Strong Teams lead to Success
Football season has begun, YEAH! OK, so I have to admit I am a glutton for punishment, I have been a JETS fan for years. But regardless of that fact, I do truly love the game. I recently read an article on the ways to make special teams strong (for those not in football, the special teams only come out to play in certain situations, mainly during the kicking game). One thing that strikes me every year is how some teams just seem to gel, they come together and just work well. How do they do it? What can we learn from them? And how do we apply it to what we do every day?
It is no secret, and I am sure you have heard over and over, that your success depends on the team you create within your organization. Just like special teams, that are not utilized during the whole game, with the holiday season upon us, now is a great time to revisit the key elements in building and sustaining a strong team that will produce results.
FIND GREAT PLAYERS
In order for a football team to win, they have to have great players. This is probably the most obvious statement you have ever read, right? But it deserves to be repeated. So many times I see companies that will hold onto team members that are not performing up to their ability. What is the definition of a “great player “? These are usually the people that the less energetic people on the team complain about being overzealous. They go the extra mile, they embrace the goals of the organization, and they are willing to work with others to accomplish those goals. In Jim Collins book, “Good to Great” he talks about getting the right people on the bus, do you have the right people on your bus?
FIND TIME TO PRACTICE
No football team shows up on opening day without putting in a lot of practice time. Do you practice with your team members? Do you meet with them regularly to go over short term and long term goals? Do you constantly train them, on everything, from customer service to product knowledge? How often? As you may be hiring some temporary or new employees, are they up to speed and regularly trained so that they can be a true team player?
OUTWORK YOUR OPPONENT
Many football teams lax in their devotion to the kicking game and special teams. If you are bringing in any temporary help for the holiday season, or have anything special you are doing, don’t forget to address them and encourage them every day, starting in practice! Also, don’t forget this holiday season to go that extra mile. That goes beyond just trying to make the sale happen and gift wrapping. Don’t forget your basic selling tips. Get to know your customer, make them feel important, make sure the experience is A+.
Things will hopefully get hectic over the next couple of months, especially the week before Christmas. Remember your keys to success, and don’t let your eye off the ball. Continuing to develop your strong team, even during the toughest times, will only ensure a greater success. Happy Holidays!

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This week London Jewelers announced that they will be selling the I Watch in two of their locations. If you know me, you know I have been saying for a while that this is the direction that the jewelry industry has to go. When I read this article, my first thought was “it’s about time”. I wrote an article on this topic not so long ago. I am posting it here because I truly feel that this is such a great opportunity for retail jewelry stores to start recapturing consumer spending dollars that are going to other luxury items, outside of jewelry.

At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, both Richline and Swarovski announced partnerships with tech companies to introduce jewelry lines. Then in June, at the JCK show, Richline hosted a wearable technology event. It was a wonderful showcase of the here and now, as well as the future yet to come. In the past, most articles and discussion centered around watches, the IWatch and Samsung leading the charge. However, wearables are branching out beyond just watches. For years we have had discussions around the water cooler regarding the fact that our competition has extended beyond the jewelry store down the street. Our competition has been coming from limited consumer spending dollars going to other industries, primarily the electronic industry. So here we are at a crossroad. Will we allow the electronic industry to enter the jewelry industry, or will we take charge and lead in this arena?
What do we do as retail jewelers to prepare for this?
1. Don’t take it for granted! – I have spoken to many jewelers about this subject. The responses I get are anywhere from, “we don’t sell watches”, to “Is there really ‘jewelry’ being produced?”. Well if the CES show in Las Vegas in January is any indication, yes it is more than just jewelry. Get educated, read up and start looking at wearables as a new product category for your store.
2. Train and consider getting staff that understands this product. – So now you have decided to get into wearables, great! BUT remember this cannot be sold like all your other jewelry. You need to make sure that the staff is trained in how to work with this product. You will start getting questions such as “how do I sync this to my Iphone?”. Be prepared to have the lead staff person in charge of wearables be able to not only discuss, but help your customer out. If you don’t you will just be opening the door for Best Buy to gain your customer. Think about hiring a new type of staff person for this job, yes perhaps a little younger.
3. Consider how you are merchandising the product. – Dedicate the space and resources for this product category. Just bringing in one watch and putting it in your watch case will not work. Dedicate a section in the store for wearables. Make it hip and promote it. No reason your customer should be going down the street to check out the newest and greatest wearable device, they should think of you first!
4. Learn more about it. – Go to upcoming trade shows and learn more about these products and the market.

