April 2024

Preparing the Soil With SNAPP

Board members (l-r): Lisa Hamilton, OD; Richard Hults, OD; Milissa Stone; and Ken Kopolow, OD

By the SNAPP Board

Are there any gardeners out there? Depending on your final frost date, you may have already purchased your seed packets, sowed seeds indoors or even directly into the ground. But now comes the tending, which requires constant attention and participation.

In many ways, that’s no different than implementing change in your Pearle Vision location. Good ideas are everywhere—like those showcase gardens that show improbable mixes of spring and autumn blooms at the same time. But scattering new ideas around and hoping that they take root and blossom is almost never how it works.

That’s why SNAPP is such an important part of your business growth. SNAPP members share what works for them. And while their soil and climate may not be precisely the same as yours, there are many similarities. So ideas that come from other Pearle doctors and Licensed Operators are particularly valuable.

We share those in every issue of the SNAPP Insider, and the 2024 SNAPP National Meeting provides a wheelbarrow full of great ideas. So make your plans now to attend Sept. 15-17 at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. More details will be coming soon, so you can check out the meeting page here and make plans to attend.

Until then, share with us what’s growing well in your business garden by sending an email here.

SNAPP Board member Ken Kopolow, OD, attended the American Optometric Association's legislative and advocacy days in Washington, D.C. in April. Read more on that next month.


Get Out of the Office to Get New Customers In

Milissa Stone

Milissa Stone, a Licensed Operator in Grand Junction, Colorado, has a strategy she’ll use when the appointment books need a boost. She and the optometrist get out of the office and go visit some major employers in the area. “Our books are so often filled with patients who want a provider who accepts their insurance, but these patients don’t always know where to look,” she says. Or even if they do, they may not know why to choose this Pearle Vision location over any other listing on the managed vision plan website.

“I’ll try to connect with the HR person and ask what vision plan or medical insurance they have for their patients. With vision plans, the majority are VSP or EyeMed around here,” she says. She comes in prepared with a flyer that includes the Pearle Vision address, phone and website. It highlights that patients can make appointments online and lists insurance and vision plans accepted. “If you have special services, such as dry eye or specialty contact lens services, or if you co-manage cataract or LASIK patients, add that to the listing, too. Then I ask if the HR person can post our flyer in the employee break area,” she says.

These simple reminders can help her Pearle Vision location stand out to employees who are looking for eye care or eyewear. “It’s not instant gratification, but it absolutely makes a difference. It helps to provide an introduction to patients and customers, especially when so many have as a starting point: Does this practice accept my insurance?”

Successful Transitions

A Career of Connection

After a 41-year career serving patients, Ken Portnoy, OD, decided to hang up his retinoscope. Sort of. In March 2023, Dr. Portnoy and his wife, Bonnie Portnoy, sold Tej Shah their two Pearle Vision locations—one in Wheeling, Illinois, that he had started in 1982 and another they purchased in Lake Zurich, Illinois, in March 2002.

Dr. Ken Portnoy and Bonnie Portnoy on their March vacation, where they truly disconnected. No longer the owners of two Pearle Vision locations, they remain invested in the success of the businesses.

“When we sold the locations, I said I would work four days a week for a year,” he says. That would help smooth the transition for patients and ensure that the practice productivity didn’t dip. As that year came to a close, the couple decided they needed a real break. “I had never had a vacation where I wasn’t connected to the office by phone, text or email.”

That month-long rest made a big difference to the couple, and in April, Bonnie Portnoy returned on a part-time basis to the Wheeling office to help with the administrative functions she’s been carrying out for years. In June, Dr. Portnoy will also return to see patients on a part-time basis.

“We’ve put everything into the success of these practices for the past 41 years, so it is hard to disconnect,” he says. “We want to see them succeed.” In the past year, two ODs have been hired, and Dr. Portnoy looks forward to being able to go to work and “just” see patients. “In many ways, it has felt familiar, but I’m not the one making the run to Costco for supplies,” he says, laughing.

The SNAPP factor

Dr. Portnoy says that he strongly encouraged the new owner to remain connected to the SNAPP group. “Over the years, there were so many ideas that we implemented into our practices because of SNAPP. Not only did we develop friendships, but we gained many useful business tools and strategies that we were able to incorporate.”

He credits the SNAPP network with helping them to thrive. “I’m most proud of the fact that patients thought of that Pearle location as a place where they trusted us and could bring their children and grandchildren. Some people say, ‘It’s just business.’ But for me and my wife, it was personal.”


How Social Media Works to Help or Hurt Your Practice

By Peter Cass, OD, Practice Compliance Solutions

Editor’s note: Over the next several issues, the team from Practice Compliance Solutions will review some guidelines for social media, including the legalities of patient communications via social media and how to respond to online reviews. In this first installment, the PCS team addresses why social media can be critical to building a business today.

Whether you are participating in social media related to your practice or not, your patients are. The average person spends about 145 minutes on social media every day.

• 90% of users follow at least one brand on social media
• Facebook has 2.9 billion monthly active users across the world
• TikTok has 1 billion monthly active users across the globe
• Instagram has nearly 1.4 billion monthly active users

If you’re not on social media, you’re missing out on opportunities to reach a larger audience, grow your patient base, solicit customer reviews and build credibility for your practice.

The benefits

Actively managing your social media presence can have many positive benefits.

• Build social proof
Patients expect to see info about your practice on social media. They may not even consider the business trustworthy until they’ve encountered it on social media.

• Boost new patient acquisition
Marketing can only go so far, and prospective patients want to know what to expect in terms of customer experience. They are actively scanning customer reviews for clues.

