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Tip Sheet

The Best Tips of 2017

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There’s no qualitative way to grade tips. What works at one store, may prove ineffective at another. What represents a fresh approach in one market, may be old hat in another. Still, as a publication that provides itself on finding and sharing good ideas, we’d like to think we stumbled across a few that are worthy of repeating in a year-end list. Here are out 12 best tips of 2017:

Best tip to start the year: Put a buck in a jar.

Want to easily save nearly $1,400? Take Lifehacker.com’s 52 Week Money Challenge. You simply start by putting $1.00 in a jar or account and adding a dollar to the deposit amount each week. So in week 3 you’ll be putting in $3.00 and by week 17, $17. Of course by the end of the year, the amount will be $52 but by then you’ll have built it up so much momentum the sacrifice will be easy. And in a matter of days you’ll have $1,378 of free money to put toward a credit card bill or new laser welder.

Best tip to end the week: Strike Friday off your Work Calendar

If at this time of year you find yourself wishing there were more hours in the day, or more days in the week, try proceeding as if there were fewer. That’s the advice of Laura Vanderkam author of 68 HOURS: YOU HAVE MORE TIME THAN YOU THINK. Vanderkam doesn’t schedule any work on Fridays. She doesn’t take Fridays off. She just pretends, for planning purposes, that the day doesn’t exist. That way, when projects inevitably overrun, and unexpected tasks rear up, there’s a bucket into which the overspill can flow.

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Best tip to get your inventory in shape over a year: The 10/12 Rule

Move, liquidate, scrap, close out or re-purpose. Ten percent of your oldest jewelry should be targeted for such action every month for 12 successive months and “you will be your own hero,” says Dennis Petimezas, owner of Watchmaker’s Diamonds & Jewelry, Johnstown, PA. “An old, old, old, war-horse exec within the industry told me this six months ago. I’m doing it, and it feels GOOD. I am seeing results already.”

Best tip to energize staff: Go with the employee’s plan

When an employee comes to you with an idea, particularly if he is suggesting a change to a plan you made, adopt this useful bias: if the plan is at least 60 percent as good as yours, go with the subordinate’s. He or she will execute it twice as well, just through feelings of ownership, write Timothy Saint and Nicholas Smith, two former Marine lieutenants in a Business Insider post titled “11 Business Lessons from the Battlefield.”

Best tip to get buy-in: Invite all staff to meet the sales reps

The next time a sales rep for a wedding brand – or ANY jewelry line – calls about dropping in to show you their latest goods, see if the meeting can happen at a time when nearly all sales staff can attend. When you involve nearly everyone in selection, you usually ensure it will do better if you decide to purchase this line.

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Best Tip to Get your staff on the same page: Read this

Maintaining service standards is one of the hardest things in management. As Armen and Ara Darakjian, owners of Darakjian Jewelers in Birmingham, MI, have found out, “One bad experience can ruin a guest’s past 10 perfect experiences.” To literally keep everyone on the same page, the Darakjians started a store book club that meets every Friday to discuss a chapter of a selected work. A recent selection: Selling Luxury by Robin Lent.

Best tip to go beyond yes: Yessify Your Yesses

There is always a better answer than a mere “yes,” says author Dale Dauten, author of The Gifted Boss. He gives the example of asking a number of auto repair shops if they repair Lotuses. Most say “no,” a few say “yes,” but then one says, “Absolutely, we specialize in imports and the shop’s owner drives a Lotus.” Who do you think got the business? So the next time somebody asks you if you do custom, find a better answer than just “yes.”

Best reframing tip: Guilt is Good

The feeling of guilt doesn’t get much good press these days. But business author Mark Forster urges you to see it as a signal, as it tends to attach itself to stuff that really matters. Attack your most guilt-inducing tasks, and you may find, without intending it, that you’ve attacked the most important ones too, he says in Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management

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Best tip to elevate your restroom: TP your bathroom with quotes

Want a ultra low-cost way to add personality and romance to your bathroom? Tack pages of your favorite poetry up on the walls. For Liz Lambert, owner of the hip Hotel San Jose in Austin, TX, this was a cost-saving idea that eventually became one of the hotel’s most popular features. (Extra tip: If the pages start disappearing, it could be a sign that you’re not stocking enough toilet paper.)