Just 10 years ago I doubt any of us would have dreamed of having this conversation. A watch that can monitor your hearbeat? A ring that can answer your phone? Who would have thought. But here we are in a new age. And as an industry we have the opportunity to become relevant again to a whole new generation, make sure you grasp the opportunity and make the most out of it!

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Many parents experience the angst of their child heading off to college. Between the worries of “How will they survive without me?” and “I can’t believe I have a child old enough-or that I am old enough to have a child-going to college”, there is the underlying hope that they will transform from being your baby, into a successful and happy young adult.

I recently had the opportunity to join my daughter at her future college, High Point University, for a very special, invitation only, weekend. Besides the obvious honor of being invited to attend and the chance to meet some wonderful families, the highlight of the weekend was the opportunity to hear the president of the school, Dr. Nido Qubein speak. His philosophy and guiding principle that he teaches and preaches is the idea that we should all be “extraordinary”. He weaves this philosophy into the way he runs his school, hires is professors and ultimately teaches all High Point university students.

As I sat and listened to this exceptional speaker I started to think, are we all leading extraordinary lives? If we apply these lessons to our businesses, how much better would we be for it?

So what does it mean to be extraordinary?

1. Expect the exceptional and settle for nothing less. This philosophy starts at the top, you must lead by example. If you expect your staff to treat your customers with respect and give great service, make sure you are doing the same to your staff. Go that extra mile.

2. Never use the words “I can’t ” or “I will try”. Change your thinking. The words you choose dictate your mind set. When a situation arises, say “how can I make is happen”. Obstacles occur all the time. The difference between those that succeed and those that don’t is that the successful ones don’t look at a situation and say “that won’t work”, they say “how can that work”. It allows their brain to rethink the situation and offer solutions. Encourage your staff to overcome obstacles that are presented and think of new ways to do business. You may be surprised at what they achieve.

3. Remember to have fun and be happy. Ultimately we all work hard every day, we have stresses that we encounter that can seem overwhelming at times and sometimes we just don’t want to even get out of bed. But at the end of the day we have to find some time to smile, to laugh and to have fun. If the people that work for you enjoy what they are doing and coming into work, they will deal with the everyday issues better. Think of ways to have fun at work. Whether it is after work “parties” every so often, rewarding your staff with a dinner or lunch, or just remembering to smile and say hi when you walk in the door in the morning, little things can go a long way.

You can google the phrase “what does it mean to be extraordinary” and a ton of sites pop up (I know I tried it!). The underlying theme to them all is that we can all be extraordinary, the potential is in all of us and is part of who we are. We just must strive to exceed ordinary, which ultimately means being different than most. How have you made what you do and who you are different?

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So as 2014 is coming to a close, I look back at my first year away from Lieberfarb. As many of you know, and for those that are new here, Lieberfarb was my home and life for over 27 years. I started “working” when I was just a little girl, and then worked in my family business for most of my adult life. When I made the decision at the end of last year to leave and go on my own, it was scary to say theleast, but still exciting. Pretty much right away, I had lunch with a gentleman by the name of Abe Sherman. I had known Abe for almost 20 years as an acquaintance, but this was the first time I really sat down and spoke to him about his company and all they were doing. Wow, was I blown away. So my tenure of working on my own was very short lived, because within a few months I joined his organization, Buyers Intelligence Group (BIG) as the Chief Strategy Officer. It has been such a great experience.

