Rapaport Magazine


By Martin Rapaport
RAPAPORT... What do you do when you don’t know what to do? The economic environment has gone crazy. Your personal wealth and the value of your retirement fund are plummeting. What about your business and inventory? Should you buy, sell, hedge or close? The greatest fear is fear of the unknown and the financial world is now in a period of unprecedented uncertainty. Many are experiencing recession and financial difficulty for the first time in their lives. They are afraid. Everyone is confused.

Is there a solution to the confusion? Is there a rational way to deal with this? What should you do?

The first thing is to recognize that we are going through a turbulent period and accept this as a fact of life. The financial insecurity and confusion being generated are not going to go away in a few days and will have a prolonged impact on our customers. So the first message is get out of denial, you can’t just keep on doing business as if nothing is happening. This does not mean that you must change your business, but it does mean you now have to strategically review everything that you and your business are doing and make sure you are optimized for the new realities of the marketplace. It is time to reassess and reapprove everything you do. Face up to the new realities by taking a hard look in the mirror.

Secondly, just because you reassess your business does not mean you should dramatically change your entire business plan around from one day to the next. By all means, change if you should, but move carefully and thoughtfully. Don’t be freaked out by the speed at which change is taking place around you. The economic environment is moving from one extreme to the next too quickly. You can’t change your business that fast, and even if you could, by the time you gear up for one set of circumstances, another set will appear. Don’t try to dance, step for step, with a crazy market — you’ll get whiplash. Be careful not to make sudden, speculative moves. If you are not an experienced gold trader, don’t try to become one in this market. Sure, there are great opportunities, but this is not the time to gamble, particularly if you are under financial pressure.

So what should you do? Refocus your business on your customers. A diamond or piece of jewelry is only as good as the person wishing to buy it. Stop the narrow-minded focus on products, quality, profit margins and sales for a while. In the current environment, your business is not about product; it is about people. Your people — your customers.

Your customers are as afraid and confused as you are. They have birthdays, holidays, gift-giving occasions and they don’t know what to do. They don’t want another salesman trying to push something at them. They want someone who cares about them, listens to them and helps them meet the new, perhaps diminished, expectations of their wives or loved ones. This is not a time to push; it is a time to pull your customers close to you. Be their friend, help them, sincerely care about them, listen to their concerns.

Now is the time to stop being a businessperson and reinvest in relationships that turn customers into friends. The jewelry business is not about money or products. It’s about people and relationships. It’s about honestly caring about your customers and sharing their emotions. When the chips are down and the times are tough, that is when real friends call and share.

So pick up the phone, call your customers. Please don’t try to sell them anything. Just call them to see how they are doing. Call them to show that you care about them.

Article from the Rapaport Magazine - April 2008. To subscribe click here.

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