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Is It Worthwhile to Provide an Expert Opinion in a Legal Case … and More of Your Questions for September

Handling an invitation to provide an expert opinion in a court case, serving elderly customers, and more.

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I have been asked to provide an expert opinion in a legal case (contested estate) in my small town. I am a graduate gemologist but not a certified gemologist appraiser. Should I accept? Is it time-consuming? Is there any benefit?

Go ahead and take the job, urges Gail Brett Levine, executive director of the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers. “How else can you grow unless you leave your comfort zone?” she says, adding that the benefits can include increased status in your community, being the go-to person for other attorneys and some nice financial rewards. “Just like appraisal assignments, you can either charge by the hour or by the project. After you’ve interviewed the attorney, you can get a sense of how long it may take (such cases can be time consuming). Be aware that even though the two parties might settle, you are still to be paid. And don’t forget to get a retainer,” she says. To help you prepare, Brett Levine suggests buying a copy of How To Be A Dangerous Expert Witness by Steve Babitsky and James Mangraviti. “I would ask in-depth questions of the attorney so that you thoroughly understand the situation and ramifications,” she says, adding that while your GG diploma will arm you, “appraiser credentials add more weight — something you may want to consider achieving later.”

SENIORS

I’m sure my customer base is aging. Are there any special considerations when it comes to serving elderly customers?

You’re not alone. This is happening across the country. At the same time, it is a good opportunity to set yourself apart. According to a survey by consultants A.T. Kearney, older shoppers do not think they are well served by retailers. They say they have difficulties locating or reading prices, and complain that many employees are ill-trained when it comes to handling them. They want a sympathetic understanding of the realities of age while not being treated as elderly. Older people enjoy shopping and prefer to visit on weekdays, and early in the mornings, when stores are less busy. Overwhelmingly, they seek quality products, are loyal to brands, and are not particularly price sensitive — even if their incomes are below average. According to the Kearney study, promotions are scrutinized thoroughly. Advertising themes that often work include those tapping into nostalgia and references to old films and TV shows; showing grandparents with their grandkids; and depicting older people in situations where they are funny, wise and important to the family.

HIRING

I’m thinking of trying to head-hunt a really good sales associate. With the economy still weak, that has to be a good strategy, right?

We’re not so sure. One of the interesting things about the recovery is that wage levels for many jobs are rising while the jobless rate isn’t changing all that much. That suggests businesses at all levels can’t find the employees they want. True skill has a high price. Labor is the biggest headache for any growing business because it’s the area that has the largest impact on profitability and because workers are people (they need motivating, training, inculcating with your culture, etc). But there really are no short cuts. To survive you have to continually evolve and get better, which requires a system in place that helps your “best” people develop (you may not want to worry so much about fostering the bad hires). Staff will reward employers who look after them and provide them with opportunities. Sure, some may leave for greener pastures after you’ve spent all that time, energy and money developing them, but you can feel smug in the knowledge it’ll cost your competitors a lot more to hire them than it cost you.

BARTER

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Do barter exchanges have much potential for a jeweler?

They’re never going to be a major part of your business, but if you have old inventory that you’re going to take a markdown on, they have potential. “Often you’ll receive trade credit for the full wholesale value,” says Don Mardak, chairman of Board of International Monetary Systems Ltd., one of the country’s leading barter organizations. “You can then use those credits to purchase the services or products you need to run your business, or even to finance a vacation or get your teeth whitened,” he says. Be mindful that the IRS views barter and cash as the same.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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