‘Good Is the Enemy of Great’

Building a retail brand takes leadership, strong first impressions, outstanding customer service, and a willingness to take risks, keynote speaker Michael Fortino told the opening luncheon of the American Gem Society Conclave in Hollywood, Calif.

Fortino, a top national business speaker and trainer, urged jewelers to take chances and never settle in their quest for greatness.

“Good is the enemy of great,” he said. “The vast majority of organizations never become great precisely because they become quite good.”

Improving customer service is instrumental to greatness in the retail world, he said. Outstanding customer service comes from remembering that every customer matters and that first impressions count. He cited the importance that an enormous company like Wal-Mart places on having greeters at every entrance.

“Smile,” he said, simply. “Their first impression may be your last.” Part of making an impression is building a recognizable brand. Fortino illustrated the power of a brand by calling out established brands to the audience and asking for a one-word reaction. Nearly the entire ballroom called out “fast” in response to FedEx, “expensive” for Rolls Royce, and “fun” for Disney.

“If we haven’t branded, we have to start thinking in these terms,” he said. The successful establishment of a brand takes not just managers but leaders, Fortino said. Leaders are not afraid to take risks and implement new ideas in retail. No successful business is rigid, and salespeople must be able to think on their feet, or customer service—and ultimately, the brand—suffers, he said.

Fortino peppered his address with anecdotes illustrating the importance of branding and customer service and the absurdity of failures. When he was carjacked in a Hertz rental car, Hertz, citing their policy, banned him from ever renting from them again, despite his status as a frequent customer.

“Policies are dangerous,” he said. “Policies can not be imposed on customer service.”

He cited the oft-repeated fact that bad service generates a lot more word of mouth than good service does.

“One person is worth “$50,000 to a grocery store over a lifetime,” he said. “How much is one jewelry customer worth to you over a lifetime?”

Finally, Fortino urged jewelers to occasionally step back, maintain balance, and view their businesses in perspective.

“We often hear someone talk about having a ‘major crisis,’ but the things that go wrong in the jewelry industry are inconveniences,” he said, encouraging jewelers to volunteer in their communities. “Remember, character is everything.”