2014 and Beyond: New Relationship-selling Model

It’s been a while since I last wrote something and the reason is in our Legacie division we have been hard at work trying to improve the way we work with our valued business partners (we also did a major acquisition with Revo Sunglasses – but more on that in the next post!).  We have been saying for some time that the age-old “sales rep” business model is not the model for the future….  And that in order to be the best partner going forward we need to offer more consulting, more analysis, and more sales and marketing support, as opposed to the older model of “let me come in and replenish what sold and take out what didn’t”.

As of this week, we are very proud to announce that Legacie has implemented the first phase of what we are calling our new “relationship selling” model.  What does this look like and what does it mean for our optical partners?

    1.  We now have four Brand Ambassadors, led by Felix Marks who is our Executive Brand Ambassador.  Our ambassadors will focus their energy on our partners – and offer a full range of consultative services in addition to traditional sales.
    2. We have re-imagined our customer service department from an excellent “reactive” team to now be a fully functioning (and still amazing) sales support arm.  They will still handle ALL our daily service issues and in addition, they will be in touch with ALL of our important partners in a more consultative and sales support role.
    3. In the coming weeks we will launch a robust b2b legacie.com site where all of our partners will have access 24-7 to everything ranging from ordering product to training videos to marketing materials to inventory and account balance information.  We want to make the “selling process” as easy and efficient for our customers as possible and we recognize that in some cases this means NOT talking to someone.

We realize that our retail partners’ time is very limited and very valuable, so we are working to streamline all of our processes, recognizing we all need to be more efficient  and more aware and respectful of our partners’ time.

I am sure the transition to this new model will be a little bumpy and a little messy. I am sure we will make mistakes and have some things fall through the cracks.  So I apologize in advance for the inevitable “screw up”.  And please know we have the best interests of all of our partners in mind as we make this transition.  Instead of resting on our laurels of the past 85 years, we are eagerly planning for the next 85.  And we look forward to partnering together!

Thanks, and please reach out with any questions or comments.

- Cliff

The Summertime Blues

courtesy of FlickRiver

courtesy of FlickRiver

 

The Who are famous for singing “There aint No Cure for the Summertime Blues”.  And I feel optical sales suffers from this same “disease”.  Every year around June 1 or June 15, we start hearing the same things from our sales team, our friends, and even our retail partners:

“Business really slows down for the summer”

“I don’t need any new product until the fall – I just want to sell down what’s in stock”

“Call me closer to the show”

We hear every variation on the above from June through August.  I think it’s time we change this mindset and offer some cures for the Summertime Blues.

While summer may be slower as people think about the beach or vacations or just taking some downtime, business does not have to slow down.  People still need glasses and people are still shopping.  The government never announces a huge drop-off in the overall economy or retail sales during the summer months.  And many of the larger retail chains don’t report big sales declines in the summer months.  So what can we in the optical industry do to give a boost to those Summertime Blues?  A few tips:

  1. Run a summer sale and promote it to your patient/consumer base. Nothing brings people out to shop like an old-fashioned “deal”.
  2. Focus on Rx sunwear offerings.  I know our business in sunwear rises this time of year and there is no reason our optical partners should give this away to other retailers.  And optical stores and practices can offer such better service (not to mention Rx options) which retail stores can’t.
  3. Have a summer themed trunk show.  In addition to a “deal”, people LOVE to come out for a party that also involves fashion.
  4. Lastly – and I think most importantly – BRING IN SOME NEW PRODUCT.  Everyone by now knows my feelings – nothing drives sales better than new product (especially luxury offerings).  If the summer assortment on your shelves is the same as it was in spring and you are just hoping to sell down inventory, that can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  No new product usually means no new sales.  You don’t need to bring in a lot.  Just something new to create some buzz. Something that gives you an excuse to contact your patient/customer base.  Something that gives you a reason for some local promotion.  Product drives sales. 

