When Ruth Domber is the topic of conversation, iconic is the most thrown-around word. After making her start in the optical industry at 16 as a receptionist for the local optometric practice, Ruth was unstoppable. She took out her first lease on a practice of her own at age 20. With now more than forty years in the industry, she is known for having an incredible eye for the aesthetics, with curated collections that stand out even in the heart of the Big Apple.
But unlike much of Madison Avenue, with its quick sales pitches, and famous advertising schemes, what truly makes Ruth Domber stand above all others is her standards of ethics, and the practice culture she has built at 10/10 Optics. A quality that led her to be named one of the 50 Most Influential Women in the industry in 2020.
- 50 Most Influential Women
- 2019 Game Changer Award
- Co-owner of 10/10 Optics
As co-owner of 10/10 Optics on Madison Avenue, New York, NY, Ruth was interviewed about her experience as a leading woman in the industry today, and how she has taken her practice team through New York City’s 2020 coronavirus crisis.
Silkin: Hello Ruth! Thank you so much for joining us today. We’re excited to talk to you about your experience as a Silkin client. So tell me, what makes you so passionate about being an optician?
Ruth: I believe you become passionate at something when you’re good at it, when it affords you the lifestyle you wish for, and when it gives you a way to pay it back, by helping others. I love the effect I can have on someone when I do my job right.
Silkin: So true. Now, you’re known for having an incredible eye (no pun intended) for frames. What tips do you have for new opticians hoping to cultivate that skill?
Ruth: I train all my opticians to do what I do! Aesthetics can absolutely be learned. I consider myself, not an artist – but a purveyor. I can see objectively how a frame will look on a face, not just how it looks on the shelf.
Silkin: So you’re saying that can be learned?
Ruth: Absolutely. One of the first things my Silkin consultant Scott told me was to learn to replicate what I do in others. When I hire an optician, aesthetics or optics are the last skills I look for.
Silkin: Interesting! So you don’t hire for the skills you can teach. What do you look for when hiring?
Ruth: Ability to communicate. That’s the one thing I need – a hire who can communicate comfortably, naturally, with affinity…those are innate.
Ruth: I like to ask the person [in a job interview] to tell me a story of a bad thing that happened to them. Just to see how they communicate about it. Job interviews are such an unnatural setting – you have to do something to break the mold.
Silkin: Good tip. Now, when you made the Game Changer list in EyeCare Business’s 2019 issue, you gave the advice to, “Look straight ahead, learn from experts, but hear your own voice.” What more can you tell us about that?
Ruth: I’ve never found it helpful to follow what my competition is doing. We never ask for permission to be who we are. I do have mentors in all areas of the industry, and I heed their advice, but we make judgement calls based on what we think is right, not based on fear.
Silkin: Important advice, especially now. Recently, you’ve been leading your team through the coronavirus crisis in New York City. How do you do it?
Ruth: We took fear out of the equation.
You can only be you. Other practices were doing what they saw the industry do, or basing their choices off what patients might think of them. But people will either align with your goals, or they won’t. You can’t let that hold you back. Doing what we felt was the right thing to do is what gave us the courage to survive.
I never ask my team to do something I wouldn’t do myself.
Sikin: Do you have any tips for new Silkin clients – how to get the most bang for their buck?
Ruth: Silkin was the best decision, biggest game-changer I ever made in my career. We were successful before, but wow!
My biggest piece of advice is, let your staff learn along with you. Your primary objective should be to get everyone on the same page, and how can they do that if they don’t speak the Silkin language?
My whole staff now know the Silkin terminology, and it’s caused professional harmony where there used to be organized dissonance.
My second tip is – listen to your consultant!
I once hired someone against Scott’s advice, and ignored the Silkin employment testing results. She came to me so highly recommended by people I trust! Scott warned me not to, but I refused to listen. It turned into a hot mess.
Silkin: Ouch. Sorry to hear that! So, what is it like working with Scott?
Ruth: He is my teacher, my mentor, and he follows what he teaches.
At the beginning, Scott asked me two questions: what is my responsibility as the owner, and what would my day look like in an ideal world. They were hard questions to answer.
Now, I not only know the answer… I’m living it.
Silkin: Thank you, Ruth!