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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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Wilkerson Testimonials

New York Jeweler Picks Wilkerson for Their GOB Sale

Jan Rose of Rose Jewelers, located in Long Island's famous Hamptons beach district, explains how she chose Wilkerson for her closing sale. Jan's suggestions: reach out to jewelers who have been in similar situations to find out what worked for them, and look for a company with experience in going-out-of-business sales. Once you've done that, the final step is to move ahead and trust the process.

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Tip Sheet

A Low-Tech Loyalty Program and More Tips for February

From bench training to personal expectations, this advice provides holistic assistance.

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Training
Take Your Bench Live

Live feeds from the bench have been used by jewelers to build showroom ambience and by sales associates to close sales for more than a decade. But there’s a second benefit that’s often overlooked — as a training tool, says Jude Dutille, owner of Dutilles Jewelry Design Studio in Lebanon, NH. Dutille has a camera at his work bench to “provide micro-visuals of what he is demonstrating,” be it stone-setting, fabrication, or hand-engraving to his staff of goldsmiths (all of whom are trained in-house “from scratch”).

Podcast: Holiday Sales These Jewelers Will Never Forget
Over the Counter

Podcast: Holiday Sales These Jewelers Will Never Forget

Podcast: Get Your Employees to Act Like They Own the Damn Place
JimmyCast

Podcast: Get Your Employees to Act Like They Own the Damn Place

Podcast: A Classic Holiday Poem is Reimagined in a Jewelry Store
Over the Counter

Podcast: A Classic Holiday Poem is Reimagined in a Jewelry Store

Service
Pass The Buck

A neat — and cheeky — way of dealing with overly demanding customers from a fellow independent retailer in the vision business: BJ Chambers of Carrera Optical in McQueeney, TX, told INVISION Magazine she keeps business cards of other optical shops on hand and gives them to problem patients and suggests they “go visit.”

Experience
Protect The Window View

Yes, the job market is tight and you might be short of staff, but hang those flyers on a local bulletin board or near your counter, not on your storefront window as some retailers are doing. “Your front window is your customers’ first impression of your store,” says merchandising expert Tom Crossman. “Don’t make it a messy one.”

Personal
Expect Less

The problem with high expectations is they often result in future disappointment. Meanwhile, low ones tend to make you glum in the present, given there’s not much to look forward to. The answer? Stop expecting, says Jason Fried, who has written several books on work. “I used to set up expectations in my head all day long. But constantly measuring reality against an imagined reality is taxing and tiring, [and] often wrings the joy out of experiencing something for what it is.” Expectations also keep you mentally living in the future and deflated when events don’t measure up — even if what does happen is actually pretty good. In 2019, don’t expect … so much.

Incentives
Low-Tech Loyalty Program

Two-thirds of consumers shop more frequently and spend more at retailers with loyalty programs. But if all the recordkeeping seems like too much of a headache, you could do what Maxwell & Molly’s Closet, a pet-grooming business not far from our office in New Jersey, does: Spend $200 and earn 5 percent off all purchases for life. People appreciate simplicity.

Marketing
Find Your CPP

When plotting a mass medium campaign, be sure to speak with the TV or radio channel’s consultants on how to best utilize your budget and determine what the “cost per person” you reach is, advises J. Dennis Petimezas, owner of Watchmakers Diamonds & Jewelry in Johnstown, PA. “What may be the most expensive on a cursory review may be the smartest choice if you do your homework,” he says, adding that any consultation should be at the station’s expense. “They can afford it, so don’t take no for an answer.”

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Tip Sheet

The Negativity Board, Clients in Advertising and More Tips for January

Why don’t you hold your opinions first and ask theirs?

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management

Hold Your Peace

According to Simon Sinek, author of the business best-seller Start With Why, the typical business meeting follows this pattern: the manager outlines the problem, says what he thinks, and then asks staff for their opinions. But by then it’s too late, says Sinek. The direction of the discussion has already been set. The ability to hold your opinions has two benefits, he says: “One, it gives everyone else the feeling that they have been heard. And two, you get the benefit of getting to hear what everybody has to think before you render your opinion.” Yes, you can ask questions, but otherwise just sit back and take it in.

marketing

A Path Less Traveled

It’s not just shopping review sites that will drive traffic in your direction; travel websites can help too, especially if you’re in a holiday or gemologically significant destination. “I am so excited,” Stephenie Bjorkman recently posted on her Facebook page after TripAdvisor added her store, Sami Fine Jewelry in Forest Hills, AZ. “This is huge for our Arizona amethyst and American Gem Collection,” she noted.
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personal

