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Management & Staff

Managing is about getting the best out of your inventory, your local situation and — most difficult — your staff. Here, owners and managers tell us how they do it.




50. How would you characterize your leadership style?

Hands off

51. In what area have you improved the most as a manager?

Inventory control
Teaching skills to staff
Choosing new lines that will sell well
Merchandise display

52. For you, what is the most important channel for staying on top of industry news?

Traditional trade media
A social media group dedicated to jewelers
Your own network of industry contacts
Online forums or discussion boards
A buying or benchmarking group

53. Owners and employees often have different views on what is expected in the workplace. That clash of perspectives often makes for interesting, humorous or just plain outlandish incidents. Here we offer you Staff True Tales. (Also to be a new column in the magazine in 2020.)

  • I had two people (my entire staff) overdose on Airborne trying not to get sick during holiday season and both had to go to the hospital for zinc poisoning. And then one of them quit. In December.
  • I had a talented woman that came late every day. When she was warned, she would show up on time but need 45 minutes to put on her makeup. I warned her one more time and she told me she didn’t have a boyfriend or husband to wake her in the mornings. I let her go two weeks later on Dec. 27.
  • Hired a girl for part time office, she went to lunch, never returned. We finally got a hold of her mother, just to make sure she was OK. She said the work was too hard. She had worked three hours!
  • Our shipping/inventory clerk murdered our store’s car by driving it into a post. We didn’t believe him when he said the brakes failed.
  • A young woman worked for us years ago at the bench. The first couple of months she was good, then she started calling in, then just not showing up. I sat her down and asked if she was really serious about making jewelry, and said that we needed her at the bench. She looked at me quietly for a moment, then said, “I will wear shoes.” I skipped a breath it was so unexpected. When I said, “What?” She said, “I always wear sandals, so if I wear shoes, I might be more focused.” Dead serious. That ended that relationship.
  • We use the “up” system and are very good at letting the next sales associate know it is their turn; when I told her it was her turn, she simply said “Nah”… ?
  • Years ago, I had two employees who couldn’t get along. I finally had enough. I gave them a $5 bill and told them to go get a cup of coffee and either one of you comes back, two of you come back or neither of you comes back. (It was a long time ago and coffee was just coffee, so it was attainable for two at $5). They ironed out their differences, they both came back and things were much smoother from then on.
  • I love when the staff comes to me with a “Can I talk to you?” question. Most often it’s the silliest things, but they are the concerns of the staff, and we address them immediately to make it better for them. Example: Someone was concerned because they thought my not stocking 20 rolls of paper towels was a sign that things weren’t good. In reality, I just hadn’t gotten to Costco!

54. In recent years, is there anything that you studied deeply and decided wasn’t worth pursuing?

In-house CAD/CAM capabilities were the overwhelming winner here, as many jewelers studied it but decided that outsourcing was a better option for them. Interestingly, e-commerce was next-most mentioned (tied with “new lines of product”). Most experts and top jewelry stores have concluded that e-commerce is a must-have for selling to today’s consumer, who likes to shop via mobile device.

  • CAD/CAM (1)
  • E-commerce (2)
  • New lines of product (2)
  • Laser welder/engraver (4)
  • Lab-grown diamonds (5)
  • Pandora (5)

*Some other interesting answers included buying rough diamonds, joint ventures, hiring an IT person, cloud-based appraisals, and “cutting debt.”

55. What is the average tenure of your staff?

The Big Survey 2019: Management & Staff

COMMENT: Elsewhere in the labor market, people may be changing jobs regularly, but jewelry-store staff seem pretty content to hang in there. The portion of stores where the staff had been on the books for an average of more than 10 years rose in the last three years from about one in four to almost one in three in 2019.

56. What is the most epic way you’ve seen someone quit or be fired?

Dealing with employees, especially on their way out, can be problematic. Sometimes they can even culminate in award-winning dramatic performances. Read on for the most memorable ways employees have left jewelry stores.

Family feuds: True tales of relatives in turmoil.
  • My sister-in-law quit by text message.
  • Employee of 16 years falls in love with my husband and they both leave.
  • My grandson worked for me for two years. Last August he asked for a Friday off, to go up north with his mom and stepdad. He didn’t come back until Sept. 25. He came into my office and said, “I overslept.” I pointed out he had been gone a month with no explanation, so he no longer had a job. I love him dearly, but yikes!
Third and last day.
  • I had an employee who after three days on the job asked me how much her bonus would be, if she could leave early every day so her commute would take less time, and if I could pull the cases in her area because I do it quicker than she can. Needless to say, that was her last day.
A change of heart.
  • After asking for a job for two years, a salesperson was finally hired and worked one day. The following morning she posted a note on the door and ran. The note said “You guys have too many customers and work too hard. I quit.”
Mysterious disappearances.
  • An employee asked to go to Walgreens and never returned..I had a bench jeweler fall asleep at his bench. I told him to go home and get some rest. He never came back and he had been with me for eight years.
You’ve made me ill.
  • Getting a doctor’s note for work-related stress to ensure unemployment benefits.
A cyber crime.
  • Sending unsolicited revealing photos of themselves to co-workers.
A change in status.
  • An employee announced on Facebook that she couldn’t wait to settle in Vegas. We didn’t know she was quitting until the manager read the post and asked if she had something to tell us.
Top 10 Countdown.