Here you go.  A few quick tips to drive some business and create some excitement and avoid those Summertime Blues.

Re(4): Recharge, Reinvent, Reinvigorate, Revive

So I started a new post last night about my 2013 YPO retreat (from which I just returned).  I called the post Re(4) which stands for Recharge, Reinvent, Reinvigorate, Revive.  I started to write and had a funny feeling I had done a similar post about a year ago when I returned from my 2012 YPO retreat.  DUH!  I had written basically everything I wanted to write this year, last year!  If you read just one thing I write, please read this post from last year.  It really is so important not only for people running a business, but also for anyone looking to improve his/her life skill sets.

In addition to the below post, I would also like to add a new twist.  Last year I talked about “retreat and recharge” which is all still VERY relevant.  This year I want to add “REINVENT”.  The business world is moving at such a fast pace it is hard for all of us to keep up.  We also see forces changing our business models almost daily.  Tom Friedman, in today’s New York Times, talked about how 10 years ago Facebook, Twitter, 4G, the iPhone, and the Ipad did not even exist!  Can you imagine a world without all of these “things”??  Pretty impossible.  But with all of this new technology comes the need to harness it for our specific needs… and that is where REINVENTION comes in.  It is no longer enough to just have a forum of advisers where you can share ideas. It is no longer enough to just “take a business time out” to recharge.  It is no longer enough to have a renewed sense of energy.  We also now need to constantly REINVENT our business so we stay relevant for today’s ever changing business world.

So please reread last year’s post and keep in mind the idea of REINVENTION along with everything I wrote.  And as always, ENJOY.

BLOG POST

Oh, and remember the Rolling Stones are back on tour!!! Don’t miss it!!!

 

A Note from Cliff

I normally write posts that are for our entire industry and I purposely avoid company-specific items.  Today’s post is really a Legacie statement to all of our valued partners.

Recently we have made a number of changes with our Account Executive sales team and our internal team.  Our goal is always to offer the best partnership, product, and service to all of our partners, and I work tirelessly (mostly) behind the scenes to make this a reality.

When we made these changes, I reached out to a number of our retail partners to say hello, check in, thank them for their continued support, and inform them of the changes we were making.  I was very surprised to hear from a few people (only a few – but still want to address it!) that they felt I had either been aloof or uninterested in their business since I had not previously been checking in or staying in contact enough, or not sitting down at a trade show.

I want to say to all of our friends and partners this is definitely NOT the case.  While in the past I may have overly deferred to our sales team to be the main point of contact with our partners, I have always been 1000% involved in all decisions and all planning at Legacie and I feel terrible that some people would think I, or any member of the Robinson family, was not interested.   If anything, we care too much.

If anyone has felt this way I apologize and will do my best to make sure it does not happen again.  I always call any new partner to say hello and introduce myself and welcome them to our extended family… and while there is never enough time, I thought I was staying in contact with everyone.  For those that have felt differently, I again apologize.

Thanks for listening, and please know we have a very open door policy and B. Robinson and Legacie.  Please feel free to call or email any time and I will always make sure to respond to any question/comment/complain/suggestion, etc.

