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Thread: Taking over father's practice, need advice.

  1. #1
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    Confused Taking over father's practice, need advice.

    Hello all,
    I've been lurking for a while and it seems that this is a great resource for anyone in the optical community.
    I need a bit of advice, I'll make a long story short.

    My father owns an optical shop and it is doing very well. Unfortunately, he recently suffered a stroke and is unable to run his shop right now. His staff have been running things on their own for the last two weeks but now the manager is now at the end of his rope with the lab. They are having problems with the lab sending in junk, his words. The other thing is accounting but my wife and I will be handling that aspect.

    THe manager complains that the current lab is sending in jobs that are off axis and off power, consistently. Now, I don't have years of optical experience but I certainly put my time in at the shop through high school and college. I'm going to have to rely on the manager's expertise here and trust that we should shop around. There are several options available, small labs, big guys ( which they use now), out of town labs and so on.

    I've been working with the manager on a few options and I'm torn between price and quality. Manager wants better quality, and so do I, but the smaller guys are more. Also, one that I'm interested in, is out of state but they seem to offer fairly competitive pricing.

    I suppose my question is, can the smaller guys make up for higher prices in better quality? What about turn around time? Out of state means longer shipping time, unless we pay overnight charges. My dad spent over 40 years building his business and I don't want to jeopardize the store's reputation by offering bad quality, poor service or high prices. Where's the happy medium? The manager is great with optics and managing people. Dad took care of accounting, vendors and so on., it's times like this I wish he were able to offer some advice.


    If you have any insight or advice, I would greatly appreciate the help.
    thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    I'd encourage you to look at your sales for the last couple of years and get an idea of the price range your patients are used to seeing. An abrupt change in pricing either way may unsettle the patient base which will already be sensitive and wary to your dad's diminished role.

    Keep in mind the profit margins you've been running as well. Don't target anything lower lest you lurch the practice into a fiscal issue faster than you might think. The consultants and speakers and lit I read indicate pretty consistent targets you should be aware of.

    When you have those two numbers in mind, hopefully your lab options will be fewer and clearer. Erring on the side of quality is a good instinct. Cheap labs that cost you time and labor putting out fires aren't really cheap.

    VERY best wishes to your dad, you, and your families! Prayers for a healthy recovery and serenity for all those affected. It's inspiring to see the effort to preserve his labor of love. Good Luck!

    : )

  3. #3
    Master OptiBoarder rbaker's Avatar
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    I wonder if the problem is the lab or the manager. Aparently the lab was performing well prior to your dads CVA. Why would they suddenly start shipping you crap if indeed they are? It is not uncommon for the employees to play games when the proprietor of a buisness either retires or no longer has an active presence in the business.

    You might want to pay a call on the lab and have a conversation. Be cautious and do not make any hasty decisions.

  4. #4
    Master OptiBoarder opty4062's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbaker View Post
    I wonder if the problem is the lab or the manager. Aparently the lab was performing well prior to your dads CVA. Why would they suddenly start shipping you crap if indeed they are? It is not uncommon for the employees to play games when the proprietor of a buisness either retires or no longer has an active presence in the business.

    You might want to pay a call on the lab and have a conversation. Be cautious and do not make any hasty decisions.
    +1. My thoughts exactly, is this coincidental timing?

  5. #5
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    Thank you for responding and for the words of concern.
    Our target customer is used to paying $575 for sv and $950 for a pal(complete pair), rough numbers I know but that's what I've found from the last year and a half or so. This other lab has prices that are a little higher, shrinking our profit margin by 10-20%. I agree that I don't want to upset the customer base that we have by introducing higher prices.

    I understand what you all are saying about the manager and my wife and I have had multiple meetings with him. Everything seems to be above board, runs a tight ship and employees like him. At one of our meetings he mentioned that he brought the lab issue up to Dad several times within the last year or so. Here's what I found out about the current lab. A new manager/operator at the lab two years ago, or there abouts, and things ran pretty smoothly for a while. There have been rumors for a while that this new guy may have some personal/ substance issues. Whatever, drama. Much of the staff has been run off and they've been running on bare bones ever since. Dad and the lab owner go way back, the current lab manager? Is the bosses son...

