Having a bench jeweler that is a thriving productive part of your team is a great asset to any jewelry store. It is unfortunately too common that store owners do not understand what their bench jewelers are going through or being subjected to.
A great example of the stress a store owner can unwittingly put on their bench jeweler came about ten years ago when I was asked to create a mounting for a $300k diamond. The store owner insisted on watching me set the stone in the finished mounting.
I was fine with his presence, although I don’t think he understood just how nervous I was. I was terrified that I would not get this monster 7ct cushion cut gem super secure in the mounting. I knew the client was very active and was going to wear it every day.
What if she bends a prong? What if she drops the ring? My mind was so focused on making absolutely certain it was done right.
I’m tapping on the prong tips with a beading tool making sure they are tight. Then the owner, leaning over me to watch asks, “What if you slip with the punch?”
OMG! There it was! The thought had not crossed my mind until his words burned them into my brain. What if I slip? One slight mishap… One little mistake and BOOM! I wind up with a three hundred thousand dollar pile of rubble!
I’m certain the owner did not mean to intentionally distract me or stress me out even further, yet his casual ill timed question did exactly that. Fortunately for me, this particular owner quickly realized the instantaneous rise in my stress level. He immediately apologized and quickly excused himself from the room. It is unfortunate that some store owners or even salespeople don’t realize their casual interactions with their bench jeweler can actually be creating a great deal of stress for their bench jeweler.
Recently, a close friend of mine quit his job. He was the only jeweler in a small fine jewelry store for several years. He was friendly and close with the staff, but being the only male employed there, he often felt he was being stereotyped.
It became his responsibility to take out the trash, fix the toilet, and sweep the floor. Basically, anything that involved getting your hands dirty became his job to do in addition to his bench work.
I remember him being irritated last Christmas when he could hear the owner and other staff clinking their champagne glasses and chit-chatting in the front of the store. He was in the back buried under piles of work. He had been working overtime and every day off. Even though it was Christmas, their holiday wishes to him were more questions about why he can’t get more work done, and oh, by the way, you need to fix that leaky faucet for us. This is another example of the stress a bench jeweler faces that has nothing to do with the work on his bench, apart from the fact he simply can’t get it done for all the other duties heaved on him.
Your bench jeweler is usually a fountain of knowledge. That is a great benefit to a store, but it is also a drawback when your staff winds up interrupting them repeatedly to ask their myriad questions.
I worked in a store once where no one employed there had more than two years of experience in the jewelry industry. I was interrupted to answer every question that every customer had about anything that didn’t involve price. Then once a week or so the owner would drop by my bench and want to know why I wasn’t getting more work done.
The best place I ever worked was run by a hard-working bench jeweler. He was always the first one at work and the last one to leave. Often if he saw one of us there at 7 pm he would take them to dinner. My work was given to me in the morning and I was given a time when it needed to be done. I was then left alone to do it.
If I took a break or went for a walk it was fine because the owner knew I was aware of when the work had to be done and he knew I would deliver on time. All the menial tasks were properly divided among the staff so no one was burdened with all of them and everyone did their fair share. Most of all he recognized those who worked hard for the company. I never felt like I was working to put money in the owner’s pocket, but felt like I was working for the success of the company as part of the team.
If your bench jeweler is a thriving, productive part of your team then appreciate the asset to your business. If you’re consistently asking why the work is not getting done in a timely manner, then examine the factors contributing to that. How much is the bench jeweler being interrupted from their task? How many other duties are given that have nothing to do with their bench work? Is the workload properly scheduled and distributed? Are they part of the team or just the one everything gets dumped on? As the owner, are you encouraging productivity or adding to the stress? Is the rest of your staff helping or hindering their productivity?