President’s Message: 2015 is a Year to Aim for the Top

As we head into 2015, it’s appropriate to look back on the past year and beyond. 2014 was very successful for many and challenging for others. It’s been a year of setting records and a year of unprecedented change. For me, as I look back on the past twelve months, I think of 2014 as a year of signals. Out of the fog of day-to-day survival have arisen a series of powerful messages; clear communication that the road ahead will be full of challenges.
Mount Washington
Mount Washington

By Alan Cleinman

Al Cleinman
Al Cleinman, Founder and President

As we head into 2015, it’s appropriate to look back on the past year and beyond. 2014 was very successful for many and challenging for others. It’s been a year of setting records and a year of unprecedented change.

For me, as I look back on the past twelve months, I think of 2014 as a year of signals. Out of the fog of day-to-day survival have arisen a series of powerful messages; clear communication that the road ahead will be full of challenges.

We’re now starting to feel the encroachment of the Internet delivery of eye wear and are fearful of the introduction of eye exam apps. We’ve consumed announcements of wearable technology and of new drugs that will potentially cure presbyopia.

We’ve watched the advancement of well-financed consolidators like MyEyeDr and the implosion of others like American Optical Services. We’ve watched vision plans cut deals with competitors and heard of new retailing terms like “omni-channel” and “curation.” This is, in my opinion, an era of massive change for our industry. The change-winds are buffeting us from all directions.

So what does this have to do with surviving success?

I recall sitting at the top of Mt. Washington in New Hampshire a few years ago. This peak is the highest in the Northeast at 6,288 feet. Mt. Washington boasts the worst weather in the world, with the highest wind speed ever recorded (231 mph). There’s even a building with chains attached to keep it from blowing away.

Now there are a few ways to get to the top of Mt. Washington: You can hike, bike, drive or even take a train. The auto road, built in 1853, is the oldest privately owned recreation site in the U.S. It took millions of dollars, a number of lives and two different companies (the first went bankrupt) to complete the monumental project. Engineers today, with their aerial photography and sophisticated engineering equipment, have reviewed the work of the original road-builder and can’t find ways to make significant improvements to the route. Within a couple of years of the road’s completion, another firm built a railroad to the top, which is still in operation today. Over 200 people have died on top of Mt. Washington.

As I was sitting at the top of my Northeastern world, some thoughts came to mind about the success journey and arrival “at the top.”

  • Drive to the top in low gear. Getting to the top takes a lot of energy, and it’s important to preserve your assets on the drive up.
  • You can’t get to the top alone. It takes a lot of resources and people to clear the way to the top.
  • Not everyone makes it to the top. Those that don’t aren’t any better or worse than those who do. They’ve different skills. Everyone has something to contribute to the journey.
  • The route to the top is often the one you see first. Go with your gut…it’s often better to make a quick decision than to analyze things to death.
  • Look around as you climb to the top. Slow down. The views are different and just as breathtaking from every level.
  • The closer you get to the top, the harder it is to keep climbing. Take your time. Preserve your energy. You’ll need it
  • Be careful on the climb to the top. Avalanches are more common near the top.
  • It can be very dangerous at the top. One wrong step and you can rapidly land at the bottom.
  • At the top, you have to always be prepared. Pack different gear. The weather changes fast at the top.
  • Enjoy the view from the top, but don’t dally. As in basketball, there really isn’t “hang time.” You’re traveling up to the top or heading down.
  • It’s windy at the top. Like the building with chains, it takes a lot of anchors to keep you at the top.

It’s times like these, somewhat scary times, when we might feel the need to chain ourselves down like that building on Mt. Washington. It’s easy to think that we might be blown away by all that’s moving around us and that we can’t possibly keep up.

Many an individual has found themselves at the top and assumed that nothing could usurp their position. But the world is full of bankrupt firms and individuals who made such assumptions. My objective isn’t to scare you about the road ahead; indeed, I’m very optimistic. But I do want you to consider that it’s times of change when opportunities arise.

Are your eyes open? Are you prepared?

Founder and President of Cleinman Performance Partners, Al has been an entrepreneur and leader in the eye care community for more than 40 years. Engaged in all industry segments spanning manufacturing, retailing, frames, lenses, and publishing, he is the founder of more than 20 businesses in the vision industry.

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