    My wife and I are at a loss here. We trust our manager and he's showed us the invoices of all of the remakes & credits that they've been dealing with. You know, the nightmare jobs (the ones that really aren't that hard but the optical god's refuse to smile on?) that take a month for our customer to get her glasses? 5 invoices/credits for their screw ups on this one customer alone! Now that's one example. There are too many to list...

    I'm sorry I didn't make that clear to begin with. hope it helps.

    So is losing a profit margin of 10-20% really that bad? I'm sure we could tighten our belts elsewhere.

    HeRe's my other hang up, we want the public to buy local, from a family owned business. Why should we use a corporate lab? Shouldn't we be giving our business to small business owners as well? I did read on here a while ago about using two labs, one "big" and one "small", I'm still unsure about the purpose of that however.

    Thanks again for then concern, prayers and kind advice.

  6. #6
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    Typical;

    You have to cut your current outside lab off at the knees immediately as they are starting to negatively affect your business.
    Whether you go to a small or a big corporate lab is irrelavent at this point. Get out of there and get with another lab which will reduce your headaches so to
    give you time to figure out which lab you want to end up in the end.

    Best of luck.

    Golfnorth

  7. #7
    Ophthalmic Optician OptiBoard Gold Supporter
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    I am in Ohio, I use a family owned lab, and I get most of my jobs back the next day (uncuts). Ironically, the lab I use is in Florida. I have tried most of the local labs, and most of the corporate as well...I feel your pain. I am extremely happy with the lab I use. PM for info if you'd like.
    Ophthalmic Optician, Society to Advance Opticianry

  8. #8
    Master OptiBoarder OptiBoard Silver Supporter Jubilee's Avatar
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    I am currently in a similar scenario where due to health reasons, the owner is no longer active in the day to day operations of the business, and we have been doing what it takes to make sure his legacy continues.

    The pricing with the lab is often negotiable. Sometimes you can get them to match your pricing from the current lab. Or you may find that your product mix will change due to pricing. (OEM digital PALs compared to name brand, etc.. ) Don't forget to factor in prompt pay discounts, warranty/remake policies, nor the staff time in having to deal with lab headaches.

    Turn time is another factor. While it used to be true that labs out of the local area took longer, it is not necessarily the case anymore. Many labs will provide prepaid labels for you to ship the product, and in some cases get orders back in just a couple of days. I know of labs on both coasts that can get uncuts out in less than 24, and complete orders in returned in 3 days. Digital/AR/PALs.

    If you are active in many insurance plans, I will often test a lab by sending them the insurance work for a while. I can see what turn time is like, quality, service.. and not spend a dime on our end til I am satisfied it is going to work.
    "Some believe in destiny, and some believe in fate. But I believe that happiness is something we create."-Something More by Sugarland

  9. #9
    Master OptiBoarder OptiBoard Gold Supporter Judy Canty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by typicalusername View Post
    Hello all,
    I've been lurking for a while and it seems that this is a great resource for anyone in the optical community.
    I need a bit of advice, I'll make a long story short.

    My father owns an optical shop and it is doing very well. Unfortunately, he recently suffered a stroke and is unable to run his shop right now. His staff have been running things on their own for the last two weeks but now the manager is now at the end of his rope with the lab. They are having problems with the lab sending in junk, his words. The other thing is accounting but my wife and I will be handling that aspect.

    THe manager complains that the current lab is sending in jobs that are off axis and off power, consistently. Now, I don't have years of optical experience but I certainly put my time in at the shop through high school and college. I'm going to have to rely on the manager's expertise here and trust that we should shop around. There are several options available, small labs, big guys ( which they use now), out of town labs and so on.

    I've been working with the manager on a few options and I'm torn between price and quality. Manager wants better quality, and so do I, but the smaller guys are more. Also, one that I'm interested in, is out of state but they seem to offer fairly competitive pricing.

