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20 Top Jewelry-Business Tips of 2020

Bad times produce good art. And probably good business ideas as well.

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THEY SAY BAD times produce good art. And along with great music, books and movies we can probably add good business ideas as well. Following are some of the best tips from the pages of INSTORE and our daily bulletins in 2020, a year, that wasn’t merely bad – it was awful. We hope you find the following ideas correspondingly awesome and they help you navigate these challenging times.

Front Line Selling

In the search for silver linings, the COVID-19 crisis has improved many jewelers’ online selling skills. Denise Oros of Linnea Jewelers, in La Grange, IL, says that one of the things her team has learned during video chats is “to position necks or other elements in front of us while keeping loose change handy so we can easily show proportions.” — Tip sheet

In Tough Times, Go For Small Wins

The organizational theorist Karl Weick showed in his classic article “Small Wins” that when an obstacle is framed as too big, too complex, or too difficult, people get overwhelmed and freeze in their tracks. Yet when the same challenge is broken down into less daunting components, people proceed with confidence to overcome it. As you lead your team through a stressful period, aim to give them a flurry of little things they can check off as they make their way through their work. It dramatically lowers people’s collective anxiety, enhances their collective energy, and gives them confidence that the hard tasks, too, can be handled. — Tip sheet

Keeping It Cool

A conversation or negotiation getting out control? Refocus on agreement, says Joseph Grenny in an article in HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW. “When people feel threatened, they tend to focus exclusively on areas of disagreement. It’s remarkable to see parties who agree on 90 percent of an issue obsess over and even magnify the 10 percent they disagree about. You can profoundly change the tone of a conversation by stopping this pathological divisiveness and saying something like, “Can I pause for a moment and point out what we both agree on?” Then deliberately, slowly and sincerely you can enumerate common interests, beliefs or histories. — Tip sheet

Dare to Suck

Here’s a perfect theme for a weekly video meeting with your staff: Dare To Suck. The idea, courtesy of Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, is that every member of that band would have to come to the meeting and present an idea that they thought was probably terrible. “And nine times out of ten, the idea is actually terrible,” Tyler told a MasterClass. “But one time out of 10, you get ‘Dude Looks Like a Lady’ or ‘Love in an Elevator.’” The brilliance of the idea is that it takes the fear out of the creative process. — Tip sheet

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“Clean Up, Clean Up, Wash Your Hands, Wash Your Hair…

You may have seen video of quarantined Italians singing patriotic songs from their balconies to keep their spirits high. At Abracadabra Jewelry/Gem Gallery in Ann Arbor, MI, they’ve done something similar, instituting their own songs to encourage frequent handwashing. — Tip sheet

Where There’s A Dime, There’s A Diamond

Never throw out a diamond again. Frank Cafaro of Frank Cafaro Vintage Jewelry & Repair in Belleview, FL, passed on this nifty tip from an old-time jeweler to Jewelers Helping Jewelers: Include a dime in every plastic Ziploc bag carrying a diamond. “Son, when I was a young man, I threw away more diamonds than I care to think about because they were alone in a plastic bag. So now I know if there’s a dime in the bag there’s a diamond,” the veteran jeweler told Cafaro. — Tip sheet

Physical Action = Results

You’ve got a thousand things to do but some just seem to elude completion. The problem could be that you’re not phrasing your tasks correctly, says productivity guru David Allen, author of GETTING THINGS DONE. He notes that in the context of daily work, physical actions are the only things you can do. That’s why a surprisingly powerful anti-procrastination trick is to keep rephrasing a task until it involves the use of your limbs: “Pick up phone and call…”, “Open laptop and search for…”

Just Add 20%

A tip gained from decades in the industry: When giving estimates for custom jobs, add 20 percent so that it will allow you “to do a really great job,” says Ragnar Bertelsen, owner of Ragnar Jewellers in Vancouver, British Columbia.

What Gets Measured …

There’s much to be wary of when it comes to business advice emanating from Silicon Valley. But the tech mecca’s obsession with measuring data can be useful in a surprising number of areas, such as getting home for dinner in time to eat with your family. “It’s great to know how to recharge your batteries, but it’s even more important that you actually do it,” venture capitalist Vinod Khosla told FAST COMPANY. “I track how many times I get home in time to have dinner with my family. Your company measures its priorities. People also need to place metrics around their priorities.”

Set Clear Goals

According to a study cited in INC magazine, 63 percent of employees reported that they wasted time at work because they weren’t aware of what work was a priority. As a leader, make sure staff knows what your key goals are this year: Is it to reach new customers, take really good care of your VIPs, hit aggressive new sales targets? No one should have any doubts.

Be Flexible in Catering to Customers’ Comfort Levels

WHY? As long as COVID-19 remains a threat, shoppers will have varying levels of comfort with the retail experience.
HOW? Tailor the experience to each person walking through the door, so they feel safe and secure and comfortable. Some people will want one-on-one time and some will want to come in and make a decision quickly and leave. If those of us who are small and adaptable are asking the right questions, we will be able to customize that experience so that everyone leaves happy.
SOURCE: Melissa Quick, co-owner of Steve Quick Jeweler, in a session from the virtual Jewelers of America National Convention, – Daily Tip, June 2020

Here’s the Overlooked Reason Why Getting Customers Involved in the Production of Their Custom Ring Is Such a Good Idea.

