The Maine Point

Recently, I had the privilege of attending the convention of the Tri-State Jewelers Association of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. For two-and a-half days a group of about 100 jewelers, their spouses, and their employees spent time discussing, debating, and learning about things that are important to their businesses.

It occurred to me on the last evening of the convention that these jewelers were indeed fortunate to be part of an interested and active state association. The agenda for the convention was impressive. Shane Decker did his usual best in “Proving Diamonds Are Inexpensive—Wowing Your Customer.” Mark Mann was on hand to teach “Masters In Motion” and “New Technology for the Small Jewelry Shop.” Janice Mack of Performance Concepts held a three-hour session on the unique aspects of running a family business. Rob May and Walter Raine of the Diamond Promotion Service spoke on the topic of selling more diamond jewelry products to women as self purchases. Finally, David Peters talked to the group on the subject of “Selling With Facts, Features, and Fantasies.”

Some might think that meetings like this are primarily social and don’t accomplish anything substantive. To the contrary, even the social times were spent discussing what had gone on in the morning sessions and how the individuals agreed, disagreed, or otherwise commented on the formal presentations. At the conclusion of the convention, speaker evaluation forms were distributed so that the leadership of the association had a basis for determining the kinds of topics that were of greatest interest to the attendees.

Professionals in every field of endeavor make continuing education a key element for professional status. Jewelers of America, The American Gem Society, the Gemological Institute of America, and many others offer jewelers the opportunity to continue their professional education and thus sharpen their skills. Every trade show—from Orlando to Las Vegas, New York, Columbus, Miami, Atlanta, and Dallas—offers jewelers the opportunity to learn more about their businesses through educational programs.

Today the jewelry industry faces unprecedented challenges because of demographic changes. These include increased demand by female self- purchasers and the problems presented by the conflict diamond scenario. Changes in technology let you tackle old problems with new solutions that can positively affect your customer service. This is no time to be complacent in addressing the issues of the day and the specific issues facing your business. Take advantage of the opportunities presented at the trade shows or your state association to sharpen your skills and those of your staff.

If your state association doesn’t offer these kinds of programs, ask why. Even better, get involved in the meeting plans to make sure they do.

This industry makes a big point of giving back and getting involved. The “Maine” point is just that: Get involved in efforts to improve the professional image of the business at every level. It is one of the very best ways to blunt the criticism of the media gang at CBS, NBC, and ABC.