Thanks,

Cliff

Cliff’s Notes on the Vision Monday Global Leadership Summit

I had the opportunity to attend the VM Global Leadership Summit yesterday and I was amazed at how the themes of the event were so in tune with all I have been writing about in the past year or two.  The title of the event was “Imagination – Invention, Succeeding in a Culture of Change“.  That says it all.  Every presentation touched on how business is changing so rapidly and how ECPs and all retailers need to have a strategy to adapt to this change.  Some quick takeaways for me (and please refer to the CE class I have written for more a more detailed discussion):
1.  Nothing says “new strategy” more than a change to product assortment.  No one is saying a major overhaul – but a tweak in product will do so much to help you stand out from the crowded marketplace.
2.  Look at your service model.  In the age of Amazon and Zappos and “on demand” buying and service, all ECPs must look at “service” as a means to stand out from the crowd and compete with the omni-channel retailing that is all around us.  “Service” (and of course product assortment) is why consumers will come to you as opposed to shopping somewhere else.
3.  Digital — what is your digital strategy??  I am not advocating selling product online (this will become more important with time but will never overtake the entire market the way some people say) but I am fully advocating having a digital strategy.  It could be just a new way to communicate with your customers or it could be a way to better manage the patient experience… but you need to be doing SOMETHING!
Be on the lookout at Visionmonday.com for a slide presentation from the event.  It is WELL WORTH reading!  A BIG thanks to Jobson Publishing and the Vision Monday team and especially Marc Ferrrara and Marge Axelrad for putting on such a great event.  Some specific highlights for me:
- Marc Ferrara in his opening remarks said: “As an industry we are kind of boring our fan base and we need to entertain them more.”   He could not have said it better or more succinctly.  He also said the day was “all about asking questions”.  I think he stole that line from me!  That’s the best way to challenge your status quo and own your strategy.  Ask yourself questions and come up with NEW answers!
- Francis Jean, OD, President/CEO of Iris The Visual Group — he gave a great presentation on how ECPs MUST use service and product to compete. And he does NOT have an online sales strategy – but uses digital to communicate and offer information to his patient base.  Very compelling.
- Frank Moss, PhD, Director of the New Media Medicine Group at MIT Media Lab — spoke about the need for creativity and enabling people (your team) to think out of the box and come up with new ways of doing EVERYTHING.  A great quote: “Disruption starts with NOT knowing what you DON’T know.”  Love that one!
- David Golden, OD, Co-Founder of EyeHome Network and PERC — his quote says it all: “Evolve or get replaced”.
- Robert Safian, Editor and Managing Director, Fast Company Magazine – he spoke a lot about Steve Jobs and painted a great picture illustrating the need to always challenge status quo and always be looking to reinvent your business or processes.
Conferences are a great way to get out of the day to day doldrums of work and open your mind and challenge your accepted practices.  That’s why I like to attend them and that is why the VM Summit is always such a great day…. and always nice to see old friends!

Dispatch from Milan: MIDO 2013

Hello from Milan. It is the third and last day of the Mido show and I have had plenty of time to reflect on my thoughts.  Last year I wrote about the importance of trend/boutique/luxe product.  I still stand by this important message and I can report again that the ONLY busy pavilion here at Mido is the trend section.

This year, what I noticed (in addition to the need to have a boutique/luxe strategy) is the incredible CHOICE that is now available to all ECPs.  There must be more than a hundred booths showcasing luxe or boutique product and half of them seem to be new this year.  This fact alone should convince all ECPs of the need to look at this segment of the market and to begin to develop a strategy for this kind of product.  While most pavilions and booths seem to be less exciting and losing energy, the trend pavilion is busy.

languages 2And that’s my second observation. In year’s past I heard English, Italian, French, and German in the trend pavilion.  Now I am hearing Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin, Portuguese, Hindi, and many other languages.  Every good retailer and distributor around the world is beginning to seek out new product they want to support for 2013 and beyond.

This year I personally met new people from Jordan, Libya, Turkey, Morocco, Peru, India, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Chile. EVERY market around the world is catching on to this trend of boutique and luxe product.  Everyone is looking to stand out from the crowded market place of popular price brands that can be found everywhere.

I urge any ECP looking to build an optical practice to think about this phenomenon and begin to develop your own point of view and your own boutique/luxe strategy.

Vision Expo East is around the corner - a perfect time to begin your strategy!

 

Cliff’s Notes on the Grammys

So everyone knows I am a huge music fan and thus need to watch the Grammys each year.  Not sure what any of this has to do with the optical community or the overall mission of this blog, but it’s fun to take a break and talk about non-biz stuff from time to time, right?

A few things that really stuck with me.

