☹I started counting frames in 1997 and I am still counting frames in 2018☹
As an optical manager, each piece of inventory was like my child. They were all my responsibility and I had no authority over any of them.
Over the years I began to understand that I needed to have some way to keep track of all my “kids.” I tried for years to remember all their names and all their variations. Around 2003 I realized that I was not smart enough to remember 587 kids in 2 sizes and 3 colors (yes it really took that long). I needed a system.
First, I started counting them by brand. It helped prevent my kids from being kidnapped. It was a good start and saved us a few hundred dollars per month, but it wasn’t enough.
Next, it was time to deal with my vendors. Every week one of these good-looking, slightly sweaty charmers would come in and count my stock. They would review a few internal documents that I was never allowed to see. Then they would tell me what I sold, what needed to be returned, what was my must-have product, what was discontinued and what was stale (hint…nothing was ever stale). They would write me a return authorization and an order loosely based on what I picked out. Then I would happily schedule to do it all over again in 6 weeks (every time they left I felt dirty). Eventually, the product would arrive, and I would be overwhelmed with entering it into the system I never used for the front desk that always complained it wasn’t entered in properly. Then came pricing each piece with a sharpie and a ridiculously small tag and placing it in an appealing way on the display rack. The process took forever!! I still have nightmares about the little plastic frame bags. I figured there had to be a better way.
This time I got crafty and started a spreadsheet. I put in every detail I could. The process took me over a year because it was not considered a priority by my doctor. When I started using it I was amazed by the power of information.
The moment everything changed was so small most people around me missed it. I printed my sheet just before I met with a vendor. I knew she was padding my orders and refusing to authorize my returns. I wanted to be ready for her. She came in and I had a few pieces to return that were defective and few that were old. She began to write up the defects and paused to look at her sheet. She told me the old frames had only been on the shelf for 6 months and did not need to be returned. I pulled out my sheet and said “according to my inventory those frames came in over 2 years ago and still have not moved. I want to exchange them for a more sellable product please.” She looked at me and then my sheet and seemed really annoyed. She returned my product without another word. I felt like a giant. This woman had been pushing me around for a long time and I finally got a chance to fight back without being rude or getting angry. She could not argue or lie her way around my data. She was forced to treat me fairly. I fell obsessively in love with inventory management that day. What can I say? I am a nerd.
From there inventory management became an incredible tool for me. It is easy to increase the bottom line for any office simply by keeping track of all the details. If you focus on the pennies the dollars with taking care of themselves.
I thought I was so smart, but I was wrong. I found out that retail stores have been using software based on the same idea for decades. Yup, their programs do in seconds what it takes me weeks to do with my spreadsheets. So much for being smart.
Trish B – Optician turned sales rep