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How to Tell When that Struggling New Hire Can’t be Saved, and More of Your Questions Answered

Also, the Golden Rule of Triggers and a better way to set goals.

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I got really angry at a customer the other day and left a pretty rude message on their voicemail. So, OK, I’ve lost that client. But how can I keep this from happening again?

If you feel that anger management is an issue that’s affecting many parts of your life, go see a mental health professional. However, if you’re like the rest of us, and anger is more a cause for periodic embarrassment or regret, we fully recommend business author Tony Schwartz’s Golden Rule of Triggers, which is “Whatever you feel compelled to do, don’t.” Instead, he says, take a deep breath, and “feel your feet” — a distraction tactic that allows you to pull your head out of the red mist. You can no doubt remember occasions when you’ve told yourself (or others) to “take a deep breath” or to “count to 10” before exploding in rage. What Schwartz’s rule removes, though, is the need to reflect on whether we’re in such a situation. Instead, it recommends interpreting any sign of compulsive behavior as an indication that the action is probably imprudent. Rather than battling compulsion, his rule co-opts it as a warning system. The Golden Rule of Triggers may seem ridiculously simple, but in that tiny gap between the total grip of “flight or fight” survival mode and doing something you’ll regret, more likely to be an ill-considered email or text message these days, simple rules are all you’ll be capable of following.

How do you know when a new employee can’t be saved? How much time should you give someone?

When you have coached someone carefully and repeatedly, invested large amounts of energy and they show no signs of improvement, that’s a solid signal you probably need to act. The clincher comes when their co-workers start showing their frustration and stop trying to help the person. This is often at about the three or four month mark. A lot of bosses will let it drag on past that, but it’s really in everyone’s interest for both parties to pursue new opportunities.

What should I do if I think my store is being “cased”?

There are several immediate steps that can reduce the likelihood of a robbery or burglary. Jewelers Mutual offers the following advice. First, alert your employees by using a pre-established code word or phrase. When that happens, your employees should take the following steps:

1. Have an employee with a cellphone leave the store to observe from a safe distance.
2. Make more employees visible on the sales floor.
3. Write down the description of any suspicious people and, if possible, their license plate number.
4. Make sure cabinets, showcases and safes are locked.
5. Greet the individuals and attempt to engage them in conversation. If they are robbers, your attention will be unwanted and they will leave.
6. Call the police and ask them to visit your store as soon as possible. Explain that you think your store is being cased for a potential robbery or burglary.
7. Store customers’ merchandise in a safe place out of sight.
8. Review procedures to follow should a robbery occur — stay calm, do not resist, obey the robber’s orders, do not say or do anything unless you are told to do so.

Morale is bad and moaning seems to be part of our culture. Any ideas on how to turn it around?

Bring an upbeat attitude to the store every morning and make it clear you expect the same positivity from your charges. In this new era, it’s expected your employees will take responsibility for their own happiness and effectiveness. For truly disgruntled staff, there’s not much a manager can do except to make it known they are on the wrong bus. (And it’s often a couple of bad seeds that will set the toxic tone for a store.) A jewelry store is no place for people who throw their hands up in the air and declare, “This place sucks!” at every setback.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at editor@instoremag.com.

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What To Look For In a Mentor, How to Deal With Negative Employees, and More of Your Questions Answered

Ask your resident “Negative Nelly” these questions to get them thinking positively.

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What should you look for in a mentor?

The most important thing is that you and your mentor click on a personal level. Such a relationship should be undertaken with a long-term view, and you need to want to spend time together. As for more specific things to look for, Daniel Coyle’s excellent book, The Little Book Of Talent: 52 Tips For Improving Your Skills, suggests the following:

1. Avoid someone who reminds you of a courteous waiter.
2. Seek someone who scares you a little.
3. Seek someone who gives short, clear directions.
4. Seek someone who loves teaching fundamentals.
5. All things being equal, pick the older person.

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And when it comes to asking for help, don’t be too backward. Advice-seeking is a powerful way to make a connection with someone. Most people love to help and to know they’ve made a difference in someone else’s life.
Are we liable if we’re storing a salesperson’s line and it gets robbed?

