March 2022

Spring Is Popping With Opportunities

From the SNAPP Board

Spring brings warmer weather, longer days and the sense of beginning. What a great time to reassess patient needs and build some excitement around the upcoming vacation and outdoor activity season.

Sunshine—Spring and summer remind us of how important it is to protect our patients’ eyes from dangerous UV light. As schools move back to in-person learning, kids are outside in playgrounds and on athletic fields. All eye care professionals should be asking, “Are they wearing the best eyewear for their needs? Are their eyes protected?”

Achoo! The unfurling of tree buds and blooming spring flowers mean seasonal allergy symptoms are just around the corner. Make sure patients and customers know an eye care professional can distinguish between ocular allergies and other conditions that mimic other ocular conditions. Encourage them not to diagnose and treat themselves but to reach out for the top-quality eye care services they deserve.

New technology and products—Spring is the start of the industry show season. With Vision Expo East coming later this month and so many other events scheduled in the months ahead, 2022 is a great year to head back to these fun and exciting venues. You’ll be amazed at the developments in diagnostic instrumentation technology that are coming to market. We can help patients today in ways that we could not imagine just a few years ago. Leave time in your live CE programs to visit exhibit halls. You’ll be glad you did.

Graduations—Hundreds of optometry school graduates will be entering the job market in a few months, and now is the time to start making those recruiting connections. Several of your SNAPP board members have sponsored dinners for fourth-year students or paid for a table at a school recruiting event for the chance to speak to students directly or even discuss possible future rotation sites. If you need additional doctors to help grow your business, it’s important to think ahead.

Mark Your Calendars

SNAPP National Meeting Scheduled for Sept. 14‑16, 2022

The website has been updated to include a landing page for the 2022 National Meeting at Harrah’s in Las Vegas, Nevada, from Sept. 14‑16. Check back often as speaker and course confirmations are announced. But mark your calendars now because it’s going to be a great meeting.

Profile in Success

When You Have a Great Plan, Replicate It

Rory Zimny and Tim Webb jumped aboard the Pearle Vision bandwagon when the organization began offering franchises to opticians. They took on their first office in 1997, and they soon added three more. Today, Midwest EyeGuyz operates Pearle Vision locations in Bolingbrook, Crest Hill and Crystal Lake, Illinois, as well as in Glendale, Wisconsin.

Rory Zimny and Tim Webb

Here are some of the secrets to their success.

Go big. “For Licensed Operators (LOs) who are not ODs, it’s helpful to have more than one location,” says Zimny. Otherwise, margins are smaller because of the doctor expense. Zimny says being able to operate several locations efficiently helps increase that profit margin and leverage the efficiency.

Do the homework. The pair looks for practices that can reach $1 million in revenue quickly, so an analysis of the demographics in a 10-mile radius is important.

Look for the fire sales. “Look for practices where you can make an immediate improvement,” Zimny says. He recalls one that had an inflatable bounce house by the front desk. Removing that as part of the remodeling set the tone for a more professional atmosphere immediately. One year later, the location went from less than $500,000 in revenue to $1.3 million.

Do all you can for patients. “Don’t try to compete with refracting mills. You’ll get swallowed up,” says Webb. “We wanted to be a private practice within a retail environment, so it’s important to have a full-scope approach. Our patients come in for emergencies, dry eye, glaucoma co-management and more,” Zimny says.

Lead by example. The two are regularly in the offices, so they see what’s needed. Their own professionalism and customer interaction serve as the models of behaviors that they want staff to use. They’ve developed scripting—not so that team members sound robotic, but so that they are confident about what to say in different situations. They’ll work with employees on their skills. “If someone isn’t a good fit for one position, they may be for another,” Webb says.

Engage the staff. The pair routinely works on staff development through role-play and fun sessions. “We have green-light sessions during which people spit out information on a topic as quickly as they can. There’s no judgment on the comments, and some of our best ideas have come from these,” says Zimny. For example, a long time ago, the staff noted how excited patients were about picking out frames and then the enthusiasm tanked when the conversation turned to lenses. “Patients don’t know what they’re supposed to consider. They don’t understand the lens options. So out of that conversation came our package pricing, which has worked extremely well,” he says.

