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TOPICAL OPTICAL

Be Your Own Boss

The phrase conjures up images of Johnny Paycheck singing “Take this Job and Shove It!”
and starting fresh in your very own business, instead of “Workin for the Man!”.

Ahh, the sweet feeling of being independent and self employed!

At least that is what it sounds like from outside the bubble. In reality, instead of one boss you have many - they are called clients, customers, patients, or @#$#@#$%^&!!!

The U.S. has an estimated 10 million self-employed jobs. That's 6.6 percent of all reported jobs, but down from a high of 7.2 percent in 2006. This is according to a new report from CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. (EMSI). Self-employment grew rapidly from 2001-2006, adding close to 1.8 million new jobs nationwide. Since the beginning of the recession, however, self-employed jobs declined by 936,000 and did not recover post-recession.

Self-employed workers are those who, when surveyed by the U.S. Census Bureau, consider self-employment to be a significant part of their income or time working. Owners of incorporated business are not counted among the self-employed nor are workers who freelance or have other smaller, secondary sources of income.

The biggest declines in self-employment have come in agriculture, real estate, child care, and retail trade industries. While self-employment for construction laborers has grown since 2006, the industry as a whole has experienced significant declines. The biggest gains in self-employment have been in lower-wage jobs – landscaping workers, maids, personal care aides and photographers.

Having your own optical shop - incorporated or not, is a wonderful thing! When my Grandfather began our store 103 years ago, his training (and the work bench I’m sitting at) came from the American Optical Company. Skip never recorded the details of his training but one suspects we would call it a weekend seminar where you learned the basics of refracting - no optometrists in those days. You would purchase your grinding equipment and frame and lens supplies from them also.

In those long ago days the world was a simpler place where a handshake was a contract, people took care of business in a very personal way, and a more collegial feeling existed among friendly competitors (Mostly).

Today it isn’t a whole lot different in substance, perhaps there are a few more lawyers involved drawing up articles of incorporation - they have to eat also, accounting systems are a whole lot more complex, now we have computers instead of Aunt Ruth doing the bookkeeping, and complicated refracting systems help with the, “Is number one better or Number 2?.”

Oh, and - instead of a drawer or two of Balgrips, Numonts, Sirmonts, Clubmen, and Leading Ladies, we display elegant frame collections from all over the world, in imaginative ways that would astound my grandfather.

In this age of online everything, Google, Amazon, eBay, Warby, et al, it seems impossible that little optical shops can survive but a significant part of the population is desperately seeking authenticity. An authenticity born of a desire to serve and provide the very best our industry has to offer - I think we’ll be OK!

Jim Magay
jmagay@comcast.net

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