“Laws vary from state to state, but a jeweler may be liable in many cases,” warns Elie Ribacoff of the Worldwide Security Network, a firm offering assistance to jewelers on insurance and security matters. “A salesman’s line may be considered under the custody, care and control of the jeweler who accepts it for storage, making the jeweler responsible. If a salesman ‘consigns’ or has the jeweler sign a memorandum for the line, the line may be covered by the salesman’s insurance policy. If there is no documentation generated by either party, the jeweler may claim he was assuming no liability, and the salesman may claim the jeweler was showing the line to a potential client.” To avoid a legal battle, Ribacoff suggests jewelers sign a memorandum, “clearly stating that he accepts the line for storage only, and that it is the salesman’s responsibility to provide insurance coverage for his line at all times.”

It seems every time we try to introduce a new project or way of doing things, there are certain staff members who will find a reason to reject it. How do I deal with such people?

There’s typically some underlying reason for the pessimism, such as insecurity, a need for attention, or resistance to change. Regardless, your strategy should be much the same: appear to turn the problem over to staff. Agree with their position and objections and ask: “Now, what do you plan to do about it?”, although perhaps in not such a direct way.

Be positive rather than confrontational, let them know how much you appreciate their opinion, but always end with a pivot to how the problem will be addressed.

Amy Gallo, author of The Hbr Guide To Dealing With Conflict, suggests these phrases to help you deal with such situations:

  • “You’ve made a good point, but if we x, then y.”
  • “When you keep pointing out the negative, we lose the enthusiasm we need to be really creative and productive. But you’ve shown me x, and I believe that you can y.”
  • ”May I explain why I disagree with you?”
  • ”Can you rephrase that in a positive way?”
  • ”Perhaps so, but here’s the good/alternative I see.”
  • ”You’ve identified a valid problem. Let’s brainstorm on how to fix it.”
  • ”I’d appreciate it if you could give me some alternatives.”
  • ”Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Now let’s … ”
  • “Can we get a second opinion on that from … ?”
  • “What would you do instead?”
  • “What do you need to fix it/move forward?”
  • “I can see why you’d think/feel that way. What’s your next step?”
  • “You sound upset/pessimistic. Is that what you were trying to convey?”
  • “Can we approach this from a different angle?”

Gallo says it’s important to remember that a pessimist usually isn’t out to hurt you on purpose. “They might not even realize how much they come across as a downer,” she says. “Aim to truly listen and empathize rather than passing judgment, and over time, they’ll trust you and learn not to stay in the pits.”

I’m closed on Sundays and Mondays. Am I leaving sales on the table by not being open seven days a week?

Not necessarily. In fact, you may actually be improving business by giving your team some regular time off. Roger Beahm, professor of marketing at Wake Forest University School of Business, told radio station WFDD that you should first consider the “personal values” of your business. “We know that there are a lot of businesses, for personal reasons, that like to keep their doors closed on Sunday, give their employees a day off for family, to go to church, and those kinds of things.”

Beahm also points out that while national businesses may be accountable to stockholders, independent retailers are usually accountable to a few owners at most. Thus, the pressure to generate massive amounts of revenue usually isn’t there, and the focus can move to employee happiness, which can translate into “efficiency, a high-quality product, and a loyal customer who keeps coming back.”

Beahm says that work/life balance should lead to profit. “While they may be leaving money on the table in the short run, it’s probably assured that in the long run, they’re continuing to generate revenue because of the satisfaction level of both their employees and their customers.”

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How to Get Chatty Cathy to Close the Dang Sale, and More of Your Questions Answered

Also, evading overtime and tips on displaying men’s jewelry. (Hint: Not too close to the ladies’ goods.)

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I’ve got a woman on staff who simply adores jewelry, and she never fails to engage a customer in a lively discussion, but for the life of me, I can’t teach her how to close the sale! Help!

Failure to close is most often a combination of lack of basic skill and fear of being too forward or pushy, says Kate Peterson of retail consultancy Performance Concepts. Be aware, she says, that you can’t effectively teach “closing” as a separate and disassociated thing. If your associate is good at engaging the customer in conversation, focus on teaching her how to make emotional connections between what the customer wants and what the merchandise provides, and to listen for signals that indicate it’s time to close. When it comes to more expensive fashion wear, remind her that most customers are often looking for permission to buy. “Providing good service means giving it to them by asking for the sale,” says Peterson. There are also situations when your salespeople will be grateful to be “let off the hook” with a particularly chatty customer via a personal intervention from the boss, meaning you. Finally, consider your commission structures. A motivated staff will use their time in the store as efficiently as they can … because it’s in their interest to make as many sales as possible.