Tell the story. Another great idea that came from one of these sessions is to include branded lens cleaners with every pair of eyewear sales. To differentiate and upgrade the experience, staff members tell the story behind the lens cleaners they provide: there’s no alcohol, the cleaning kit is green and environmentally friendly, and these kits are put together by people with handicaps. Patients love knowing this—and this story gives staff members some pride every time they see the customers react.

Educate patients. What is the 21-point test? While LOs and staff generally know what the steps are in a comprehensive exam and fitting, patients don’t. So Webb and Zimny make sure that their employees talk about them. Simply telling patients and customers what’s involved in the process, what the different tests and images show and how they ensure the best outcomes for the patient’s health and vision are important. “Patients routinely say, ‘Wow, I don’t think my other provider did that.’ Well, I’m almost certain they did, but the provider didn’t explain it to the patient,” says Webb. If patients do not understand the components, they cannot understand the overall value.

Take control of eyewear dispensing. “When we dispense eyewear, that may be that last time we see that patient for a year,” Zimny says. So, it’s important to set expectations and give good guidance. For example, a patient with a stronger prescription or moving into progressive lenses will notice the difference. So, get ahead of that, he says. “We say something like, ‘You may notice a difference when you’re wearing these. Give it a few days as you adjust.’ That way, the patient isn’t calling us in a panic the next day but will be thinking, ‘I heard this might happen.’”

Lean into criticism. It’s great when reviews are glowing, but there is just as much to be learned from reviews that point to shortcomings.

Follow Dr. Stanley Pearle’s advice. Back in the day, Dr. Pearle would occasionally stop in and encourage them. “Every time he would visit, he would say, ‘Listen to the customers. They will tell you what they need and what they want. And they’ll come back.’ Tim and I still practice that way,” Zimny says.

Experienced LO Shares His Recipe to Long-term Success

Gary Tonsager started working in the optical business in 1984 and opened his first office in 1994. He currently owns two offices in the Minneapolis area, one in Elk River and one in Edina, Minnesota. Two of Tonsager’s secrets to success are making sure his offices accept as many insurance plans as possible and offering simplified check-in and check-out processes.

Gary Tonsager

Invite people in. “When a customer calls our office, the first question is almost always, ‘Do you accept my insurance?’ If we say no, the conversation is usually over. That’s why I try to accept as many insurance plans as possible,” Tonsager says. Insurance is the gateway to endless possibilities. Once customers know their eyewear products and services are covered by their insurance, the next step is providing great customer service.

Attentiveness and problem-solving skills are all key traits to his success, along with staying up to date with equipment and interior design. “Today, it’s not just about the eyeglasses purchasing experience. If customers see the location doesn’t have up-to-date equipment or think the store isn’t well kept, they question their entire experience,” he says. Tonsager regularly remodels his locations and researches the market to provide customers with a different, updated experience every time they visit.

Obtaining eyewear and eye care should also be easy and convenient, he says. “If it’s too complicated for customers to understand, they are less likely to return. Simplifying the process to remove any perceived complications is the most important aspect of our process,” he says. The staff needs to be well-versed so they can be viewed as trustworthy. Tonsager and his experienced staff train new team members on insurance and prescription policies with hands-on, practical approaches that help guide them to his expected level of great customer service.

Eye care professionals know that navigating the complexities of managed vision benefits is a minefield, but to the patient it should look easy, he says. Sharing resources with staff members boosts their confidence and their ability to service customers.

Tonsager’s business philosophy is simple. “I want the customer to walk out saying, ‘That was easy,’” he says.

Members in the News

New Dry Eye Treatments

Lisa Hamilton, OD, visits with Kerry Gelb, OD, who hosts the Open Your Eyes podcast series. She discusses how she uncovers dry eye signs and symptoms with her patients and the treatments she recommends. Listen and watch here.

Know Your Business

Grab Your Spot at Masterminds

A few slots have opened for the inaugural SnappGroupMasterminds, which launches at Optometry’s Meeting in June. SnappGroup Masterminds participants gain a diversity of perspectives from those who have faced and overcome similar challenges.

