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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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He Thought It Was a Great Time to Retire — So He Called Wilkerson!

As David Kiselstein, owner of J. Albert Johnson Jewelers in Fairfield, CT says, it was a perfect time to close the store he’d owned for 45 years. “I’m 72-years old, the lease came due and I thought it would be a great time to retire.” A savvy businessman and one of the founders of the Continental Buying Group, Kiselstein urges others who want to conduct a retirement sale to pick up the phone and call Rick Hayes at Wilkerson. “He’ll talk you through it. He’ll help you understand it. He’ll give you the confidence you need to go through such a big experience.”

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Tip Sheet

Saving the Boring Jobs for the Office, Watching TV with Purpose and More Tips for July

Plus, how to use questions to make yourself a better listener.

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personalDo Down Time With Purpose

Approach this summer with more purpose, recommends Greg McKeown, writing in the Harvard Business Review. “That means if you decide to watch TV, really watch it. If you are having a meal, take the time to enjoy the meal.” Of course it also means making a choice: do you want to spend your summer downtime in front of the tube? We’re going to hazard a guess the answer is no. Go schedule some activities that ensure you fully recuperate this summer.

EVENTSMake It Light-Hearted

Orin Jewelers in Northville, MI, understands that at its heart, shopping for jewelry should be a joyful experience. To support that message, it tries to add a lighthearted touch to city events by doing something fun in the store, say owners Orin and Tina Mazzoni. “Example: when a citywide ban was put on serving wine/drinks to women at the annual Girls’ Night Out, we all dressed as if it were the Prohibition and served root beer and sparkling wine.” How does your fun game compare?

LEARNINGUp Your Reading Game

Want to read more? Try what serial entrepreneur and business author James Altucher does and read about 30 pages of five books each day. Given the average American reads about 250 words a minute, or about a page a minute, that’s two-and-a-half hours. Don’t have that much time? How about 25 pages of three books? That’s little more time than it takes to watch an episode of The Real Housewives Of New Jersey.

PRODUCTIVITYHome Is Where The Creativity Is

Here’s a neat rule to get the most out of your work day (for people in a position to pull it off, meaning business owners): Do creative work at home and boring work, where you may need some compulsion, at the office. According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, researchers found that when it came to creative tasks, people were 11 percent to 20 percent more productive outside the lab. For rote and repetitive tasks, however, they were 6 to 10 percent less productive when not in a formal work environment.

SALESIs That So?

In The Patterson Principles Of Selling, Jeffrey Gitomer suggests training yourself to be a better listener by asking a question at the end of your customers’ statements. If you make your own statement, it’s possible you are interrupting. But if you ask a question, you almost have to wait until they’re finished speaking.

SERVICEDon’t Band-Aid A Gunshot Wound

When it comes to repairs, it often pays to look beyond the customer’s specific request, says Bruce Goodheart of Goodheart’s Jewelry in Overland, KS. “Don’t fix one prong when there are 20 other prongs you need to re-tip. You don’t need the headache, and it will show how professional you are. You have a reputation to uphold, and you can’t put a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound.”

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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: A Flash of Cash and Other Meditations on the Value of Jewelry
Over the Counter

Podcast: A Flash of Cash and Other Meditations on the Value of Jewelry

Podcast: Craig Husar Discusses His Career, and His Spectacular New Store, on ‘The Barb Wire’
The Barb Wire

Podcast: Craig Husar Discusses His Career, and His Spectacular New Store, on ‘The Barb Wire’

Podcast: Make Sure You Open the Dang Box
JimmyCast

Podcast: Make Sure You Open the Dang Box

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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