Almost 200 top executives from major US retailers and international suppliers were motivated and re-energized by prominent business speakers at the 2nd Annual Fine Jewelry CEO Summit held recently in Atlanta. This CEO event was aimed for the C-level executives from the “Majors” – those jewellery firms that control $22 billion in retail sales (over 38% of the entire US jewellery market), and as such, it was a different event from the typical jewellery trade show or conference, according to Lee Arevian, Vice- President of the Nielsen Jewelry Group, which organized the conference.
Attendees spent two days absorbing relevant business-building messages. Topical speakers like best-selling business author Daniel Pink and e-commerce guru- Jeffrey Rayport, along with “business school” style case studies of issues facing today’s retailers, provided CEO Summit participants with more take-away ideas.
Daniel Pink, author of A Whole New Mind, kicked off the event with a discussion of how “artistry, empathy and creativity” – three elements vital to the jewellery industry – are becoming increasingly important in business management. He was invited by Rio Tinto Diamonds, the principal sponsor for the 2007 event and a key player in the Indian diamond industry.
“We are pleased to again support this successful educational initiative,” said Rio Tinto Diamonds Marketing Manager, Nirupa Bhatt. “Speakers like Daniel Pink help to introduce the jewellery industry to cutting-edge management best practices, and plant the seeds of forward-thinking ideas that will help our market segment as a whole.”
Tom Peters urged retail attendees to innovate. “Try it and stop thinking so much! . . . If you’re in retail and you don’t screw up, you’re doing the same damn thing as last year.” His four “laws” of business excellence: 1) De-centralize. “GE is among the most successful companies, and it is the most ‘disorganized.’ You don’t hear the word ‘synergy’ at GE,” said Peters. 2) Execution. He referenced Larry Bossidy’s excellent book, Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done; 3) Accountability; and 4) Working harder, starting earlier. GE, for example, holds meetings at 5:30 AM.
From there, two days of panel presentations, and collaborative roundtable discussions of retail case studies brought these executives together to recharge, re-motivate, and rethink the way they manage their businesses. Janie Curtis, Managing Director of Frank About Women, showed how to speak the language that women speak that will build trust and long-term relationships. “Women love words of encouragement and a brand that speaks to them of empowerment,” said Curtis. “It’s a two-way dynamic dialog.”
Internet strategy expert and author Jeffrey Rayport, who was sponsored by Le Vian, challenged retailers to examine the way their company interacts with customers. He presented a provocative overview of Internet trends, including the acceleration of product lifecycles and the relentless downward price pressures that are creating overcapacity in some industries. “The proliferation of interfaces and devices that connect consumers and retailers is a huge driver of Internet commerce”, said Rayport. “Your customers are wearing your store fronts in their shirt pockets.”
CEOs from Bailey Banks and Biddle, Helzberg Diamonds, Sterling, and other major retailers were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime “leadership chat” with Tom Peters, where they could ask the legendary management guru for specific advice on their tough management challenges. It was sponsored by Collectors Universe companies GCAL and AGL.
The conference concluded with Silicon Valley icon Steve Wozniak who charmed the audience with his story of how a curious and super smart kid with a love for technology created the first personal computer. Wozniak, who is a collector of watches and other intricate gadgets, talked about how he typically has a much more real shopping experience in-store than on the web. “You have much more help in the store,” he said. He projected several future trends, including increased online personalization; super broadband; more cooperation among stores online; and more realism as seen in video games. “In future you could have real hands turning jewellery around,” said Wozniak.
“The Nielsen Jewellery Group is continuing to shape the model of the Fine Jewellery CEO Summit to produce an event that truly serves the educational needs of jewellery community,” said Arevian. ”Our goal is to nurture the current and future leaders of our industry, connect our attendees with a variety of the best international suppliers, and to create collaboration and camaraderie among retail executives.”
The event has recently been renamed “The Nielsen Fine Jewelry Leadership Summit” to reflect both the new parent company name, as well as the event’s wider scope of educating jewellery executive teams, not just C-level management.