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Commentary: The Business

Terry Chandler: Hanging Together: The Only Option

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A dangerous distrust and lack of cooperationis creeping into the industry.

[dropcap cap=A]fter signing the Declar-ation of Independence, Benjamin Franklin famously remarked:  “Gentlemen, we must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”[/dropcap]

I was reminded of  Franklin’s comment recently as I listened to an industry leader relate a conversation with a friend who is a jewelry manufacturer. The gist was that long overdue invoices had been ignored and remained unpaid by a particular customer. Moreover, the manufacturer said he couldn’t even get phone calls returned. He shrugged and said, “Things have changed in our business. We used to respect each other and work together.”

I remember, fondly, entering the jewelry world just over 30 years ago. I was welcomed into a small family business and began learning the ropes. It didn’t take long to recognize that this was a unique and special business. The people I met were helpful, kind and supportive. Any conversation would more often than not end with a simple phrase, “If there’s anything I can do to help, just call.” I did and they never reneged on their offer.

Certainly the industry is undergoing unprecedented change driven by the economic stress we’ve all endured over the last year and a half. However, that is no excuse to abandon the civility and straightforwardness for which we are known and on which this industry has been based since its inception.

One’s integrity and sense of right and wrong may well be tested when undergoing difficult times, but they must not be compromised.
Now, more than ever, we should communicate openly and honestly with our business partners and discuss our problems. When the phone rings, it should be answered. When a friend or business partner reaches out in need, a helpful hand should be waiting.

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If circumstances beyond your control make it impossible to keep a commitment, you have an obligation to initiate the conversation that leads to a solution. You may be surprised at the help and understanding that waits on the other end of the phone.

Certainly, there are still many in our business who continue to do everything possible to keep the accepted standards and operate with integrity. But make no mistake: There is a damaging brittleness and distrust creeping into our industry.

On a positive note, it has been my privilege to host the Cool Stores venue at The Smart Jewelry Show for the last two years. I have listened to some of America’s best jewelers share the details of their success with audiences filled with other jewelers, and in many cases, their competitors. I asked one jeweler this year if she was concerned about sharing trade secrets with competing jewelers. Her answer: “Oh no, I was helped all along the way, and I intend to pass that help along to anyone who needs it.”

Franklin’s advice is valid today. Those of us who have successfully made our way in the jewelry business have a responsibility to protect the traditions of honesty, integrity, and helpfulness that have guided us thus far. Call me naïve, but, especially in these times, we hang together … or we hang separately. is

Terry Chandler is president of Diamond Council of America. E-mail him at [email protected].

[span class=note]This story is from the June 2010 edition of INSTORE[/span]

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