THIS MONTH’S QUESTION: Do you have (or have you ever had) a mentor?
After being in business for two years, a customer, who was a retired businessman, stopped in to buy his wife a piece of jewelry. He said, “Why so glum?” I said that business was not very good. He said, “Why don’t you let me have a look at your financials?” I said OK. A week later, he came back and said, “You know, if you doubled your business, you still wouldn’t be making any money.” After that, he helped me work out pricing, marketing, and eventually helped me buy the building I operate out of and subsequently helped me buy other properties. I am eternally grateful to him. Ragnar Bertelsen, Ragnar Jewellers, Vancouver, British Columbia
- I have had several over the years. One is an insurance agent that has helped me for over 30 years. I have studied why I enjoy spending time with him and have found it is the way he listens and values time with his clients. Don Bullock, Bullock’s Jewelry, Roswell, NM
- My husband and I began the business 25 years ago. At that time, he had a mentor who encouraged him to go out on his own. He passed away in 2005 and I only recently hired someone to advise me on a better marketing strategy. I also worked with folks from the Small Business Alliance in 2013 on some goal-setting measures, which included remodeling the store. Wish I had done this sooner — it’s been the best thing I’ve ever done to grow this business. Jane Johnson, RM Johnson & Sons, Salem, VA
- Abe Sherman. I’ve been a member of one of his Plexus groups and on Balance to Buy for years. Abe is a brilliant (if very opinionated, LOL) mentor to many independent jewelers. He is always there to help independent jewelers AND the vendors who serve them. In my opinion, any independent jeweler or vendor doing more then $500,000 per year in volume should be on Balanced to Buy; it will teach them so much about maintaining a profitable inventory. Dorothy Vodicka, The Gem Collection, Tallahassee, FL
- It is my considered opinion that everyone is smarter than I am. I try to listen to others in the business all the time. My job is to discern what is applicable for me and what is not. Brian McCall, Midwest Jewelers and Estate Buyers, Zionsville, IN
- This older (more “mature”) man is not involved in the jewelry industry, but he has helped me, on numerous occasions, to remain focused on what’s most important in my life: my relationship with my God and my wife. He is also trustworthy for me be able to share my hurts, hang-ups and bad habits without any fear of him gossiping anything I’ve told him to anyone. He is a trusted prayer-warrior in my times of need, and he reciprocates trust with me as well. Shannon Murphey, Murphey the Jeweler, Tyler, TX
- I was introduced to Don Palmieri of GCAL (Gem Certification & Assurance Lab) through a mutual friend the first year of my career (1974) as a new and very young jewelry store owner. Throughout the years, Don has offered direction and advice in operating and growing my business. He always stressed continuing education, knowing your industry and sharing your knowledge. We’ve been friends all these years and continue to do business to this day, 42 years later. J. Dennis Petimezas, Watchmaker’s Diamonds & Jewelry, Johnstown, PA
- Shane Decker has been our most consistent mentor. His guidance of our sales force is important, but what he offers the owner and management team is more valuable. He shows us where we can grow, what the steps are and what to monitor to maintain healthy systems. Megan Cooper, Blue Heron Jewelry, Poulsbo, WA
- My father was killed in an armed robbery in the store when I was 18 in 1978. One of his friends, who didn’t know a lot about the jewelry business but was an excellent MERCHANT, taught me how to be a merchant and especially about customer service and how to treat people! I’ve never forgotten the lessons I learned from him, and I wouldn’t have a business if it weren’t for him! W.J. Smith III, Smith Jewelers, Franklin, VA
- My dad was my mentor. Sadly, he passed away before he could impart all his bench wisdom. There is a locket hanging on my bench with a bit of his ashes in it. When I hit a hard job, I’ll tell dad I need inspiration. Usually we figure out a way to get the job done! Loann Stokes, Stokes Jewelry, Stillwater, MN
- Yes, our mentor is through the Edge Retail Academy (shout out to Sherry!) and she has helped us in many ways, but the main ways are keeping our inventory fresh and flowing and keeping our stats and goals at the forefront. Our business has grown with her help. Everyone should work with a coach or mentor — outside perspective and emotionally detached professionals are valuable and help you see your business through a different lens. Whitney Lang, Burkes Fine Jewelers, Kilmarnock, VA
- Jim Ackerman from Ascend Marketing was my “marketing coach” for a time. It truly made a difference in the way I approached our store’s marketing and increased business almost immediately. Customer traffic and cash flow both improved. Bill Warren, The Gold Mine, Hudson, NC
- I would love one. Michael Cook, Walter J. Cook Jeweler, Paoli, PA
- It would have been nice to have someone to bounce ideas off, or to warn me about making a big mistake (someone who knew something about leases). Mark Thomas Ruby, SunSpirit Designs, Loveland, CO
- I would love to have a mentor! Unlike my husband, I did not grow up in jewelry, retail or have parents who were self-employed. I have been learning as I go. If I had someone that I could ask, “Sooo, how would you handle _______?” I would be in heaven. Shannon Lorenz, Michael & Son’s Jewelry, Reno, NV
- I learned by doing and being thrown into the fray! A mentor would have helped. I read everything I could, and still do. Rosanne Kroen, Rosanne’s Diamonds & Gold, South Bend, IN
What’s the Brain Squad?
If you’re the owner or top manager of a U.S. jewelry store, you’re invited to join the INSTORE Brain Squad. By taking one five-minute quiz a month, you can get a free t-shirt, be featured prominently in this magazine, and make your voice heard on key issues affecting the jewelry industry. Good deal, right? Sign up here.