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Tip Sheet

INSTORE’s Top Tips of 2022

We share some of the best ideas and advice that appeared in our columns, Cool Store profiles, daily bulletins and elsewhere over the last 12 months.

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A TIP IS ONLY as good as it is timely. In that spirit, here are 20 tips from the pages of 2022’s INSTORE editions and instoremag.com that address some of the big issues of the year, including hiring, inventory, managing the sensitivities of staff, and setting yourself up for a great 2023.

1. Find better solutions by basking in the problem.

Planning season is here but don’t rush it, says Tina Seelig, a Stanford business professor and author of “Creativity Rules: Get Ideas Out Of Your Head And Into The World”. Rather, let yourself bask in the issues for a while. If you go straight to the solution, you will likely end up thinking too narrowly, whereas if you frame wider, you can often come up with a creative answer, she says. “Living in that problem space and falling in love with your problems is one of the most powerful ways to unlock really innovative solutions,” Seelig writes. (Note that this applies to creative issues: For day-to-day problems, we often know what to do straight away, and what we call “deliberation” is actually just dithering.)

2. Stretch your stretch goals.

Setting stretch goals of, say, a 5 percent improvement for employees may be attainable through extra hard work and efficiency. But what if you told your staff you’d like them to improve their performance in a certain area by 30 percent? Impossible? Yes, but that’s the point. They would have to totally rethink how they go about hitting their numbers. To kickstart innovative thinking, you often have to first destroy the old ways of doing things.

3. Test your prices weekly.

Once a week, in store meetings, pass around a number of items and ask your sales staff if the price is too high, too low or just right, based on the look and feel of the product and customers’ reactions. The idea, says former GIA president Bill Boyajian, is to use this test to see if more profit margin can be squeezed out of an item, or if you’ve hit the peak of what a jeweler can ask for it.

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4. Be nice to people who are leaving.

It’s no secret that staff turnover in the retail industry is high, especially right now. But that is no reason to treat departing workers the way you would an expired bottle of milk. On the contrary, handling them well has benefits for your business, HR magazine quotes Gail Gunderson of Ohio State University as saying. If you treat exiting workers with understanding and respect, they may decide to change their minds. They may also tell you the real reason they are leaving, which is important information if you suffer from high turnover. Parting on good terms potentially leaves the door open for them to return. And even if they don’t, they will have positive things to say, which could attract others. Finally, a cordial exit signals to remaining staff that you’re a decent boss who cares about his workers as people, which is good for morale.

5. The secret words to make an annual review productive

Employees generally hate reviews. Managers generally hate giving them. With the right approach, however, both sides can leave the meeting feeling they’ve been involved in something productive and looking forward to improved performance. In his book CULTURE CODE: THE SECRETS OF HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL GROUPS, Daniel Coyle recommends using these 19 words to deliver the feedback: “I’m giving you these comments because I have very high expectations and I know that you can reach them.” Why does it work? According to Coyle, it builds trust, signals belonging, and combines high standards with the assurance that people can reach those standards.

6. Offer complete rings – they are the ultimate unshoppable bundle.

It’s rare to see a customer try to price-shop a complete ring because there is more than one component and there aren’t any generic specs on the semi-mount portion of the ring like there are with a loose diamond. It can also simplify the process, particularly for the budget-conscious shopper, who can be interested in rings displayed in categories with signae such as under $1,500 or under $2,500, says Megan Crabtree, founder of Crabtree Consulting. Ask vendors for them or make them up yourself. It can be a way to turn aged merchandise, or to get even better turns from top selling semi mounts, she says.

7. Do less.

“The Underachiever’s Manifesto” doesn’t sound like a book you’d find on the shelves of the ambitious business owner. But it should be. Written by a doctor named Ray Bennett it advocates a path to a superior kind of achievement based on the idea that you need to leave some slack in your life to take advantage of the serendipity of the world, and to give yourself the elbow room you need to excel. He quotes that Spanish underachiever Pablo Picasso: “You must always work not just within, but below your means. If you can handle three elements, handle only two … In that way, the ones you do handle, you handle with more ease, more mastery, and you create a feeling of strength in reserve.”

8. Want to be a great boss? You need to have confidence — and doubt.

“The best leaders have ‘the attitude of wisdom’ — the confidence to act on their convictions and the humility to keep searching for evidence that they are wrong,” writes Stanford business professor Bob Sutton in a column for the HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW. “Yes, you need to carry yourself in a way that shows you are in charge, but it’s vital to couple that strength with a humbleness that ensures you realize you will often be wrong, and which encourages people to suggest alternative ways of doing things,” he says.

9. Reboot your phone every week.

That’s part of the National Security Agency’s recently released “best practices” guide for mobile device security. While it won’t stop a sophisticated hacker, it will make them work harder to maintain access and steal data from your phone. “This is all about imposing cost on these malicious actors,” Neal Ziring, technical director of the NSA’s cybersecurity directorate, told the Associated Press. The reason is that the latest malicious software typically targets your phone’s root file system. But the newest phones can detect and block such malware during a reboot.

