A Little Reminder

One of my primary roles here at work is to manage the inventory: accurate entry, tags, pricing, photographs, re-orders, show orders, invoice processing, etc. It’s a job that can be tedious from time to time (ahem, the Popular Bead Bracelet Brand era) but is usually rather interesting because it appeals to my inquisitive, detail-oriented brain and allows me to get my hands on every single piece of merchandise in the store as it arrives.

I also attempt what I call a self-inventory every so often, taking stock of my life and its various components and running down a list of places to improve, discard, or enhance. Recently my mind has been occupied with family, health, summer plans (golf lessons, new hiking boots), and of course my gemological studies. I tend to continue mulling over my educational material long after I’ve put it away for the day, which causes a disproportionate mental emphasis on the very technical details I’m currently learning. I end up totally engulfed in the bloodless and unromantic side of this industry, focusing all of my energy on numbers and figures and diagrams.

That’s great for test-taking and fundamental progress, but is ultimately useless in my day-to-day job until I work to distill it down into something I can use on the sales floor. I’ve been feeling waterlogged with minutiae, unable to climb onto solid ground from the watery bog of information overload.

So it was with genuine pleasure that I found myself on the business end of a diamond engagement ring sale just this week — and not a moment too soon.

The gentleman was polite and earnest; his female “helper” lived up to her job and was supportive but not pushy. We discussed settings & styles, diamond sizes & qualities, and priced out a few options. A brief lunch break on the sunny restaurant decks (them, not me) later, and a ring was born. Hooray!

This was not a “big” sale, or a tough one, or a thank-goodness-that’s-over interaction. The clean simplicity of selling a meaningful object to a happy and eager buyer was exactly the refreshing reminder I needed when terra firma seemed very far away. Clearly I required this experience in order to remember what we really do, what the purpose is behind all the numbers and calculations:

Joy. Happiness. Excitement. Love. Hope.

That’s our real business, our own small contribution to the betterment of the world. I am a facilitator, nothing more, as I gently nudge people toward an object that stands to represent all the best emotions we could ever want. And amidst the structure of carbon atoms and lengthy history of mining, I needed a little reminder about why I do it at all.

The Business of Business

In my line of work, the face the consumer sees is often very different from the reality behind-the-scenes. The client receives calm and unwavering patience, forever a smile, as much romance as they can stomach, and a general sense that the world is full of beautiful things that they (obviously) should want to buy and give and wear.

And why shouldn’t they? The role of consumer in the luxury market is to enjoy everything — service, gracious transaction, the piece itself, admiration from peers — as a complete package. It’s my job to figure out how to deliver that experience in such a way that will impress and retain that client, but also maintain best business practices that allow equal attention to future clients. As my grandmother used to say, it ain’t worth anything if you give it away.

I will confess that I’m far more a novice of business than I am of creating that customer experience. I have been in some form of sales for many years, but have begun to participate in the business side relatively recently. Thanks in large part to the small business environment and wonderful owners of the store, I have been introduced to the inner workings of this industry and am just as hooked on the finer details of number-crunching and term negotiation as I ever was on closing the sale.

To that end, I’ll be diving head first into analysis and data processing, product and vendor assessment, supplier strategies, and a host of other topics in order to assist in balancing performance in the store. Translation: training in business stuff should lead to better business.

On a personal level, I admit to a little apprehension. This is not only a new field of interest but an entirely new facet of the industry, and I’m determined to acquire as much knowledge for practical application as I can get my little paws on. Between this, my already personally-driven sales goals, some additional business courses I’m taking outside of work, and the general day-to-day operations already in place, I feel I’m in for an exciting period of growth. Maybe if spring pokes its nose out from whatever hole it’s hibernating in someday soon, I’ll really feel ready to face it all.

The Storm: Before and After

Whomever pioneered the concept of the “calm before the storm” was probably highly observant of the weather, but definitely did not work retail.

I have always found that large-scale events in the B2C world begin long before the advertised dates, and that the preparation and planning stress often outstrips the challenges of the event itself. Perhaps that’s good in a way, as it allows the frenetic energy to dissipate so workers can settle down and concentrate on being effective and active when it matters most.

In my own work history, I’ve been a member of both large-scale store grand opening teams and (more recently) non-closure liquidations, and find the preparations similarly hectic and equally exhausting. The events themselves have very different tones, of course, but both involve high levels of attention to detail, energy expenditure, and precise time management. That’s a deadly combination that directly affects personal sanity and team morale, and can turn even the most even-tempered worker into a hair-triggered nail-biting workaholic (a.k.a. me).

Something new to my experience is the difference in post- event recuperation. After a grand opening event, the store begins normal, day-to-day operations very quickly because it must, in order to establish solid working practices that will continue into the future. But an established business that essentially interrupts itself to run a special event seems to take a different kind of recovery approach, where things return slowly to normal and any changes are integrated into daily routine over a period of time.

From my perspective, special events provide some of the best, most concentrated forms of high-intensity training: when you’re forced to learn, adapt, and think quickly and efficiently, you can apply those skills to future work in a way that can only enhance effectiveness. I have certainly acquired new skills and polished old ones during the aforementioned recent event, particularly related to stress management, task prioritizing, and delegation (my coworkers are rockstars**, for the record). Nobody enjoys learning that you can’t do it all on your own, but the lesson is certainly a lasting one.

With this experience behind me, I can finally focus on the next big event in my career: attending my first industry show! At the moment I’m every combination of excited/nervous/anticipatory/stressed/didImentionexcited, but most of all I’m humbled by the opportunity and grateful to the people who are allowing me the chance to reach a goal I’ve held for quite a while.

I love me some terrible puns, and one of my favorites that I like to tell customers is how multifaceted this job and industry can be (oh c’mon, it’s funny!). But joking aside, the many and varied jobs-within-jobs are what keep me glued to this work. And though I may be occasionally convinced that it will kill me, I love it just the same.

**Rockstars. Get it? Get it??!! 🙂