authority. It’s easy to see how this can be problematic in a team environment. Transformational leadership is a concept in which the leader is not a doer. He or she coaches, mentors and inspires employees. That way the leader can maximize engagement and improve productivity, ultimately increasing EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization – in effect gross profit.)

Transformational leaders know they will earn more if all employees feel a sense of ownership in the jobs. How can you create such an environment? Job design is a key step. By dissecting job descriptions collaboratively, employees participate in designing their roles. This is key to overall organizational effectiveness. In a small- to medium-sized optometric practice, which may have 15 individual contributors, it’s wise for the practice leader to create an organizational map to help understand the corporation’s character. By looking at it objectively, you can remove “filters” that cloud your judgment in making decisions, such as unresolved conflicts.

The use of behavioural assessments such as the Predictive Index® creates an opportunity to look at the practice from a scientific perspective. This is a quick, effective way to find key coaching and development opportunities and customize them to each employee.

Job design is essential. The transformational leader understands how to coach the employee’s skills that fit the job, recognize the gaps in performance by investing in their development and most importantly how to help people become the best possible versions of themselves. If the leader is invested in helping employees bring their “A” game to work, the result is usually a lift in morale, productivity and ultimately profit.

Building an Optical Powerhouse – Visionary Leadership

By Dana Sacco



Recently I was challenged by a friend to revisit the vision statement for my retail optical location. I have spent the last 15 years building an optical practice alongside an independent doctor of optometry. In the time that I developed this practice I also earned what I like to call my street MBA. Basically I made every mistake in the book and reinvented myself many times. How’s that for credibility?

During those 15 years, I took advantage of opportunities to develop my professional interests. I took on leadership opportunities (associations and colleges), training and development opportunities (working with manufacturers and educators), a degree in Health Science Management and a career in management consulting (developing and revitalizing dispensaries and medical practices).

Today I find myself in a curious dichotomy. I have a full-fledged, mature eyecare practice and a management consulting career and it is time to revisit my vision for the retail business.

So let’s get to more specific terms and discuss the three phases of a business.

1. Build phase: business resources will suggest it takes three years to establish yourself in business. This is a time for rapid growth strategies. The first three years will define the winners of the emerging business battle, but it takes longer to grow a business. In eyecare, our clients typically purchase in two-year cycles. How many cycles must an eye care practice sustain before there is just as much repeat business as there is new business? Let’s assume that five to seven years constitutes a sustainable business cycle.

2. Maintain phase: when a business has reached the maintenance phase a delicate formula of growing at a rate just greater than the rate of loss of clients due to death, geographical changes, loss to the competition and drop out from the industry. This is the time in the business when existing relationships must be nurtured and maintained.

Now you increase your per-customer purchases by dollar value and volume instead of hunting for new business. It’s an issue in an economic sense because you have probably reached a large percentage of your immediate community. Depending on the community’s growth trend, you are now drawing from a smaller pool of new clients. It’s time to get the existing client working for you.

The business must always have a sustainability plan to deal with environmental factors, such as natural disasters, pandemics, economic downturns and a talent gap. Does your plan include the addition of an associate? How can you reliably and scientifically determine the best fit for an associate without introducing additional risk to the business? The maintain phase means the identity of the practice should be solid. Your clients should easily identify what you do and what your offerings are.

3. Divest phase: is it time to find a successor? An exit strategy is the springboard that will take you to retirement or another venture. This plan should be formulated at least three years in advance of the actual event. If you are planning to sell the business, finding the right buyer can take time. Having a strong cash position at the time of the sale gives you more time and greater options. Do you want to sell? Do you have to sell? Have you reached the pinnacle of your career and now want to wind down? Do you have health concerns or a change in family circumstances (eg. caring for an older parent)? Has the business been a burden and it’s time to cut your losses? Is it time to pass the business on to a family member and, if so, how do you manage this transition?

As an organizational behaviour analyst, I can tell you that when your business has its best “mojo” it’s because your people strategy is in alignment with your business strategy.

