After a few months of not being able to get away, I was happy to get out and see some people I hadn’t visited in a while. My first stop was to my friend Donnie’s store. Donnie and I have been friends since we both started in the business back in the bronze age.
When I pulled in, the store was busy with customers, and Donnie was trying to work with two different customers at the same time (a definite “no-no” on so many levels) and other customers were milling about waiting impatiently.
I took a peek in the back to see if the jewelers knew of the crush up front, but the shop lights were off and no one was around. I was even tempted to hop over the counter to help the waiting customers, but realized that would have only made the situation worse. So, I wished Donnie good luck and told him I’d be back at closing time, and left him alone with a store full of customers.
When I swung back early that evening, Donnie was exhausted.
“Glad to see you are busy!” I said as I walked in trying to put a good face on things. “Where were all your sales and shop people?”
“Gone!” was his one word response. “Buy me a beer and I’ll tell you how I got in this mess!
“I did have, as you know, two good sales girls. The younger one left to work at the Apple store in the mall, probably to sell watches. The other left to take a job that offered health insurance. She wants to start a family, and I don’t offer health benefits.”
“And your shop guys?” I asked, knowing this too would end badly.
“My head jeweler, who had been with me for thirty years, retired early. His assistant just didn’t have the skills to run the shop by himself, so I had to let him go. That might have been a mistake.”
“So, how is the hiring going?” was my obvious question.
“Not so good! It’s not like I’m running a shoe store like the guy next to me. My people have to know what they are doing, understand the security issues, know something about diamonds, know how to close a sale, and by the way, I need to know the people I bring in are honest and trustworthy to a fault. It’s a scary proposition, and apparently, I’m not very good at the process!”
The beer and the burgers came and it gave me a moment to assess my poor friend’s situation. While Donnie was obviously a sharp retailer with great buying and merchandising skills, his human resource talents were non-existent. And, he was beginning to realize that himself. So, that’s where I started.
“Donnie, it would be great if I knew some salespeople and bench jewelers to send your way. But, unfortunately, I don’t. But I can help you past this HR nightmare you’ve been running.”
“First, you need to attract candidates. And, you can do this with competitive salaries, good benefits, flexible work schedules, and providing opportunity for advancement, along with interesting and challenging work.
“Second, you need to retain your employees. You can do this by giving them the necessary tools and resources to do their jobs successfully, offering educational opportunities, rewarding them for career development, and giving them a clear path to grow in their jobs.”
“You make it sound so simple,” Donnie confessed. “Yet, I’m at a complete loss on how to make it happen.”
We finished dinner and walked to our cars. I told Donnie he’ll get through this, and when he did, he should sign up for some classes at the local community college or find a course on-line in human resources management. I even suggested to him that he might qualify for a scholarship for those courses from The 24 Karat Club. When he is ready, I told him, it would be my pleasure to nominate him. I also pointed out to him that continuing professional education for his employees is a wonderful benefit that improves the skill set of his staff, and builds employee loyalty and morale. And, The 24 Karat Club could help him there as well with scholarships that could cover the entire cost.
To encourage those in our industry to continue their education, improve their technical or managerial skills, The 24 Karat Club offers a variety of scholarships. If you or someone you work with would benefit from a 24 Karat Club scholarship, we suggest you contact one of our members to learn more about the nomination process. We especially invite store owners to think about their staffs, and how an investment in their education would benefit everyone.
And, just maybe, I’ll sign up for a few courses in retailing, so the next time I have a chance to hop over the counter to help out a friend, I’ll know what I’m doing! And, if you or someone you know wants to re-locate to South Florida, drop me a line, and I’ll pass it along to Donnie.
Howard Kelrick is President of Finger Mate and a board member of The 24 Karat Club, SEUS. Finger Mate manufactures and installs expandable ring shanks and sells to retail jewelers throughout North America. Contact Howard at 954-458-2700 or e-mail Howard@FingerMate.com.