ANSWERS TO YOUR FAQS!

All the time we are asked the all important question… “How do I get started with designing my optical space?!”. Well we thought it might be helpful to answer some frequently asked questions for you right here in our blog! Check out the answers from our CEO Jan Ennis.Blog_Home-Page-1000X562What is the first step in getting started with determining the right design or atmosphere for ones’s optical?

This is a very broad question and one that is far less important in optometric practices than “proper layout and flow” for the entire practice.  Optometry has changed in many ways in the last few years and the very first consideration to be given is the list of room requirements for the overall space.  The areas of “pretest”, “special testing” and “fields” need to be given serious consideration for both room requirements and process flow.  A well thought out professional space can eliminate the need to move later if sales volumes increase beyond initial expectations.  While we still see people “remodel” their dispensaries, we too often see new practices that have been poorly laid out before we are ever contacted to assist.  We are then given the task of making the optical space attractive and profitable while we see how money will be lost and space considerations for professional services have often been overlooked.  It is very difficult (and time consuming) for us to then insert our professional experience into the process to help the client avoid potential space consideration problems in the future.

There are a number of companies specializing in optical design that take a far more holistic approach to design than simply putting the face on the dispensing area.  As critical as that area is, it has to first create the professional image of the practice and then function as the “retail face” of the business.  We typically design a practice such that there is never a “view” from the retail area to the “professional services” area.  This allows the practice to function properly by not sending mixed signals to the patient about the market position of the goods or services being provided.  It also allows the practitioner to move freely from room to room without distraction from the retail area.

The atmosphere for the dispensary works best if it is done in an approach that we call “professional commercial”.  A space that is too retail looking or too extravagant looking can either overpower the presentation of the merchandise or it can diminish the value of the professional services that are being rendered.  In order to help the client determine the atmosphere for a space, we like to understand the demographics of the practice, the type of location for the space, which direction it faces and also the other types of businesses in close proximity.  Our clients operate in medical facilities, retail shopping centers, standalone buildings and malls.  Each of these types of structures presents us with a different view on how we might direct a client’s approach.

While we have a number of clients that are extremely creative and lots of us have “DIY” desires, you can simply avoid some very costly mistakes by consulting and working with those of us in the industry that have tried numerous approaches to merchandising and found what does and does not work.  We get many great ideas for new items from clients, but can also steer people away from ideas that did not really work as well as they “looked”.

What is the biggest mistake you’ve seen, in terms of budget?

Not having a proper budget is the single biggest mistake regarding budget that anyone can make.  The second biggest mistake is thinking you can do it cheaper than people that do it professionally all the time.  After 40+ years of manufacturing and construction experience, there are too many variables to define for someone to effectively work to an unrealistically low budget.  Banks that do practice loans are a great source of “logical” information for construction and fixture budgets.  They see the original budgets that loans were granted for and then have the data for the actual payments made.  Construction costs are available in industry publications and can vary (+ or -) by region.  We typically see that a properly designed practice in most areas of the country will cost between $105 and $115 per square foot to complete today.  These costs represent the “Total Package” of general construction, store fixtures, seating, lighting, etc.  Equipment and inventory are obviously separate portions of your overall budget and selection of premium finishes can obviously increase the square footage costs.

The budget discussion above simply sets the stage for the true requirements in order to produce a proper budget.  A simple floor plan is an absolute joke for budgeting purposes.  Far too often we see doctors get “complimentary” floor plans for a new space and then race off to do a budget.  A floor plan has absolutely no consideration given to the single biggest component of “extra” costs….FINISHES.  A floor plan does not specify floor coverings, paint colors, seating, lighting, casework finishes, HVAC (if needed), etc.  I could not possibly tell you how important it is to define either (a) a maximum budget that drives these design considerations or (b) final decisions that are not restricted by budget to all have these things defined before you begin construction.  One of the biggest killers of a good construction budget is not having ALL DECISIONS done prior to construction start.  I have seen “change orders” add far too much cost to a great project because a client constantly changed their mind about small things once contractors started building.  A well budgeted, fully planned space becomes a well-executed project.  The only way I have seen this work well is when enough time is allocated to fully design the space for both retail and professional considerations, all the details of finishes are complete and enough time is given for any required permitting and general construction.  Following this best practice will allow the practitioner to focus on their primary field of endeavor.

Did you have any more questions you needed answered? Send us a comment and we will write another post answering your questions!

YOUR NEW OFFICE (PART 3)

Click Here for Part 1, and Here for Part 2.

“The architect… did not consult with the doctor on budget expectations or share industry average construction costs prior to starting the design.”

