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21 Ideas Worth Keeping From 2021

From holding divorce workshops to creating a boss user manual, get inspired by these ideas to manage your store.

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OUR STOCK IN trade at INSTORE is providing advice, preferably of the “actionable” kind, to help independent jewelers better run their stores. In 2021, a not insignificant amount of our advice had to do with surviving and, as it turned out, thriving during the pandemic. But there were plenty of other areas we covered from store design, to managing employees to handling your finances. The value of tips is relative, of course, to the nature of any problems or challenges you may be facing. But the following tips, which came from our readers, our interactions with industry experts and our general business reading, struck as likely to be particular useful to just about anyone running a jewelry store. So without, further ado, Our Best Tips of 2021:

Send the Right Signals With Your Price Tags

Put prices on about 10-20 percent of the items in your cases, says display expert Larry Johnson. If they look like they are worth more than you are asking, put a price on it. If they look to you like your price is too high for the bling it has, skip it.

Create A “Boss User Manual”

If you own a business, there’s a fairly good chance you’re an idiosyncratic individual, which can be great in bringing differentiation to the marketplace but also makes it a little difficult for new employees to get quickly up to speed to how things operate in your workplace. Ivar Kroghrud, the lead strategist at software firm QuestBack, thinks most businesses would run much more smoothly if bosses and even workers came with user manuals. The idea is that after some self-reflection and feedback from your spouse or oldest employees, you write down a guide that makes explicit how you like to work (“Leave me alone in the morning.” “I like bullet points in emails.” “I hate the sound of alerts on mobile phones.” “Workers who come to me with problems and no solutions deplete me …”) One page should be plenty, he says. “These people will one day work out all these things. Why not get them on the right page from day one?” Kroghrud told the New York Times.

Aim Low on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a time for your lower-end stuff to shine, says Megan Crabtree, president of Crabtree Consulting. “Valentine’s Day is the main hallmark holiday where the average spend has never been over $200 retail,” she notes, suggesting you prepare for the big day by setting up a showcase with items priced under $200 so as to simplify the buying for customers.

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Get Your Staff Competing to be the Biggest Screw-Up

To make the most of your staff’s screw-ups, reward them — ideally with a goofy prize like a stuffed monkey, says Kim Scott, a former top Google executive, in her book Radical Candor: Be A Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity. Bring the monkey to an all-store meeting and tell the group that whoever confesses to the biggest screw-up in the previous month or week or whenever wins the prize. On top of a stuffed toy, “they get instant forgiveness and — this is most important — they get to teach everyone how not to screw up,” says Scott, adding that before long, you’ll have people competing to tell of their biggest mistakes. “It totally changes the tenor of the meeting — admitting failure becomes safe to do, and it is a surprisingly effective way to foster a cultivation of innovation,” she says.

For When it Doesn’t Last Forever

Hold divorce workshops. MAKE MADE Jewelry in Greenville, SC, has hosted wedding band workshops for years in addition a variety of jewelry making workshops. The store recently introduced divorce workshops to remake gold and diamond wedding rings while experiencing the “healing power of hammering, torching, melting and redesigning old jewelry into a beautiful new design,” says co-owner Danielle Miller-Gilliam. — America’s Coolest Stores

Think Big

“Quit thinking of your business as ‘seasonal,’” says Robert Ramsey, owner of Ramsey’s Diamond Jewelers, in Metairie, LA. “People get engaged every day. Every day is someone’s anniversary. And every day, people want to surprise the person they love with a gift they will cherish forever. The goal of advertising is not to drive traffic but to cause your store to be the one the customer thinks of immediately ¬– and feels the best about – when they finally need what you sell. Think long term, measure long term. Short-term thinking is for small-minded people.” — America’s Coolest Stores

Think Small

“It’s the little things that separate the good from the great,” says Tim Ell, co-owner of Zorells Jewelry in Bismarck, ND. “We all do the big things: We all offer great service, are here for you after the sale, have a friendly atmosphere, are locally owned, etc., but what do you do and offer that no one else does? I focus on the little things every day at Zorells and try to find a way to add them or remake them into a part of the memorable experience my customers enjoy. My tip is do the BIG things to survive. But, focus on the little things to thrive.” — America’s Coolest Stores

Is That Helpful?

