New York, NY—Communicating your core values to both your employees and customers really helps to define your business and spur success.
Lisa Bridge, vice president of education for Ben Bridge Jeweler, is the fifth generation of her family to have a leadership role in the business. Speaking on March 10 at the In The Know conference sponsored by the Women’s Jewelry Association, Bridge said that not only do values shape the character of a business, they also provide a guidepost and help the owners and managers delegate, focus, and accomplish what they need to.
“It starts from very beginning, who you choose to hire,” said Bridge. She recalled the wisdom of a former vice president at Ben Bridge, Orly Solomon, who years ago drastically changed how the jewelry retailer thought about hiring.
“We changed from hiring people with a gemological background to hiring people who love people and who love jewelry,” said Bridge. “Orly Solomon always said you can teach everything else but you can’t teach someone to be a nice person.”
You also can’t change the core of who people are, so it’s important to find people who align with your brand values already, said Bridge.
After the right people, it’s important to have the right brand storytelling, continued Bridge. “The story has to be true and we have to live up to what we say. Any great mission statement is no good if the company doesn't live up to it,” she said. She pointed out that Hollister, a well-known teen clothing retailer, made up its whole back story. The California surfer at the heart of its image was made up in a boardroom in Ohio. Once customers know that, the image seems inauthentic. By contrast, an apocryphal story about Nordstrom says the retailer once took back a set of snow tires from a dissatisfied customer, even though Nordstrom doesn’t sell tires (the tires were purportedly sold by a different retailer that once occupied the same location.)
“Even if the Nordstrom story is urban legend and it isn’t true, Nordstrom isn’t telling it. It’s being passed along [by customers] who believe in the store’s service, whereas Hollister is based on a manufactured idea,” says Bridge.
“What we really sell in our business are moments; we're selling memories. There's so much meaning imbued in jewelry and we have a lot to say. At Ben Bridge it’s about creating customers for life. Our tagline, “we’re your personal jeweler” follows through with everything we do including buying and sourcing merchandise and very tough quality control, and making sure we have long-term associates so when a customer does come back time and again, the person who sold [the piece] to them is still there.”
Long term associates and vendor relationships help fulfill the brand promise, said Bridge. She recounted a recent trip to Bangkok, Thailand, where she met with a vendor her father opened 30 years ago.
Bridge always begins new hire training with a focus on them, not the "this is Ben Bridge," she explained. “Instead, you are important, you are valued, what are you bringing to this team, and then, ‘what's your best customer-service experience?’ I want to put that at the forefront of our conversation at our new associate training.
As I'm telling Ben Bridge history I weave in our values, especially when we go into new markets or I open a new store,” she said.
Sam Silverman (Lisa Bridge’s great grandfather) founded the store when he worked setting pocket watches for train conductors. He shared space with an optician, as many jewelers did in those days. Why? Because they used the same tools to grind crystals for watches and eyeglasses.
Sam Silverman made it a point to be educated, said Bridge, and Ben Bridge has more certified gemologists than any other [retail] organization. Sam's daughter married Ben Bridge, who had a background in food retailing. He took his knowledge of retail and quickly turned the store into a full-fledged jeweler.
“Our goal is wow customer service. Give customers a reason to come back. People want to buy from someone they know, like and trust. Ben Bridge customers are not necessarily going to meet Lisa Bridge or her dad or any Bridge family members; they're going to meet the person who's on the other side of the counter and that will be their experience of Ben Bridge.
“Is this going to lead to happy customers in the long term?” she finished.
Top image: In addition to her role as Ben Bridge’s vice president of education, Lisa Bridge has designed an exclusive signature line of jewelry for the chain.