Monday, 31 December 2012

This Too Shall Pass

How do you cap-off the achievement of a really daunting goal like publishing 300 blog posts in one year?  Well, since we’re approaching a new calendar year, maybe some thoughts about turning the calendar over to a fresh new start.

I’ll share with you a bible verse that has kept me both humble and motivated.  It comes from Matthew 13:53, which states “And it came to pass …”  Did you have an off-year this year?  Don’t worry, it will pass.  Did you have a great year?  This too shall pass.  (This message was borrowed from comedian Mark Lowry) 

We can’t control the results of our past efforts.  We did what we did and we got what we got.  Because we are in a business where so much of our success comes from the final part of the calendar year it makes sense to join the masses in reflecting on the past year and making plans for the new year now rather than at your fiscal year-end.  So go ahead.  Give yourself a kick-in-the-butt or a pat-on-the-back.  Make resolutions.  Don’t forget to announce your resolutions to people who care about you.  It will help you to keep them.

If you’re not big on making resolutions, here’s a great way to start the New Year.  Write yourself a job description.  Start with the phrase, “If I were training someone to take over my job, and I received a royalty from their performance, here’s what I’d tell them to do…”  Then staple it to the file where you put your pay-stubs or some other locale that you have to look at on a regular basis.

I’ll end with a nice story about a jeweller who on December 6th had an SUV drive right through his store, and with a positive attitude, managed to make the best of it.  Click HERE to read the JCK Online story.

Happy New Year!

Blog post #300 with a 2012 tally of 88,054 words.

Thursday, 27 December 2012


Ahhhh, boxing day!  My favorite time of year to join the hordes looking for unparalleled deals.  Boxing week is proof that if the price is low enough, consumers will sacrifice their quality standards.  What I like to call wearability (my spell checker doesn’t recognize the word) is a combination of durability and universal appeal.

A nice piece of jewellery can stand-up to daily wear and goes with many things.  But on boxing day, a person might buy a piece of costume jewellery with maybe 10 wearings in it before it starts crumbling if the deal is good enough.  A person might buy a piece of jewellery with an odd combination of colored gemstones if the deal is good enough. 

Besides the electronics stores, who had the biggest line-ups on boxing day?  Old Navy, and Wall-Mart.  Wearability?  Well, neither of these are the place to go for long-wearing clothing.  Fashionable?  Well, whatever is left-over is what is discounted, so items voted the least appealing before Christmas are blown-out after.  Simple formula.  Good business.

Your job?  If you’re one of my typical store owners, your job is to put an attractive incentive on older merchandise in order to get rid of it.  If you’re a sales associate, I charge you with selling the best wearable merchandise that your clients will buy.  If they’ve got money burning a hole in their pockets, show them the good stuff and see if they will start a layaway on something awesome rather than walking out with cheapo left-overs.  As always focus on the good stuff, and work your way down to the best they are willing to purchase.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Happy Christmas

To the tune of John & Yoko’s “Happy Christmas”
“A Very Merry Christmas, without NHL Cheers
We’ll spend their $3 Billion on Diamonds and Beers.”

I hope you all are turning the corner this morning to focus on family, friends and if you’re Christian, the birth of our Saviour.  It’s been a fabulous year.  I’ve learned so much from all of you.  Having done a lot of writing, I’ve learned what issues my readers feel passionately about.  I’ve been corrected and redirected by you when I’m off-base.  I’ve enjoyed some accolades when I’ve correctly reflected things that are important to you. 

This represents my 298th blog post of 2012.  If I survive Christmas with the in-laws, a couple of boxing day shopping rants, and 300 will be “in the bag.”

If you’re a hockey fan, check-out my latest music video featuring NHL lock-out related parodies of Christmas songs.

From my home to yours,  Merry Christmas!

Friday, 21 December 2012

Old Guys Rule!