Abe and his entire team have welcomed me with open arms, and have totally embraced the way I am re-positioning the company. They are true partners, and share my vision that the jewelry industry has to change in order to survive and thrive. We have developed the BIG Network for Jewelers, where we are allowing retailers and vendors to truly come together as partners in growing their businesses. They are sharing data, working together to fix the aged inventory problem so many people have, with the common goal to increase turn and profitability for all. I am really excited about what 2015 will hold.

This is an excerpt from a newsletter that I wrote back in September:

“As many others in this industry, I grew up in a family business and for years I felt the animosity between vendors and retailers. I slowly learned to overcome it by creating and building strong relationships with my retailers and making them understand that I was their partner. For those that were open to it, working together, we flourished.

What does it mean to build strong relationships? It is more than taking a client out to dinner (although that was the fun part!) For me it meant I had to have a vested interest in the prosperity of our partners. I accomplished this through taking a proactive approach to helping my customers manage their inventory.

Getting the information and inventory reports was the most challenging part of this process, but when I got their data I was able to work collaboratively with my retail partners and continually make sure that our business together was growing strong.”

I truly believe that we can change as an industry and work together, collaboratively and succeed. I welcome you all to find out more about this new and exciting venture. I want to thank all of you that have supported me so much in this year and want to wish everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year.

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What does being in the bridal business mean? For many, this means investing in the “right” engagement ring lines. But, how many are consciously taking the time and effort to develop this customer and why is this so important?

1. For many men, the engagement ring is their first “real” big purchase. It goes without saying, that the retailer should not only pay special attention to this (sometimes) young and (often) quite scared customer, but they should also go the extra step in developing him into a customer for life. Go beyond asking him the basics, like cut, clarity and carat. Ask him how he is thinking of proposing; encourage him to send you a photo from the big day; make him feel as special as he is trying to make his future wife. If the couple come in together, you can ask if they have any plans on when they would like to get married or where? Developing a relationship with this customer will go a long way.
2. After the sale of the engagement ring, stay connected to your customer. Ask and remind him to come back for their wedding rings. When he finally pops the question, send the newly engaged couples a congratulations card with a subtle reminder to come in when they are ready to start looking for the perfect wedding rings. Have you ever analyzed your wedding ring sales vs your engagement sales? Are you capturing all those weddings? You may be surprised to see when you look at the numbers, that you are only getting half of the engagement rings sales coming back in for BOTH wedding rings. It is a huge opportunity you may not even realize you are missing.
3. When they do come in, again, get to know them. Where are they honeymooning? When is the big day? Ask her if she wants her ring cleaned. Make them feel special. The selling does not stop there. Remember to ask them if perhaps they need any bridal party gifts. How about a gift that they give each other?

Where does this all lead? The goal is to get this couple to think of you as their family jeweler. The wedding is just the beginning for a young couple of many special occasions: Birthdays, Anniversaries, Push Gifts, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day to name a few. A couple will not only remember their wedding, but also all the people that made their special day extraordinary, be one of those people they remember and, better yet, recommend.

