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Tip Sheet

How to Avoid Bugging Your Best Clients, What to Do If A Competitor Is Trying to Poach A Staffer, and More Tips for This Month

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How can I ensure a prospective custom client doesn’t steal my ideas?

For many jewelers, CAD has changed the game and they don’t release any designs or sketches until the customer has paid a deposit or a sitting fee that can be put toward the final purchase price. Still, if there were a consensus view when we put this question to our 700-strong Brain Squad, it is that successful custom necessitates a free exchange of ideas and developing a close relationship with the customer. And that requires trust. “I give away all my ideas. On our note paper. With a quote. If they choose us (because we’re awesome), more power to them. If not, they probably aren’t our ideal client! If you win them over with fresh ideas and honesty, you will have a customer for life,” says Jennifer Farnes, the owner of Revolution Jewelry Works in Colorado Springs, CO.

How do I not bug my best customers with follow up?

We applaud your thinking. Existing customers are your best prospects and likely to be your greatest source of additional sales, but too few jewelers have a follow-up system in place. The secret is to make them feel special. Let your best customers know when new merchandise will be coming in, and especially, if you decide to put it on sale. Second, offer them special services such as a free regular cleaning service, free appraisals, and keep notes about the little things in their lives that you can bring up in conversation later. Final point: Don’t worry so much. Most times customer will be happy to hear from you. Effective follow-up doesn’t have to be more than a customized handwritten note, postcard or phone call once every six months with some personal detail.

I suspect a rival is trying to poach one of my best sales associates. Should I try to pre-empt them with a pay raise?

Happy employees don’t leave for a small amount of additional money, so the first thing to do is sit down with your associate and see if there are things you can do to remove any frustrations from her current work life or if there are perks (more flex time?) or professional challenges (responsibility for a big marketing campaign?) that could tempt her to stay. Throwing money at them is unlikely to help if you don’t remove what’s unsettled them in the first place. Staff churn is a natural part of business life, especially in a strong economy like today’s, and non-compete agreements are a blunt tool that workers resent. A better approach is to foster a great culture. Check in with your team periodically to make sure employees feel challenged, engaged and appreciated.

Lately, my father seems to be working less and taking more cash out. There has always been an understanding that I’d eventually buy the store. I want to grow it, but I can’t unless we start reinvesting our profits.

Well, it is your father’s store. He built it. He’s at a different stage of life and wants something different than you do. That’s the joy of being the founder, and the curse of being the successor. Still, you don’t necessarily have to buy it. In fact, you may decide your future lies elsewhere (spend some time with something like David Brown’s gap analysis to see if the store can deliver the lifestyle you want). If separate paths looks like the best option, you obviously want to leave on good terms. Bring in a mediator. Sit down with your father (and mother) and lay out your plans. Reassure him you want to come up with a plan that allows both of you to achieve your goals. And do it soon. Otherwise, you’ll be 10 years older; your father will still be alive, hopefully; and you’ll be in the same position you’re in today.

What are some good innocuous questions to determine someone’s budget?

We asked this question in our 2015 Big Survey and a not-insignificant proportion of jewelers — more than 20 percent — said it’s simply wasting people’s time if you’re less than direct. Their approach: just straight up ask how much they want to spend with an inquiry such as “Did you have a budget in mind?” There were also some lighter-hearted variations of this that we liked, such as:

  • Did you want to be closer to $10 or $100,000?
  • Are you looking for something that will make your friends wonder if you won the lottery, or just if you got a promotion?
  • Is this a big bling event or a little bling event?
  • Or ask about their jewelry buying history:
  • Tell me about some of the other jewelry you have bought.
  • Or the reason for the purchase:
  • Are you shopping for a special occasion? 
  • What are you celebrating?
  • Who are you celebrating?
  • Finally, there’s the “goods first” approach:
  • What do you think about this? (And then watch their reaction.) 
  • How do you like this one? Is it too big, too small?

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Gene the Jeweler

It Was Hawaii Day at Gene the Jeweler’s Store … Or Was It?

In this episode of Jimmy DeGroot’s satirical Gene the Jeweler series, Gene learns that it was Hawaii Day at his store. At least that’s what his employee, Jeremy, says. But Jeremy’s answers aren’t quite adding up. It’s hard to say what this “Hawaii Day” was really all about.

