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Tip Sheet

Tip Sheet: March 2015

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One Vail jeweler puts a fresh spin on the term “snow day”.

The 12-inch powder rule

You’re in Vail, it’s a crisp winter morning, a foot of fine powder awaits on the slopes … who would want to go to work or even shop for that matter? It’s a reality the owners of the Squash Blossom fully appreciate with their 12-inch-powder rule, which surely sets a benchmark for employee-satisfaction practices: When the conditions on the slopes are sublime, workers are free to ski some runs in the morning before showing up for their shift. “You do eventually have to come to work, but you can be late it if snows 12 inches overnight,” says co-owner Patti Cogswell.

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Fresh set of eyes

The next time you take on a new hire, ask her to jot down every doubt she has about the way things are done at your store during her first month. For most things, the newbie will come to understand why your store does them in a certain way, says former Saks CEO Stephen Sadove. until last year. “But invariably, I find some really good ideas that make you say: ‘Why are we doing it this way?’ I’ve seen little things, big things, waste in the system and a lot of duplication come out of it,” he told the New York Times.

Not so excellent

“Excellent” sounds a notch up from “good,” but it’s not a great word in customer surveys because it’s indefinable, says Forbes blogger Micha Solomon. “Look for something that is based on your customer’s own experience. ‘Exceeded expectations’ is OK as your top rating, or consider calling it something emotive like ‘Loved it!’”

Build Media Ties

Morgan Bartel of Susann’s Custom Jewelers in Corpus Christi, TX, says one of the best things they’ve done has been to build up personal relationships with newspapers, magazines, radio stations and community organizations. “We simply chose to get to know the people at these companies on a more personal level and have received so much help in terms of store marketing. When you build the relationships, others want to help you succeed. Our store has had major spreads in publications all from reaching out to these companies.”

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mirror, mirror

Forget wishlists. Mimi et Cie in Pasadena, CA, has a sign in the bathroom that reads: “Your husband just called. He said to buy whatever you want!”

GET PERSONAL

Yes, it’s a store, but your staff should act as if it were a personal shopping service, says Kelly Mitchell, owner of Kelly Mitchell Fine Jewelry in Highland Park, TX. “Busy people don’t have time to come walking through your doors to snag as new business,” she says. “Everyone should be sending out pictures to clients when they see pieces that fit or sending a piece to their office to preview in order to keep business rolling,” says Mitchell. It’s a way of doing business endorsed by Warren Buffett. “[Borsheim] does a huge amount of business in this low-key way,” he recently told shareholders.

Indulge browsers

Amazon and Blue Nile have proved jewelry and the Internet make for a pretty good combination. But there’s still something of a gender gap that makes online shopping unsatisfying for many women. “Too many websites are owned by guys and managed by guys yet we want women to participate,” says retail guru Paco Underhill. “Retailers need to understand that not every shopper is looking to complete a transaction,” says Underhill, who will speak at the SMART Show on April 18. When women buy jewelry, it’s a moment of indulgence. Be sure your website reflects that, Underhill says.

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It’s simple: don’t drink and do social media.

tweeting under the influence

It seems obvious, but bears repeating: drinking and tweeting (or any social media posting) make for a combustible combination. “If you’ve had a few drinks, ask yourself if you would be tweeting the same thing if you were sober,” Dennis Wharton, VP of communications at the National Association of Broadcasters, told PR News recently.

Email bankruptcy

Drowning in unread emails? Delete them all and start afresh. The key to this unorthodox move, according to tech blogger Fred Wilson, is to publicly declare email bankruptcy. That is, send a message to all your contacts letting them know you’re trashing all messages before say Jan. 1, 2015. If their message was really important, they’ll send it again. By which point, you’ll be way ahead of the productivity curve.

This article originally appeared in the March 2015 edition of INSTORE.

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Gene the Jeweler

When Gene the Jeweler Speaks, His Employees Listen

In this episode of Jimmy DeGroot’s Gene the Jeweler series, Gene has a simple request for his employees. The good news is that they follow his instructions. The bad news is that they follow a bit too literally.

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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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Podcast: When Is It Time to Let an Underperforming Employee Go?

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Podcast: Millennial Gem Trader Dave Bindra Steps Into ‘The Barb Wire’
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Podcast: Millennial Gem Trader Dave Bindra Steps Into ‘The Barb Wire’

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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Tip Sheet

The Best Question to Ask Job Candidates and More Tips for March

Don’t miss “the right-hand close.”

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SecurityBeware Social Thieves

Going to Basel? Beware of who you tell, what you post, and how you move. “Skilled gangs of robbers monitor social networks, and, based on information that the exhibitors post, the robbers have attacked, robbed and even burglarized hotel rooms that the exhibitors were staying at,” Itay Hendel, CEO of Israel-based ISPS, which specializes in theft prevention for the jewelry industry, says in a statement.

ManagementWill Do, Not to Do

When making your daily to-do list, don’t pick 20 things you hope to do and that you think will add up to one day’s work: you’ll overestimate your capacities. Instead, pick the three or four most important things and really commit to doing them, even if you think they’ll take you only a couple of hours, suggests Luciano Passuello at litemind.com.

ShowroomSign Language

When you go to a jewelry show, you ask your vendors what’s new, right? Of course you do. Consultant Larry B. Johnson, author of The Complete Guide to Effective Jewelry Display, says the best way to draw customer interest from regular clients is to put a whiteboard on an easel (total cost: $79) just inside your door with all of your new products written on it.

SalesThe Right-Hand Close

Owners are uniquely placed to provide a blessing to close a sale, but knowing when to intervene can be tricky. The sales associates at Linnea Jewelers in La Grange, IL, signal such situations by shifting the piece to their right hand (a technique recommended by sales trainer Shane Decker). Owner Denise Oros will then step in to provide the reassurance that’s often needed with a line such as “Great choice! I got that stone, pearl, etc. in Tucson, it is a one-of-a-kind, she will love it! You really have an eye for the finer things.”

PersonalKeep Vacations Short

There seems to be a belief that a “proper” vacation requires at least a week off. But as the American psychologist Thomas Gilovich told the Boston Globe recently, “If you have to sacrifice how long your vacation is versus how intense it is, you want shorter and more intense.” That’s because we remember and judge our experiences, whether good or bad, not in their entirety, but according to how they felt at their emotional peak and at the end.

HiringAsk How They Prepared

Anand Sanwal, the CEO and co-founder of fast-growing tech company CB Insights, has an interesting take on the best question to ask a job candidate: “Tell me how you prepared for this interview.” Not only does the reply likely reveal a lot about how the person’s commitment to the position — do they care? — but it will hint at their work ethic and their analytical capabilities, he says.

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