Small Changes Can Yield Big Results

The title refers to studies that show the average person has an attention span of seven minutes, and the brain is limited to remembering only seven pieces of information at a time. By following a series of small, “seven-minute” steps that Lewis calls “micro-actions,” anyone can make major, positive changes, she maintains. Many of these micro-actions involve drawing up lists of daily goals and strategies for achieving them, as a blueprint to refer to and follow for the entire day.

The book outlines a number of strategies and techniques important to any business person, such as how to discover your purpose and passion in life, how to align yourself with your purpose and passion through seven-minute ideas and micro-actions, how to overcome negative attitudes and circumstances and “choose” success, how to exceed customer expectations, how to build momentum into your business, and how to break through to your destiny. Lewis spoke with JCK about how jewelers and other luxury store owners can adapt some of her strategies to improve their businesses.

How can independent jewelers use some of the action plan lists you advocate to make their businesses better?

The problem with all small business owners is they get so caught up in the business they have no time for planning. This is the whole concept behind The Seven Minute Difference. Jewelers should assess who they are, why they do what they do, and what they bring to the table. You need to ask yourself, “What is my purpose?” When you can answer this, it brings clarity to everything you do.

Another thing jewelers should do about every six weeks is to go on an off-site corporate retreat with the sales staff to reestablish goals. And once a quarter, they should give a business or motivational book to everyone in the store, have them read it, and discuss how to apply it to their lives.

Jewelers and other small business owners also should take 10 minutes a day to declutter one area of their office, and set up some blocks of time to have fun and live again. For entrepreneurs, their work is their life. There will always be more work to do. You just have to decide to quit at a certain time and then leave so you can have some kind of a life beyond your work.

What are some key micro-actions jewelers can use to build sales and foster business growth?

At the luxury level, where people may be spending thousands of dollars on a piece of jewelry, they want to feel important. One of the things a jeweler can do to make them feel important is to send them a handwritten thank-you card, even if they didn’t buy anything. You also can get the birthdays of children and grandchildren of customers and send them little gifts and trinkets. Sending holiday cards is another thing you can do. One thing we do in our business is send people cards to celebrate the anniversary of the day they became a client. You also can donate to charities on behalf of your customers—people appreciate that. We also send an e-mail newsletter to our clients. My partner and I always include a few sentences about our kids and what they’re up to. This has become very popular with our clients because it makes us more personal to them.

How can a jeweler use your strategy of differentiation to gain a competitive edge?

You’ve got to be willing to do things differently. For instance, you can invite a small group of customers (mixing important customers with smaller ones) to dinner at your place of business. Other businesses may invite them out to dinner at a restaurant, but all they’ll remember is the dinner. If you have it in the store, it will make the store itself more memorable to them. Ask them what they like about your store, what they don’t like, what the store represents to them, what it would take to get them to recommend you to their family and friends, and how they think you can get more people in the door. You turn it into an informal focus group.

What’s the most common mistake that owners of small retail businesses make?

They never visit the superstar stores in their industry. You can call a prominent jeweler outside your market and ask them to teach you a couple of things that are key to their success, and then take action steps to adapt them to your business. You also can get permission to go into their store and speak to them. If you have to travel, it’s well worth it to find out why they are doing six times the business you are.

Although most of us at some point feel stressed, overloaded, and unsatisfied in our careers and personal lives, there are small steps we can take each day that will help us make monumental shifts and accomplish our goals and dreams at work and home. That’s the premise of The Seven Minute Difference: Small Steps to Big Changes, a business book by Allyson Lewis, a certified financial planner and nationally known motivational speaker and business coach.