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Tip Sheet

Learning to Love PITA Customers and More Tips for June

When starting out, go bold and quirky (just not weird), and the secret to a perfect break.

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CUSTOMER SERVICEEmbrace the Pain

In his most recent letter to Amazon’s shareholders, CEO Jeff Bezos said one thing he loved about customers is that they are “divinely discontent”. Their expectations only ever “go up,” he said. Eileen Eichhorn, owner of Eichhorn Jewelry in Decatur, IN, said decades working in her family store has taught her something similar about demanding customers: they make excellent references. “Pain-in-the-ass customers send us the best customers.”

STRATEGYBegin With Bold

When trying a new business venture (or even prototyping a new jewelry line), always try the wackier, quirkier stuff first, says Jason Fried, founder and CEO of Basecamp and author of the business bestseller Getting Real. “The deeper you get into a project, the more conservative it tends to get. Stranger ideas are more at home earlier in the process,” he recently wrote on his Twitter feed.

EVENTSBirthday Gifts Welcome

What month was your company born? Throw a birthday party and ask your customers to bring “gifts” of testimonials that you can use in your marketing. Including such third-party recommendations on your website and in your ads is one of the best ways around to convince others that your store is, indeed, the best place to shop, says Entrepreneur magazine’s Idea Site For Business.

HUMAN RESOURCESDivine Your Own Dress

Siegel’s Jewelry in Paso Robles, CA has solved its dress code issues by simply leaving it up to the staff. It’s part of a bigger strategy to emphasize the employees’ individual talents and unique tastes. “We think it is better for them to be different from one another and create a balanced set of skills and talents, than to all offer the same things,” says owner Ken Siegel. “Employees are happiest when they can be themselves and are encouraged to develop their own self in a safe and happy environment.”

STORE EXTERIORThe Big Picture

First thing to do before slapping a mural on the side of your building? See if the government will pick up part of the bill. Joe Declet of Fins and Skins in Pinellas Park, FL, got tired of telling new customers to look for the “ugly orange building,” so when his lease came up for renewal, he negotiated the right to add the mural. Working with a local artist, he now has a 30- by 50-foot mural depicting a coral reef — and the city offset his expense with a $1,500 grant as part of a beautification program.

MANAGEMENTBreaking Breaks

The most important thing to understand about breaks is that they are not a deviation from performance; they are part of performance, says Dan Pink in his latest business best seller, When: The Scientific Secrets Of Perfect Timing. “And the most restorative breaks are social rather than solo, outside not inside, moving instead of stationary, and fully detached rather than semi-detached.”

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Tip Sheet

Make Sure You’re Part of Your Charitable Giving, And More Tips for May

You’ll get to meet more people and feel better about your involvement.

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CUSTOMER SERVICEIn the Kid’s Corner

Adults needn’t be the only ones who view jewelry stores as houses of goodies. In addition to its well-appointed kids’ corner, Renaissance Fine Jewelry in Brattleboro, VT, provides customers’ children with gift-wrapped presents to make them feel special, too. “They will remember the stuffed animal or the funky handbag they got at Renaissance Fine Jewelry,” says owner Caitlyn Wilkinson.

PERSONAL Go Gray

Worried your relationship with your phone is less than healthy? Switch your display from color to grayscale, recommends Catherine Price in her book How To Break Up With Your Phone. (This is apparently so threatening to phone makers’ addiction business model, it’s hidden five levels deep on the iPhone: go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Display Accommodations > Color Filters.) Instantly, your phone is vastly duller. Try it for a day.

CHARITY Sell On Site

When you’re asked to donate to local charities, make sure to choose only events that allow you to personally participate, says Dianna Rae High of Dianna Rae Jewelry in Lafayette, LA. This way, you’re building relationships, rather than just donating an item to sit on a silent auction table. For example, when the local ballet asked High to sponsor their annual event, she paid the sponsorship fee and asked if she could set up a small table of jewelry for sale with a percentage of sales going to the ballet. “The women loved it, we sold a lot of jewelry, I met new people, and the ballet received more than if I had just paid the sponsorship,” High says.