I’ll admit I’m a helicopter manager, but if I didn’t keep a close eye on everything and constantly intervene, nothing would get done properly. How can I get my staff to show more initiative and responsibility?

It sounds as if you’ve micromanaged your staff into drones. Basically, you’ve got two options: go big picture, where you give them ownership of their responsibilities on a day-to-day basis, or go small, where every procedure and system is mapped out in detail. The first requires employees with the right personality and experience who will know what to do when you say, “OK, our goal is to wow every person who comes into the store. Go to it!” The second requires a lot of work from you in putting systems in place and providing the necessary training. In such cases, David Geller recommends imagining that you’re planning to open another business 3,000 miles away and putting in writing everything you’d want the remote employees to know about managing the store, from how to run the point-of-sale system to how to make deposits to who to call if there’s a building problem. With such a reference, you’d be able to step aside, and in theory, be confident your staff would be equipped to tackle most situations. Keep in mind, though, that these situations often reflect as much about the manager as the staff. Taking action is how micromanagers deal with anxiety — just as surrendering control is how under-functioning staff deal with challenges. Breaking the pattern is tough, because the manager needs to step back and do less, which means potentially letting bad things happen and tolerating the resulting anxiety. Can you handle that?

Juggling employee schedules to avoid paying overtime is increasingly becoming an issue in our growing store. Should we just move several employees to salaried positions? No more messy rosters. No more overtime. Right?

Likely very wrong. This is a strategy that “has been used so often to avoid paying rightful overtime, that it is written into the law through the Fair Labor Standards Act,” says Scott Clark, a lawyer and founder of the HTC Group. Yes, there are salaried positions for which there are exemptions from overtime rules, but they tend to be “true” management roles and jobs that require a college degree or technical training. They must also pay more than a minimum of $455 per week, and the salary must be the same every week (so if your employee wants time off to see the doctor, you still have to pay his full weekly salary — no more docking wages for hours not worked). If it seems that the government is uncharacteristically protective of lower-income workers in this instance, never fear, it really isn’t. On the contrary, the government IS very particular about all the taxes and Social Security that get paid on overtime. We’d say a better approach is to view your employees as an asset who make you money, not as an expense. Invest in your employees to make them more efficient, and they’ll make you even more money. Or hire the staff you actually need.

What happens if I let a customer into my workshop? Am I liable if they get hurt?

Yes, you are, say the legal minds at the Jewelers Vigilance Committee. However, no more so than if a customer was injured on your sales floor — or your sidewalk (although the potential risk to a customer may be greater in your workshop, depending on the level of manufacturing that goes on). It’s always a good idea to regularly review your insurance coverage to check the limitations on how you are covered and under what circumstances.

What are some tips for displaying men’s jewelry?

According to Larry Johnson’s book The Complete Guide to Effective Jewelry Display, men’s jewelry should be displayed in cases that are less than 6 feet in length with no less than 3 feet of space allocated for displaying merchandise.

Given the infrequent nature of jewelry self-purchases by men, men’s jewelry should be out of the store’s normal traffic area.

Men tend to not like shopping near ladies’ goods. “Position your store’s men’s jewelry case next to the watch counter or the cash register area where they’ll be better attended,” suggests Johnson. For the display itself, use larger elements (ring fingers, bracelet ramps and risers) in more “masculine” fabrics such as gray herringbone or other “suit” fabrics. Regarding the display of the jewelry itself, showcase items that facilitate a man’s infrequent self-purchases. So dispense with price-point displays and group men’s jewelry with like items, such as tie tacks with cufflinks.

Men’s jewelry is pretty much “no fuss no muss,” so use signage that enhances the appeal of the jewelry such as “14K gold” or “hand inlay.” For case trimmings, avoid the sports and sports car clichés. Opt for more timeless elements like antique fly-fishing reels, old toy cars or old sports items.