The human mind’s genius for imagining terrible outcomes allowed our ancestors to survive. But in modern life, those 1 million negative thoughts our minds generate every day just aren’t useful. As opposed to being plunged into an anxious funk every time your brain decides something is going to turn out badly, Anne Borges, writing on Self.com, suggests this approach: Get in the habit of asking yourself if a negative thought is true, and even more important, is it helpful? The next time your mind starts fixating on all the things that could go wrong, acknowledge that yes, perhaps it could go horribly wrong, but it’s unlikely. Ask yourself: “Is that negative thought helpful?” Test it, scrutinize it. It’s likely you’ll find it’s bogus and you’ll be able to let it go. — Tipsheet

Teach Each Client at Least One Thing

“Educate your staff and by extension your clients. Every visit your clients make to your store, try to have them leave knowing something that they didn’t know when they came in. They pass it on and usually with your name attached,” says Ralph Vandenberg, owner of Cool Store Vandenbergs Jewellers in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. — America’s Coolest Stores

Find Better Solutions by Basking in The Problem

Planning season is upon us, so now is the time to start sowing the seeds of inspiration. This pre-brainstorming period is crucial to finding creative solutions, so don’t rush it, says Tina Selig, a Stanford business professor and author of Creativity Rules: Get Ideas Out of Your Head and Into the World. Rather, let yourself bask in it for a while. If you go straight to the solution, you will likely end up thinking too narrowly, whereas if you frame wider, you can often come up with a creative answer. “Living in that problem space and falling in love with your problems is one of the most powerful ways to unlock really innovative solutions,” she says. (Note that this applies to creative issues: For day-to-day problems, we often know what to do straight away, and what we call “deliberation” is actually just dithering.) — Tipsheet

Inject Urgency

Want to build more urgency into your direct marketing ahead of a big jewelry date like Valentine’s Day? Take a tip from MADE Jewelry Boutique and Studio in West Reading, PA, and send “progressive sale” postcards. “The earlier they shop, the higher the discount. Last year was our first year to try it, and it worked great,” says owner Chrissy Cook. — Tipsheet

The Golden Hour and a Half

Research shows how you start the day has an enormous positive effect on productivity. To actually get things done in the morning, “Four Hour” productivity guru Tim Ferriss suggests having the first 90 minutes of your workday vary as little as possible. “I think that a routine is necessary to feel in control and non-reactive, which reduces anxiety. It therefore also makes you more productive.” — Tipsheet

Hire an (Imaginary) Hotshot

Don’t have the money to hire a top industry consultant to come in and turn your business around? No sweat. Just hire an imaginary one on a monthly retainer. That’s the advice of Kat Cole, COO of Focus Brands (Auntie Anne’s, Cinnabon, Jamba Juice, etc). Talking to INC magazine, she says that once a month, she asks herself if a hotshot consultant or manager, someone with amazing tenacity and insight, were to take over the reins at her company, what is one thing would they immediately see and change. Chances are, you already know what needs to be done, but just need the power of self-distancing to make it clear. — Tipsheet

Place A Value On It

If you give away a service for free — watch batteries, cleanings or anything else — be sure to let customers know what it’s actually worth. “Because once informed, customers can appreciate the free gift, which engenders greater loyalty and referrals,” says marketing coach Jim Ackerman of Ascend Marketing. He notes that the cleaning takes time, as well as the cost of the equipment and material used, and yet most jewelers in his experience don’t mention the cost. “There is the profit factor as well. If $85 per hour is your rate and it takes 10 minutes to clean a piece, that ‘gift’ has a value of about $14,” he says. “You’re providing a legitimate value that customers will not appreciate, unless you inform them of the value you’re providing.” — Tipsheet