Who’s the decider?
A major issue that designers (mostly independent) struggle with is the notion of not invented here. By this, I am referring to ideas that you’ll have about how you want the space to look or flow. Many designers feel that they are the professionals and WHATEVER they say is what should be done.

I understand where they’re coming from. It’s tempting to insist upon applying all my years of experience to any given design but that experience has afforded me a process that incorporates your needs and ideas and ultimately leads to better design.

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The reality is that your ideas are critical to the design process and whomever you choose should welcome your input. I tend to take a devil’s advocate approach with clients. Every idea should be both valid and challenged.

If you are working with someone that can take your project from start to finish, it is more likely that you will see more of your ideas come to fruition, since a big picture view means they’ll be able to see the advantages and logic behind your ideas.

Some changes are likely but the possibility of incorporating some of your own ideas and desires becomes much simpler as we carefully consider your space, clientele, type of business and other needs.

And the runner up is…
If the major lesson of getting started in your new practice is LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION, then the second lesson of designing the space is TIME, TIME, TIME.

You should take your TIME in the overall design process, as the end result will greatly impact your productive space. Taking time up front in design can save you COUNTLESS dollars once you start building.

Getting your store fixtures (in the big scheme) is a very small part of the design process and can take place quickly if you are using “stock fixtures”. Custom fixtures means lots of design and build time. A good design firm can help you decide where your time will be best spent.

Once upon a time…
A client asked us to review plans that had been drafted by a high priced architectural firm that had never done an optical space. Upon first glance, the lab was in the back (not near the dispensing area for quick access), the professional space took up almost the entire store and left very little space for reception and selling.

With close to 50% of practice revenue coming from eyewear sales, having 15% of the space to accommodate that work is not logical. The architect, being used to doing high end projects, did not consult with the doctor on budget expectations or share industry average construction costs prior to starting the design.

It only took moments looking at the finish schedule to see that the lighting was going to take nearly 60% of the total budget the client had shared with me for the whole project. The reception desk had a rather tight radius and was to be covered in large marble tiles (just because it can be drawn does not mean it can be built). Since tiles don’t bend, this was going to be both a challenge and not likely yield acceptable results.

To make matters worse, the project was started before the client had dialed down all the final details.

Sometimes less is…umm…less
The client started changing the fixtures, locations of fixtures, colors and finishes to save costs after the project started. In this case, the contractor was quite happy to accommodate because each change order was accompanied by a $250 charge PLUS return or cancellation fees on the originally specified materials PLUS the markup on the new materials. As you can imagine, this did not really reduce the price of the project. Instead, it created a space that cost a lot with downgraded materials.

Happy client experiences
We iron out details prior to construction start or even seeking formal bids. Getting a bid from a floor plan without a finish schedule and reflected ceiling plan with specifications for the space is set up for a very frustrating guessing game that could impact your business for years to come.

Allowing too many variables is not the way to start your new business. When all the details are dialed down, your estimates of cost will be more accurate and the suppliers can check stock on the finishes to make sure lead times are not affected by back orders, discontinued colors, etc.

Careful pre-planning minimizes change-orders to issues related only to site conditions… things beyond the control of you and subcontractors. I strive for maximum change orders of 5% of the original bid/estimates from the general contractor.

The best professional design takes approximately 4 to 6 weeks. The pace of completion is dictated by planning. On-the-fly decisions slow the process. During the entire process, you’ll have financing and other details to juggle, along with your regular work.

Taking time up front and being involved through the design process will give you comfort knowing that when construction starts, you can stay focused on what you do best….eye health and fashion.

This is part three of a series. Part one is here. Part two is here.

Thinking about moving or opening a new office? Give us a call. We’d love to answer any questions you may have. 800.833.6626

ENNCO DISPLAY SYSTEMS AND MAGIC DESIGN FEATURED AT EYECAREBUSINESS.COM!

Alicia Hoglund at Eyecarebusiness.com was kind enough to interview Cy and Jan for her article, Store Décor: Multigenerational Marketing.

Please take a minute to check out the article featuring tips from myself and Cy on how customer age groups affect your sales.

And don’t miss the “FRESHEN UP” section at the bottom for some great tips on updating paint, lighting, flooring and fixtures.

Below is a jumbo version of one of the images featured in the post.

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 ENJOY!

THE SALES MAGIC OF DISPLAY

Display is a MarketingTool

Display is a vehicle for presenting and promoting your merchandise,
your services, and your professional image. Don’t throw a scarf into your dispensing showcase and call it “display.” That old scarf trick can literally make your frames disappear.

