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Navigating Crisis, Opportunity, Culture and Growth

By Kate Peterson, Performance Concepts

These are trying and uncertain times, and the challenges we are facing as an industry are undeniably massive.
We are not new to overwhelming challenges though, and even in the most difficult of times, people still get engaged, get married, have babies, and celebrate significant occasions and achievements. Adversity often makes those moments even more important. The inherent value and real significance of diamonds and fine jewelry, as well as our resilience and flexibility, make us better equipped to handle challenges than many other industries.

There’s great inspiration to be found in and much to be learned from our history…but today’s new world order demands an even greater level of versatility and innovation than at any time in our past. For some, this major turning point in our business presents an opportune time to exit. For the rest of us, it represents an amazing opportunity to learn from our customers and to come back better, stronger, and more successful than ever.

On an organizational level, times of crisis can be both threatening and liberating. For most, culture change is hard without a big shock that means all the old ‘rules’ can be broken. This is that moment.

Have you stopped short of making policy changes you knew were right for your business because you didn’t think you’d get the support of your long-tenured employees? Do you have a ‘prima donna’ (or 2) on your team – the ones who sell well and get by with behaving badly in other areas because of it? Has it been easier to ignore performance not in keeping with your values than to confront it? This is your opportunity to re-open with a whole new sense of purpose – and a whole new set of non-negotiable standards that support the culture that defines your store brand.

What have you expected of yourself and your team over these past weeks with regard to engagement and learning? If you’ve held your team to a training schedule while they’ve been away from the store, you’ve got a head start. If you haven’t, there’s still time! There is a wide variety of professional development and training options available right now, most at no cost to you. From INSTORE webinars to DPA’s terrific e-learning program to online courses from the Platinum Guild and the International Society of Gemologists (among others) to recordings from programs created by MJSA – there is no shortage of ways to invest your time and payroll hours. Whether you are still closed, preparing to open, or taking the first tentative steps of bringing customers back, don’t let this opportunity slip away.

If you have kept your people on the payroll (even with the assistance of grant or loan programs), give them work to do.
• Schedule a 20-minute team meeting at a consistent time every weekday (via Zoom, Facetime, etc. for anyone not back in the store just yet) – to begin the discussion of how your business will look when you reopen fully. Have each person talk about what they have on the agenda for the day and what they learned the day before. The biggest advantage to this is that every day that they are together with their colleagues, they are restored to at least some sense of normalcy and are reminded that they will have a job to do once this has all passed.
• Give them a list of clients with whom to check in and maintain contact (genuine caring – not sales related in any way)
• Assign them a community ‘e-volunteer’ project they can take on as a representative of your store. (i.e. Facetime reading to nursing home residents, or to the young kids of a mom who needs a break). Check your local community sites for opportunities.
• MOST IMPORTANTLY – Assign training. Capitalize on the many online training and webinar opportunities available and hold people accountable for reporting to the team (those morning meetings!) about what they’ve learned.

Keep in mind that people throughout the industry have been taking advantage of these opportunities for some time now. When stores re-open, it is safe to expect that your customers will expect more – and that your competitors could have gotten better. Don’t get left behind!

Kate Peterson is the President of Performance Concepts, Inc., a company dedicated to providing innovative and effective consultation in the areas of organizational design and development, communication, retail operations, human resource management, sales and consumer behavior, and training and education focused on the learning needs of the luxury sales professional.

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