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The Big Survey 2018: Managing

The best managers don't get too bogged down in the details.




From strategy to time management to human resources, good management requires many qualities. Those doing best spend more time looking at the big picture than getting bogged down in detail work.


49. What takes up most of your time?

Admin & managing
Overall 32%
Thrivers 30%
Strugglers 34%
Working in the shop
Overall 21%
Thrivers 21%
Strugglers 22%
Selling on the sales floor
Overall 15%
Thrivers 14%
Strugglers 16%
Strategizing, planning and marketing
Overall 16%
Thrivers 18%
Strugglers 11%
Accounts and other paperwork
Overall 8%
Thrivers 3%
Strugglers 11%
Managing inventory/buying
Overall 5%
Thrivers 6%
Strugglers 4%
Active client development
Overall 3%
Thrivers 4%
Strugglers 2%

COMMMENT: The differences are marginal but the thrivers are more likely to spend most of their time on strategy and developing clients, whereas the strugglers are more likely to be doing paperwork, admin tasks and working at the bench.


50. Test the prevailing business wisdom. What’s your experience: True or false?

Figures in parentheses reflect the percentage of Thrivers and Strugglers who agreed with the proposition.

COMMENT: The thrivers and strugglers were broadly in line with the overall figures for every question. Interestingly, the questions for which they diverged most widely were similar in that they suggested appealing to people’s better sides yields better results than directly to their pocketbooks. We see two possible takeaways: The first is that such a high-minded approach works well. The second is that it possibly works well only if you’re in a part of the country that is prospering.



51. The Pareto principle (also known as the 80/20 rule) states that for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. Where do you see this most visibly in your business:

20% of customers account for 80% of sales
20% of staff account for 80% of sales
20% of merchandise account for 80% of profits
20% of vendors account for 80% of your goods
20% of clients account for 80% of headaches


52. If you have sales staff, how do you pay them?

Overall 45%
Thrivers 34%
Strugglers 58%
Overall 11%
Thrivers 8%
Strugglers 6%
Hourly plus commission
Overall 36%
Thrivers 47%
Strugglers 24%
Salary plus commission
Overall 7%
Thrivers 8%
Strugglers 10%
100% commission
Overall 1%
Thrivers 2%
Strugglers 1%

COMMENT: This question yielded one of the more significant differences between the thrivers and the rest, with 57% of the better-performing stores paying some level of commission. In contrast, only 35% of the strugglers offered such bonuses and the overall average was 42%. “Many owners think staff become wolves on the floor,” says store consultant David Geller. “But you can train a wolf to sit and fetch,” he says, adding that he paid 100% commission when he ran a store. Incentives require training, oversight, and a good understanding of your staff, he says. But the rewards are clear to see. “Don’t pay? They won’t try harder,” he says.


53. What are the emojis you use most often in texts to or about …

Store owners seem largely happy with all four groups, with the facepalm reserved for staff and family only.



54. When you face a challenge, encounter a new technology or notice the old way of doing business is changing, you are most likely to …

Reach outside to find professional help
Study up and take a DIY approach
Wait for a while to see if it goes away
Call in your son or daughter or a younger employee for help


55. If you have sales staff, where did you find your best-ever salesperson?

Peer’s reference 19%
Recruited from another non-jewelry business 13%
Online advertisement (, Craigslist, etc) 12%
Staff reference 11%
Hired from among
customers 11%
From within the family or friends 7%
Recruited from another jewelry store 6%
Ad in the paper 5%
Walk-In 4%
Employment service 4%
Former intern or holiday hire 4%
Sign in the front window 2%
Other 3%


56. are you doing anything now to get ready for the next possible downturn?

No. Just rolling with it.

  • What should we be doing?
  • Close to retiring.
  • Just riding the wave until it crashes into the shore.
  • I’ll just be screwed.
  • Thanks for reminding me.

No. I believe in my own economy.
I am a firm believer in giving more value than anyone else. In a tough economy, I will double that value. I will grin and get stronger as others fall.

No. I’m poised to ride any wave.
No inventory, no staff, I work by appointment and I’m maintaining my reputation for quality and discretion.


No. What expansion? The economy is not good around here.

  • Connecticut has been the worst state in the U.S. We can only go one way. That is up!
  • When it starts to recover, then I will prepare for the downturn. Our market was heavily impacted by the collapse in oil prices and then one year ago by Hurricane Harvey.
  • Here in Canada, we are already in an economic downturn, so it’s just managing inventory to reflect that.


  • Smart buying, enhancing our repair services and custom work, staying current on trends and always offering the best is what will allow us to thrive.
  • I saved like a maniac when the “Gold River” was flowing. I also buy over-the-counter diamonds to increase my profit margin. We waged war and were victorious through the last crisis, I feel certain we will do the same again.
  • Topping the list of my doomsday-prevention activities are panic attacks, comfort-food binging, worrying and working to maintain a sense of denial so that I don’t implode.
  • Holding my breath.
  • Praying.

Managing Inventory.

  • Reducing inventory and increasing customization options.
  • Learning new techniques for stock balancing
  • Converted to mostly consignment of emerging artists to follow trends and keep things fresh.
  • Reorder fast sellers.
  • Making sterling pieces that are affordable for $100 gifts.

Staying debt-free.

Saving every penny.
“I keep a closer eye on expenses than ever before. Just changed trash companies, hired a less expensive window washer and I do more cleaning myself.”

Concentrating on Repair.
“We have learned that people will find a way to get their pieces repaired. It adds something positive to their lives and they want to wear the pieces that bring them joy.”