Display in a dispensary should have as its main impetus product definition, regardless of the cost, quality or quantity of frames in the showroom. A functioning display enhances the product directs and informs your clientele, and creates an entertaining and relaxing atmosphere in which to visit and shop.

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Plan Display Time

Display in your dispensary should be easy to create, maintain, and afford. You are the designer of your own display program. Set it up so that it works for you. Support it with a budget. Invest in a display case where you can centralize your display efforts. Assign a
person to be responsible for the displays, and allow some time for general maintenance (five to eight minutes, end of day, to clean and reorganize the showroom). Schedule a comfortable and logical time for any major display changes. (It may have to be after business hours.) Make a display storage space where you can keep tools and materials and display-related paraphernalia: frameholders, seasonal trim, display risers, sign holders, and so on. You can re-use certain displays, or rotate them from one store to the other if you have more than one location. Have a file labeled “displays” where you can keep a list of your suppliers, save notes on display, and keep a record of your expenses (they are tax-deductible!).

Practice Making a Statement

Plan your displays carefully. Concentrate on a theme that ties in with your total in-store marketing strategy. Your visual statement should coordinate with your current advertising and promotional program. The display should harmonize with your decor and company image. The featured merchandise must be available (check your inventory) and your staff should be knowledgeable about the merchandise advertised in your display. Your display should reflect the style and taste of your target clientele. If you are unfamiliar with their lifestyles, simply ask them what they feel about your display. They will appreciate your interest in their opinion; you will gain insight as to what appeals to your clients; and you can determine the effectiveness of your display work.

Display is not difficult to do or undo. If your initial design doesn’t look right, simply adjust the “picture” by moving things around. Keep in mind that patience and practice will improve your skill and build up your confidence.

A beginner should proceed one step at a time. Start with a small spot display instead of taking on a window display instead of taking on a window display as your first undertaking. Concentrate on one line of frames and build a setup with materials furnished by the manufactures. In fact, utilizing the posters, point-of-purchase displays, frame cases, and logo plaques designed by the eyewear manufacturer is one of the best ways to create a display where all the components coordinate and relate to the product.

When you become more experienced, you may add ingredients to the frame display which are not purely optical, like a pair of driving gloves with some men’s sunglasses or that scarf with the women’s fashion frames, But whatever you use, make sure it coordinates with your frames in design, physical makeup, color, and character.

Product is King

Most importantly, do not upstage your frames with your displays. Keep in mind your objective: to project, enhance, and sell your merchandise-your frames, Eyewear is small, translucent, and finely detailed, and can be easily overwhelmed. if you remind yourself to “frame the frame,” that will help you control excess enthusiasm. When in doubt, keep it simple. You need not do artful display for every frame in the office. Placing frames in straight rows is acceptable. Group them according to gender, function, manufacturer, physical quality or price. Do spot displays where needed to highlight a grouping or to relieve monotony. (Hint: use your newer frames for your display set-ups. It’s better to use frames with lenses as these are closer to the finished product your patient will receive. In addition, the lenses will reflect light and add sparkle to the display.) Avoid disturbing the display you spent time and effort designing. Have duplicates available to show your patients.

HOW TO…START THE DESIGN PROCESS

Since when does anyone know exactly what they want right from the get go?! We know it is easier said than done, so here are some quick tips on how to design your new space and have fun doing it!

  1. Start with ideas of what you like and don’t like– To get an idea of how you want your space to look check out other offices in your area (optical as well as non-optical spaces like retail), flip through magazines, or browse company websites (especially the Ennco Display Group website ;)) – Shameless plug!
  2. Be open to new ideas– The great thing about having an experienced designer at your side is… they have all kinds of ideas and could do this with their eyes closed! Although it might be hard, be open to what they have to say even if it is outside of your (cozy and warm) comfort zone.
  3. Discuss the bottom line– Be prepared to discuss your budget. All too often unrealistic budgets can hamper great potential projects. We understand nobody likes to discuss the finances of design, but doing so will save you tons of time!
  4. Take the plunge– Give your design team the green light on your office plan! If you need to first give them the yellow light that’s ok too… baby steps! The team will create a visual 3D model for you to fall in love with- if it’s not love at first sight don’t fret, changes can be made to make it a perfect match.

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5. Practice Communication– The 3D model is a great way to see the   many different store fixtures styles and colors that will create the overall feel to your space. Be honest and open with your designer, this will allow the design process to move smoothly and more efficiently.

Well now you know…these 5 steps are easy to follow and will ensure you are successful when creating your new space. Of course there is always the option of telling your designer to take the lead and just show you the final product!

Happy Designing!