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Jewelers and sales people

This post is for those out there that run a business with a sales
staff and jewelers.

We are a business with 4 sales staff and 2.5 jewelers. One of our
jewelers is a very charismatic guy with a successful sales talent. As
we have become busy we have encouraged him to help out on the floor
and he has loved wearing many hats.

The dilemma is as follows…this jeweler now has difficulty staying
in his seat, and increasingly repair jobs are coming out of the shop
late. In addition, the regular staff, which are not jewelers, are
restless with him popping up and making sales when they are idle…

We have stressed that when he leaves the bench it must only be when
his work is complete and caught up, or when the floor manager asks
for his assistance, but he’s not well self disciplined, and the
problem is escalating…

My question is, what suggestions are there for systems or structures
that would help him manage his time better and keep me from
apologizing to customers and the staff? We are searching for another
jeweler, but that may take some time and we don’t want to cut him off
from selling entirely since he is an asset and talented.

How does your business’ handle staff that is mixed with jewelers and
non jewelers and keep the playing field relatively level…or do you
even try? And how do you manage talented people who socialize, and
have difficulty focusing on the task at hand?

Thanks so much …in advance…for all your insight and experience.

Gianna … in Ventura. California… where the hot dry easterlies are
blowing there is maddness in the air.

Gianna, It sounds to me like to replace this guy with someone else
would be a mistake. If he is a great salesman then take him off the
bench, pay him a commission and get him up there selling. His
benchwork should be secondary to the selling. If he is falling behind
in certain types of benchwork, don’t give him that work. It is
increasingly difficult to find high quality sales help. Rewrite his
job description and let him go up and hustle. There is nothing a
customer likes more than to talk about jewelry making to someone who
actually knows how to make it.

Daniel R. Spirer, GG
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140

Hello All,

Several thoughts came to mind while reading your post. If this
employee is talented, and I think you said he is, he may be well
worth the effort to find a compromise.

Have you considered that he could be feeling burned out on bench
work? Or that he’s charged up by taking on this newer territory of
working with customers? Perhaps he’s realized he needs more human
interaction than the bench typically offers. Or it could be that he’s
going through a period of personal hardship, like marriage or
parenting issues, and has better success keeping them "off the clock"
when he’s mentally engaged with customers than when he’s at the

My guess is that there’s a reason, or several of them, as to why he’s
become problematic enough to you that you’re looking to replace him.
I doubt it’s a matter of defiance or that he’s changed from being a
good employee to an undesirable one in terms of work ethic.

I recommend trying to discover what’s causing his undesirable
behavior and exploring compromises and/or incentives to get him back
on track. This is much more likely to produce results that are better
for both you and him.

If I were in your shoes, I’d openly talk with him about your concerns
and ask him why he’s electing not to perform up to his potential at
the bench, continually favoring the sales floor. It may even help to
ask him if specific issues are contributing, such as burn out.

I’d really listen to what he says and acknowledge his thoughts and
feelings. At the same time, I’d explain my needs to him. It may help
to remind him that you’re paying him whatever you are based on his
bench skills and you’re relying on his work in order to meet your
financial ends. If he’s on the floor, you’re faced with two problems

  • that the work load he’s responsible for carrying isn’t getting
    done, and that he’s not utilizing skills that his level of pay costs
    you. Basically, you’re out the productivity and you’re out the higher

Hopefully at that point both you and he have a clearer understanding
of what both of you need and want for a positive, mutually beneficial
relationship. Perhaps you could compromise on allowing him to work
the floor for a few hours each week as long as his primary
obligations are met.

The bottom line is that often times agreeable solutions are just a
matter of two-way communication and pulling together on needs and
wants. Sometimes it looks easier not to bother and replace the
employee but in reality, if the person in question has a good history
with you, it’s not so easy to find a better one.

Every time you fire one person and hire another, you’re exchanging
one set of imperfections for another. You’re not going to know if the
swap gets you anywhere either - you may find the replacement to be
more problematic! Plus your shop loses a great deal of efficiency in
staff transitions.

I’ve seen decent workers leave due to the temporary issues mentioned,
only to be replaced by people who had more impacting, non-temporary
problems. Nobody is perfect, it’s all a matter of degree, tolerance
and striving for the happiest median between the two.

Good luck to you, I hope you’ll be able to attain the best solution
for your situation!