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The Secret Words to Make an Annual Review Productive

Employees generally hate reviews. Managers generally hate giving them. What to do? In his book, Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, Daniel Coyle recommends using these 19 words to bring out the best in the situation and deliver the feedback that will lead to a “dramatic improvement” in performance and effort. The words? “I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.” Why does it work? According to Coyle, it builds trust, signals belonging, and combines high standards with the assurance that people can reach those standards. — Tipsheet

Can’t Decide? Use a Timer

Can’t make a decision? Use a timer, suggests Oliver Burkeman in his Guardian column on lifestyle optimization. For everyday matters, set it to allow yourself a few minutes for deliberation, and then when your time is up, make a decision. “Often, what we think of as deliberation is really hours of indecision, followed by a snap judgment,” he notes. “You were going to do so eventually anyway.” — Tipsheet

Reboot Your Phone Every Week

Here’s a new weekly habit for you: Turn your phone off and on at least once. That’s part of the National Security Agency’s recently released “best practices” guide for mobile device security. While it won’t stop a sophisticated hacker, it will make them work harder to maintain access and steal data from your phone. “This is all about imposing cost on these malicious actors,” Neal Ziring, technical director of the NSA’s cybersecurity directorate, told the Associated Press. The reason is that the latest malicious software typically targets your phone’s root file system. But the newest phones can detect and block such malware during a reboot. — Tipsheet

Offer Placeholders

MAKE MADE Jewelry in Greenville, SC offers temporary engagement rings for clients who are ready to propose but aren’t 100 percent sure they know what their future fiancée wants. A customer can take a ring, make a deposit, and propose with it. They hold onto it until Make Made can create the ring of her dreams. — America’s Coolest Stores

Unwind the Stuck Ring

The old conundrum: What to do with a customer with a stuck ring. Some jewelers suggest Purell, others holding the hand high to drain blood from the finger. If those don’t work, you could try this approach we stumbled across on YouTube that Involves flattening the finger by wrapping string around it and then easing the ring off by unwinding the sting from the rear side of the ring. Best if you watch it here. — Tipsheet

Embrace JOMO

According to the entrepreneur Caterina Fake, who helped popularize the term “Fomo,” the fear of missing out is “an age-old problem, exacerbated by technology.” Thanks to Facebook et al, we’ve never been so aware of what others are doing, and we aren’t. How to calm your anguish? Try “Jomo,” or the joy of missing out, which is basically the reaffirmation that what you’ve decided to do — build a business, spend time with the family — matters more. If Fomo arises from second-guessing your choices, Jomo means taking ownership of them — whereupon Fomo fades away. It hinges on the appreciation that there will always be a limitless number of cool or meaningful things you’re NOT doing. Feeling bad about that is like beating yourself up for being unable to count to infinity. — From our January lead, ATTENTION!, How to stay focused in a distracted world

Slow It Down

“Dopamine fasting,” as touted by its Silicon Valley advocates, was mostly mocked when it had its moment in 2020. But it’s not all silliness. The idea is to deprive yourself of dopamine hits (meaning don’t do anything exciting like watching thrilling movies, eating junk food, or going shopping) to break your “addiction” to our hyper-stimulating world. As a result, you’ll find pleasure once again in life’s more meaningful but less buzz-inducing delights, such as natural beauty, good literature, or time with family and friends. There is also a second perhaps more profound benefit: to free yourself from excitement as a driver of action, which is at the core of the problem with digital stimulation. Stop being dependent on excitement and you’ll discover what you’re made of. Interested? The inventor of dopamine fasting offers a guide to having “as little fun as possible” on the Improvement Pill YouTube channel. — From our January lead, ATTENTION!, How to stay focused in a distracted world

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Chris Burslem is Group Managing Editor at SmartWork Media.

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