And the award for best farewell performance goes to the staff who:

10. Screamed at the top of their lungs, “I QUIT!”

9. Showed up in pajamas, had a breakdown, quit and walked out.

8. Threw rings at the boss while asking for a raise, then quit.

7. Threw a crystal piece through a showcase shelf.

6. Hit the jeweler in the head with a bag of bananas.

5. Threw his key at me.

4. Came in wielding a pipe wrench screaming that we were liars.

3. Ran out of the shop, arms raised, saying, “He’s trying to kill me.”

2. Got drunk at a charity event we were sponsoring, hit on one of the ladies and pulled her skirt up. Police were called.

And the No. 1 best dramatic performance goes to:

The employee who hired a marching band to quit.

57. What things are red flags on a resume?

Spelling mistakes
Obviously hasn’t researched your store
Out of work for six months or more
Crappy formatting
Use of terms such as “visionary,” “thought leader” or “Sales Ninja”
No career progression at a single firm
A history of social or labor activism
Paucity of references
Lists Microsoft Office Suite as a skill


COMMENT: Among the “Others” that stood out were “Desired income of 30k” for a part-time job; “Asks where we are located”, misspells store name, types in the cover letter “excited about (not the position advertised)”; or handwritten resumes — “especially if it’s in pencil.”

58. What do you think your staff dread the most?

Demanding customers
Working Saturdays
Role-play training
Setting up and breaking down
Toilet duty
Polishing silver
Cleaning showcase/door glass
The annual review
Explaining your return policy


COMMENT: There were some positive things listed among “Others” such as “Losing a sale to a competitor” but these were greatly outweighed by answers that hinted at an underlying misalignment between staff and management’s views on work. According to these bosses, staff dreaded: “Having me come in the store”, “Customers … I know, that is not a good sign”; “Having to learn anything new,” and “Keeping busy.”

59. Dark Arts of Jewelry Retail: Tell us a sales strategy or technique that would be in the quiver of a streetwise jeweler (but which perhaps isn’t something they’d want their clients to know about).

Our question prompted one survey-taker to reply “I suddenly feel like an innocent rube. Say whaaaaa?” But to succeed in just about any human endeavor, from sports to politics to business, it requires at least a knowledge of the not-so-high road, even if you don’t take it yourself. We broke the Dark Arts into 10 categories:

  • Facebook stalking to find things about customers.
  • When a customer buys an engagement ring, we follow them on social media until we know they’ve proposed, then we bombard them with congratulations, review requests, info on wedding bands, free cleanings, referrals, etc.
  • Read the obituaries.
  • I will meet any price, even make no margin, to take a sale from a competitor if there’s a genuine chance of capturing a high-end client for the future.
  • Pleasing aromas that subconsciously encourage customers to stay longer and spend more. I’m convinced the pine smells at Christmas do encourage people to buy.
  • Pricing a diamond at near cost and making it up on a custom mounting.
  • Sales discounts we would receive from a vendor without reducing the price quoted to the customer. Helped our bottom line, wasn’t a need-to-know for the customer.
  • Mark up to mark down!
  • Pretend you like them and are interested in their lives.
  • Have a shop pet. It makes you relatable.
  • Guessing finger sizes. It inspires confidence. In reality 75 percent of women and men are roughly the same size give or take 1/2 a size, and if they are not it’s easy to see.
  • Ask to clean all their jewelry and hold it hostage until you’ve shown them everything in the store.
  • Match their movements and speaking pace.
  • When selling diamonds I present three options and always place my preferred one in the center, while for the lowest budget option I present a not-so-nice choice and don’t display it the best. They always go for the better or best option. Same for custom: I draw the preferred one larger and in greater detail with little sparkle lines and everything.
  • The importance of saying to a client, “Do you want me to wrap this up?”
  • People just love to buy a used piece if they think the original owner had to sell it because they needed money.
  • Buying old jewelry for scrap gold, restoring it and selling it in the half-price case. Moves well and gets great markup.
  • Buying colored gems from pawnbrokers that they have removed from scrap and have no idea what they are. I find some real deals!
  • Just because something is custom or house-made might not mean it is the only one ever made or going to be made. If it sells, sell it again!
  • Taking in jobs that will need to be outsourced.
  • Sometimes you just have to take their piece in the back, pretend you’re doing something to fix it, and then give it back; it makes them feel heard and now they’re happy.
  • Pulling old product out of the safe and presenting it as just arrived.



When the Kids Have Their Own Careers, Wilkerson Can Help You to Retire

Alex and Gladys Rysman are the third generation to run Romm Jewelers in Brockton, Mass. And after many decades of service to the industry and their community, it was time to close the store and take advantage of some downtime. With three grown children who each had their own careers outside of the industry, they decided to call Wilkerson. Then, the Rysmans did what every jeweler should do: They called other retailers and asked about their own Wilkerson experience. “They all told us what a great experience it was and that’s what made us go with Wilkerson.” says Gladys Rysman. The results? Alex Rysman says he was impressed. “We exceeded whatever I expected to do by a large margin.”

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