Just when you thought that the smart-phone toting, Justin Bieber adoring, generation-next was going to take over the world, a glimmer of hope arises.  One of the two reality TV shows that are my guilty pleasure is Simon Cowell’s mixed-genre talent show; The X-Factor.  Last night’s final show-down was between 3 finalists.  First was an uber-talented 13 year old Carly Rose Sonneneclaire.  Second was a group of 5 young-ladies who were assembled out of solo-auditionists called Fifth Harmony.  The third finalist was from the “over 30” category of contestants, named Tate Stevens; a married 42 year old road-construction worker with two teenage kids.

Talent has no age limit.  Here’s the thing though.  This show has a huge audience, but who do you think is registering votes on-line and through their cel-phones.  I think the rules were that you could vote up to 10 times on your cel-phone and 10- times on your computer each week.  Who’s got time like that?  The younger, Justin Bieber adoring, cel-phone addicted generation-next seems to text in their sleep.  I assumed that they were going to skew “Americas choice” towards one of the two younger pop-acts.  To make a long story short, a humble, good-hearted, no frills, hard-working 42 year old, down-to-earth country singer managed to win The X-Factor, earning a $5 Million recording contract. 

Now tell me, is it only the younger generation that you can reach and gain loyalty from via social media marketing?  I think the results of last night’s X-Factor signals a turning point in on-line responsiveness.

Now get out there and enjoy this fancy new high-tech world that even the smarty-pants Mayan’s couldn’t envision.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Shaving Cream

Wow, are you kidding me?  Here I am laying low, and not sending-out daily blog-posts because I know how busy you are (also because I’m extremely close to accomplishing my 300 blogs in 2013.)  Here’s what I’m seeing.  Due to a new product line with a time-limited offer, I’ve made a couple of sales pitches during the busiest month of the year and got timely responses back.  I’ve also received many thoughtful responses to some of my blog posts.  Is it that slow out there?  Nope.  Reports are pretty good so far.

I always wondered how long a can of shaving cream would last if I always used the small (but entirely sufficient) amount that I squeezed-out for the last couple of shaves before starting a new one.  In the same way I wonder how much we could accomplish if we worked as efficiently as we HAVE to in December.

This December, make sure you take just a few moments to observe how quickly product gets tagged and put into the showcase.  How much time it really takes to wipe-down the counters.  Note the urgency to call people when repairs or special orders are ready.  There’s no dilly-dallying.  No lolli-gagging, and certainly no shilly-shallying.  Now get back to work and enjoy the hustle (and the bustle!)

Friday, 14 December 2012

Smoked Meat on Rye!

When I was doing a lot of jewellery-insurance claim work in Edmonton, my office was right around the corner from Mansfield Importers.  This was an old-school store just off Jasper Avenue where luggage, kitchen accessories, hardware and other treasures could be found just beyond the jewellery counters.  Since the owner Mike Mann had been buying-up close-out merchandise and he bought kilos of Italian chain, I often was able to find a Seiko Lassalle or just the chain I needed to complete an insurance claim. 

Every December, when I would go in there for a visit (if Mike wasn’t on the phone loudly negotiating a real-estate or stock transaction) he would come over, shake my hand, look way up into my eyes and say, “It’s good to see you my friend.  HEY, SHERRI, TAKE TODD UP STAIRS AND GET HIM A NICE SMOKED MEAT SANDWICH.”

This was the way it was at Mansfield’s in December.  He brought in a special shipment of smoked meat from a deli in Montreal.  Along with rye bread from his favorite kosher bakery, it was a delicious and familiar way to treat customers.  It was hospitality.  It was tradition.  It was part of his Jewish culture.  It made going into Mansfields something special.

For you it might be over-the-top decorations.  It might be live music.  It could be “special” egg-nog, home-baking or a free Christmas decoration.  Think about the best received Christmas treat and imagine 365 days, 730 days and 995 days from now what kind of experience your clients can enjoy through your hospitable traditions.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Not all Joy

I’m all about joy at Christmas.  This is the time of year when joy should be at it’s fullest.  For those who are suffering through Christmas without a lost loved one, their grief might be at its’ fullest.