In order to build a “powerhouse” team you need to step back and reflect on the phase your business is in and whether your vision for it embodies your goals. It is absolutely acceptable to dream “big” in your vision statement. Your mission statement will then outline how you plan to achieve your goal or goals. However, the vision sets the tone for the business and gives each employee a “go to” place when faced with making decisions during daily operations.

Every day your staff are forced to make independent decisions on your behalf. If your vision statement resonates with them, they can ask themselves, “Does this decision advance the vision of the practice?” This question reflects the mindset of an engaged employee who is, “in it to WIN it for the business.” If your vision statement does not resonate with your staff, you may ask yourself, “Why are they on my team?”

To summarize, a practice in the Build Phase would benefit from an assertive workforce, people who are naturally self-starters and comfortable “hunting” for new business. A business that is in the Maintain Phase needs relationship builders who will leverage connections with people. A business that is getting ready to Divest needs cautious, calculating, detail-oriented and by-the-book people. It is the combination of behavioral science and organizational planning that takes a business to the next level.

The Optical Dispensary – Practice Management by Design

By Dana Sacco

managingyourbusinessWhen shown on an organizational map, the personalities of the employees in a modern optical dispensary indicate the key behaviors that make up each person’s role. By looking at how each of those roles interacts with the dispensary’s leaders, with one another and with clients, it is possible to create a “people” strategy designed to drive sales and growth.

One of the products I use in my consulting practice is the Predictive Index® or PI®, a scientifically validated behavioural tool with 55 years of history and an Ivy League pedigree. Interviews and resumes can only tell the employer how a candidate presents him/her self. The PI assessment penetrates that veneer and illustrates each employee’s core behaviours under stress. The PI also breaks down social perceptions and helps us get into each person’s “world” by fostering self-awareness.

The key message here is that behavior assessments can help to place or coach people for the roles to which they are most naturally suited. As author Jim Collins tells us in his book Good to Great, Harper Collins, 2001: “… Successful companies first got the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And then they figured out where to drive it.”

Below is a sample PI of the leader of an eyecare practice who has been in business for over 10 years; the business generates revenues of $650,000 per year.

The PI survey defines four factors:

(A) Assertiveness

(B) Extroversion

(C) Patience

(D) Formality

For the purpose of demonstrating the capacity of the PI, I have simplified the concepts. The resulting graph shows a corresponding value for each of the above factors. The red line represents the median. The company leader completed a two-page, 172-word stimuli questionnaire, which produced these results:

The Leader:

Factor A (Assertiveness): the leader identifies herself as an unassuming, harmony-seeking, collegial person

Factor B (Extroversion): she is sociable and poised

Factor C (Patience): she is impatient for results

Factor D (Formality): she is informal and delegates easily


The PI philosophy is based on knowledge transfer. After training, the leader will understand that she has a hard time saying no to people. She is socially poised and likeable, with strong presentation skills and connects quickly with others. She is also persistent and will grow the business by leveraging relationships, while struggling with details, as well as, the process and operations side of the business.

The next step is to determine the PI of the store manager. It indicates an assertive person who is thoughtful and reflective and shares the leader’s sense of urgency about achieving results; the manager is also driven by a strong detail orientation and is challenged to delegate authority. This person is task-oriented and motivated by goal achievement, and will take on the “tough” decisions, which allows the leader to focus on promoting the business and connecting with clients.

Now the leadership can understand the rest of the team. The optician’s PI will reveal why that person perceives the leadership (which has an urgency about achieving results) as disorganized. She is naturally systematic/methodical and has a completely opposite approach to the job. Her unassuming nature indicates that systems and checklists will help her function well with her peers. She is socially driven and enjoys public interaction and recognition.

The receptionist, who has a PI® similar to that of the leader, will be optimistic and positive in her communications style. The manager will coach her to protect the company from risk by having systems in place that provide specific direction and protocol.