For more information on this amazing opportunity, contact Deni Hall here.

HR Corner from AmCheck

Are You Eligible for Employee Retention Credits?

Your business may be eligible for 2020 employee retention credits (ERCs). Employers with fewer than 100 full-time equivalent (FTE) employees in 2019 may be eligible for the 2020 credit from March 13, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2020, for wages paid in a quarter during which they experienced a reduction in revenue by at least 50 percent as compared to the same quarter of 2019 or a quarter during which they were fully or partially suspended due to governmental order.

Employers with more than 100 FTEs in 2019 are only eligible for the 2020 ERC on wages paid to employees between March 12, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020, if the employee was not working during the business shut down or if the business experienced a decline in revenue of 50 percent. This would be for employees paid but were not providing the employer any service.

Wages forgiven under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan cannot be included as eligible wages.

Is your business eligible for 2021 ERCs?

Employers with fewer than 500 FTEs in 2019 may be eligible for the 2021 credit from Jan. 1, 2021, through Sept. 30, 2021, for wages paid in a quarter during which they experienced a reduction in revenue by at least 20 percent as compared to the same quarter of 2019 or a quarter during which they were fully or partially suspended due to governmental order.

Employers with more than 500 FTEs in 2019 are only eligible for the 2021 employee retention credit on wages paid to employees between Jan. 1, 2021, through Sept. 30, 2021, if the employee was not working during the business shut down or the business experienced a decline in revenue of 20 percent. This would be for employees who were paid but were not providing the employer any service.

The credit is 70 percent on up to $10,000 of eligible wages paid per employee (maximum per employee per quarter credit of $7,000 with a maximum combined credit per employee $21,000).

Wages that were forgiven under the Second Draw PPP loan cannot be included as eligible wages.

The above information is for general guidance only; please consult the official IRS documentation 2020 vs 2021 ERC Details and IRS ERC Q&A, as well as your CPA/legal advisor to determine for which quarters you are eligible. The determining factors require a quarterly revenue comparison. This determination of eligibility is a CPA function. AmCheck will calculate all Employee Retention Credits free of charge for existing clients with historic payroll data. If you are a new client without 2020 or 2021 payroll history, contact your account director to discuss your options.

2020 and 2021 retro credits will require amendments to your 941 filings; normal amendment fees will apply.

News of Interest

Senators Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Extend Medicare Telehealth Reimbursement Through 2024

On Feb. 7, U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D‑Nev.) and Todd Young (R‑Ind.) introduced bipartisan legislation to extend current Medicare telehealth reimbursement waivers, including substance abuse treatment, through 2024.

If the bill is passed, it would also extend current Drug Enforcement Administration telehealth prescribing waivers for two years. Click here for more information.

Scientists Highlight Specific Gene With Promise for Treating Many Forms of Blindness

Trinity College scientists have highlighted a specific gene, SARM1, as a key driver in the damage that ultimately leads to impaired vision and sometimes blindness.

Through a disease model, they showed that the gene deletion protects vision after a chemical kick-starts the chain of dysfunction that mimics a host of ocular conditions. Click here for more information.

Simple Eye Test Can Potentially Identify Risks of Alzheimer’s in Middle Age

University of Otago researchers said they hope that a simple eye test can make diagnosing the earliest stages of “diseases of old age” possible when people are younger.

They have been investigating the retina’s potential to indicate cognitive change earlier in life and found that a thinner retinal nerve fiber layer may be linked to a greater decline in processing speed (the speed at which a person can understand and react to received information). Although early detection is available through MRI or other brain imaging, eye exams would be more practical and less expensive. Click here for more information.

Sight Sciences Launches Glaucoma Awareness Campaign

Sight Sciences, Inc., announced the launch of its “Don’t Wait for Too Late” educational campaign. It is aimed to raise awareness among the optometric community of minimally invasive glaucoma surgery as an earlier surgical intervention for glaucoma. Click here for more information.

Getty Images photo credits—Alzheimer’s: Steve_Allen

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