Regards, Jeanette Kekahbah

Right on! So glad you so clearly delineated the problem. I totally
agree with you - communication is the key. Why get rid of someone who
has until now been a totally satisfactory employee until you explore
why the sudden change. You can always deside to dismiss that employee
but it would be better if you took the time to investigate what the
problem is (could be something temporary and this employee needs you
to be supportive and not threatening) and perhaps you could grant a
short leave of absence to resolve his/her issues but I agree that
simply getting a new employee is not always the answer.


Gianna, I work in a situation like that.Iam a contractor though and do
not receive an hourly wage so when a sales person needs my help I jump
in and get out really quick because the longer iam away from my bench
the less money I make.If he was a contractor or working as a piece
worker you might not have that problem.The other point you made that
rang a bell with me is that when the sales people are IDLE?He jumps
in.Why are your sales people idle?Ours work on commission and if they
lose a customer they lose the sale and their commission.Another point
to make is have him train your sales staff in all manners of repair
educate them on his repair price list so he does not have to be taken
away from the bench.Show the sales staff how to use various catalogs
that he may order parts or findings from.If the sales staff is idle
they should be studying the catalogs and repair pricing to know
better how to serve the customers and make your store more
efficient.Have him show the sales staff what a customer needs to know
about repairing their jewelry at sales staff meetings if you have them
such as when a ring needs to be retipped or reshanked.Goodluck J
Morley Coyote Ridge Studio

Hi Gianna,

I ran into a similar situation, but it was because of the commission
we pay to the retail sales people. I had a lady paid hourly on the
bench who wanted to add to her wages by selling a few big pieces to
some friends. In her case, the orders were often screwed up, as she
was never trained in sales. I simply instituted a smaller “finder
fee” commission, as a referral, and made it mandatory that a regular
sales person had to handle the actual sale (at the regular
commission). It ended up as a win/win, and everyone was happy.

Your case sounds more like a situation where you (or the person in
charge) simply doesn’t want to tell the employee you have a problem,
and this is exactly how you are going to resolve it. Often times the
toughest job in a shop is being the boss, but you can only expect
people to do the right thing so long, then you have to step in and say
"no more! this is how it must be!".

JMF,in a very COLD Michigan, where Santa made his first visit

J morley, your saturday post was spoken so true. I’m so glad not to
be in a store this year for christmas! I just set my son up as a
second location for my repair shop in a store. He is only 26 and needs
to be an abused jeweler for a couple of years so he can really
understand what this business of wholesale repair, contract jeweler
with no benefits is all about. My shop is at home for the second
christmas in a row and I won’t trade it for anything unless I find
myself single again after 27 years of marriage. I don’t expect that to
happen, though. Keep trying to teach the sales people… it really
works if they don’t have a fast turnover. Patty Rios in MO, USA

what about putting the jewler on the sales floor for a few hours a
day or one day a week. the break in pace could be the key and then
you might get the best of both the jewlers talents. kim holland

I have found the GIA course Accredited Jewelry Professional to be
extremely helpful. I am a “conceptual” jewelry designer with some
knowledge of fabrication. I often take short jobs in fine jewelry
retail. This course has helped me to convey simple or complicated
ideas to retail customers. I would recommend it. It seems too
simplified at first but it really hits the point. Buyers want to
KNOW what they are buying, but not every last thing.

All, The original post was about the problem of a three bench jewelry
shop having one jeweler become a part time salesperson. This left
the other two jewelers picking up the extra work. One of the two
left behind jewelers was asking the question of: What do I do? I was
once a supervisor of over sixty people in a shop. Each shop has a
goal to accomplish. The goal is established by the shop owner.
Supervisors must know the goal of the shop. Once that goal is know,
each job within the shop should be described. Minimal training, job
performance, and expected output must be written down for each
position. Each position requires a certain number of trained people
to meet the requirements of the shop. In this case the jeweler
becoming a salesperson is a detractor from meeting the requirements
of the shop. It is the shop supervisors job to either make the
jeweler a salesperson, change the job description of the jeweler to a
jeweler and salesperson, and hire an additional jeweler to take up
the work not completed by the jeweler and salesperson, or counsel the
jeweler that his job is a jeweler and not a salesperson. That is
fair to the other two jewelers. It is not fair to the other two
jewelers to give this person special privileges and expect the other
jewelers to pick up the slack.

Gerry Galarneau