If you meet a lady shopping for herself at this time of year, it may be more than just self-indulgence.  It could be the fulfillment of a promise made by someone who is no longer able to follow-through.  It might even be the turning point in accepting the loss of a parent or spouse, or even a divorce.

Exuberance is understandable at Christmastime, but you might add more joy to just one person’s season by respectfully and compassionately helping them commemorate a somber occasion.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Look Who's Coming...

Look who’s coming...  Right there…  Open your eyes.  Can’t you see?

You know that couple who has been shopping with you for a few years now.  It seems almost every piece of jewellery they have came from your store.  They’re so loyal you could even screw-up once or twice, and they’d still love you.  They refer their friends, and you’ve gotten to know their family too.  They’re your favorite clients.

At one time they walked into your store for the very first time.  Something happened over the course of that very first transaction to make them want to come back again and again and again.

The next “favorite client” may be walking toward your store at this very second.  The next person through your door could be celebrating this Christmas with jewellery, but wind-up spending tens of thousands of dollars with you over the coming years, and refer three engagement purchases within the next six months.  If you knew for sure that was the case, how would you approach that person?

Now you’re ready.  Go get ‘em, tiger! 

Monday, 10 December 2012

Independent - Schmindependent!

The billing on my blog and website talk about how I’m writing about best practices for the independent jewellers.  So what?  What’s the big whoop about independent jewellers???  I woke up this morning pondering this question.

Well, let me tell you a story.  When I worked for Mappins in Lougheed Mall, they had a pre-Christmas “scratch-and-save” event.  We gave store visitors a game-card so that they could scratch and receive a discount of 10 to 50% off at the cash register.  Of course in the large stack of 500 cards there were maybe one 50% off card, ten 35% off cards, twenty-five 25% off cards and the rest were 10%. When they arrived, our manager grabbed a few, handed me a small stack, and handed others on shift a small stack so that we could immediately start handing them out.  Well, the good folks at People’s head-office sent out cards that were not shuffled.  The cards in my sport-coat were all 35% and 25% off cards.  I caught on before long.

Did I care that my clients were getting a bigger discount?  Not really.  Was Mr. Mappin standing over my shoulder to see what went on?  Nope.  In fact when we got stuck with a chatty mall-walker who was wasting our time, someone would come out of the back and say, “Todd, Mr. Mappin is on the phone for you…”  This was quite the joke, because I don’t think anyone knew anything about the fellow whose name was on the front of our store.

The really skilled salespeople at Peoples or Mappins were not only good closers, they were good a working the system.  Special orders were frowned upon, but they could find a way to bring-in items from suppliers through closely guarded back channels.  One promotional item might feature a “one-carat total diamond” but some were I2, some were I1 and they could be anywhere from 1.00ct to 1.08ct and J to L color. The best chain-store staff knew how to trade their 1.01ct I2/L with another store for a 105ct I1/J.  And at the corporate Christmas party, you drank as much as you could possibly stand because it was a great opportunity to stick it to the faceless owners of the company.

Working for an independent store, you have the privilege of working alongside the person who signs your pay cheque.  It is they whose entire financial future is completely dependent upon your performance and your participation in much needed teamwork.  They’ve hand-selected the designs you carry and they have a close and direct relationship with the suppliers, so that special orders and custom orders are simple matters.  If you grant a generous discount, that comes off the bottom-line of the store you work in, not some monolithic corporation’s.  When you do good, it is the owner who says “well-done,” not some flunky.

That’s why I serve independents, write to (and about) independents, and why I enjoy working for a small company with a great leader.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Independent = Dead End?