Why? Because they’ll realize how reasonably priced jewelry really is, based on all of the time and effort that go into making it.
How? The Smithery in Columbus, OH, not only encourages every-day customers to design and make their own engagement rings or jewelry but to really express themselves regardless of traditional design principles. Beyond experience, shoppers, especially millennials, crave participation and such engagement fosters brand loyalty.
Source: INSTORE, – Daily Tip, August 2020

Be a Little Less Positive

Positive thinking has its place, especially when it comes to conceiving goals, but when it comes to achieving them, it can actually be a hindrance, says Dr. Gabriele Oettigen, a New York University psychology professor who has been studying the effects of positive thinking for over 20 years. “When people only think about a positive future, they’ve already attained this future in their minds, so they have little motivation to actually act on it,” Oettigen recently told THE ATLANTIC. In her book, RETHINKING POSITIVE THINKING, she recommends a procedure called mental contrasting — that is, examine the barriers that stand in the way of us actually attaining that goal and map out detailed strategies to deal with them. “Visualizing the desired future and then imagining the obstacles can actually help us be more successful than positive thinking alone,” she says. — “Act Now!” lead story from January 2020

Aim, Fire, Do

The traditional top-down approach to business strategy has been “Plan-then-Do”: The organization would invest heavily in creating a detailed plan that specified roles for all employees based on how the market was expected to react. Should the plan falter, employees would invariably be faulted for failing to execute, leading to demands that the plan be followed even more closely with ever greater micromanaging. The results were rarely pretty. An alternative approach popularized by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman in their bestseller IN SEARCH OF EXCELLENCE was a “ready-fire-aim” go-to-market strategy. This agile, test-and-learn approach, which has become the standard in Silicon Valley, is better suited to today’s volatile environment. Instead of thinking of strategy as a linear process, consider it as inherently iterative — a loop instead of a line, in which the situation is constantly reassessed: Plan, do, assess, replan-redo. “Success requires identifying the next few steps along a broadly defined strategic path and then learning and refining as you go. This approach makes execution easier and increases the odds of delivering great results,” says Michael Mankins, co-author of TIME, TALENT, ENERGY: UNLEASH YOUR TEAM’S PRODUCTIVE POWER. — “Act Now!” lead story from January 2020

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Invoke Coach Wooden

The best coaches don’t give pep talks. They often listen more than they talk, and when they do talk, they make highly specific adjustments. One study of legendary UCLA coach John Wooden noted that he rarely spoke more than 20 seconds at a time, but during the 1974-5 season delivered more than 2,400 acts of teaching. He would model the right way to do it, go through the wrong way, and then remodel the right way again. Business managers should similarly overinvest in strategies that help increase ability as opposed to motivation. Focus on small but vital aspects of your staff’s sales skills — it could be when to pause in a presentation, how many features to stress, phone manner tips. Break tasks into distinct actions, practice within a low-risk environment and build in recovery strategies. — “Act Now!” lead story from January 2020

Instill a Sense of Pride

Troy and Joy Thollot, owners of Thollot Diamonds & Fine Jewelry in Thornton, CO, implemented “Areas of Pride” using a map of their store, divided into 11 smaller areas. Each associate is assigned a group of showcases as their “Area of Pride” for a month at a time. Within their areas, they have the freedom to merchandise creatively (within brand standards) and can add graphics to support their displays. All jewelry within an associate’s area is cleaned, retagged when necessary, inventoried at least once during the month, and counted daily. The showcase glass is cleaned and the pedestals and displays are brushed or vacuumed. This has promoted a fun spirit of competition between areas of pride, a better knowledge of inventory, and great use of “between customer” time. — America’s Coolest Stores, August 2020

Prep Your Emergency Brake

This refers to the expenses and the people you will have to cut when — should worst come to worst — you’re just about to go under water. “You want to have an emergency brake created in the cold, rational light of day and hope you will never have to use it,” says Slain. As a general rule, layoffs should be an option of last resort as productivity nearly always suffers when employees feel uncertain and unmotivated by news of firings and an uncertain future. Meg Rankin of J. Rankin Jewellers in Edmonds, WA, says she supported her staff by “allowing them to maintain hours, even if profit sharing diminished for a time.” — “Recession-Proof Your Business”, lead story, April 2020

There Is No Finish Line

Lurking behind most schemes for transformation is the unspoken notion that change is something you achieve, once and for all. But it doesn’t work that way because a day when everything is “sorted out” never arrives. If you continuously stare at the gap between where you are and where you think we should be, you’ll exist in a space of debilitating discouragement. Instead, observe and appreciate how far you’ve come. Sure, you aren’t where you want to be, but you aren’t where you were, either. “Treat strategy as evergreen. The best companies see strategy less as a plan and more as a direction and agenda of decisions,” says Michael Mankins in a paper titled “5 Ways the Best Companies Close the Strategy-Execution Gap” in the HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW. Focus on getting better rather than being good, and before too long, you might find that you’re actually pretty great. Not only does this encourage you to focus on developing and acquiring new skills, it allows you to take difficulties in stride and appreciate the journey as much as the destination. — “Act Now!” lead story from January 2020

Chris Burslem is Group Managing Editor at SmartWork Media.

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When Sales Beat Projections, You Know Wilkerson Did Its Job

There are no crystal balls when it comes to sales projections. But when Thomasville, Georgia jeweler Fran Lewis chose Wilkerson to run the retirement/going-out-of-business sale for Lewis Jewelers and More, she was pleasantly surprised to learn that even Wilkerson could one-up its own sales numbers. “Not only did we meet our goal, but we exceeded the goal that Wilkerson had given us by about 134%,” she says. After more than 40 years in the business, Lewis says she decided a few years ago to “move towards retirement.” And she was impressed by Wilkerson’s tenure in the industry. Overall, she’d recommend the company to anyone else who may be thinking it’s time to hang up their loupe. “As a full package, they’ve done a very good job and I’d definitely recommend Wilkerson.”

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