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On February 23, the Optical Retail Business Alliance (ORBA) held its second Webinar. While the first Webinar in January was essentially a kick-off session that informed members about what the organization might be able to do for them and what ORBA expected of them, this second session focused on some key issues.
The man at the podium that evening was Mike Daley, the former COO of Essilor of America, Inc.’s U.S. Lens Division. Now retired, Mike continues to consult for Essilor on a range of projects and is active in various industry endeavors. For example, he is the current chairman of the board for The Vision Council.

Mike’s course was titled, “What Independent Opticianry Businesses Need to Know.” As you might suspect, his views were rather interesting. Mike is a college-educated optician who taught in a college-level opticianry program for a short period of time before joining Varilux®. Between this and his years of experience as a high-level, lens manufacturing corporate manager, Mike’s 70,000-ft. view of the optical industry and the profession is unique.

Mike suggested that independent opticianry business owners (IOBs) need a unifying message to educate the public on the role and importance of the optician (a point I made in this column last month). He stated that the public still doesn’t know the difference between the three O’s and if opticianry wishes to continue operating independent offices, it’s important to inform the public of their value in the eyewear delivery system. In other words, tell them what opticians do and why it’s valuable to the public.

He also proposed that the time is right for opticianry to advance. Refraction hasn’t changed much in 80 years but lenses are much more sophisticated and require greater skill and detail in dispensing. In the future, digitally surfaced lenses will be equally as important as refracting and the prescription. In Mike’s view, the next three years will bring this opportunity and opticians are in the best position to take advantage of these changes because they are uniquely qualified to do so.

My big takeaway from Mike’s session was how strongly he felt the Internet would affect IOBs and eyewear retailing in general. As Mike put it, “…if you do nothing, you won’t survive!” As you might suspect, ORBA members are all over the map on this issue. Some see it as a necessary thing to get into, others see it as a horrible turn in the way eyewear is sold and delivered to the public. Since this is such a hot topic among the ORBA members, it’s something that will be discussed in greater detail in other Webinars this year.

Mike also offered some insightful views on what opticians could do better, working with a refractionist, opticianry’s image, and vision insurance. If you’re an ORBA member, you can hear Mike’s session on demand by logging into the ORBA site at If you’re an IOB and you’re not an ORBA member, you should consider joining. It may well be the best thing you’ll do for your business all year.

Ed De Gennaro is Director, Professional Content of First Vision Media Group and Executive Director of ORBA.


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