Getting Better Every Day

If you’re still scratching around for a guiding principle for 2019, consider this one from Gretchin Ruhin, author of the best-seller The Happiness Project: “What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.” That applies not only to the life’s work you build on a daily basis, but also the things you spend your money on. Do you really need that huge SUV if you only ever drive to work and home?

management

Wipe It Clean

New year, new slate. That’s also the thinking behind the negativity board at Di’Amore Fine Jewelers in Waco, TX. “This board is designed to prevent any negative mindset throughout the day,” explains store president Monali Pandya. When one of life’s curveballs causes a nosebleed, “we encourage staff members to feverishly write any negativity on the board.” Much like an Etch-a-Sketch, once the negative thought has been written, it is “shaken off” with the victorious push of a button.

marketing

Locators, Locators, Locators

Reaching new customers is a constant struggle, and marketing is expensive. In response to this, EyeStyles Optical and Boutique, an independent eyewear retailer in Oakdale, MN, targets vendors that drive traffic through store locators. “The more store locators you can be found on, the better your ability to reach your customer,” owner Nikki Griffin told INVISION Magazine.

advertising

Go Real

Figuring young, 20-something models didn’t represent their brand and demographic, Onyx II Fine Jewelers in Watertown, CT, opted for real customers in its ad campaigns. “It’s a chance we took, approaching clients with this idea, not sure they would be interested in partaking,” says brand manager James Michael Murphy. But the outcome has been “wildly popular” he says. “They love it and everyone wants their chance to be in a campaign.”

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Tip Sheet

How to Make Icy Steps Safe, Bring In Competitors’ Clients and More Tips for December

The trick that worked in New Mexico.

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The flatter the world becomes in terms of product experience, the more important it becomes to add local flourishes to the retail experience. In keeping with New Mexico tradition, the sales team at Lilly Barrack Jewelry in Albuquerque regularly smudges the store with sage. “This is a Native American tradition that clears a space of negative energy, “ explains manager Phaedra Charles Rayner. “This practice may seem quirky to outsiders, but people from all over the country come to the Southwest to experience this lifestyle, especially Lilly’s millennial customers.”

PRODUCTIVITY

On Time, Ready to Work

Stephen Ware, owner of Ware Designs in Lafayette, CA, is a big believer in the notion that a productive day starts with a productive first minute. “Get the work on the desks and benches of employees before they come to work,” he advises, adding this is about being efficient, not squeezing labor costs. “If you have good employees, then make sure without a doubt that you show you care. They are not chattel.”

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Pet Friendly Steps

If more than a few customers are still bringing their dogs to your store even as winter approaches, a tip from the One Good Thing blog: De-ice with Dawn. Why? Salt and other chemicals can hurt pets’ paws. Slipping customers and the ensuing lawsuits can hurt your wallet! A solution of one teaspoon of Dawn, one tablespoon of rubbing alcohol and a half-gallon of hot water poured on the sidewalk and doorstep will ensure it doesn’t refreeze in a hurry.
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MARKETING

Stand Out from the Robots

Our tech discovery of the month: Bonjoro, a tool that allows businesses to easily record and send individual video greetings to new customers. Medium.com quotes the CEO of tech startup Highrise as saying she uses the app to send about 30 customized welcome videos a day (time spent: 90 minutes), adding “the payoff is completely worth it.” See instr.us/10181 for more.

GIFTS

Wedding Survival Kit

Wander into Brax Jewelers in Newport Beach, CA, with a proposal on your mind and you’ll be buried under an avalanche of goodwill. “We give each person a proposal kit with a book with 101 proposal ideas, a diamond loupe to help them with their diamond search, a pamphlet with our ‘Brax Rules of Engagement,’ and catalogs from our best-selling bridal pieces,” explains owner Amy Astaraee. “We also give away a bridal box to every recently engaged bride-to-be that includes gifts like chocolates, nail polish, pearl earrings, and many other bridal survival tools.”

CUSTOMER SERVICE

Attract Competitors’ Clients

As the auto industry has discovered, after-sales services can be a lucrative field. But why limit yourself to servicing the jewelry bought only from your own store? Designs Unlimited in Rapid City, SD, offers ring-sizing and general after-the-sale support to products sold at all other stores in the local community. “Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and how better to showcase our service?” says owner Michael Goin.

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