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How To Motivate Your Team During Hard Times, Renegotiating A Lease, And More Of Your Questions Answered

Plus an idea for creating personalized gift items overnight.




lady in office yawning

My sales team seems oddly unmotivated during these trying times. Any ideas?

You want your people adopting the most positive mindset possible, experimenting with new ideas and ways to drum up custom and close tough sales. The standard advice to deal with such overwhelming situations is to do one thing at a time: Pick one small, well-defined task for your staff and tell them to focus on that only until it’s complete, then move on to the next. Once they feel they are making some progress, the outlook changes, and from everything feeling hopeless, there arises motivating possibility. It may seem like an odd analogy, but as its core survival strategy, Alcoholics Anonymous teaches its members that all you have to remember is to “do the next right thing.” Then the next, and the next, and the next. Find small constructive things your staff can do and try to set aside the apocalyptic visions.

Do veterans make good employees? Is there anything to the stereotype of them being rigid and rule-bound and — if they’ve served in combat — likely to have mental issues?

There’s probably not a worse thing to base a hiring decision on than a stereotype. Of course, an ex-military hire could turn out to be a dud — it’s a huge organization — but that risk is more than offset by the potential positives. The recruitment process does much of the filtering for you, screening out people with criminal records, histories of drug use, problematic financial records and even some long-term health issues. Even better is that pretty much no one joins the military simply to pick up a paycheck, which is probably the worst kind of employee. Vets may have joined for patriotic reasons, to get help with a college education, or for the experience, but the ethos is about accomplishing a mission or a goal. There’s a chance a freshly retired vet will take some adjustment if your workplace is highly individualistic and competitive as opposed to team-based. But if you’ve got a candidate with the skills, keep in mind they bring a lot to the table. The military has helped mold them into a team player, and likely given them a good dose of discipline and a solid work ethic. Now do your job as a business owner to see if they have the relevant skills and personality to fit your culture.

I’d like to renegotiate the lease on my building, but I’m not sure how to go about it. What do you suggest?

If you’re in a depressed retail market, you’re in a strong bargaining position. The key is to make your landlord aware of your pain — and the suffering you could inflict on him if you were to leave. Most landlords hate to offer long-term rent reductions, so you might want to make a 20 percent or more rent abatement for 18 months your negotiating target. Other areas to aim for are expenses, especially any common area or utility payments. To increase the pressure, list a few contract releases you’d like, such as personal guarantee release or a co-tenancy clause, which lets you escape the lease if the landlord doesn’t replace the anchor in a specified period. Seek the help of a lawyer who specializes in the local commercial real estate market. He’ll know what deals landlords are offering new tenants. Finally, if you’ve never done it, measure the space of your store. Landlords will often work off their original floor plan, even though the space may have been reconfigured repeatedly.

What are some ways to bring in customers looking for individualized gifts that can be created with a quick turnaround?

Greg Stopka of JewelSmiths in Pleasant Hill, CA, has found success using a simple marketing program in which his store offers to clean, inspect and provide advice to clients about their jewelry. “It gets customers excited about possible ideas or purchases for Christmas. We call it the ‘clean and plant’ program.” Another strategy JewelSmiths uses is to prepare diamond pendant and earring designs in CZs with prices for “good”, “better” or “best”. “We tell our customers that we can select the budget that they want and create the jewelry item overnight. This allows for the feeling of ‘having it designed’ in their budget and completed virtually overnight. From these displays, we also catch the customer that already has the diamond or gemstones to set into a pendant or earring mounting. It’s become a very quick and profitable sale.”

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When There’s No Succession Plan, Call Wilkerson

Bob Wesley, owner of Robert C. Wesley Jewelers in Scottsdale, Ariz., was a third-generation jeweler. When it was time to enjoy life on the other side of the counter, he weighed his options. His lease was nearing renewal time and with no succession plan, he decided it was time to call Wilkerson. There was plenty of inventory to sell and at first, says Wesley, he thought he might try to manage a sale himself. But he’s glad he didn’t. “There’s no way I could have done this as well as Wilkerson,” he says. Wilkerson took responsibility for the entire event, with every detail — from advertising to accounting — done, dusted and managed by the Wilkerson team. “It’s the complete package,” he says of the Wilkerson method of helping jewelers to easily go on to the next phase of their lives. “There’s no way any retailer can duplicate what they’ve done.”

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