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Speak to any anyone, basically anywhere in the country this year, and ask them how are they doing, and most of the time you hear “I am so done with winter!”. It has been a brutal winter, especially for those in the Mid-Atlantic, New England and Midwest parts of the country. But surprisingly, other areas that are not normally thought of as “winter” states are being affected. From Atlanta to South Carolina, to Texas, everyone has a bad weather story to share this past few months. A lot of retailers rely on customers walking in, and if there is a snowstorm or if it is just too cold, many times those sales just go away and it is so hard to make them up. So what can a retail store do in these situations and during these times? Here are a few tips on how to make snow days turn into opportunities to strengthen your customer relationships:
1. Make follow up phone calls to your customers – we all have so much work all the time, and this is a good time to look over our “to do” list or “action plan” and make those phone calls we have been pushing off.
2. If you have no more follow up phone calls – check in with your best customers. If you are snowed in, chances are many of your customers are as well. Use this as an opportunity to give them a call and check in on them. Let them know about what is new, did you bring in a new line that you think they would like? Is it around a holiday and you want to remind them to update their wish list. Is your wish list online? If so encourage them to take some time today to update the list from home or tell them to email you some items they want you to add to their in house wish list.
3. If the store is open, make sure your customers know about it. Post on your social media channels; send an e-blast to your customers letting them know and tell them to come in for some hot chocolate with marshmallows and donuts.
4. Encourage them to come in when the weather gets better for a free jewelry cleaning. For some moms, staying home means lots of baking with the kids and cooking for the family. Let them know that if their rings are getting a little too covered with all that good food, come in and have them look like new again (and then tell them to bring in some of those delicious cookies!)
5. If bridal is a strong area of business for your store, investigate whether there are some local bridal shows that you should participate in. Getting out of your store and doing these shows gives you an opportunity to target a large group of consumers that are specifically looking for your product. But don’t just show up to the shows, you have to be prepared. Make the experience fun and relevant. Bring your tablet or IPAD and, while at the show, encourage soon to be brides and grooms to try on rings and take pictures of them on, then automatically post these pictures to your instagram and/or pinterest page, and ask them to do the same. Remember, most of these shows are not for selling, they are more of a marketing expense and a way to get your name out there.

Ultimately, none of us can predict the weather. Storms and inclement conditions affect us all and have an impact on our sales. One important thing to remember when budgeting for the year, is to take into account that you will loose some days to bad weather. Putting this in your plan from the beginning, helps with the stress as it is happening.

At the end of the day, try to make the most out of a no win situation that you just have no control over!

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Today I had the great honor to ring the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange. We arrived at the NYSE and were escorted to this beautiful room, where we were served coffee and a continental breakfast. About 15 minutes prior to the opening bell, we gathered for a little informal ceremony with the NYSE representative. In his little welcome speech he casually informed us that we will be watched my about 100 million people. Ok, yes I said ONE HUNDRED MILLION people (who is visualizing Dr. Evil from Austin Powers at this moment??) This number is daunting no matter who you are, however, this was even more profound because of the reason that I was there.

I sit on many boards. Most of them are related to the jewelry industry, and anyone that knows me knows how much I love all my volunteer work and the giving back. But there is one board I sit on that has nothing to do with the jewelry industry, it is the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation Board. This Foundation was started in 2006 by a group of mom’s whose friend got Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC). They could not find any information on this type of cancer anywhere. As a result, a grass roots effort was started, and the Foundation was born. In less than 8 years they have raised millions of dollars to support their mission: to be a credible source for triple negative breast cancer information, a catalyst for science and patient advocacy groups, and a caring community with meaningful services for patients and their families.

When most people hear that I am involved with this organization their first question is “What exactly is Triple Negative Breast Cancer, I never heard of it”. So now back to the NYSE. When I heard that number, ONE HUNDRED MILLION people, my first thought was, WOW, so many people that never even heard of the disease will at least now be familiar with the name. After this welcome speech was over, we were taken down to the “floor”, and again WOW. I had seen images on TV, seen images in movies, but their is nothing like the real thing. Again, what was amazing to me was that not only was the big TNBC sign hanging behind the podium, but on the screens they had our logo as well. Everyone was being exposed to our foundation, asking the questions to find out more about it and getting to know perhaps a little more than they did when they first woke up.

The morning was a great one, and all day I heard congratulations and excitement. However, in all the excitement of it, there is still one thing that everyone has to remember, Triple Negative Breast Cancer is a horrible disease. Real people are fighting it everyday, and what we do as a foundation is a small part in the fight for a cure, but it is with our determination, hard work and tireless volunteers, that we will one day find a that cure. If you want to learn more about TNBC, know anyone with TNBC or want to find out how you can help in the fight, I encourage you to visit the website at www.tnbcfoundation.org.

