Oh Man! I didn’t know you were in Madison, I love that city. I owned a shop and did his work years and years. Ultimately I sold him the shop and most of my old employees still work there (with better pay and benefits than they had with me).
I’ll tell you a story about him. When I started doing his work I had 8 or 9 goldsmiths working for me and was doing work for around 25 other stores. We were totally overwhelmed with work. I have always focused on custom so we were doing about 16,000 jobs a year, lots of them labor intensive custom. I did not have an office person. Each goldsmith polished their own jobs. It was organized chaos. A guiding rule of mine was to let no one account exceed 10% of my gross, so losing one was never a problem.
When Richard (the guy in the news story) started with me he had one little store in a strip mall and one employee. A big turning point in his business life was when he met Tony Robbins, joined a jewelry marketing advisory group and hooked up with advertising guru Roy Williams. His business has not stopped growing since then. It’s been unreal. That steady growth meant more and more work for me.
He was frustrated because our work was very good but we’d regularly drop the ball on delivery dates or have a loose stone go back, pretty regular nuisance problems. He came to me and said he wanted the problems fixed, I said that we were balls to the walls busy and this was as good as I could do… because I wasn’t getting any sleep as it was and losing an account wasn’t the worst thing that would happen to me. I said that I couldn’t hire more people and I was sorry but I’d understand if he took his work elsewhere.
He said, tell me about your business in detail. What are your margins, who is not paying you, how much overtime are you paying…all of it. I trusted him, he was the smartest business guy I’d ever met, so I told him. I’d also add that he was the first jeweler I’d had as a customer that ever cared how my business was doing and if I was making enough money. He was all about win-win.
He looked things over and his advice was this, “Raise your prices 50%”. At the time my pricing matched my most expensive competitors, I’d felt like I was locked in to my current charges. This was a long time ago, but he said, what do I care if you charge me $6 or $9 to set a half carat marquise? He said, I guarantee you won’t lose me as an account and your work is so good I doubt you’ll lose anyone else. With his encouragement I did it, raised prices 50%. I didn’t lose anyone because of the increase. I dropped the slow payers plus a few more, hired office people, reduced our workload, improved our quality and increased our income. What it gave him was an excellent and reliable shop that caused him no problems. It was a real turning point in my life.
His business grew and grew and grew. Ultimately over the years he became 80% of my gross. He never once took advantage of that. When the business was getting a bit big for me and I needed to move to a 3000 square foot shop I called him to make sure we were going to continue to get his work, because why rent the huge space if he’s going in another direction. He said, why don’t you sell me the shop? I’ll worry about the money, you worry about the work. I did, that’s my old shop in the Germantown store, and then worked for him for a few years to smooth the transition. It was hard to leave.
I guess what I’m trying to say in this long boring story is that his success has come by thinking differently. It’s a little unnerving actually. I mean that he’s a guy who is different than anyone I’ve ever met. If you ask him a question, most of the time his answer won’t be what you expect. He pays almost zero attention to what his competitors are doing. He’s got his own compass and that’s what he follows. A really unusual individual and I think that’s his secret sauce.