Best rethinking of an old tip: The Rule of $100

There’s a widely held belief in retail that “dollar off” discounts are more effective than percentages. But Jonah Berger, author of the business bestseller “Contagious,” adds a proviso: When setting a sale price, remember the “Rule of $100,” he says. For prices under $100, use a discount percentage (25% off!). For prices over $100, use a straight dollar figure ($250 off, regular price $1,000!). It’s premise you should investigate with some A/’B testing.

Best self-improvement tip: Learn to say “I don’t know” more often.

Too many people in business — and politics, and elsewhere — act as if they know the solution to a given problem. Sure, no one wants to look like an ignoramus — but it’s hard to learn anything if you pretend you already know the answer, says economist and FREAKONOMICS author Stephen Dubner, Second benefit: Once you know what you don’t know, you can start running experiments and gathering feedback. “These don’t have to be complicated or expensive. Real randomized experimentation is one of the most basic, useful tools in figuring out how to solve a problem in any sphere,” he told Forbes.

Best tip of 2017: Ask This Question

It’s striking how much of what passes as modern management advice was prescribed by Peter Drucker half a century ago — batch similar tasks, forget multi-tasking, use stop-doing lists, look for the systemic problem in crises — and this little gem, which we came across recently. According to the management guru, the one question that will trigger more improvement than any other in your staff: What do I do that wastes your time without contributing to your effectiveness? “Ask it without coyness, he urged.

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Tip Sheet

How to Sell More “Spa Treatments” for Jewelry, and More Tips for September

Millennial shoppers respond to education, privacy and transparency.

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TIME MANAGEMENTAim for Busy, Not Rushed

How should you strive to feel when working? Busy, but not rushed. Research undertaken by the University of Maryland found this is when people are happiest. And when you’re happiest — meaning engaged and in the flow as opposed to giddy with joy — you invariably do your best work. So, start creating realistic schedules, stop checking email every 15 minutes, take breaks to exercise, and stop letting other people set your deadlines (yes, you could finish the job by tomorrow, but Friday is best for everyone.)

MARKETINGA Time for Pampering

One of the key challenges at this time of the year is how to get customers in the door. The Gem Collection in Tallahassee, FL, does it with a “Spa Treatment” for rings. The treatment, which is recommended annually, includes inspection of stones by hand, ultrasonic cleaning, steaming of the stones to remove excess dirt, refinishing to remove scratches, polishing the ring, and for white gold jewelry, a rhodium finishing, all for one price. “The spa treatment name was used so that the customer feels as if their jewelry is being pampered instead of worked on,” explains co-owner Don Vodicka. “This has raised our repair sales and keeps our customers very happy.”

MARKETINgShout It in Brass

If you buy your diamonds from Antwerp, it’s always a good idea to let the world know about it. Molinelli’s Jewelers in Pocatello, ID, actually has it in brass letters on their wall.

SALESLaying on a Bridal FeasT

Showcases — who needs them? That’s the diamond-selling approach at Siegel’s Jewelry in Paso Robles, CA, where customers are encouraged to sit with staff at a custom-made, long community table to discuss jewelry. “I designed my store with a lot of seating space in order to show diamonds effectively, and to make my employees and customers more comfortable,” explains owner Ken Siegel.

STRATEGY“How” is the Enemy

Something all true entrepreneurs know: “How” is the enemy. “We always want to know how things will happen,” says Claudia Azula, a popular podcaster and co-author of the Power Of No. “But how is the enemy because it blocks the possibilities that open up when we are willing to not know. When you don’t know about tomorrow, all you can do is focus on doing your best today.” Stop thinking, Just go do it.

SALESKeep Me Safe and Prosperous

Buy an engagement ring at Eichhorn Jewelry in Decatur, IN, and you also get a “Keep Me” — an original document that travels with the piece of jewelry. The paper “encourages customers to spend dollars by emphasizing the legacy aspect of their purchase,” explains owner Eileen Eichhorn.

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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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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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