Sunday, 21 July 2019

Let's Get Down to Business: Simon Lawson, Lawson's Goldsmiths

Let's Get Down to Business: Simon Lawson, Lawson's Goldsmiths

SIMON LAWSON is the proprietor of Lawson’s Goldsmiths in Duke Street, Henley. He was born and bred in Stratford-upon- Avon and attended the same school that William Shakespeare went to around 400 years earlier. He left at 18 and trained at the Birmingham City School of Jewellery, which is the largest in Europe. His first job was at a small, privately owned jewellery shop in Stratford where he stayed for five years before working as a goldsmith in Bermuda for the next six years. He and his wife Janet live in Middle Assendon. He is a member of Henley Golf Club where he and Janet play several times a week.

Describe your business

We are a retail jeweller with an onsite workshop where our specialist staff can create unique pieces of jewellery to customers’ specifications, so we can take on any type of commission. We also do repairs to all types of jewellery.

What did you do before you started this business?

After coming back to the UK from Bermuda, I responded to an advert for a goldsmith in Henley at Anthony Paul, the jeweller in Bell Street. I worked in the workshop there for five years. It was in the cellar!

When did you start your business?

Just before Christmas 1993.

What was your objective?

I wanted more control over the things I was making and selling. We focus mostly on modern jewellery for our stock but a lot of repair work is on older pieces.

Who or what influenced you?

Nobody really, but my mother, who was very creative, certainly encouraged me. She was teaching art and also working in a second hand jewellers in Stratford. The owner of the shop helped me out with stock in the early days. I started with nowhere near the stock we have today. It’s a very capital intensive business.

What would you do differently if you could begin again?

Nothing much. I’m very happy with the way things have turned out.

How is your business doing?

Currently we are a bit down on last year but with a busy order book that can change rapidly.

How do you market your business?

Word of mouth is a major source of new customers. We have a good website. We use Facebook and Instagram, which one of our staff updates regularly. Advertisements in the Henley Standard have often proved to be very effective.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

Choosing what hours I work — I often don’t come into the shop in the morning but instead work quite late. Also being able to choose my own stock. It’s my decision what to buy. I buy designs that I like and hope the customers like my choices.

What’s the most challenging aspect?

Finding and selecting the right staff can be difficult. However, we have a great team and Lucy has been with us for nearly 10 years.

Where is your business headed?

I don’t think the basic concept will change but there are always some things that can improve. We recently had a big revamp and a new website and the workshop is bigger and better equipped now.

How important are online sales?

At the moment we don’t do any but that may change.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?

When I worked in Bermuda a new jewellery shop opened and they held an opening party with drinks and canapés etc. Later that night, a homeless person leaned against the front door which fell open because it hadn’t been closed properly. He helped himself to a few watches, which for some reason he then threw into a bin. Fortunately, he decided to retrieve and return them. So there was a lesson from that... lock up properly!

What would you advise someone starting a business?

Know what you are talking about. You must have expertise in whatever niche you are going to go into. Make sure you research the right location.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?

Once I was taken for a ride by a fraudulent advertising company.

What three qualities are most important to success?

Being trustworthy. Working hard. Being lucky.

What’s the secret of your success?

Customers come first. I try hard to come up with whatever it is that the customers describe that they want and then exceed their expectations.

How organised are you?

I am more organised than I used to be but with the many interruptions in a busy shop it is difficult.

How do you dress for work each day?

I wear comfortable short sleeve shirts because the shop is always warm as the ladies on my staff complain if it’s too cold.

What can’t you do without every day?

Apart from food, the daily interaction with my staff and customers.

Lunch at your desk or going out?

At my desk, generally around 5pm.

Do you continue to study?

After 40 years in the business I don’t do any studying, apart from trying to keep up with all the changes that the Government keeps imposing on small businesses.

What do you read?

I’m a fan of Dick Francis’s books and I’ve also read the Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson who sadly died just before the third book was published.

How are you planning for retirement?

Eventually, I plan to gradually phase out the amount of time I spend in the business so I can play more golf — and possibly take up tennis again.

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