The administrative assistant’s PI discloses an unassuming, private, methodical person with exacting standards. A sequential processor, driven by details, she will be frustrated by her perception of everyone’s lack of attention to detail. She will work steadily, patiently and alone to protect the company from risk. She is best motivated by private recognition and encouragement.

This is just a glimpse of the power of the scientifically driven data management model and the decisions, coaching and strategy that can be developed when you invest in learning what motivates your people. PI also tells you how much capacity people have to absorb stress, their level of engagement and decision-making style.

Visionary leaders can align their business strategies to their people strategies by investing in their human capital. Through the use of PI as an executive management tool (to make data-driven people decisions), a leader will learn how to design her message so it resonates with each team member and she understands the reactions and responses of her team, thus helping employees to become the best possible versions of themselves within the context of their jobs.

Early Trends: Recognizing the Next Power Generation

Early Trends: Recognizing the Next Power Generation
ByDana Sacco

Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were all fretting about Y2K? The first decade of the new millennium has passed with lightning speed. During that decade of uncertainty, political unrest and technological metamorphosis, an entire generation grew up. Enter the Generation Y workforce and consequently, a Generation Y consumer base.

Gen Y represents the first group of adults to spring from a child-centric upbringing. Born between 1980 and 1990, highly evolved technology saturates the very fabric of their existence. Their expectation of instant gratification and a sense of entitlement to the best technology impacts the eyecare market. Gen Y is who we will be selling to and the colleagues with whom we will be working in the next decade. In order to sustain positive growth in our practices, understanding the way Gen Y thinks, works and spends will change the way we practice eyecare.

According to Bruce Tulgan, founder of New Haven, Conn-based Rainmaker Thinking, which studies the lives of young people, Gen Y is impacting our unique multi-generational workforce and will steal the baby boomers’ claim to being the demographic with the greatest purchasing power.

Building a sales strategy that takes the Gen Y dynamic into consideration helps the ECP to enter their customers’ world. This instant-gratification marketplace needs the sales process to be about them. It’s no longer about the product. Features, advantages and benefits have been replaced by, Why? Want! and NOW!

In other words:

1. Why is this important to me? = Understand and predict the trend.

2. How can I get the product I want? = Be accessible via social media and the Internet.

3. Impact the quality of my life NOW! = Speed: be able to deliver the product as quickly as possible.

ECPs recognize and leverage the power of the brand. We are experiencing the largest population of human beings ever to be immersed in a brand culture. Opulence is not just forHollywoodanymore, it’s accessible to anyone. Gen Y is completely immersed in and committed to this global marketplace and this affects their loyalty.

Anne Obarski, author and blogger, claims that the members of Gen Y group have been able to get whatever they want at lightning speed and they don’t really see a need to be loyal to anyone. They don’t think twice about googling a business and making purchases on the Internet. To them, speed is a way of life. Gen Y functions in a virtual global marketplace and ECPs need to change their perceptions to gain access to its purchasing power.

Now we understand why the new millennium is different. So how do we build a team that can service Gen Y? As a practice leader, either an optometrist or optician, Gen Y demands that you design your team, don’t just hire them.

In 2011 we are seeing the firstpeakofGen Yoptometrists and opticians, people who only know the profession to be immersed in technology. Gen Y eyecare professionals expect to compete and make the capital investment in technology to serve their patients to the fullest. These young practitioners will attract their own demographic, one that is defined by PS2, iPads and BlackBerrys as mainstays of their environment. Optical coherence tomography, digital fundus photography and corneal response technology for tonometry are examples of the emerging competitive field of ophthalmic equipment sales that are the “new normal” in eyecare practices from coast to coast.

As dispensers, ECPs are poised to offer cutting-edge technology in spectacle frames, lenses and contact lenses. To Gen Y, the high-definition lens revolution, 3D technology and silicone hydrogel contacts are no longer avant-guard – they represent the only eyecare offerings this generation has ever worked with.

The old saying, “treat others as you would like to be treated,” is outdated. The paradigm shift now means, “treat others as they would like to be treated.”