• Understand customer sentiment
Just because you have bad reviews doesn’t mean you have failed. You can’t win over patients every time, but you can better understand how patients feel about your practice, and that can help you know which aspects of customer service to work on.

• Boost online reputation
Reviews can boost your online reputation and you can encourage happy patients to become promoters for you by posting online reviews.

• Provide a competitive advantage
Positive reviews can differentiate your practice from others, especially in a saturated market where patients have numerous options. They can sometimes be the deciding factor for potential patients comparing different practices.

• Allow patients to see your practice’s personality
Posting information about your practice and your staff as well as interesting events that occur in your practice can allow potential patients to get a feel for the culture and personality of your practice and help see if it is a good fit for them.

• Influence decision
Positive reviews can sway their decisions. When a potential patient sees a review from patients with similar issues, which you treated, it makes them feel your practice has the right solution for them as well.

• Improved SEO
Positive reviews increase traffic to your website traffic and improve your search ranking.

How might it hurt?

Ignoring social media can cause you to miss negative (and positive) comments that are being made about your business and can give the public the impression that your practice does not care. You will be missing opportunities to address concerns about your business.

Additionally, you can run into legal trouble if you fail to follow HIPAA guidelines when responding to posts or communicating with patients. (More on that in the next article in this series.)

Eye care professionals today should take the time or assign someone to their social media efforts because it’s where your patients are. Your patients are on social media, and they are discussing your practice on social media. You can either ignore it and let the public shape your image and online reputation, or you can actively manage your presence to build a positive reputation, address negative feedback and leverage your promoters.

Read more about social media and small businesses here and here.

HR Advice From AmCheck

Skills-based Hiring

Are you finding it difficult to fill job openings because not enough people are applying? You wouldn’t be alone. One path that organizations are taking to expand their applicant pool is to forgo the college degree requirement and instead adopt a more inclusive, skills-based approach to hiring. Here are some pros and cons, for those jobs where a degree is not necessarily required.

The upside of the degree requirement

In addition to being a screening tool if there are an overwhelming number of candidates, a college degree is an early indicator that an applicant may have the basic knowledge and skills needed for a position. A college degree is also a sign that an applicant has likely developed certain soft skills like communicating with peers, completing long-term projects and meeting deadlines. It’s not a guarantee, of course, but it enables employers to make reasonable decisions about which applicants to advance to a phone screen or interview.

The downside of the degree requirement

A degree requirement might be working against you, if a degree isn't necessary for the role. A college degree is rarely the only way to gain the proficiencies needed for a job. So eliminating it may increase your applicant pool. According to a study by Harvard Business School, requiring a degree when it’s not essential “particularly hurts populations with college graduation rates lower than the national average, such as Blacks and Hispanics, age 25 years and older.” It can also raise barriers to entry for many young adults.

Skills-based hiring?

Skills-based hiring prioritizes asking applicants whether and to what extent they have the skills needed for the job, not where they acquired those skills or how long they’ve been using them. It makes room for people who would be able to excel in the role, but don’t have the education or work history generally expected for someone with their expertise or ability.

As an example, if you were hiring someone into an HR coordinator role, you’d skip asking them if they have a degree and how long they’ve been working in HR or general administration roles. Instead, you’d start with whether they have data entry and conflict resolution skills—or whatever skills you’re looking for in particular—and then ask how they acquired those skills and how they’ve put them to use.

Skills-based hiring will likely add time to your hiring process. You won’t be able to rely on degrees or years of experience as your first screening criteria. You may have to redesign your application so that it effectively asks about skills and enables applicants to tell their story. Expect to spend more time in the phone screening and interviewing process.

But there are advantages. It makes you think clearly at the outset about what skills are truly essential, what specific skills would most benefit your organization and what skills would merely be nice to have. This can lead to better job performance, lower turnover rates and higher employee satisfaction because employees are positioned in roles that suit their skill sets and growth aspirations.

Plus, you can discover candidates who you’d likely overlook despite being highly capable and a terrific fit for the role. And it can increase the diversity of your candidate pool.

News of Interest

27 Minutes to Eye Strain

According to a new OnePoll survey conducted on behalf of VSP Vision, American workers begin to experience eye strain just 27 minutes into virtual meetings.

Nearly three-quarters of the respondents (71 percent) attend virtual meetings, with many experiencing symptoms of digital eyestrain such as blurry vision (38 percent), dry eyes (37 percent) and headaches (32 percent). Read more here.

How Many Images Per Second Can You See?

Researchers from Trinity College Dublin used the critical flicker fusion threshold test to see whether some people perceive a rapidly changing visual cue at frequencies that others cannot, meaning the former can access more visual information per timeframe than others.

Some participants in the experiment indicated they saw the light as completely still when it was in fact flashing about 35 times per second, while others were still able to perceive the flashing at rates of over 60 times per second. Read more here.

More Reasons to Treat Amblyopia

Adults who had amblyopia in childhood are more likely to experience hypertension, obesity and metabolic syndrome in adulthood, as well as an increased risk of heart attack, finds a new study led by researchers at University College London.

The researchers said that they hope the study “will help reinforce this message and highlight how child health lays the foundations for adult health.” Read more here.

Getty Images photo credits—soil: Guido Mieth; outreach: Francesco Carta fotografo; transitions:
ljubaphoto; compliance: alexialex; hr advice: Xavier Lorenzo; eyestrain: Bevan Goldswain; fast ball: DustyPixel; amblyopia: FotoDuets

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