 1.  Jack White totally rocks.  PERIOD.  There is no one today making such awesome music so consistently.  I urge everyone to go listen to the White Stripes, the Raconteurs, Dead Weather, and Jack White solo.  How many people in such a short time span can have 4 projects that are all excellent??  He was robbed not winning whatever category he was nominated for.  His ALBUM was the best this past year.

 2. I hope the Alabama Shakes can keep it going.  For my money they were the best new band (maybe not most popular new band)  and I look forward to seeing if my thoughts can come true long term.

 3.  Alicia Keys should host and headline every awards show, halftime show, and tribute show forever!  There is not too much finer than listening to her sit at the piano and play and sing.

courtesy mtv.com

courtesy mtv.com

 4.   I feel old!!!  I hadn’t even heard of some of the performers.  I have heard most of the songs but had no idea who was behind them.  I need to stop watching Phineas and Ferb and Backyardigans and get back into the swing of adult (or at least almost adult) pop culture.

 5.  At the risk of sounding like an old curmudgeon, I have to admit I watched the Grammys and got more depressed as the show went on.  I actually liked most of the music and thought the performances were all really good.  What depressed me was that while we seem to have GREAT pop music these days, where are the Bob Marley’s or Carole King’s or Elton John’s of today? Will Miguel, Fun., Frank Ocean, or even the Lumineers be here in 20 years? Who is going to pull together a star studded tribute to the Levon Helm of this generation?  I watched as Carrie Underwood paid tribute to Carole King…  what are we going to do in 30 years from now?  Is someone really going to sing Carrie Underwood songs?? Who is writing/performing the music we will want to honor in 30 years?  Elton John was “passing the torch” to Ed Sheeran (who is really good I think) but will Ed Sheeran really pass the torch 10 or 20 or 30 years from now???  Is digital music and the internet killing the album and band-oriented music I love??  Time will tell.  But I am not optimistic:).

John Shearer/Invision/AP

John Shearer/Invision/AP

Kevin Winter/WireImage.com

Kevin Winter/WireImage.com

Don’t get me wrong — I think pop music is great and has an important place in our lives… but is the music of today going to last the way Elton, Carole, Levon, Bob, Bruce, Mick/Keith, John/Paul, etc. etc. have lasted for so many years??

 6.  And to finish on a more positive note — I think the Black Keys are really good and I hope the keep making music.  They have that raw rock performance reminiscent of the great rock bands.  And I really don’t particularly like pop music but I am appreciating it more and more these days.  Justin Timberlake is just cool, I admit it :)

Kevin Winter/WireImage.com

Kevin Winter/WireImage.com

And a non-Grammy tip — listen to Gary Clark Jr.   This guy’s got game!

 And last but not least — WHY DIDN’T PRINCE PERFORM????  We don’t want to see him hand out awards — we want to see him bring the house down — Like Chuck D and LL!!

What did you think – do you think I’m being too critical?

My 2013 New Year’s Resolutions

It’s the time of year to reflect on the past 12 months and then make plans for the coming year – And I am already a few weeks late which does not bode well for potential accomplishments… (my team posted theirs almost 3 weeks ago!)

Without further ado, here are my 2013 Resolutions.  Check back with me in December to see how many I was able to keep!

Cliff_SoulMake MORE time for healthy living – I’m a huge fan of Soul Cycle and always try to get to at least one class per week.  It can be tough to fit in exercise between working full-time , being a husband and a father to 3 energetic kids, but it’s so important to take some time to clear your head and keep your body in check.

The second part of this quest for a healthy 2013 is eating better – I have a new kitchen on the way (more on this soon – it’s more entertaining than you might think) and am trying to commit to organic and farm fresh food whenever possible.  And of course I always want to watch the portion control.  I am a total foodie and tend to way over-eat every night.  As much as I love it, I am not getting any younger :) so need to keep it in check.

And lastly – keep up with my skiing, tennis and get back out and do some hiking and biking when the weather gets better.