10. Force a real decision.

The next time you ask an employee or partner for their opinion on a business-related matter, say to rate a job candidate, a new line or a business proposition, ask them for a score between one and 10 but tell them they can’t choose seven. Seven is a fudge, says speaker and author Kyle Maynard. Force the person to choose between at least an eight, an indication that they’re genuinely excited by the prospect, and a six, which usually means they’d pass on it.

11. Always add, “which means…”.

To boost the impact of your sales presentations and really, REALLY ensure your prospective customer understands the benefits of what you’re selling, always add “which means…” after every feature you share, says “Wizard of Ads” author Roy H Williams. “You can add these words verbally, or you can add them silently, but this habit will bridge you into language the customer can see in their mind,” he writes in his weekly Monday Morning Memo. Williams provides the following examples: “This blade is made of Maxamet steel, which means you’ll never have to sharpen it” and “This is a 52-week schedule, which means your name will become the one people think of immediately and feel the best about.”

12. Preparing goodie bags for a ladies night or other end-of-year event? Put together more than you need.

The spares will appease unhappy customers or cap off a customer’s purchase experience in the future. “It smooths ruffled feathers, makes up for late or unexpected difficulties in a job, and makes customers really happy because along with a great present, they have an extra pre-sent,” says Denise Oros, owner of Linnea Jewelers in LaGrange, IL. Oros recommends filling the bags with store-branded cleaner, polishing cloths, nail polish, emery boards, hand lotion and handmade silver dangle earrings. “Customers RAVE over the bags,” she says.

13. When following up with customers, let the juniors listen in.

Bill Jones, the CEO at Sissy’s Log Cabin in Arkansas, aims to call 10 to 15 existing customers every day “just to check in with them and tell them thank you for doing business with us,” he says. “We do these calls with our salespeople listening so that they understand how important every one of our customers is; whether they purchased a 10-carat diamond or had a ring sized.”

According to Jones, the goal is not to sell the customer anything but to fulfill a promise of exceptional customer service and build a relationship as a lifelong jeweler and friend. It is something he wants both sides of the transaction to know.

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14. Sales ninjas need not apply.

There has been a trend in recent years to list available jobs using creative language, like describing a sales associate’s position as one for an “obsessed sales ninja,” but such language may actually deter some promising candidates, particularly anyone with outside obligations like children or elderly parents. According to a recent report in THE ATLANTIC, most small business owners would be better advised to go with more technically precise job description and focus your creativity on selling the workplace: “We’re a family-run progressive business in one of the city’s best neighborhoods that wants to grow in tandem with our staff. If that sounds like the kind of place you’d like to work …”

15. Include local businesses in events.

If you’re hosting a bridal-centric event, invite a wedding-related local business to participate, such as wedding photographer or a wedding caterer .

It’s a win-win, Jackie Johnson, VP of Crabtree Consulting: You’ll end up with free photos of your event, free food for your event, and the local business operators will get to meet people who need a wedding photographer or caterer. A plus? Your guests can sample their offerings, and it will keep them busy when you need to bounce from guest to guest.

16. When it comes to lab-grown diamonds, think beyond millennials.

Gen X and baby boomer women experiencing FOMO (fear of missing out) may turn out to be one of the biggest demographics for growth in the category of lab-grown diamonds in finished jewelry. They’ll be looking for eternity bands to studs and statement necklaces, says George Prout, president of Revelation Lab Grown Diamonds. Expand your demographics in your marketing and sales floor approaches. Show lab grown diamonds to more than just young women looking for 2-carat engagement rings.

17. Punishment sends a message … as does its absence.

The point isn’t that people need to be threatened in order to perform. “It’s that if you aren’t willing to go to the mat when people violate your core values, your organization and its culture lose their moral force,” says BYU management studies professor Kerry Patterson in his bestseller “Influencer: The Power To Change Anything.”

“You send a powerful message about your values when you do hold employees accountable,” writes Patterson, although he urges you “first take a shot across the bow to let people know what’s coming before you drop the hammer. ”When it comes to people being dismissed, there should never be an element of surprise,” he says.

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When the Kids Have Their Own Careers, Wilkerson Can Help You to Retire

Alex and Gladys Rysman are the third generation to run Romm Jewelers in Brockton, Mass. And after many decades of service to the industry and their community, it was time to close the store and take advantage of some downtime. With three grown children who each had their own careers outside of the industry, they decided to call Wilkerson. Then, the Rysmans did what every jeweler should do: They called other retailers and asked about their own Wilkerson experience. “They all told us what a great experience it was and that’s what made us go with Wilkerson.” says Gladys Rysman. The results? Alex Rysman says he was impressed. “We exceeded whatever I expected to do by a large margin.”

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