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LAB INSIDER

Help, Wanted.

Need a lab manager? These optical veterans share their strategy for hiring the right person.

So, you need a lab manager—but where to begin?

To get the 411, EB checked in with three industry experts with in-house labs who have all been there and done that:

Ruth Domber, optician and owner of 10/10 Optics in New York

James Mulligan, OT, ABOC, of Bouquet Mulligan DeMaio Eye Professionals in Elizabethtown, PA

Steven Ferguson, O.D., of River’s Edge Optical in Dakota Dunes, SD

Here, they share their smartest tips on finding the right lab manager for your practice.

WHERE TO LOOK

“Finding a talented and experienced lab manager is really like finding a needle in a haystack,” says Domber. She recommends looking “everywhere,” using your network of trusted reps, colleagues, and former employees, as well as posting in industry-focused Facebook groups.

While he also uses sites such as ZipRecruiter, Indeed, and Monster, Mulligan agrees that pure and simple networking is the best route.

“Vision Expo is a great place to talk to vendors who can make connections and recommend potential new employees,” he says.

A candidate might be right under your nose. “The best source for finding candidates is your existing opticians,” notes Dr. Ferguson. “If you have the ability to bring in an optician who can be half-time in the dispensary and half-time in the lab, that can be a great asset for you.”

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

Attention to detail is critical in managing a lab, say our experts. “We make sure our serious candidates have some key qualities,” says Mulligan, such as:

 They understand that every job in the lab is a “one-off” job.

 They have a good memory to keep track of jobs that get old or have backorder issues.

 And, they possess the ability to stay calm under pressure that can arise in the lab.

“People skills and a positive outlook are another major part of working on our team,” he adds.

Mulligan and Domber recommend a trial period to make sure whoever you’re planning to hire is a good fit for you and also that you’re a good fit for them.

WHAT TO ASK

“I always ask why the candidate got into the optical business,” says Mulligan, who also notes that, “the individual must have a passion for the business. I love to hear that enthusiasm.

“Then, I ask more specific questions about how to handle difficult prescriptions, slab-off prism, and various lens materials. I like to introduce the candidate to other key employees and have them interact to see if they’re a good fit.”

Domber also asks where they see themselves in five years. “I ask them if I call up your last three jobs, what would they tell me about you,” she notes. “I ask what they’re bad at, what they’re best at, and what makes them angry.”

WHAT TO OFFER

“Typically, salary and benefits are going to be somewhere in the range of $35,000 depending on your market,” explains Dr. Ferguson. “Should the lab grow in volume, the potential of adding some bonus based on either profit and/or number of error-free jobs could be added. ”

However, Domber notes that it’s not always about the money. “Sometimes it’s about days off, flexible hours, or health benefits,” she says.

Benefits do talk, and at Bouquet Mulligan DeMaio Eye Professionals, they offer 75% paid health insurance with a low deductible and Aflac is available for dental and disability.

“We also offer a liberal vision plan,” says Mulligan. “Vacation accumulates with time served, with five paid sick or personal days per year. Employees can also receive $150 per year for education or recertification and a yearly holiday bonus.”

—JACKIE MICUCCI