Transitions Optical 2006 Lab of the Year - Toledo Optical

By Christie Walker
For the first time in the history of the award, an optical laboratory has won the coveted Transitions Lab of the Year award on two separate occasions. Toledo Optical first won Transitions Lab of the Year back in 2003 and has been a finalist six years in a row. Being selected as the 2006 Transitions Lab of the Year makes Toledo Optical the only lab to have achieved this honor twice. The other two finalists in 2006 were Optical Prescription Laboratory, Pelham, Ala. and Ultra Lens Optical Laboratory, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.

Irland Tashima, president, Toledo Optical made these comments when he accepted the award in Florida this past January. “I have to first express my gratitude to our employees and our customers, without whom our business could not succeed. In this dynamic climate, we are grateful to have a partner like Transitions that we are always able to rely on and trust.”

Vice president Jeff Szymanski–who has been with Toledo Optical since 1987 and has served in several areas including production, sales consultant, and sales manager–had this to say about the honor.

“Our entire team has worked very hard for many years now to make Transitions an integral part of what we do. Making it to the top three for the last six years in a row and now being the first two-time winner has been an awe-inspiring journey we will not soon forget. Our laboratory has truly benefited from the national exposure and we take great pride in this recognition.”

How Did They Do It?

Toledo Optical committed itself to the Transitions brand and the benefit it delivers to both ECPs and consumers alike. For many years, Toledo Optical educated their customers about Transitions and its effect on both the prosperity of an office and the increased levels of patient satisfaction. During 2006, as in the past, they incorporated Transitions into every phase of their marketing program.

Toledo Optical administered eight unique promotions in 2006, all designed to help their customers increase their Transitions awareness and usage, and drive revenue. While the incentives offered by these programs were fine, the ultimate goal was to help customers better understand how easy it was to position premium products, such as Transitions, and the significant effect it could have on both the practice and the patient.

In addition to the promotions, Toledo Optical featured Transitions on their award-winning Web site–– in their quarterly newsletters, on-hold messages, on their global messaging system (a message on every invoice that leaves the laboratory), and throughout the many training and educational events held throughout the year.

“We found it very important to get our entire laboratory on board with this message. We find the more that we are all pulling in the same direction, the more impact we can have,” said Szymanski.

Toledo Optical actively participates in the annual Transitions Academy meeting each year. The entire sales team attends the event, sometimes bringing key members from within the laboratory.

“We truly feel that this has become one of the most beneficial meetings of its kind for our industry,” said Szymanski, who has attended every Transitions Academy since its inception. “It is amazing to see how this event has been transformed from its original concept to the premiere event that it is today. We benefit from the education, the overall industry perspective, the camaraderie, and the sense of unity that Academy brings to our industry.”

Who Is Toledo Optical?

Toledo Optical Laboratory, Inc., founded in 1947, is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year. For a small independent, full service laboratory in Toledo, Ohio, with 55 employees, running 500 Rx per day, that’s quite an accomplishment especially in this age of lab acquisitions.

Created by Charlie Johnson, Toledo Optical dedicated their efforts in the beginning to the Toledo and near surrounding markets. On a handshake, as business was done back then, Charlie Johnson sold his laboratory to Joe Kadowaki. Soon after, Joe brought in son-in-laws, Irland Tashima and Ken Green, to help run the laboratory. Ken, who has since retired, was involved on the sales side of the business, while Irland managed the laboratory. Irland was eventually promoted to president. Currently, Toledo is in its 3rd generation of family ownership. Located in downtown Toledo, they have become a strong enough player to service a much more regional base of customers throughout Ohio, Michigan and Indiana.

Toledo Optical is involved in the community working with and supporting such organizations as the Toledo Sight Center, the Mildred Bayer Clinic for the homeless, and the Junior League of Toledo. They actively participate with the OOA (Ohio Optometric Association), the Northwest Ohio Safety Council, and the MOA (Michigan Opticians Association).

Toledo Optical is an active member of the Lightbender organization and has been a member of the OLA since 1948. According to Szymanski, with all the dynamics in the industry today and the continuation of acquisitions by corporate entities, membership in groups such as Lightbenders and the OLA, has been paramount to their success.

“We pride ourselves on being able to offer the absolute best products our industry has to offer. We are proud to be a Varilux distributor and to be able to also offer the many other premium lenses by manufacturers, such as Shamir, Sola/Zeiss, Signet Armorlite, and, of course, Transitions. One of the true advantages an independently owned laboratory can offer, is the wide breadth of products available and an honest, unbiased recommendation on the practicality of when and how to use these products,” explained Szymanski.

What Makes Them a Winner?

“As an independently owned laboratory, we are not only intrinsically connected with our customers, but we have a vested interest in ensuring their success. In regards to training and education, our sales consultants provide in-office seminars on a multitude of topics customized to their particular need on a regular basis. We also offer in-lab tours and sponsor our annual Toledo Optical University, where we facilitate either a half-day or full day featuring what we call education with style—a mix of training and inspiration,” said Szymanski.

Toledo Optical has implemented in-house AR capabilities offering their exclusive Acclaro brand AR. While they have access to everything the industry has to offer, they have found that they can service their customers best by controlling the entire production process. The Acclaro brand is backed by the superior technology of Satisloh. The production side of Toledo Optical has been engineered with a majority of Satisloh technology, including Satisloh surfacing equipment, select finishing equipment and AR equipment. This equipment is further enhanced with the performance of DVI’s laboratory software. They will be making significant improvements throughout the laboratory’s production process this year, including the addition of automation and robotics to keep the laboratory moving ever forward.

In today’s competitive market, it is no longer possible for a laboratory to succeed by simply fabricating lenses quickly and accurately. Laboratories today, such as Toledo Optical, need to set them selves apart and give ECPs a reason to give them their support.

“We have found first and foremost that we can set ourselves apart and offer a unique level of value by focusing on ensuring the growth of our customers. Unlike other laboratories that might be more interested in simply “gobbling up” market share, we offer the strategy of earning support through enhancing our customer’s business. We help our customers attract new patients, retain patients, more effective interact with patients and put into practice proven practice building initiatives. In addition, we strive to “delight” our customers in every way possible. We try to accomplish this in many ways. Most recently, for example, one of our Customer Service employees scoured local stores after work for a small gemstone, which had fallen out of one of our customer’s patient’s frames. In doing so, we were able to go above and beyond, help our customer and ultimately ensure a happy consumer. We encourage this kind of “take action—take ownership” approach to doing business and satisfying our customer,” explained Szymanski.

What Lies Ahead?

In their 60th year, Toledo Optical is more passionate and energized about the opportunities that exist than ever before. Later this year they will hold their 6th annual Grand Event on the island of Put-In-Bay, a small picturesque island in the middle of Lake Erie. Tied to a Transitions growth incentive, this yearly event has become the crown jewel of their marketing initiatives with roughly 400 ECPs in attendance at this daylong experience.

“Although winning the 2006 Lab of the Year Award and becoming the first ever two-time recipient of this prestigious award has been overwhelming, the ultimate benefit comes in ensuring the long-term success of our customers, which in turn ensures our success,” concluded Szymanski.


Labtalk June 2020