Learn Something New – I recently tweeted an article from one of my favorite sources, HBR, on this very topic.  In 2013, I will try to step outside the daily routine and expand my horizons.  A few things I want to do and might realistically accomplish:

    • Start playing piano again and learn guitar
    • Become WAY MORE functionally literate in the digital business world.  So much is happening at the speed of sound and I feel I am missing some of the key trends for the future.  I at least have started to read the NYT and more magazines on my iPad.  It’s a start :)
    • Find time to read more (so I can learn more).  I can’t believe I am saying it, but the train commute is just not enough time to catch up with all I like to read.
    • I could even watch Fox News to get an alternate perspective on what is going on in the world :).  That would certainly be something new for me!

Organization – This is a BIG ONE for 2013.  We are in the process of implementing many efficiency initiatives at our company -  everything from more streamlined order entry, to better accounting practices and reporting functionality, to revamping our warehouse space.  I am always looking for ways to make my business and personal life more efficient – check out my tips on apps that I’ve been enjoying – and will continue this into 2013.

Visit a New Place – Since my wife and I have 3 young kids, it has been a lot harder to travel for pleasure. I used to be able to visit new cities or places in conjunction with biz travel and now I just want to be home with the family.  As the kids get a little older, I hope 2013 gives me a little time to steal a day or two while on a business trip.  Some places on my hit list: Dubai, Sao Paolo and Rio, Prague.  And for pure fun – Bhutan, Patagonia, and Iceland.  I won’t make it to all of them in 2013 but I will certainly try!

Como Hotels and Resorts - Bhutan

Como Hotels and Resorts

Rio - Christophe Simon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Christophe Simon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Make Time for Old Friends –There is nothing more important to me than friends and family and although I feel like I am very fortunate so see most of mine often, it never feels like enough time.

(Re-)Implement “Date Night” – because she deserves it!  and Because we always have good intentions that fall by the wayside.

Last but NOT least – Always work to be a better manager and leader at our company. I firmly believe people can learn new things every day and I always try to stick by this motto.  If I am continuing to learn and grow, I can help everyone on our team do the same.  This is the best way to maintain our unique point of view in the market and make sure we are always offering a unique value to all of our wonderful partners and team members.

Happy 2013 to all!!

My Reflections – the Healing Power of Music

I had been writing a post last week to take the focus off business and talk about music (my true love) and then Friday and Newtown, CT happened.  People far smarter and far more eloquent have said so much about the tragedy and I still remain completely speechless… so I would simply like to share something President Obama said Sunday night which really hit home for me as a father and a human being.  And then I want to go back to talking about music since I think it is actually one of the true healing powers we have in this world.  Whenever I am feeling depressed or having a bad day or, in this case, experiencing the completely unthinkable, I do find that music can make me feel the slightest bit better.

Some excerpted words from President Obama (the full link is here) :

As a nation, we are left with some hard questions. Someone once described the joy and anxiety of parenthood as the equivalent of having your heart outside of your body all the time, walking around. With their very first cry, this most precious, vital part of ourselves — our child — is suddenly exposed to the world, to possible mishap or malice. And every parent knows there is nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm. And yet, we also know that with that child’s very first step, and each step after that, they are separating from us; that we won’t — that we can’t always be there for them. They’ll suffer sickness and setbacks and broken hearts and disappointments. And we learn that our most important job is to give them what they need to become self-reliant and capable and resilient, ready to face the world without fear…. This is our first task — caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right…. We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end.…. There’s only one thing we can be sure of, and that is the love that we have — for our children, for our families, for each other.

———–

And now the music to help us feel better:

FilmI couldn’t let the 12/12/12 concert pass without dropping a few lines about it.  Mick dubbed it “the greatest collection of old British guys ever assembled at MSG” and he was not wrong!!  It not only featured everyone from The Who to Roger Waters to the Stones to a cool McCartney/Nirvana thing, it also benefited the Robin Hood Relief Fund.  New York City and the surrounding metropolitan areas were SO severely impacted by Hurricane Sandy and it was nice to see the music and film industries organize a high-profile event in order to raise money for the rebuilding efforts.

