Fireside Chat: John Carter

John Carter began his career at Jack Lewis Jewelers at only 16-years-old. Fast-forward to today, and he is the proud owner of the store. After earning his degree in Marketing from Illinois State University, Carter went on the road as a regional sales director for Maurice Lacroix watches. He later returned to Jack Lewis and purchased the store in 2011.

Upon his purchase of the store, Carter and his team dramatically shifted its marketing strategies, which have become almost completely digital. Today, Carter’s goal for the store is to continue to innovate through marketing, social media and new ways to interest and satisfy customers.

In addition to being the owner of Jack Lewis, Carter is the President of the American Gem Society (AGS) Board of Directors and a Fireside Chat panelist at JCK Tucson 2019.

Read our conversation with him to get a glimpse of his valuable insight and refreshing outlook on business and relationships, which we will see more of this year at JCK Tucson:

Describe your day in numbers
My day starts at 5 AM when my little guy stands up in his crib and shouts for me. We play for a couple of hours until it’s time for me to take my daughter to school and then I arrive at work. 80% of most of my days are spent performing the daily tasks of running a small business. 20% of these days are spent on my duties as President of The American Gem Society. 5 PM comes around and most days I am lucky enough to head home and spend some time with the kids before bedtime. Then my wife Ketti and I have a couple of quiet hours together before we get up and do it all again the following day!

What is your background in the jewelry industry and how did you get your start?
I began my career as a 16-year-old at Jack Lewis. I was hired to take out the trash, prepare the daily mail, change watch batteries and—when there was time—work the sales floor. I immediately loved it and gravitated toward watches. Since I attended college in my hometown, I continued working at Jack Lewis and after I graduated, I went on the road for five years with Maurice Lacroix watches. In 2002, I returned to Jack Lewis as a partner with a plan to buy the store, which I did in 2011.

What is your favorite type of jewelry to wear? Do you have a special piece of jewelry that you always wear?
My wedding band from Benchmark and my Rolex have just become a part of me! They are really my only everyday pieces but I will mix in various bracelets from time to time.

What are your most memorable moments from a JCK event?
Eye Candy and when we move back to the Sands…wherever we all meet up to talk shop and that day’s events. The time spent after the shows is always my favorite because the relationships with my colleagues is what keeps me going. It is during these times that I pick their brains, learn valuable lessons and hopefully become better at what I do.

What are you most looking forward to in 2019?
I have the freedom to leave my business to help AGS pursue its goals because, when I do, Jack Lewis is in very capable hands. My team is led by my manager (and go-to woman) Missy! Seeing each of them grow professionally and personally helps me to sleep at night and gives me the free time to make a difference with AGS on an industry level. As I look into 2019, I am really eager to see each of them tap even more of their potential and make our store as great as it can be.

What’s in store for Jack Lewis Jewelers in the future?
Our plan is just to continue to innovate. Several years ago, we dramatically shifted our marketing strategies and I feel like we were way ahead of the curve. We moved nearly all of our marketing strategy to digital and our business took off.

Today, I honestly feel like we might be the most distinctive jewelry retailer on social media. I get very little credit for this, however, as the magic lies with my brilliant marketing manager, Josh, and the fact that my ridiculously talented team jumps into action for their weekly features.

So, the short answer to your question is to keep doing what we do but the insider answer is that we have some cool stuff planned! Stay tuned on Instagram and Facebook!

Would you consider expanding the store to other locations? If so, what city or area would you be interested in?
I never would say no to anything until I researched it, but I wouldn’t be eager to have another location. I have plenty of friends who have done this, and I just see it change the quality of life for them. I know the hours involved to run multiple locations would not jive with where I am right now. I want to make the current Jack Lewis Jewelers the very best it can be before I would ever consider diluting my time with another storefront.

What does it mean to you to be an American Gem Society (AGS) member and how does it align with your brand identity and company culture?
I cannot put into words how humbling it is to not only be a member of the American Gem Society but to be President of this amazing organization. When I look at the legends who filled this role before me, I am speechless, and at times, I feel unworthy.

Robert Shipley founded AGS 80 years ago for one simple reason: to protect the consumer. Today, more than ever, we need every single retailer and supplier in this industry to embrace what we stand for and to join our ranks. Being a member of the American Gem Society says to the world that you stand for integrity and ethics above all things.

In today’s business climate of online reviews and social media posts, it’s impossible to survive if you don’t have your customers’ best interests at heart. AGS is here to help our members through our educational programs, Conclave, titles, and of course our amazing AGS laboratories.

Can you share with our readers a small glimpse of the topics and conversation that you think will prominent during JCK Tucson 2019?
I will find myself saying quite a bit, “Look at that view!” on the back veranda of the Starr Pass Marriott! The Starr Pass is my very favorite place I visit all year, so I am ALWAYS counting down the minutes until I return.

After that gets discussed, I think it’s safe to say that laboratory-grown diamonds will be on the docket, since it is at the forefront of every other conference in the industry.

Beyond that, what I think we all need to be discussing is how we can make our businesses stand out from our local competition as well as the very deep sea of online retailers. We need to regularly ask ourselves, “Why should a customer buy from us?” and then everything we do in our business should reinforce those answers.

Whatever gets discussed, we are in a beautiful hotel, in beautiful weather, among some of the smartest people in the industry. Whatever JCK Tucson has to offer in 2019 I am all in and looking forward to it very much!

Learn more about John Carter’s Fireside Chat here.
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