STRATEGY Good Citizens

If you refer to potential customers as “prospects” or “targets,” Seth Godin urges you to stop and instead call them “citizens.” His argument is based on the view that the conventional marketing terms don’t reflect the way power has shifted in the marketplace. “Citizens are no longer the weak, isolated pre-consumers in front of a TV set in 1971, with few options. Now, they appear to be holding all the cards. It sounds a bit pretentious, but then, so do most terms marketers use.” You can’t help but become a little more humble and respectful, Godin says, when you use this term.

TIME MANAGEMENTLeave the Mess for Now

If you typically feel the urge to straighten your desk before you can start on meaningful work, The Guardian’s Oliver Burkeman suggests a simple rule: reschedule. “If your job permits it, schedule a daily deck-clearing hour — but at 4.30 p.m., not 9 a.m.,” he says. “It’s time to abandon the secret pride we procrastinators feel in having completed 25 small tasks by 10 a.m.; if they’re not the right tasks, that’s not really something to be proud of.” Instead, Burkeman recommends the timeworn advice to work on your most important project for the first hour of each workday.

MANAGEMENTMore Donuts

Want to add some fun to your store? Take a tip from Sherrie’s Jewelry Box in Tigard, OR, where “you’re never late to work if you bring donuts,” owner Sherrie Devaney says.

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Tip Sheet

How to Become an Idea Machine, and More Tips for April

One tip involves a jeweler who allowed a client to pour his own gold.

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Strategy Be an Idea Machine

Write down 10 ideas a day. “Do it for six straight months and see what happens. It actually turns into a super power,” says serial entrepreneur and author James Altucher. To collect his ideas, Altucher buys 1,000 waiter’s pads at a time from restaurant supplies websites (10 cents a pad). “They’re great for meetings because I have to keep concise lists, and they’re always good conversation starters.”

Podcast: Doug Meadows Shares the Ups and Downs of His Life as a Jeweler
JimmyCast

Podcast: Doug Meadows Shares the Ups and Downs of His Life as a Jeweler

Podcast: Against the Odds, a High School Student Fights to Keep the Family Jewelry Store Alive
Over the Counter

Podcast: Against the Odds, a High School Student Fights to Keep the Family Jewelry Store Alive

Podcast: Doug Hucker Discusses His Colorful Life on ‘The Barb Wire’
The Barb Wire

Podcast: Doug Hucker Discusses His Colorful Life on ‘The Barb Wire’

Management We Are Family

Leitzels’ Jewelry in Myerstown and Hershey, PA, has a cool rule to reinforce the store’s culture: Every day, each team at both its stores must include a Leitzel family member. “We take pride in every aspect of the business and build relationships. It is easy to overlook how cool it is to be a family-owned and operated business,” says third-generation co-owner Allison Leitzel-Williams.

Customer service Pour It On

The trend of customers wanting to be intimately involved in the creation of a piece of jewelry can be considered either an annoyance or an opportunity. Collins Jewelers in Dallas, GA, opts for the latter view, starting with taking the customer out to lunch to go over their renderings and then involving them in every step of production. “One customer wanted to pour his own gold, so we made that possible and he was ecstatic,” says owner Marty Collins.

Productivity Take an Unwanted Break

According to a recent Columbia University study, the key to getting the most out of work breaks is to stop even when you don’t feel like it. “Participants who didn’t step away from a task at regular intervals were more likely to write ‘new’ ideas that were very similar to the last one they had written,” the authors explained in Harvard Business Review. So, “if you’re hesitant to break away because you feel that you’re on a roll, be mindful that it might be a false impression.” It’s notable, too, that the “break” in each case merely involved switching tasks. A change, it seems, really is as good as a rest.

Community Show Your Spirit

Communion season, which often takes place after Easter to around Mother’s Day, can be a nice opportunity for a jewelry retailer that is involved deeply in its community. Orin Jewelers in Northville, MI, is one such business, sponsoring a host of activities in support of groups from USA Hockey to the local hospital. They also sponsor, as well as make custom jewelry for, the Catholic high schools in their area.

Management Bad News First

When you’re delivering good and bad news to employees, always give the bad news first, says Daniel Pink, bestselling author of When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. Pink acknowledges this often feels counterintuitive, as many bosses hope that by starting out positively, they will cushion the bad stuff. “The reason has to do with endings. Given the choice, human beings prefer endings that elevate, that have a rising sequence rather than a declining sequence,” he says.

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