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“Excitement” Takes on a Whole New Meaning

May 13th, 2013 by

I have been in Bangkok more weeks this year than ever in my life. Things there are really exciting. I use that word cautiously, as a ruby and sapphire buyer. ‘Exciting’ means, in reality, that the wholesale precious stone markets are in a bit of a chaotic state. There is a real shortage of fine quality stones. Demand is very strong, and prices are rising dramatically. This makes my job particularly difficult. Not only do I struggle to find top quality stones, but I then need to be sure that I am not overpaying for them. The only way to find out is to hold firm on my offering prices, and see if the sellers actually refuse my offers. If they do, then I have wasted time and not purchased the parcel that I like; but at the same time I will have educated myself on the reality of the price increases. I guess most people don’t consider that ‘exciting’, but then most people don’t enjoy the hassle of bargaining. (That’s why Shane Co. offers the right price to begin with, and we don’t bargain with our customers.)

Meanwhile, I also have been busy with our jewelry factory here in Bangkok. We are designing a new line of pendants, which will be out in a few months. I have been personally actively working on this line, and it will be unique. I am putting a French flair to it; and expect to generate a lot of excitement when this collection debuts.

We are also busy expanding my Couples Collection, as the demand for these unique styles of bridal and wedding jewelry has exceeded our expectations. We have an entire collection where the lady’s ring (or rings) is unique and feminine, and a man’s wedding band compliments it so people can see the similarities; yet at the same time the man’s ring is masculine and handsome. Finding the right balance is really tricky, and our customers love the tie-in between his and hers, yet don’t feel foolish like they are wearing matching outfits!

One of the unique sets from our Couples Collection.

One of the unique sets from our Couples Collection.

We continue to expand our fashion jewelry business at Shane Co., and I have been busy in Bangkok creating new products for that purpose. Our buying team just returned from Hong Kong, where they were at the world’s largest jewelry show. Besides the product that our own Bangkok factory produces, they buy most of our styles from the leading jewelry manufactures throughout the world. The styles we have in stock now demonstrate the fact that all of this travel and extra effort really does pay off, as our customers keep supporting our family business. And for that, my son Rordan (who runs things in America while I am in Asia) and I remain grateful.

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My First Mother’s Day as a Father

April 30th, 2013 by

When speaking with my wife recently about booking a Mother’s Day brunch for our moms for this year, it suddenly hit me, she’s a mom now too! My next thought was, and I’m a dad! I know it sounds beyond obvious, but it was a weird realization that in my sleep-deprived state of having a seven-week-old newborn in the house, I somehow managed to miss.

Now I have to plan two Mother’s Day celebrations each year, as if one wasn’t hard enough! Good thing there is more than one meal to be eaten in a given day, or someone’s feelings would be hurt.

So I’m now planning my first ever Mother’s Day dinner with my wife, and already I’ve made my first mistake, right off the bat. As we’ve had scarce time alone since the little man’s arrival, I said to her, “You know what could be cute? Having one of our sisters come over to babysit and going out somewhere nice for Mother’s Day dinner.” I was quickly reminded that that would ‘defeat the point’ of a Mother’s Day dinner.

Such are the growing pains of being a new dad, I suppose.

If anyone has any stories or advice along the lines of the above, I’d love to hear it.

Being a new dad has been such an amazing experience. I’ve never had a two-month stretch close to anything like these have been. It’s been, fun, exhausting, frustrating and educational all at once. We’ve received contradicting stories and advice from essentially everyone we know. I have finally concluded that there is no ‘normal’ time for him to start sleeping more than a few hours at once. No ‘normal’ amount of crying, no ‘normal’ amount to eat. With me being an ‘A’ type personality, this drives me nuts, but at least I have finally come to the realization that the only thing ‘normal’ is whatever he’s doing at the moment. Life suddenly became simpler.

Amanda, our 7-week-old son Hudson and I at a wedding over the weekend

Amanda, our seven-week-old son Hudson and I, at a wedding over the weekend.

