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How Can You Handle When a Team Member Starts His Own Business? This and Other ‘Ask INSTORE’ Responses

Don’t worry about rivals. Put your energy into improving your own business.

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Our jeweler, who really is one of the best we’ve ever worked with, is leaving with plans to start his own store. How should we respond?

Pretty much the same way you would to any other new entrant in the market: with a strengthened commitment to focus on your own business and provide a better service to your customers. Find yourself a great new jeweler and don’t go the low route of disparaging the guy who left. That just makes you look small. Keep in mind too that your old jeweler faces a tough battle establishing a viable business. Budding business owners assume that having a skill — in this case jewelry making — means they’ll be skilled at running a related business. But there’s no necessary connection; indeed, a creative jeweler is likely to find tasks such as book-keeping and dealing with staff so aggravating, because they get in the way of jewelry making, that he’ll do them especially badly. In short, you probably don’t have much to worry about … except building your own business.

We recently failed to make a delivery on time to a corporate client due to circumstances beyond our control. I would like to personally apologize to try to salvage the relationship, but my husband thinks it’s a bad idea in business to ever admit fault. What do you think?

If your husband’s worried about being sued, then maybe he is right. (In some states, apologizing can be treated by the courts as an admission of guilt. If you find yourself dealing with someone litigious, consult your attorney first.) But aside from those rare instances, the “never say sorry” school of thought probably should have been put to rest with John Wayne. In nearly all cases, it’s best to try to make amends. Business is based on trust and relationships, and you won’t last long if you lose the trust of your local community, especially in jewelry. Simply saying “sorry” won’t cut it though. Apologies that are most effective are those in which the offending party accepts full responsibility for their actions, explains why the problem happened and how they intend to address the issue in future, and, where appropriate, offers to pay or remedy any damage caused.

I’m firing a staff member for failing to perform. What should I tell other staff?

For legal and morale reasons, our advice is to avoid going into detail. Shortly after the employee is fired, make a brief statement to your other workers, saying that the employee is no longer with the store. Tell them who will handle the tasks that person was responsible for, and ask them to direct any other questions to you.

If I join some other retailers in a group marketing effort, am I responsible if they lie in their advertising? What about the advertising of a brand name item I carry in my store? 

As the Jewelers Vigilance Committee explains: wherever your name or store is represented, you have responsibilities. If you are part of a group advertisement, adding your logo to a prepared ad (as in co-op advertising) or endorsing a product, you have the obligation to do your homework to ensure the ad is not misleading. Know who you’re dealing with and ensure you know where and how your name/logo are being used.

An old customer is re-marrying her ex-husband and he has bought her a new ring from us. She recently confided to me that she prefers her old ring (also bought from us). What should I suggest?

It sounds like she was endowed with a slow temperament (she really should have said something to hubby before he laid out the cash). But luckily God also granted her two hands. Suggest she wear both.

How do I instill the right attitudes of diligence and playfulness in new staff right from day one?

Conventional wisdom says the owner or boss sets the cultural tone, but in reality, workers look sideways rather than up when searching for cues on what’s expected. To take advantage of this, make sure the person your new recruit sees on his first weeks when he glances sideways is your best worker. Assign a new benchie to sit next to your top jeweler or a new sales hire to shadow your sales gun and sit back and watch as a positive understanding of what’s expected in terms of results, punctuality and initiative takes root. Of course, if you’ve hired the wrong person, none of this is going to happen. The debate over hiring often focuses on the question of skills or personality. Hiring for culture is equally important. If a candidate is qualified but doesn’t seem to be buying into your store’s mission, keep looking. To help with your search, we recommend former Starbucks executive Howard Behar’s book, It’s Not About The Coffee, which lays out nicely how the coffee giant instilled its friendly culture in tens of thousands of employees.

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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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A Liquidation Sale during a Pandemic? Wilkerson Showed Them the Way

For 25 years, Stafford Jewelers of Cincinnati, Ohio, was THE place to go for special gifts, engagement diamonds, high-end Swiss watch brands — in other words, the crème de la crème of fine jewelry. But this summer, the Stafford family was ready to retire. So, they chose Wilkerson to help them close up shop. “One of the biggest concerns was having the sale in the middle of COVID,” says Director of Stores Michelle Randle. Wilkerson gave the Stafford team plenty of ideas as well as safety guidelines, which they closely followed. “All of the employees felt safe, the customers coming in the door felt safe and we did a lot of business,” says Randle. How much business? “The inventory flew,” she says. Translation: They sold millions and millions of dollars-worth of merchandise. Randle calls it, “an incredible experience.” Would she recommend Wilkerson to other retailers who are thinking of thinning their inventories or retiring? “Everyone got more than what they expected out of the sale. You have to hire Wilkerson. They’re amazing.”

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