AGTA’s Doug Hucker on His Gem of a Job

Douglas Hucker has dedicated his life to the jewelry business. His varied résumé includes stints teaching at GIA, serving as director of marketing for Krementz and Co., and running The Registry, an estate jewelry com­pany.?Since 1997 (with a short gap), he has headed the Dallas-based American Gem Trade Association. Last summer, Hucker won the American Gem Society’s prestigious Triple Zero Award for his service to the industry. Recently, he spoke to JCK about the importance of maintaining priorities when sands shift, how he sometimes misses “the action” of dealing, and why hiring an employee is like getting a new roommate.

There’s a lot going on at AGTA. You run the GemFair in Tucson, and the Spectrum competition, plus AGTA is a trade association. How do you manage it all?

What I try to do is lay out priorities at the beginning of the year. Our job is similar year to year. We know we are going to have the JCK show. We know we will have our show in Tucson. It’s keeping an eye on a regular basis on what our deadlines are. What do we have to produce?

So we lay out our work plan and how we will implement and get to those goals and then break those work plans into monthly segments. What are the projects we need to accomplish? What are the deliverables?

And does the plan ever change?

Do the sands shift? [Laughs] You try to do everything you can to stick to a plan, but sometimes things come up and you say something is not as important as it was. So sometimes you have to reprioritize. Part of my job is making sure that certain priorities are clear rather than having priorities made up on the fly. If there are additional requirements taking place, it’s letting people know what has to be done first. It’s just a question of making sure everyone knows who is responsible for what.

How do you prioritize?

It’s important to know what your mission is. Our mission is promoting what is going on with colored gemstones. And when you work through these things, you ask: Is it part of the mission? Is it benefiting everyone? You want to keep the ship on track as far as the mission of the organization.

Do you follow any management philosophy?

I always feel you have to keep the endgame in mind. You have to know what you want to accomplish, and you have to get everyone together to know what they have to accomplish. And then you have to let them do it. I am what they call a walk-around manager. I like to go into people’s offices and find out what is going on. So good engagement and good communication are key.

What I like to say to everyone is you have certain areas of responsibilities. You have to be goal-oriented, not process-oriented. We’ll set up a goal—maybe it’s that we have to increase membership by a certain amount—and then I’m not concerned with what it takes to get there, as long as we get there. I’m happy if you can show me results, as long as you haven’t broken any laws. If you come up with the ideas, then run with them, and let’s see how they work. You have to be able to empower your people.

I do say: If you have a question, ask me. If you need more money, ask for it. If it’s for something related to fulfilling our mission, then come to me—sometimes we can find a place in the budget for it. And if you run into problems, you need to share them with me. I don’t like surprises. If something happens, bring it to me and then I can help you work it out. But if I don’t know about it, I can’t change things.

Is it important to have specific goals?

If you don’t have something that is quantifiable, it is going to be difficult to achieve what you want to do because everyone remembers things differently. So you need clear expectations and objectives.

What do you look for when you hire people?

One thing I look for is communication. Writing is important. I ask them to look at our website and write a couple of pages introducing this company to their mom or dad, or talking about why they want to work here.

Hucker accepting his AGS Triple Zero Award

I find out a little about them personally. This staff has been together a long time and it’s kind of a small family. Chemistry is important. I ask them about the size of companies they have worked with and their relationships with their peers, how they get along with people, how they deal with pressure. Then I sit them down for 15 to 20 minutes with everyone in the office. After that I get the office together and ask what they think. It’s like having a new roommate. There is a chemistry that develops, and you want to make sure everyone gets along.

Sometimes a person has the right credentials but the chemistry is bad. We are a small office. Everyone has to take responsibility. If I’m in Atlanta and I need something shipped, you can’t say that is not my job description.

How do you motivate people?

Everybody is motivated by different things. I try to make everyone feel that they are doing a good job. You have to praise publicly and criticize privately and make sure the criticism is constructive.

Do you have any mentors that influenced you?

My favorite mentor was Mike Albritton. I worked with him at GIA. He had a passion and love for gemstones. He inculcated that love with me. [The late gemstone dealer] Maurice Shire was one of my first mentors. When you talk about ethics and ­professionalism, he lived that and was committed to it. [Former Krementz & Co. president] Richard Krementz was another.

They all believed there is a certain responsibility that you have in this business, to be the best person you can. Our business is small and you need to have people’s trust and faith.

You have worked with for-profits and nonprofits. How are they different?

I miss the action, when you can see a piece of jewelry and buy it and you get that immediate gratification. But what I like about the job I have now is having the responsibility to protect and promote the reputation and success of a great big family of people. This is an industry that has done a lot for me, and now I have the chance to give back.

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