Ringing the bell at the NYSE will go down as one of those once in a lifetime moments, I just truly hope that the reach goes beyond the few minutes of air time and starts many conversations.

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As many of you already know, full retirement age for social security is age 66.  Even though you could apply early at age 62, many advisors will tell you to wait if you can until you hit full retirement age to start collecting, and if you can wait even longer, then you will earn 8% annual delayed credits on your primary insurance amount (PIA).  Wow, to earn 8% on my money, not such a bad deal.  But what about if you are married?  Are their benefits to one person collecting and the other waiting?  Yes!

Spousal benefits = 1/2 the primary worker’s PIA if started at full retirement age (35% if started at 62)

So what does this mean for you?  Let’s say a husband (Tom) and wife (Tina) are both age 66.  Tom is still working, but Tina is not.  She did work at some point, but is now retired.  She has waited to start collecting until she is 66 so that she can get her full retirement benefit.  However, when she goes to apply, her benefit amount is $800.  Tom on the other hand, if he was going to start collecting, his benefit amount would be $2,000.  If Jane applies for spousal benefits, her benefit amount would be $1,000 (50% of Tom’s benefit amount).

There are a few things however to remember:

– In order to collect, Tom must apply for his benefit first, and if he would like (since he is still working and wanted to earn those delayed credits at 8% until age 70) he can suspend the benefit.    Remember, applying and then suspending your benefit will not affect your delayed retirement credits.

– The spouse must be at least 62 for reduced benefits, or 66 for full benefits

– Spousal benefit does not include any delayed credits the worker may have received, it is based on the workers PIA, not the worker’s actual benefit.

– Spouse can apply for just spousal benefits and delay their own benefits IF the spouse is at full retirement age (this is Tricky!).

– You must be married a year.

– You can only collect one – either spousal benefits or your own benefit – You have to make a choice.

– The spouse can be either the husband or the wife.

 

Social Security benefits are so much more than retiring at age 66 and start collecting.  There are ways that you can maximize your retirement income, this is just one example.  Make sure to consult with your financial planner or accountant to make sure you are maximizing your return.

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This past weekend was the big yearly kick off in the jewelry industry, the 24kt Gala weekend.  It started with the DEF Good Awards on Thursday night, then the JIC’s GEM Awards Friday night and finally the gala on Saturday.  Sprinkled in between were lunches, meetings and cocktail parties.  It always is not only a great weekend, but a great opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues.

At many of these events, here is how the conversation usually starts out:

“Hi!  How are you?  How are things going?  How was your year?”

And the reply

“Hey how are you doing?  Things are OK, you know, survived another year and here we are!”

Inevitably, certain conversations will continue into the challenges facing the industry as a whole.  I had one such conversation Friday night, a conversation that I have had many times, and it is about time we start having this conversation on a much larger scale.

The world has changed.  With the advent of the internet, globalization and the “new normal”, the way we compete and survive has to change as well.  The jewelry industry needs to recognize that their biggest competitor is not one another, but outside industries competing for the same, limited, consumer spending dollars.  We as an industry must begin to come together and work together to promote jewelry as a whole.  All jewelry, including, diamonds, color, pearls, gold, platinum, palladium, silver; you get the picture.

There are many industry organizations out there, and to give them credit, they have begun this conversation on how we can do this.  However, like in any business, the challenge is to check your own personal agendas at the door.  Everyone has to recognize that if we don’t start working together, none of us will have an industry to work for.  Many of the industry organizations survive on membership dues.  However, if their members are not succeeding, they will start to cut expenses, and guess what goes first.

So how do we do this?  If you have had this conversation with me in the past, you know I have talked for a long time about creating the “got milk” campaign for the jewelry industry.  A generic message that everyone can get behind and promote.  “Everyone” means getting everyone from the Tiffany’s of the world, down to the independent mom and pops, from the mines to the manufacturers producing the product.  However, advertising and getting the message out is no small endeavor, and a costly one at that.  A friend of mine told me this weekend, we should put together a think tank of young people in their 20’s to help us get this message out there.  Start thinking like the next generation, continue to offer education and support to those on the front line, the retailers, that have to compete in this world and get the product to the end user.  Get them to start embracing the internet and new social mediums and all they have to offer. 

