Turn-On, Turn-Off

The speaker evaluations from the conference program at June’s JCK Show came in a little while ago and it was interesting to see which topics and speakers really turned the audience on. In a nutshell, motivators. The top marks went to the guys with the verve and the dazzle along with the message &endash; Larry Helms, Shane Decker, Martin Rapaport, Mark Moeller, Bob Kotler. They deserve all the plaudits they got. But that certainly doesn’t mean that speakers who drew smaller audiences or didn’t score so well were also-rans. Far from it. Many were excellent. Their problem mostly was that they dealt with subjects people know they ought to learn about &endash; but really don’t want to.

A clear question of turn-on and turn-off.

There’s nothing wrong with motivation. It’s the sizzle that gets people up and going. And real motivators are a rare and talented breed. But it’s not good if we let ourselves get so caught up in the things that turn us on that we neglect or avoid those that turn us off.

Education and training are good examples. On the plus side they rank right up there with apple pie, the flag and Mom. In the abstract, the world of lip service. On the minus side, most jewelers say, “Yes, we must do more of it” &endash; and don’t. Somehow they seem to believe that knowledge will accrue merely as a result of staying on the job long enough. Some knowledge may, of course, but a lot won’t.

Yet the very jewelers who are most likely to skip further education for their staffs often are the same ones who denigrate the selling skills of such big-volume merchants as TV shopping channels. If they do, they should think again. Consider that Jeff Taraschi, the man who heads jewelry operations at the QVC shopping network, claims that what gives him the edge over the independent jeweler is that his QVC salespeople are so much better informed about the product.

Insurance is another one of those turn-off topics for many jewelers. The typical Jewelers Block policy isn’t light reading, even though some insurers have tried to make it more so. But that doesn’t mean it can be put aside lightly. Without the proper insurance, just one robbery of a few minutes’ duration can wipe out an entire business.

Even so, too many jewelers either don’t have any insurance or are recklessly careless about implementing their policies’ terms. Nearly every month of the year, I receive at least one letter from a jeweler who has suffered a terrible loss and who says that his insurance company is, at best, being difficult or, at worst, refusing to cover his claim. Just as routinely, in almost every case the insurance company ticks off all the ways the jeweler failed to abide by the policy’s terms.

Insurance may be a turn-off. Your very survival demands that it be transformed into a turn-on.

Bill paying is another turn-off. Fair enough, who likes paying bills? But if you have goods delivered to your store, you have an obligation to pay for them &endash; and within a reasonable time, not when the spirit moves you. To be fair, suppliers are no saints in this area, either. Further, in some cases they have only themselves to blame because they’ve pressed merchandise on a reluctant buyer just to record a sale or sold to jewelers with shaky credit records.

Consignment and memo selling have messed up decent business behavior badly over the past few years. But if the industry as a whole is to get on to a better financial footing and to raise its credit-worthiness with banks and other lenders, we’ve got to get our bill-paying into better shape. This will take discipline. It also will mean tightening the industry’s overall honesty standards. If you say the check is in mail, it had better be.

A lot of people these days think anything to do with government is a turn-off. Of course, many things about government are wrong. Bad regulations. Bad laws. Poor administration of many programs. But let’s not get caught up in some talk-show-type hysteria. There’s also a lot in government that should be a turn-on: air travel safety, environmental protection, hurricane warnings, compassion for the sick and unfortunate, to name a very few.

The truth is that we all like turn-ons because they make us feel good. But we can’t ignore or discard the turn-offs. Dealing with life’s unpleasant issues is what separates the adults from the kids.