First it was Marjon Jewellers in Kamloops, now McCallums and Warringtons.  Three perfectly good effective businesses have or are closing their doors, rather than selling to the highest bidder.  What is it about independent jewellery stores that a savvy businessperson wouldn’t just snap it up and keep the ball rolling?  Is it that inventory liquidation is more lucrative than negotiating 2.5X annual earnings plus inventory and fixtures?  Is it that aged inventory requires such a steep depreciation?  Is it because it takes more than just any businessperson to run a jewellery store?  Is it because an independent jewellery store isn’t profitable enough to justify the outrageous mall leases being asked?

People buy into franchises all the time.  The typical franchise prospectus asks the new franchisee to have $100,000 to $500,000 in unencumbered cash, plus additional net-worth to back equipment leases, credit lines and real estate leases.  And then they have perpetual franchise fees and royalties to deal with.  Why aren’t more of these people making you offers on your jewellery store?

 Most of the answer lies in the book The E-Myth.  According to Michael Gerber, your store is only entrepreneurial, franchiseable and resaleable if you’ve defined and documented all of the functions so that others can step-in and do what you do.  If purchasing, pricing, hiring, training, appraisals, and key client management are all done by one very capable owner, then the only buyer for your store will be a protégé already working along-side you.  This is where key-staff reading this should pay attention: you may be a unique candidate to buy-out your owner one day!

Best wishes to Orm Schulz (who with his son Parker will continue to run Jonathan’s Jewellery) and Brent McCallum as they enter a new phase of their lives.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

1st Todd 13:4

David Squires of InStore Magazine inspired me to write about love after reading his article called Do You Love Your Customers?  He makes a good point and even uses a classic 1980s John Cusack video clip to illustrate the point.

What is love?  Well here’s a jewellers rendition of a popular bible verse used at nearly every wedding I’ve ever been to (1 Corinthians 13:4-8,13).

Love is patiently waiting for your customer to get to the point, love is being kind enough to give the smallest of customers your best service.  It does not envy big sales made by coworkers, it does not boast of one’s own big sales, it is only proud in the accomplishments of the whole store.  It does not dishonor competitors, puts the client’s needs above one’s own, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of the goofy things clients say.  Love does not delight in putting one over on a customer, but rejoices in good, honest and fair transactions.  It always protects the client, always trusts their motives, always holds a positive attitude, always perseveres even when it looks like the sale might be going sideways.  Extending that kind of love to clients will never let you down.  Where there is experience, new developments will prove you wrong; where there is fashion-sense, it will yield to the next fad; where there is knowledge, it will pass away...  And now these three remain: product knowledge, selling skills and love.  But the greatest of these is love.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

From Heartache to Loyal Client

Our border Marie had a very difficult day at work.  She works in a call center for a telecom provider.  She had been in tears at work because one of her call-ins didn’t speak very good English and she struggled for nearly two hours to understand his problem and solve it.  In the end, she not only satisfied his issue, she also sold him a cable/internet package.

Here’s the dealio: not all of your clients will be born out of smooth transactions where everything goes right.  There’s a song I used to sing in youth-group called “Friends.”  The verses started-out “Friends are nothing til they …” laugh, sing, dance, cry.  Some of my best friends are ones with whom I’ve done more than just have fun.  We’ve been through each other’s heartaches, we’ve seen each other’s gloomy-sides and we still stand by each other.

Don’t go out to upset a client just so that you can deepen your relationship with them.  Know this: how you choose to deal with difficulties can earn you valuable clients just as sure as doing everything right will.  Embrace difficulties.  They give you a better opportunity to show-off the depth of your professionalism to someone seeking a trusted jewellery advisor!

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Sell a Diamond, Feed a Starving Child

Remember 2006 when Warner Brothers sent shockwaves through the jewellery industry by releasing Blood Diamond?

The issue is still alive.  The Kimberly Process (K.P.) for those of you who don’t know is a committee of representatives from 80 countries and non-governmental organizations who seek to define and uphold sanctions against conflict diamonds.  Conflict diamonds had been roughly described as those whose profits had been earned by the African equivalent of Mexican drug lords.

