It is common, and indeed in some cases, recommended, to delegate much of the responsibility of buying frames to an employee. As an independent business owner, your time is precious and valuable, and can be used in many different ways. Rummaging through a box of sold tags and filling in order sheets electronically is most likely not one of them.
That said, recognizing that, in a $1 million practice, your frame COGS can run into the 6-digits, is useful. I am an inherently suspicious person, but even if I wasn’t, it would be difficult for me to delegate $100,000 of my money to anyone. Keep in mind that my distrust in people stems from decades in retail. If you are a trusting person, delegation will probably sit well with you, and it is more likely you are not regularly checking in to see how your money is being spent. (Call me at 203-286-4964 and teach me your ways, you trusting soul).
Not every business turns inventory in the $100,000 range of course, but $30,000 worth of orders annually is still a massive responsibility. The handling of it may have been given to someone who has never had an annual expense that high – ever. So what do we really expect as a result?
I challenge you to always assume your staff is doing their best – that they have the best of intentions and that they care about you, your business, and their job. So delegate, yes. Trust, yes. But verify.
We don’t want to take away responsibilities, we just want to know where our money is being spent. Set a meeting with your staff and explain that this isn’t a reflection on their performance; rather, you are trying to anticipate large expenses and plan accordingly.
Once we set their minds at ease, begin working on an Optical Policy & Procedure One-Sheet. And I do mean one sheet. Very few people will read beyond this point, and if they do, they won’t retain it. We want to focus on answering some important questions for clarity and posting it in the office, so one page works here.
What is the required inventory level (how many frames should always be in stock)?
Which manufacturers do you carry?
Which brands do you carry?
This will give whoever is doing the buying a pretty important baseline: How many frames can I have? From where can I order them? And what can I order? This alone will ensure you never have old inventory, understock overages, or shortages of frames.
3 more critical components to hash out and get down on paper:
At what dollar amount does an order require Management approval?
Does the practice sell off the boards, drop ship to the lab, or operate under a hybrid?
How often should an inventory be taken, and what should be done with the results?
The goal of policies and procedures is the exact opposite of not trusting the staff. Rather, a one-sheet clearly defines their power and, by extension, their responsibility.
Ask yourself, who does the buying, who does your reorders, and at what point does it become necessary to verify?
Susan earned her bachelor’s degree in Fashion Merchandising Management from FIT and studied branding abroad at the University of Westminster. Her most recent positions include Merchandise Manager for Cohen’s Fashion Optical and Northeast Regional Trainer for Solstice Sunglasses. Susan started her own business in 2009 and sold it in 2016 to return to Connecticut and begin working for IDOC, helping other small business owners find success on their own terms. For questions or comments about this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.