Our director, Richard Bissland, attended The Company of Master Jewellers (CMJ) conference this month as a guest of Chief Executive, Willie Hamilton. He was so impressed by the sheer vibrancy and energy of the occasion, he was moved to write his first *ever* blog post.
In the process, he managed to mine a rich seam of priceless jewellery puns of which he's incredibly proud.
See below for Richard's diamond insights:
'As individuals we can be successful but as a group we can be insurmountable'
Professor Damian Hughes, Lord Digby Jones, Liz Earle and other luminaries gathered in Nottingham this month to share their gems of wisdom with the CMJ’s 200+ membership.
Having worked on the CMJ's brand positioning for three years now, and watched the conference grow in popularity, I honestly believe it to be one of the best of its type in the UK. By bringing together jewellery industry experts and business gurus, invaluable sector insights are shared that the retailers simply could not organise or afford individually.
CMJ CEO, Willie Hamilton fields questions during the 'Grill Willie' segment. (#GrillWillie wins our prize for the best conference hashtag ever invented)
As a body, the CMJ delivers training, marketing and networking alongside better buying power to its membership. Crucially, it also brings jewellery manufacturers closer to the retailers where issues can be resolved in a mutually beneficial way.
But enough of the froth… here are the real nuggets of gold:
Professor Damian Hughes - the importance of 'better listening' in business
Professor Damian Hughes demonstrated with wit and intelligence how we can all benefit from ‘better listening’. He described how people tend to run on autopilot and underlined the importance of ‘effective listening’ in business.
To illustrate his point, this ‘master of the mind’ had over 200 people convinced that they should stop at a green light when driving. I’ve since tried the test on some 999 staff and family and it has never failed to work. Weird, but true!
The economist's view - it's a game of stones
Next up was an economics expert from a leading bank with some interesting, and not for public consumption, news on gems and gold prices. Fascinating stuff and the least said the better, but, if I were you, I’d hang on to your granny's rubies.
Lord Digby Jones - why we should champion small businesses
Businessman and politician, Lord Digby Jones, is a larger than life character to say the least. A member of no single political party (ever!), he talked about the power of SME’s in the UK, particularly high street retailers.
'Quality, brand, innovation and adding value - master these and you will be ahead of the pack'
With a focus on the importance of family in business to build reputation and remain competitive, the audience was wowed by his humour and common sense.
He finished with an anecdote about turning the tables on Paxman during his first ever TV interview. Having witnessed him in action, I had no doubt this was true.
While his talk was controversial in places, I was impressed that his fundamental views had not changed since I last heard him speak over 10 years ago. How many other politicians can you say that about?
Andrew McMillan - the most important brand in jewellery retail is the retailer
Perhaps though, the most invaluable talk for retailers came from Andrew McMillan - a clever exponent of the art of ‘better customer experience’. To raise the stakes a little, he made his talk more hands-on by revealing that he had undertaken his ‘secret shopper’ test at a dozen or so CMJ stores. For comparison, he had also visited department stores and non-CMJ jewellers.
He shared his insights with professionalism and polish but, like a pro-boxer, he delivered a few brain juddering blows to the expectant audience!
Andrew McMillan shared his insights into delivering ‘better customer experience’
He told us that CMJ retailers ‘were brilliant at some things but weaker at others,’ and that no single retailer ‘had the complete package’. With the CMJ paying his fee he spared no punches, but everything he said was backed up with experience, giving the audience invaluable suggestions on how to improve their businesses. By the end, complacency was on the ropes.
The 'Brilliant Together' CMJ auditorium - branding and design by us!
The second day looked very interesting with workshops on social media, networking and another interestingly titled talk from Professor Damian Hughes: ‘Be aware of where you’re sitting’. Unfortunately, work called and a conference call to Riga opened up some doors I previously thought closed.
For more insights and images from this year's CMJ conference, check out the #UKJC2015 hashtag.