So, Happy Mother’s Day to all the new moms, not-so-new moms, grandmas, great-grandmas and moms-to-be. I’m looking forward to whatever parenthood brings, and if the past seven weeks are any indicator of what’s to come, it should be an amazing ride ahead!

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How Do You Define “Change”?

October 24th, 2012 by

I am frequently asked, both by close friends and casual acquaintances, as well as by customers or suppliers, a seemingly simply question: “How has your business changed over the past 42 years that you have been running it?” I will admit that my answer depends on how much time I have to reply, or how long of an answer the person asking it will tolerate.

Before answering, I will always start by stating one of my strongest operating briefs… a well-run business must always be evolving to keep up with the ever-changing wants and needs of its customers.   Once I lay that foundation down, then I will reply that, apart from a lot of details, we have hardly changed our business model at all.

Like my dad’s and uncle’s stores, my first stores were located downtown, upstairs in an office building.  The reality was, we located where people found it easiest to shop, from any part of the city. Once people stopped doing serious shopping downtown, we listened to the customers complain about expensive parking, traffic, and most of the customers didn’t even know the main streets in the heart of the city. In other words, they were no longer coming downtown, except to shop with us. So if you view our relocating from upstairs in downtown office buildings to convenient suburban locations as a change, OK. But I really view that as continuing to provide our customers with the experience that they seek.

The first Shane Co. store in downtown Denver

In Denver, I chose a building for my first store to be on the second floor of the tallest office building in the city. It was easy to see from anywhere, as there was a huge sign on its roof. But the real attraction to the building was that downstairs, on what was the best retail corner location in Denver, was a big store of what was then America’s largest retail jeweler, whose name started with the letter Z. I loved telling our customers that if they were not sure about the price or the quality of our jewelry, they could run downstairs to see what that competitor was offering! Our salespeople were able to exude confidence, and the customers were able to quickly be assured of our value, style, etc. Back then, diamonds were not typically certified, and people had to trust the jeweler’s integrity and competence. Today, our website and mobile phone app does much the same thing. Again, to me, this is not change. When you provide a superior product, you want the customer to be able to see the benefits of buying from us.  And the easier it is for them to compare, the better off everyone is. We get the sale and the customer doesn’t waste time, yet gets the best value.

People ask me about my son, Rordan, being in the business with me, and presuppose there have been major changes as a result thereof. But, again, ours is a family business. I went into my father’s business, and eventually I also bought my late uncle’s business to combine the two companies. Both my dad and his brother worked in their father’s business. I remember my grandfather very clearly sitting in the customer service area of our downtown Cleveland store when I was a child. He would keep his eye on the cash register… but actually was able to observe each customer’s reaction to their experience as they were paying for their purchases. My son and I love to be in our stores, but typically we are incognito.  Again, we want to observe our customers’ reactions to our products as well as to our service. And by being family owned, we don’t have to worry about shareholders and other financial distractions that public companies must deal with. That customer-centric focus is why we are so successful. Learning that as a child in “Daddy’s store” let both Rordan and me evaluate which marketing professors in his and my college years really understood what they were supposed to be teaching.

We also take pride in being an innovator. Of course, with that burden comes the frustration of competition trying to copy you. We were the first jeweler to sell loose diamonds (well over 50 years ago). Everyone else had the stones mounted in the jewelry. We were the first jeweler to build large, free-standing buildings. Today, most cities have several independent jewelers that have copied our concept, not to mention the largest publically owned jeweler in America. Our type of heavy advertising has been copied by many as well… some even using the owner as the spokesperson. But there is truth in the adage that “imitation is the highest form of flattery”. The only thing we need to continue to do is outperform those copying us… by giving a better experience to our customers than anyone else. And again, for four generations, our family has never lost sight of that focus. Customers vote with their wallets, and there is a reason that we do significantly more business in each market that we have a store in than any of our competitors. And that focus on the customer will never change.

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