Now, as we approach 2013, the Kimberly Process struggles with redefining the term “conflict diamond.”  The Responsible Jewellers Council has arisen from within the industry to address environmental and human rights issues in all raw material sourcing.  There are still unscrupulous dealers who will disregard any of these efforts for the sake of a quick buck.

In June, 2006 I wrote in my Road Reflections Newsletter:

Should the public ask you questions about “blood diamonds”, I would suggest four things.  First, I would refer to them (as Mr. Rapaport did) as “poverty diamonds,” as it puts the emphasis on the victims rather than the villains…

With the KP trying to include “fair trade” issues rather than just political ones in its’ definition of “conflict diamond” and with the work of RJC, the tide is finally starting to turn in favor of real people in third world countries who earn their only living from diamond mining.  As the industry works to protect and improve the prospects of these innocent players, you can take more and more pride in our product.

Jewellery is a luxury good, and you may have moments where you believe that your clients are better-off using their money for more beneficent purposes, but don’t forget that our world is global village.  Some of the poorest nations would be absolutely sunk without employment from the diamond industry.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Go For Gold Program Extended / December Commissions

I’ve spoken to some of you who said that collecting gold-scraps at this time of year was more than your staff could handle.  Since Steve has offered to cash-out the gold at full market value, and then round-it-up before sending it off for refining, you can courier gold donations to Customgold as late as January 28th.  This is how we’re claiming that this is the most cost effective fund-raiser ever with 101% of gold value going directly to an account that will pay 100% of the funds for building, maintaining and supplying orphanages and free schools in Haiti.  For more info visit Haitian Heroes Go for Gold.

I remember when I worked briefly for Mappins in Lougheed Mall the fuss that was made about my December Commissions.  Mappins was an hourly wage plus commission gig.  My manager Tom would give me my cheque and proudly say, “look here Todd, you made an average of $15 per hour including your commissions: keep that up and you’ll make some good money in this business!”  I’m sorry to say I knew darn well that Christmas commissions didn’t exactly reflect year-round potential.

Someone who owns a jewellery store builds inventory programs, trains staff, advertises and conditions their marketplace all year long building up to a December crescendo.  Sales staff must do the same.  You must build clientele, hone your sales skills, collect wish-lists, and expand your social network in order to earn those fat commissions or bonuses in December.  Effective selling all year ‘round is the best way to build a network of happy referring clientele.

Don’t think of December sales as an indication of your potential, they are a result of your actions from January to November.  Enjoy the strong sales this December, but start to envision December 2013, with twice as many people asking for you and with you having the confidence and skills to easily close those sales.  Preparation for that begins in less than four weeks.

Saturday, 1 December 2012


Today is a sad day.  Zig Ziglar is being laid to rest after a career that inspired hundreds of thousands of people to new heights and pride in the profession of sales.  Listening to the celebration of Zig’s life via the “Live 365” iPhone app, I heard a clip of Zig asking people to imagine a place where you look back and say, “I wish I had” or “I’m glad I did.”  Those of us who have read his books, listened to his tapes or watched his videos can clearly tell that Zig lived in the latter camp.

Here are a few famous Zig quotes.  I hope it inspires you to seek-out more of the wisdom that will survive his time on earth.

10) “Remember that failure is an event, not a person.”

9) “You will get all you want in life, if you help enough other people get what they want.”

8 ) “People often say motivation doesn’t last. Neither does bathing—that’s why we recommend it daily.”

7) “There has never been a statue erected to honor a critic.”

6) “People don’t buy for logical reasons. They buy for emotional reasons.”

5) “Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.”

4) “If you go looking for a friend, you’re going to find they’re scarce. If you go out to be a friend, you’ll find them everywhere.”

3) “A goal properly set is halfway reached.”

2) “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.”

1) “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”