Professional Jeweler Archive: Awesome Combination: Natural Talent and Curiosity

March 2002

Professional Bench/Five Steps to Profit


Awesome Combination: Natural Talent and Curiosity

An uncompromising commitment to learn new skills and improve existing ones combined with natural talent and desire take Tim Felts to the heights of success


Tim Felts started his career at the bench in 1975, polishing and machine-engraving part time while still a junior in high school. His employer, Harold Brown, soon realized this kid had potential and began teaching him the basics of repair and reconstruction. Felts stayed on the job for six years, until his curiosity and a desire for more challenges drove him to move on.

In 1983, Felts moved to Tulsa, OK, and opened a trade shop, where he and one other bench jeweler performed work for four stores. With the success of his trade shop under his belt, Felts and his wife, Kim, who is now a JA® Certified Senior Management Professional,™ opened a store in April 1986. Felts continued his trade shop business for several years, until the obvious dawned on him: The competition was benefiting from his quality workmanship.

Today, Felts Fine Jewelry and Design is located in a newly remodeled 5,000-sq.-ft. building bought in 1997. The building has retail space with a diamond room for private viewing, three shops (including one dedicated to casting and plating), two offices, a lunchroom and a storage room.

Here is how Tim Felts uses the five P’s of pricing, process, promotion, productivity and professionalism.

Pricing

When the Felts began their business, they felt compelled to price their repair and reconstruction services competitively, using price lists matching those of their competitors. Ultimately, they reviewed their business, studied how much time certain repairs took and performed a cost analysis, taking into account utilities, supplies, supervision, administration, allocated space, tools and equipment, security and insurance.

Using this analysis, they determined the hourly cost of the shop and applied the store’s established markup. They also consulted David Geller’s price book as a guide, but changed some of Geller’s prices to reflect their own margin requirements for profitability.

The Felts determined their prices needed to be increased. But they eased into higher prices rather than take a big jump at once. As a result of this cautious approach, they lost little or no business. They feel their margin is now appropriate for all aspects of their profitable and professional service department.

Prices are higher for projects that involve a laser welder and for any work requiring extra time, such as a piece that contains a fragile gemstone or is intricately engraved. All pieces are carefully inspected at take-in, and all needed repair work is identified.

Process

The sales staff performs all take-in procedures, though Felts handles complicated details requiring a bench perspective. All details are entered into the computer using Jewelry ShopKeeper software. One copy of the computer-generated job envelope is given to the customer, while another is placed into the clear plastic job envelope. Jewelry ShopKeeper keeps a record of all previous repairs and purchases for each customer.

A. The customer gives an estimated value.

B. The turnaround time is typically less than one week.

C. A customer signature is required when the job is left and again when picked up and accepted.

The Felts maintain a systematic process to ensure customers’ pieces are not misplaced, parts are ordered routinely and jobs are distributed to the appropriate bench jeweler. Jobs can be located easily if a customer unexpectedly comes in or calls. Mike Turinetti, a JA Certified Senior Bench Jeweler on staff, performs the repair and reconstruction. Felts tackles custom design and manufacturing. All work is quality-controlled by the sales professional who took in the job.

Promotion and Professionalism

Promotion and professionalism go hand in hand for Tim and Kim Felts. They are proud that word of mouth has built their business, but feel it’s important to routinely promote their shop, service department and products. Here are a few ways they’ve promoted their organization over the past year:

A. Felts earned his JA Certified Master Bench Jeweler designation in 2001 and received a press release from JA for promotional use. He sent the release to local newspapers, radio stations and other media outlets around Tulsa. The newspapers responded by coming to his store and conducting on-site interviews. The local ABC-TV affiliate sent a TV personality to conduct an on-camera interview that culminated in a 5-minute segment that aired several times. “The value of the public relations we received was unimaginable,” Felts says. “Customers came in with my feature story in hand or stating they saw me on the TV segment just to see what we do. We were thrilled with the interest and response.”

B. Felts also gives a counter card to every visitor. “People don’t know all that we do, so we give them a card that outlines our products and services and our qualifications,” Felts says. “Customers ask for extra copies to give to friends.”

C. Felts teamed up with supplier Simon Golub Co. to develop a product brochure. Of the 25,000 copies produced, 18,000 went into a newspaper directed to specific demographic areas of Tulsa and the rest were direct-mailed. To kick off the promotion, the store paid all applicable sales taxes on sales for three days following the Thanksgiving holiday.

Productivity

Felts acquired a laser welder last year, uses it daily and is teaching himself new techniques. Here’s one that he developed recently.

“You can use stainless steel binding wire to weld stainless steel watchbands,” he says. “ I had to re-pin the band and close the ends by laser welding with 29-gauge stainless wire. It finished out great – you can’t even tell where the repair was done. I used the wire just like I do with 29- or 30-gauge gold wire.”

Felts sets aside at least eight hours a month to learn new technology or develop and enhance new skills. He uses a lathe, a magnetic finisher, the Foredom® AllSet, GRS equipment, a GRS Meji microscope and the Matt wax lathe and trimmer. He regularly attends conferences, classes and demonstrations to remain up-to-date.

Felts with some of his 15 jewelry design awards, his JA Certified Master Bench Jeweler bench test projects and other accomplishments. He’s an avid jewelry photographer and keeps a portfolio of previously made pieces to show customers.

Felts at his laser welder.

Tim Felts

By Mark B. Mann, Director of Trade Programs, Jewelers of America

Featuring Tim Felts, JA® Certified Master Bench Jeweler,™ Felts Fine Jewelry and Design, Tulsa, OK

For information about JA’s Bench Jeweler Certification program, call (800) 223-0673 or visit www.jewelers.org.

For information about David Geller’s price book, call Jeweler Profit at (888) 255-9848.

Copyright © 2002 by Bond Communications