Rainmaker Thinking concludes that 20-to-30-year-old employees have a high expectation of self. They expect to achieve and surpass the usual pecking order. They multi-task and are faster-paced than their predecessors. They exploit multiple communication channels and social media is their stage. They want fair and direct managers who are highly engaged in their professional development. They are impatient to make an impact on Day One. They want small goals with tight deadlines so they can build up ownership of tasks.

Your new professional team will be a cross-section of generations and strengths. Using scientifically validated behavioural assessments it is possible to identify the core strengths and identities of each team member.

The first step is to identify the stage of your practice:

  1. New upstart (less than five years)
  2. Build/maintain (five to 25 years)
  3. Divest/retire (25 years-plus)

Stay tuned for the next issue of ENVISION in which I will explore the specifics of how to build your team by understanding and leveraging human capital analytics to execute a business strategy.

Unravelling the Mystery of Sunwear

By Dana Sacco

The funny thing about sunglasses is that they become part of our persona and allow us to project an image or style. Of course, sunglasses also protect our eyes and the delicate skin around them. Technologically advanced sun lenses provide crisp optics and enhance visual performance. It’s such a cliché – the guy on the beach admiring females passing by, with full confidence that his observations are shielded by a pair of dark sunglasses. Like all stereotypes it contains a modicum of truth. Yes, sunglasses protect us from harmful UV rays but they also add that layer of mystery.

So, it’s interesting to look at what motivates our clients and to understand the behavioural needs that drive their sunglass purchases. Opticians have a long-standing tradition in retail and an innate philosophy of customer-focused selling. They are trained to understand the lifestyle and needs of the customer and to provide the perfect eyewear solution for them.

Optical inventory selections are often driven by trends in the marketplace. Some opticians have a “golden gut” that lets them pair the perfect sunwear trend to the patient. Those opticians instinctively understand the key motivating behaviours of their customers and translate that “EQ” or emotional intelligence into the perfect sale.

An example is the “weekend warrior” who lives a sport-centred lifestyle. Many athletes have fiercely competitive natures. This assertiveness drives them to go to great lengths to get the newest style or technology to enhance their athletic performance. Any Oakley or adidas sunwear dealer has served a customer who knows all about the newest, “about-to-be-released” model. Just like a new golf club that will make their shots 20 yards longer, the sunglass is in hot demand.

Generally speaking, if a client pursues individual sports they may be less extroverted and will choose a more conservative style. Their more extroverted counterparts often choose team sports and identify with bold colours and distinctive designs.

An athlete who is a strong sequential processor, such as a long-distance marathon runner or golfer, displays core behaviours linked to repetitive tasks, which are sustained for long periods of time. These people are often quite happy to wear the same style for many years. Or, if they update their look, the next model will be quite similar to their last, as they may be reluctant to change.

A person who is hard-wired for urgency to achieve their goals, such as a beach volleyball player, whose sport has a very random changing pattern, will likely own multiple pairs of sunglasses to suit their mood and playing conditions. Sunwear models that offer choices of lens colours or a changeable palette in the frame design will appeal to their natures.

Identifying your athletic customers’ need for detail will also help the sales process. Those attracted to highly technical sports, such as road cycling and mountain biking, will often display a need to know all the technological aspects of their purchase and demand the same attention to detail as they would in purchasing their coveted bicycle.

The level of core behaviours, such as assertiveness, extroversion, sense of urgency and detail orientation, give the retailer a basic pattern to work with in the selling process. In behavioural science you must take account of individual personality, which is shaped by birth order, cultural context and other external experiential factors. However, some studies indicate that understanding core behaviours can give us insight into about 30 per cent of a person’s make-up and help predict behavioural outcomes with about 85 per cent accuracy.

As an optician, sunglasses represent the “fun” side of the eyecare business. Every client has unique needs and it’s not necessarily the activity that drives their final purchase decision. Each customer presents a new mystery for the optician to solve and a new opportunity to establish a valuable long-term relationship.