JCK Show: Good things happen to those who give

Being a volunteer can be a great way to increase business, but that is not the reason to donate your time or money, says Kathy Sustachek of Rasmussen Diamonds in Racine, Wisc.

“You become a volunteer because it is something you believe in and something you enjoy,” she told an audience of jewelers during a seminar at The JCK Show ~ Las Vegas on Thursday. “But most of all you do it because people need you.”

Sustachek said that there are three forms of volunteering: one-on-one work, community volunteering, and service on a national scale. She and her husband volunteer for a variety of organizations including the American Heart Association, the Jewelers Education Foundation, the Girl Scouts, and local business organizations as well as at local schools and other children’s groups.

She provided several examples of how being involved has helped her gain more clients and increase business. Working on the board of the American Heart Association has allowed her to network with physicians and their wives, many of whom come to her store. “I can’t believe how many doctors come in,” she said. Helping a neighbor recover from surgery surprisingly resulted in a major sale when the person needed a 25-year anniversary gift. Being involved in a corporate volunteer group has exposed her to another new and wealthy client base. “I got to know the owners, their wives, and most importantly their secretaries, the gatekeepers,” she said.

But while volunteering has been a great source of business for her store, she emphasizes that if you do get involved for the wrong reason and you don’t take it seriously, it can hurt your business.

“Don’t get involved if you are going to do it half-assed, because it is a reflection of who you are and how you run your business,” she said. “If you do it for the bottom line, your bottom line is going to go red.”

People become volunteers for many reasons, and Sustachek said that hers were, at first, selfish. But her thinking has since come full circle. In May 1999, her father died of heart failure, a condition he suffered from for many years and which was the reason she initially volunteered with the American Heart Association. She said she remembered that her father, a furnace repairman, was the one who would take calls and go to homes late at night or early in the morning during the cold Wisconsin winters. If a family had a meager income, he did the work for free. When she asked him why he was the one who had to go, he told her it was because someone was cold.

“My dad taught me the meaning of giving back to the community and the importance of action,” Sustachek said. “Today I decided to dedicate this speech to my Dad. Today would have been his 80th birthday.”

She paused to fight back tears before proceeding with the rest of her talk.