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What’s The Risk of Adding ‘Gift-Priced’ Items and More of Your Questions for May

Lowering threshold resistance without hurting your image is tricky. Here are some ideas.

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I’m thinking of introducing more lower price-point items to get more people in the door. But as a fine jeweler, I worry about how we will be perceived.

Threshold resistance is a real problem for many jewelers, but it’s a tough balancing act. It also requires close attention to return on effort, inventory turn and a host of other factors. John Carom, owner of Abby’s Gold & Gems in Uniontown, PA, says he faced a similar dilemma several years ago and was criticized by some of his peers for going “down market.” Ultimately, though, he’s sure it was the right move. “Carrying jewelry gifts under $200 and even under $50 retail brought us literally thousands of new customers each year for several years,” he says. Carom acknowledges most of these people were never converted to larger purchasers. “But,” he points out, “most of our best and most frequent customers were introduced to us by these market-friendly gifts, with some spending tens of thousands of dollars each every year because they came through the door for a hot low-end item.” Even if you decide not to go with an enhanced selection of gift goods, you need to make sure through your marketing, displays and price tagging that everyone in your market believes they can come into your store and find something for their budget. High end or lower end, you’re at no end if no one comes in the door. As Carom notes: “Traffic building is profit building.”

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I know I should be focused on my business, but I get an almost warped glee out of competing fiercely with the unethical schmuck up the road. There’s nothing wrong with having such an enemy, is there?

Indeed, there’s plenty of psychological research that testifies to the fact that humans partly enjoy having enemies; they clarify the world for us and bolster our sense of righteousness. So sure, why not channel this sometimes less-than-admirable truth to good ends? And it’s certainly easier to keep an eye on what your rivals are up to in the Internet era. The only thing we’d say is that you don’t lose sight of who your REAL enemy is. Is it the guy so bad at business he’s cutting legal corners, or is it Amazon, or something else — like your own complacency, inertia, or fear of change that poses an existential threat to your business? Enjoy your day-to-day skirmishes with the schmuck around the corner, use it to motivate yourself, but channel your energies into evolving and growing your business.
I am interested in selling gem carvings at my jewelry store. Any advice on what to buy and how to sell them?
e Start small, says AGTA Cutting Edge award-winner Sherris Cottier Shank. Set aside a display case — two feet wide is plenty. Include a half-dozen or so carvings on miniature pedestals and give them lots of visual space. If the case doesn’t look full enough to you, maybe include some information on the carver. Shank guarantees such a display will serve as a conversation starter in your store, and adds that it’s a great way to increase your customers’ appreciation of the beauty and rarity of colored gemstones.

What are an appraiser’s best options to assess the value of a rare, one-of-a-kind or unusual piece of jewelry that can’t be researched?

If information on your piece cannot be found in any of the industry price guides and catalogs or at online forums, Stuart Robertson, research director at Gemworld International, suggests you canvas museum curators, auction houses and estate dealers. “Remember, if an item has value, it likely has a market. Consulting auctioneers and dealers can provide clues to finding and evaluating that market. The sale of comparable items is usually a good indicator of value,” says Robertson.

How can I get my salespeople to sell the older merchandise in the store?

Start by appealing to their belief in the possible, something all good salespeople should possess. Remind them too, in the nicest way, that there’s no accounting for taste. “Remember that somebody at the manufacturer was inspired enough by the idea of the product to create it. And remember that somebody else in your company liked it enough to buy it,” says sales trainer Harry Friedman. That makes at least two professionals out there — whose opinions they should respect — who believe in this particular product, he says. It also means that even though this piece may make them shake their heads in wonderment, there’s a reasonable chance there’s a customer out there who will like it too, so show it proudly. If that doesn’t do the trick, opt for an aggressive commission, says David Geller. “The commission many stores pay usually isn’t enough to get people excited,” he says, recommending you try doubling or tripling it. “If you normally pay a salary plus 3 percent, pay 9 percent on old items. It won’t cost that much, relatively speaking. A $500 item with 3 percent commission costs you $15 … at 9 percent, $45. Thirty bucks to unload a $500 item? Cheaper than a deeper discount, Charlie!”

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