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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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Gene the Jeweler

It Was Hawaii Day at Gene the Jeweler’s Store … Or Was It?

In this episode of Jimmy DeGroot’s satirical Gene the Jeweler series, Gene learns that it was Hawaii Day at his store. At least that’s what his employee, Jeremy, says. But Jeremy’s answers aren’t quite adding up. It’s hard to say what this “Hawaii Day” was really all about.

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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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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.”

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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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