Yes this will take money, yes this will take time, and yes this is what is needed.  Let’s start the conversation, let’s start the movement  and let’s continue to sell lot’s of jewelry!

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Who remembers the game The $64,000 Question?  Well here it is: “Why are you in business?”  I have heard answers ranging from “to sell jewelry” to “I am following my passion”.  Both are nice answers, but ultimately we are in business for one reason: to make money!  Whether you are a designer starting out, a retailer getting more into custom work and subsequently manufacturing product, or a manufacturer yourself, there are ways to maximize your profits while controlling costs.
So let’s start with the basics: Costs are the money you spend to make your product.  The easiest, most obvious, and most likely the largest component to your cost will be direct materials.  That said, there are additional important factors to consider, including but certainly not limited to: labor and indirect costs.  When calculating GROSS Profit, remember you start with Sales and subtract your Cost of Goods Sold.  Cost of Goods Sold is comprised of Direct Materials, Direct Labor and Direct Overhead (allocated indirect costs).  You need to make enough gross profit to cover the rest of your expenses (the rest of the unallocated indirect costs), and at the end of the day, have a NET profit (the money you walk away with in your pocket).

When looking at labor costs, there are two types of labor, direct and indirect.  Indirect Labor is what you pay your support staff that does not directly get involved with the actual production of the product, such as your customer service team or accounting department.  Direct labor is the labor directly associated with the production of the product.  Sounds pretty straight forward, right?  But if, for instance, you are using an outside caster, when including labor costs as they pertain to your castings, consider that not all outside casters use the same fee structure.   Some casters include their labor charge in the price per gram/dwt.  Others may charge for the metal and then add a price per piece for labor as a separate line item.  If you are manufacturing the product yourself and casting it, there is still the labor cost associated with the person that is physically doing the work, meaning the person that directly “touches” the piece of jewelry.  These types of labor charges are included in direct labor.  When pricing your product make sure to capture all the direct costs associated with producing the product, including direct materials and direct labor.

Indirect costs are often overlooked and forgotten.  These include any costs that do not pertain to the direct production of the product.  Some of these costs are rent, payroll taxes, insurance and utilities.  Some of these costs are easier to distribute than others.  For instance, payroll taxes, when calculating your labor costs discussed above, make sure to include all payroll taxes that you have to pay for the employee such as your portion of social security.  Other indirect costs, such as your rent and utilities, may be a little harder to allocate.  There are many ways you can do this.  Think about the expense you are trying to allocate and then choose the method for the base.  For instance, when dealing with rent, if you rent a 4 room space and 3 out of those 4 rooms are used for production, you can justify 3/4 of the rent towards direct overhead.  If however, you are trying to allocate your health insurance costs, and 2/3 of your total payroll pertains to direct labor, then you would allocate 2/3 of your health insurance costs to direct overhead.

Many times expenses such as rent and utilities are what they are.  However, there are indirect costs, that you can try to control.  One such cost is postage.  Do you often send product from one location to another?  If so, can you centralize or combine these packages?  Can you email your statements instead of mailing them? Can you pay bills online? Are you maximizing the use of your own UPS/FedEx account and having your suppliers use your number to take advantage of any discounts you may be getting on your side?

More and more companies today are becoming “manufacturers” in our industry and joining the established firms.  From overseas companies and designers setting up shop, to retailers doing custom jewelry work in house, to those that have been doing this work for close to a century, manufacturing can be a very lucrative revenue generating stream.  However, if not managed properly, manufacturing can also become a big drain on your assets.  So whether you are an established manufacturing company or new to the scene, don’t get complacent, keep reviewing what you are doing and always try to do it better and more efficiently.  Remember, at the end of the day you are in business for one reason: to make money!

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