“Ten years ago, Boodles was treading water,” admits Wainwright, who owns and runs the £45m-turnover jewellery business with his older brother Nicolas. The problem? The brand. Or rather, the lack of it.
“We didn’t sell our own products, we sold a mishmash of other people’s stuff. Our advertising was provincial. Our stores were old-fashioned and our shop windows were crammed with everything, including the kitchen sink. We weren’t making any money.”
It was time for Boodles to undergo a revamp. First up was the shop floor. Wainwright hired Czech architect Eva Jiricna. Out went the wood. In came the glass. Lots of it. Then came the spotlights and fresh flowers, creating a contemporary, stylish environment.
Employees were given the same makeover. Wainwright even hired a style guru to help staff “make the most of themselves”. “Personal presentation is all part of customer service,” explains Wainwright.
He has a point. You wouldn’t want to buy a necklace worth half a mil from a tracksuit-clad teenager with pink hair.
“The Boodles ‘look’ is attractive, smiley and well groomed,” he continues. “They should also be intelligent, commercial, hungry and have a sense of humour.”
Wainwright admits it’s a tall order. So how do you sort the pearls from the swine in interviews? “I ask them to sell me a piece of jewellery,” he says. “Then I ask them to describe themselves in adjectives. Some come up with two. Others come up with a very considered list of ten.
"It’s very revealing. You know you’re not getting very far when they ask you what an adjective is!”
Hiring shop managers is Wainwright’s biggest headache. “It’s best if you grow your own wood,” he says. “We tend to promote employees to managerial roles only after they’ve worked for us for ten years or so. A manager who hasn’t been with us for at least four years rarely works out.”
Read more about Boodles here.
The full interview with Michael Wainwright will be published in the February edition of Real Business magazine.
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