Spring 2014 IBD Team salaUno (Manuel Ariztia, James McAdams, Zoe Sifrim, Anna Stolyarova) is working with eye care provider salaUno in Mexico City, Mexico.
“Can’t we just cut it in half?”
We stared back at our client, not quite understanding. “Can’t we just cut the desk in half?” he asked again. We had spent the past two weeks deep in the weeds of salaUno optic shop’s financial data, inventory and pricing. We had visited competitor shops all over the city, providing recommendations on how to best present lens options, and how to refine the sales pitch. We had designed an entirely new layout for the shop, emphasizing comfort and transparency for the customers. But it all came down to one question: can we cut the desk we already have in half?
Let me back up. Driven by the mission to eliminate needless blindness in Mexico, salaUno provides high-quality cataract surgeries and other eye services at a very low cost. Inspired by Aravind Eye Center in India, salaUno makes use of high volumes, operational efficiencies and economies of scale to make its business work. Since it began operating in 2011, they have run a small optic shop, selling glasses to the patients who need them. Until now the optic shop has received little attention; however, due to salaUno’s plans for expansion, the shop has taken on increasing strategic importance. That’s where IBD comes in.
At first glance, we’re a great team to take on this project. We have experience in finance, operations, consulting and health care; we’re passionate about the work that salaUno does; and two of our team members speak Spanish. It seems like a great fit…until you factor in… The Gringo Loco. That’s our affectionate term for our team member whose working-knowledge of Spanish doesn’t go far beyond “Dónde está el baño?” and “Hola! Sí! Por Favor!” The Gringo Loco is also not too great with the metric system. And that’s where we got into trouble.
SalaUno is a real start-up. There’s an all-hands-on-deck feeling around here, and decisions are made fast. Whereas in our previous work, a change in price or a change in layout might take weeks to be approved, at salaUno a good idea is adopted immediately. We proposed a new layout for the optic shop that would include a low desk for the sales attendant, so that customers could sit at the desk with her and discuss their options. We never imagined that the next day a carpenter would show up to cut their existing desk in half. Not wanting to waste the carpenter’s time, the Gringo Loco took out his measuring tape and recommended lopping off 20cm. Here’s the result:
We have learned on this trip that we are not architects. Luckily, the solution is only temporary. In about a month, the optic shop will be completely redesigned. Our proposed new prices and sales guides will be adopted, so patients will be able to select the lenses that work for them quickly and with no anxiety. SalaUno will be able to track its optic shop’s profits and inventory far better than it has in the past, and the staff who work in the shop will have regular meetings to problem-solve in real time. It has been immensely gratifying to be able to make recommendations that will be implemented immediately, and we are confident that these changes will transform both the patient experience and the shop’s profitability. Though there have been hiccups along the way, we can’t wait to see what salaUno does next.