Lab Watch
PARTNERSHIPS: The Personal Touch

This is the premiere of a new regular feature in Upfront offering perspectives on operating within the lab network of the optical arena. Long-time 20/20 readers will recognize it as a modern take on what was once a series of profiles on optical labs.
—James J. Spina

For Scott Schmidt, there's no way around it. It's personal. Business, yes. But a business built on the foundation of personal relationships and forged partnerships. “The independent eyecare professional is our life and blood," says the vice president of sales and marketing for Seoco, Inc. "They are our customers, but for us it has always been about relationships. We build and foster relationships with the doctors and their staffs." This family owned and operated independent lab based in Champaign, Ill. was founded by Scott's father, Ed Schmidt in 1972 with an initiative to offer quality premium lens products while maintaining an "open door" management philosophy. "All the principles in the company are available to any one of our customers at any time," says Schmidt. “And that’s worked very well for us—especially in this environment of corporately owned labs." One of Seoco’s main initiatives has been to provide meaningful education and support to its growing base of independent eyecare professionals in Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri. Utilizing programs designed specifically to help independents attract new patients, increase Rx capture rates and grow per patient revenues, Seoco strives to create an environment where "mutual growth can be the only true measure of success." To that end, company management was recently trained in CPR— Consult, Present and Resolve—a turnkey process to dispensing offered free of charge to Seoco’s independent partners. "The key— and the challenge—is finding someone in the practice who understands the importance of these programs and is willing to make the changes," says Schmidt. "We can all get stuck in a rut, convinced we are already doing things as best as we can," he adds. "But this? This is about people working together to create a partnership for success."

— Kristen Spina