And aside from the real reason for the show, it was also an AWESOME show.  My personal highlights (which you should check out – or even better – BUY on iTunes to support the relief efforts):

Eddie Vedder singing the Dave Gilmour parts of Comfortably Numb

Bruce and Jon Bon Jovi – the Jersey Boys – singing Born to Run

Alicia Keys to close the show with New York was brilliant.

And really it was ALL awesome.

 And continuing in this week of great concerts was not one, but two, Rolling Stones shows (and the Who doing Quadrophenia the week before… a good concert week for me!).  Last Thursday I ventured out to the Prudential Center in Newark for the first of their 50th Anniversary concerts that I would attend.  John Mayer joined on guitar for ‘Respectable’ but perhaps more interesting, the band played a request that fans had voted for on the new Rolling Stones app.  (side note – I told you that embracing technology was a huge trend! If the Stones can do it, so can you!) Also of note was the return of Mick Taylor – it was his first time playing with the band in U.S. since 1981.  And he KILLED it on Midnight Rambler.

Saturday night was EVEN BETTER as we were lucky enough to be sitting in the 5th row in the friends and family section.  We were seated next to Mick’s longtime companion L’wren Scott and Keith’s wife Patti Hanson.  And right there in front of us was Sarah Jessica Parker, Billy Squier, and Chris Rock.  The show was awesome before it even began.  Amazing highlights were:

Lady Gaga belting out Gimme Shelter with Mick.

Mick Taylor repeating his awesome guitar work on Midnight Rambler.

Bruce joining the Stones for Tumblin Dice.

The Trinity Wall St Choir singing You Can’t Always Get What you Want.

And of course just being so close to the band made for an amazing special evening and a necessary break from the sadness of the weekend.

Check out their set lists for night 1 and night 2 if you’re interested.

Technology Tips – Cliff’s Notes on Apps!

The holidays are always a busy time of year and anything that can help us get organized and be more efficient is especially welcome right now.

The sheer number of apps that are now available can be overwhelming so it’s always nice to hear what is working for others.  With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to share a few that I have recently begun to use in both my business and personal lives that I find to be completely worthwhile.

Notes Plus

notes pluss

This easy to use app allows you to make notes on documents either in your own handwriting or with text.  It has a clean user interface and can be a total lifesaver for taking notes on the go.  It essentially functions as a notepad – no more random post-its and slips of paper!

iAnnotate

iannotate

A great tool for reading, sharing and annotating PDFs.  You have the option to choose from pen, highlighter, typewriter, stamps, notes, underline, strikethrough, photo, voice recording, and date stamp functions.

SyncSpace

synspace

A virtual, zoomable, digital drawing space that can be shared in real time over the net.  The possibilities here are endless!

Handshake

neverwrite_main

We recently implemented this for our Legacie salesforce and it has changed the way we do business. Our customer service team has much more time to focus on offering quality service now that order entry is automated.  Handshake allows you to write and receive orders on the iPad, iPhone & web.  You can also load catalogs & line sheets.  Just an overall incredibly powerful and easy-to-use tool.

Expensify

expensify

 A fantastic app that makes expense reporting so much easier – you can sync with your credit cards and bank accounts to track purchases as they happen.  You can even  turn your phone in to a receipt scanner by snapping a picture of the receipt!

Uber

uber

You literally have a car and driver on call if you use this app – you can request a private car in any city the service is available and the app lets your driver know where to pick you up and then lets you know exactly how long until the car arrives. At the end of your ride, the fare is charged to your credit card on file (no need to tip).  Amazing!

That’s a quick roundup of what I’ve been using. Am I missing out on any other great apps – if so, I’d love to know what you recommend.

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