    I suppose my question is, can the smaller guys make up for higher prices in better quality? What about turn around time? Out of state means longer shipping time, unless we pay overnight charges. My dad spent over 40 years building his business and I don't want to jeopardize the store's reputation by offering bad quality, poor service or high prices. Where's the happy medium? The manager is great with optics and managing people. Dad took care of accounting, vendors and so on., it's times like this I wish he were able to offer some advice.


    If you have any insight or advice, I would greatly appreciate the help.
    thanks in advance.
    It is possible to get high quality lab work with competitive pricing. www.luzerneoptical.com

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbaker View Post
    I wonder if the problem is the lab or the manager. Aparently the lab was performing well prior to your dads CVA. Why would they suddenly start shipping you crap if indeed they are? It is not uncommon for the employees to play games when the proprietor of a buisness either retires or no longer has an active presence in the business.

    You might want to pay a call on the lab and have a conversation. Be cautious and do not make any hasty decisions.
    having worked for several family owned businesses it may be that the lab has been bad for awhile, but his father may have had personal ties there and the manager may not have felt he would be listened to if he complained. so this could be an ongoing problem that they are laying on fresh ears. having been in this situation before (and currently actually) I can see that being the case.

    That being said I would have him make a list with patient names, dates and what came in incorrectly about the job that was the labs fault. then speak with the lab rep or mgr first, if nothing improves say see yah budday
    Last edited by becc971; 10-21-2014 at 07:36 AM.
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  11. #11
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    Yikes - I don't even care if you use the lab I work for. If I can help PM me. I'm sorry about your Dad and I wish him a quick recovery. You have some heavy decisions ahead of you - he built something that ought to continue. Let me know if I can help.

  12. #12
    ATO Member HarryChiling's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Johns View Post
    I am in Ohio, I use a family owned lab, and I get most of my jobs back the next day (uncuts). Ironically, the lab I use is in Florida. I have tried most of the local labs, and most of the corporate as well...I feel your pain. I am extremely happy with the lab I use. PM for info if you'd like.
    I second this lab great pricing, turn around and their technology is phonominal.

    To the OP, no knee jerk reactions when changing labs do it one day at a time, ex. All Monday jobs go to the new lab. That way you have a few weeks to work out the kinks. Once your set to go make the leap. Good luck.

  13. #13
    Master OptiBoarder OptiBoard Silver Supporter Jubilee's Avatar
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    I should have posted to feel free to PM me if you need assistance with anything else. I know it can feel overwhelming.

    Good luck and my prayers are with you.

  14. #14
    Master OptiBoarder OptiBoard Silver Supporter Java99's Avatar
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    I can't add anything to the advice already given here about labs, but I can suggest you look into the ordering process and how/if it has changed since your Dad isn't there everyday. I have seen employees blame ordering errors on the lab in the past to cover their own behinds, and it's worth checking out.

    Good luck and I'll be glad to answers any questions I can!

  15. #15
    Master OptiBoarder SeaU2020's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbaker View Post
    I wonder if the problem is the lab or the manager. Aparently the lab was performing well prior to your dads CVA. Why would they suddenly start shipping you crap if indeed they are? It is not uncommon for the employees to play games when the proprietor of a buisness either retires or no longer has an active presence in the business.

    You might want to pay a call on the lab and have a conversation. Be cautious and do not make any hasty decisions.
    +1 Terrible time to have a temper tantrum. I would approach the lab manager regarding your manager's issues first.

    Sorry about your Dad, sure hope he makes a speedy recovery.
    ~~ There's a battle between what the cook thinks is high art and what the customer wants to eat ~~

  16. #16
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    Get another manager. Your own guy, and work through the issues together. You don't have to know everything, but you need to have a guy you can trust.

  17. #17
    Forever Liz's Dad Steve Machol's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by himmeroo View Post
    Get another manager. Your own guy, and work through the issues together. You don't have to know everything, but you need to have a guy you can trust.
    Or woman. Just sayin'.


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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by typicalusername View Post
    I understand what you all are saying about the manager and my wife and I have had multiple meetings with him. Everything seems to be above board, runs a tight ship and employees like him. At one of our meetings he mentioned that he brought the lab issue up to Dad several times within the last year or so...We trust our manager and he's showed us the invoices of all of the remakes & credits that they've been dealing with.
    ...

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