Michael Schechter

May 17, 2023

Start Smaller

Few things hang over the head of your team and your business preparing to redo a massive legacy system like an ERP, POS, or website. It’s all too common that these projects get put off because of meaningful cost, overwhelming scope, and the desire to avoid risk. This is especially true in smaller and mid-size jewelry businesses where these projects are infrequent and where the IT, Engineering, and Digital teams are either outsourced or distant from senior leadership.

Too often, things play out the same way. You assign a team (or worse, an individual) to build out requirements; they meet with a wide range of vendors, get cost estimates, put together a few recommendations, and offer up a suggested plan. Unfortunately, these initiatives usually go one of two ways: stall or fail. 

They Stall

Identifying the right solutions to run your business takes time, thought, and, most of all, compromise. On top of that, choosing the right team and partners to implement proves to be an even more significant challenge. As scope, complexity, and cost compound, decision-makers start to wonder if the team can hold off just a little bit longer. After all, things may be inefficient, but they function. People go on ignoring the friction, quietly knowing that the needs of the business are going unmet. The team continues to work toward future possibilities and improvements, but they never get the buy-in to make the necessary changes to modernize the business.

They Fail 

There are two versions of failure. The one that happens before you invest and the one that happens after. 

In the case of the first, failure stems from challenges in aligning your team. Rather than taking a holistic look at the business, various business owners struggle to see past their own needs. And in some cases, businesses cling to past decisions and systems that were cobbled together over years to mirror the way the team likes to work (rather than the team bending the business towards the best practices of their chosen platforms). Disagreements amongst the team drag on (sometimes quietly, sometimes loudly) until the project peters out.

In the case of the second, failure after investing comes from undercooked requirements or hand-waving away the hardest parts of the project. Sometimes it comes down to underestimating just how challenging the project will be to implement. Other times there’s just not enough trust across various teams to ensure success. People hope for the best instead of planning for the worst.

Get Unstuck By Shrinking Down

More often than not, these outcomes are less about challenges in your business and more about challenges within your team. You encourage your technical and business leaders to work together, but once people get outside their comfort zone, these projects can go off the rails quickly and painfully. This usually stems from a need for more familiarity and trust between these teams when dealing with new challenges and with new outside partners. After all, most of their interactions have been about leveraging decades-old systems rather than implementing new ones. 

A better approach is to start a lot earlier and a lot smaller.

Thinking about trying to tackle your ERP? First, see if your teams can settle on a data structure that meets the needs of your store and your website. Do this in a spreadsheet, so it’s not tied to any one system. This will get your technical and non-technical teams collaborating and aligning. 

Thinking about replacing your POS? First, agree on what your needs are for how you place inventory, personalized, and custom jewelry orders. See if you can implement minor tweaks on your current platform that would improve the day-to-day of your associates and customers before trying to tackle the whole experience.

Thinking it’s time to redo your website? First, try to improve one aspect of the experience on your current site, like appointment scheduling or store locator. This will enhance your customer experience and help your team gain experience considering every potential interaction.

Eventually, you’ll have to push forward and make big changes, but starting small allows your team to get comfortable with new technologies and more importantly, with each other. Initially, you may feel that progress is slower than you’d like, but temporarily reducing the scope of work can help your team better understand the complexity involved in even the smallest changes. In my experience, building trust through small steps forward is the best way to reduce risk and prepare your team for the high level of collaboration needed to succeed when tackling the larger projects that inevitably lie ahead.

About Michael Schechter

Hi there! I’m Michael Schechter, a third-generation, lifelong jeweler. I’ve spent most of my life and career at the crossroads of fine jewelry and emerging technology. Subscribe to receive weekly advice for jewelers struggling with new possibilities online and in store.