Frame vendors: your most important bond

September 15, 2008

Nearly 100 top-tier frame vendors are in the marketplace, vying for your frame dollars. Consider 10 key traits before collaborating with a frame vendor and its representative; you’ll increase the odds for a long-term, prosperous business relationship.

Key Points

"I picked your mother out of all the women in the world," my Daddy would say as he once again explained to me how he met and fell in love with my Mom. In my 7-year-old mind's eye, I imagined a long line of women on the tarmac of an Air Force base during World War II, all smiling at my handsome father-to-be as he walked by.

My Dad certainly didn't know all the women in the world and they obviously weren't all in one central location.

Frame vendors from all over the world, on the other hand, are vying for your frame dollar and can be met speed-dating style at conferences such as International Vision Expo in New York and Las Vegas.

All the frames in the world can be viewed over the Internet and purchased without ever seeing a frame representative.

Just as your personal life may suffer if all your relationships are online dates, only the most computer-sophisticated optician will embrace Internet frame buying.

With close to 100 strong players out there, how do you decide which one to say "yes" to and start a relationship?

Begin with the end in mind. When I started dating, my Mom helped me to make a list of the top ten traits I was looking for in a life partner. It was a good exercise in long-range planning. Here's my list of key traits to consider when forming a relationship with frame vendors.

With obesity on the rise, don't forget about plus-sizes. Straight temple pieces cling to the head and are an alternative option to extended temples.

Consider the first year of the vendor relationship as the "engagement" period. Were promises kept? Calls returned? Were you notified when styles would be phased out or were so popular that reorders were impossible? Did the frame rep freely share information about best sellers and regional sales reports? Industry trends and sources for accessories? Did he or she refrain from gossiping and walk the committed relationship talk?

The dictionary defines partnership as "the joining of resources between two parties, with each contributing mutually to achieve a single successful outcome." My parents formed a "'til death do us part" relationship I think in part because they followed sage advice passed on to me and that which might serve as touchstones in vendor/practice dealings:

A combination of my Dad's "Don't be afraid of 'No'" (meaning you haven't left perks on the table) tempered with Mom's "Treat others as you'd like to be treated."

Vendor representatives are commissioned salespeople. Pay your bills on time. Respect your rep's profit margin and ask his or her help to grow yours.

Especially in a tight economy, having a business partner who works with you to develop an inventory model and sales feedback loop will increase your frame inventory turnover and decrease the need for markdowns. It's crucial to offer a good assortment of frames at competitive prices.

To maintain your edge with the patients, everyone-including the vendor rep-must be willing to give 100%.

Donna A. Suter is president of Suter Consulting Group, offering practical, no-nonsense practice management consulting. To discuss practice efficiencies and how to become more effective in patient communication, contact her at 800/249-5201 or suter4pr@donnasuterconsulting.com
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