Marketing with consistency.
We refuse to stop marketing regardless of sales or economy. Thus, when downturns occur, people still buy and they keep walking in the door.


57: Tell us about a sale that summed up the last three years for you.

  • A customer wanted us to custom make her “death ring” — two penguins facing each other with a 1-carat heart-shaped diamond in the middle, set in platinum, to wear when she was buried. “No one in my family deserves it.” Now she wants to return it.
  • A guy drove over four hours to us to buy an engagement ring because he heard from a friend how well we treat customers.
  • A necklace we sold last week just came back for a refund because the customer told her husband she wanted a designer purse.
  • Return customer was ready to purchase high-ticket earrings but needed to get home to wire the funds (we are in a resort town), and when he got home, his wife was immediately hospitalized and he never finalized the sale. This has been our experience the last few years. I feel like I am in the twilight zone.
  • Spent three and a half hours with a couple looking for a custom set, educated them on the 4Cs. Drew sketches, calculated layaways and sold them a $70 silver set.
  • Sold two 2.5-carat diamond engagement rings. Made $2,000 on first sale and $4,000 on the second. The difference? Lab-grown diamond was the center of the second engagement ring.
  • Did eight CADs for a lady making her dream ring, and she decided against them all in the end and instead chose a ring in our case.
  • A client who had only bought batteries for her watches over the years decided she wanted 8-carat diamond studs.
  • A customer calling a Pandora CZ ring a diamond and after pointing out it was not, they said, “no difference.” Also, customers calling Alex and Ani silver-colored bracelets white gold.
  • We repaired simple items for a man who brought in his mother’s repairs. After five to 10 times, he said, “I live far but I’m here to buy an engagement ring because you never charged my mom and I want to give you the business.”
  • Just sold a 3.26-carat round brilliant diamond in a platinum mounting. To sum up my bridal business: Fewer, but more important sales.
  • A gentleman came in to check out engagement rings, looking at a quarter-carat max, but didn’t buy. He came in eight months later looking for a half-carat. Still unsure about marriage, he didn’t buy. He came in last spring and bought a nice 2.01-carat in a sweet platinum mount. He said it was kismet, that the perfect ring meant the time was right.
  • A customer told us he had been diagnosed with cancer and did not have long to live. Sad that he might not make it to his 55th anniversary, he ordered his wife a pearl necklace and asked if I could take it to her on their special day. He did die before their day, so I gave her the 55-pearl necklace and 55 roses. Sometimes I forget the only reason for our business is because someone loves someone. Nothing is better than that.
  • After three weeks the $10,000 diamond sale closed. We made $1,500. Can I do this and still make rent?


58. What was the last great business idea you had?

  • Buying a closing jewelry store’s phone number.
  • I put morning duties on flash cards. My staff gets to pick which card they get when they arrive. Last person in has to take two cards. No more late employees.
  • Advertising an estate piece twice a week in the paper: Once in the TV section and once in the Obit page. It works! 3 A diamond melee replacement policy for $99.99 (up to 0.10 carat).
  • Copying the style of some consignment ladieswear/luxury accessories pages and actively selling (with pricing listed) on Instagram.
  • Putting product close-ups on our TV commercial — almost every piece has sold due to the visibility!
  • Lock the door on Tuesdays. We take in so much work we needed a day to just work. No clients complained, in fact, as it turns out, the harder we are to get to, the more they want us.
  • Put up a We Buy Gold banner near the road.
  • We let a local friend who used to be a PR person try out her hand at holding a popup shop of thrift shop clothing in our store to benefit a local women’s abuse charity called WEAVE. It brought a lot of new people in the store, changed the look of the store for a few days, raised money for a great charity, and forced me to remerchandise our “Man Cave” into what is now going to be a “Maker’s Mart” inside our store, selling all handmade Etsy-ish indie designer goods. So … it’s breathing some new life into my stale old Man Cave idea that used to be considered “cool”.
  • Printing business-sized cards to throw into the customer’s bag saying to like us on Facebook and review.
  • Tea and Treasures on each second Wednesday afternoon to let them try on and touch the jewelry.
  • Weekly Wednesday Website special where an older piece is significantly marked down.
  • 60-months financing – longer terms to close more sales
  • Canvas printed bags. People reuse them and I see my logo at the beach often.
  • We are just beginning to send each client their birthstone on their birthday. This is packaged as a gift including information about their birthstone as well as our custom design services. We also include a gift card toward custom design or mounting of that stone.
  • Sending generated text messages “Reminder! It’s time to get your jewelry checked and cleaned.” It helps get people in without bothering them all of the time.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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Wilkerson Testimonials

Downsizing? Wilkerson Is Here to Help

Orin Mazzoni, Jr., the owner of Orin Jewelers in Garden City and Northville, Michigan, decided it was time to downsize. With two locations and an eye on the future, Mazzoni asked Wilkerson to take the lead on closing the Garden City store. Mazzoni met Wilkerson’s Rick Hayes some years back, he says, and once he made up his mind to consolidate, he and Hayes “set up a timeline” for the sale. Despite the pandemic, Mazzoni says the everything went smoothly. “Many days, we had lines of people waiting to get in,” he says, adding that Wilkerson’s professionalism made it all worthwhile. “Whenever you do an event like this, you think, ‘I’ve been doing this my whole life. Do I really need to pay someone to do it for me?’ But then I realized, these guys are the pros and we need to move forward with them.”

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