Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell once said, “Leadership is solving problems.” But for jewelry retailers, finding store managers who are excellent leaders can prove problematic.
Jewelers in particular often are tempted to reward their best sales associates with a promotion to management. And therein lies the rub: “Most awesome managers are not awesome salespeople,” says Shane Decker, a retail consultant for jewelry stores and president of Ex-Sell-Ence sales academy.
Decker recalls a chain jewelry store that in the 1990s promoted all its top salespeople to positions in store management. “Ninety percent of them failed,” he says, “because management is a much different skills set than sales.” At their core, salespeople know how to close sales and romance customers. But managers “need to know how to delegate, hold people accountable, and make accurate decisions,” Decker says. “Management is a skill set that less than 10 percent of people have.”
Cherry-picking managers from your own sales floor can work—if your prospect is among the rare breed that can manage people and sell the proverbial ice to Eskimos. “These people are worth a lot of money,” says Decker.
Ann Winegar, co-owner of Anderson Bros. Jewelers in Lubbock, Texas, promoted her current manager, Ben Krahmer, from the ranks of her sales staff and “there were no problems,” she says. “We told him exactly what we needed him to do and he does just that.”
Krahmer, who is currently attending GIA classes, would one day like to own the store. “If you have someone like that—someone who cares so much that he wants to own the place—you will always have a good employee,” she says.
Decker, who advises finding managers outside the store, suggests giving potential managers a personality test to discover where their strengths lie.
Paul Pastor, owner of Chas Schwartz & Son, an estate and fine jewelry store in Washington, D.C., uses the Caliper personality test to hire managers and sales associates. “It gives us a really good indication of a person’s abilities,” says the retailer. He looks for managers who are “wonderfully involved in the historical information” of estate jewelry.
Current manager Kurt Blodgett trained at Pastor’s side for years before taking the lead. “He has a passion for the product and the people,” Pastor says.
But mentoring is a skill not all proprietors possess, says Decker: “Owners often have entrepreneurial minds.… And that’s not always a management mind. Managers have to be awesome at giving people recognition. Owners sometimes feel like, ‘I’m paying you; I don’t have to tell you you’re doing a good job all the time.’?”
An outside trainer can help prep a new manager, but finding someone with native management skills is the first step to empowering a store leader.
Decker likes to hire within the industry, but also has plucked good managers from people-person industries including real estate and insurance—and the military, where strong delegation skills are cultivated from day one.
“Jewelry experience and the GIA ramp-up is easier to learn than to teach someone to manage who’s not a manager,” he says. “A good manager brings out strengths in others. They never hold people back. And they’re very rare.”