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David Geller

David Geller: Hire a Shop Foreman

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Left to run itself, your shop will descend into chaos. A supervisor can ensure calm reigns, customers are kept happy, and the dollars flow.

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[h3]Hire a Shop Foreman[/h3]

[dropcap cap=A]mazingly, the department that has the capability to make the most money in your store is often the most chaotic. Yep, the shop. Many stores look at the shop as a service center, something to make customers like us and come back and buy big diamonds later. Stores that have implemented Geller Pricing in their shops have found a new profit center that requires only a fraction of the investment in inventory.[/dropcap]

Yet many people would rather not have a shop if they could get away with it because “jewelers are animals, customers are ungrateful, nothing is ever ready on time, and we always mess up a five-dollar heirloom piece!”

Chaos is not a good thing.

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We opened for business in 1974, and for many years our jewelers picked the work they wanted to do out of a central box, got their own findings out of a cabinet, placed orders for parts we needed and did the work as reasonably fast as they could. We also promised work based on the calendar, not workload. We promised to have jobs done in seven days and we were rarely on time.

[inset side=right]Yet many people would rather not have a shop if they could get away with it because “jewelers are animals, customers are ungrateful, nothing is ever ready on time, and we always mess up a five-dollar heirloom piece!”[/inset]At one time we had five bench jewelers, a waxer and polisher and had 350 jobs inhouse on any given day, ranging from repairs to custom design. It took eight weeks to make a ring and four weeks to size it. To find a job it would require asking three to 10 people if they had seen Mrs. Smith’s ring.

This chaos almost closed the company. Especially since three-quarters of our dollars came from the shop.

This is how we turned the situation around:

We placed the jewelers on commission, installed a point-of-sale program to track jobs, introduced a job-priority list, set up a workflow board the jewelers and customers could see, and – this was one of the most important things — promoted one of the jewelers to be shop foreman. He no longer did bench work; he oversaw the whole shop, the five jewelers, waxer and polisher.

One of the first areas of the business to improve was the liaison between the sales staff and the jewelers. Before, the bench jewelers would ask, “Can’t you hire intelligent people up front?” And the sales staff would say, “Why do you have to hire such rude animals? We’re just doing our job and we don’t know how to do this stuff. Geez!”

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We built a small room adjacent to the showroom with an open window, and the foreman sat there and acted as the middle man. On a typical day, the foreman’s role encompassed the following:

Double-checking the job envelopes filled out by salespeople to ensure nothing was missing, such as the need to remove and reset emeralds when we retipped (we charged for that), and confirming the description and value.

• Entering jobs and parts in the computer.
• Working out the commission and assigning the job.
• Approving finished work before sending it to the polish room.
• Giving a final check before putting it in a suede bag, stapling it closed in the envelope and then calling the customer to come and pick up the job.
• Ordering and keeping on hand a cabinet of findings and gold stock. Jewelers no longer got their own parts.

I could list lots more of his duties, but he was basically the hub in a wheel. It all passed through his hands, and the shop ran smoother.
But what if your shop is not as large as mine was, should you still get a foreman?

I’ve been to one-jeweler stores that had an office worker oversee the shop, but as a rule of thumb, I’d suggest making the move when you have at least four full-time jewelers.

Should you commit to hiring a foreman, the next question is who to promote. Many store owners choose the best jeweler to be in charge. This can be a mistake.

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Your best jeweler should be making you $100 to $150 an hour or more. Giving them a desk job that could be filled by someone at $20 an hour will lose you productivity. When the best jeweler orders a part, it is costing you $100 to $150 an hour to order a lobster claw.

[inset side=left]Should you commit to hiring a foreman, the next question is who to promote.[/inset]The other extreme is placing an administrative worker in charge. Usually this is not the best option, although I do know of a small store that sent its office worker to a one-week jewelry-repair course to learn some repair techniques so he’d know what’s involved and could talk to both customers and staff.

A better alternative is choosing someone like a long-time salesperson with experience of handling repairs. They can often do a darn good job with a 10-power loupe, and will know if the shanks are too thin, stones crooked or the envelope was read properly.

It can be a touchy issue though, so you have to call a meeting with the jewelers to let them know that this person’s opinions are valid and if he or she sees a problem, so will your customer.

I don’t see how we could have handled thousands of job envelopes a month, along with a slew of while- you-wait and showcase ring sizings without the foreman.

David Geller is an author and consultant to jewelry-store owners on store management and profitability. E-mail him at [email protected].

[span class=note]This story is from the June 2008 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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