A chat with Ben Roberts07 Dec 2017
1. What is the most meaningful piece of jewellery you own / have made / commissioned and why?
Actually, all the pieces we make are meaningful in a variety of ways. That’s the important part of what we do, every piece tells a story, a story that the wearer likes to know and likes to pass on to their friends. Whether it’s about the story that inspired the piece, the story about the gold and the mine, the story about the Welsh Gold, the story about the family business behind the brand or even simply where they bought it… there’s so much to pass on when you learn about Clogau. That’s why we embraced the new strap line “Story telling through beautiful Jewellery”. We know we’re not just selling jewellery, we’re creating meaningful jewellery that become heirloom pieces.
2. How are you inspired?
Well, I’m naturally a creative type so I like beautiful jewellery and I appreciate the hard work that Designers invest in translating stories into beautiful pieces, however these days I get very little chance to truly appreciate the pieces apart from offering ideas and signing off seasonal launches. These days I find myself in far more of a practical role where my inspiration or motivation comes from seeing us all do things right. I love making sure the business processes and functions are all as sharp as they can be but at the same time I love to see the team enjoying work.
3. What has been the defining moment of your career?
The defining moment was probably becoming Managing Director at such a young age (30) I’d worked all over the business in Sales, New Product development, The workshop and most importantly Marketing (even though the department was a team of 2) so I had a pretty good steer on the business. But this was also the point that we had to make the decision about off-shoring a proportion of our production because we were struggling with various aspects of manufacturing in Wales. However, that said we quite quickly started to grow after we made the decision and workforce capacity was no longer an issue. In hindsight it was a difficult decision but the right one as it’s enabled us to grow the brand beyond any of our expectations.
4. What has influenced you the most?
I suppose I take inspiration from those around me and I like to watch what others are doing in the market place. There’s nothing wrong with taking inspiration from ideas that are already working! My father and I are quite different in some respects but similar in others so I definitely draw some aspects from his personality but I deliver it in my own way – which some people are extremely grateful for!
5. What is your creative process?
I don’t think I really have a creative process. I like to sketch, I cad use CAD and I understand most of the prototyping machines because I’m a bit of a geek but in terms of a process I don’t really have one. The other day I was in a meeting for a charity that we occasionally get involved in and I found myself sketching a watch which is now being sampled. I’ll let you know how it goes!
6. What is the most enjoyable part of your work?
I won’t lie… it’s great to deliver great financial results and to see some of the more tangible things like a newly built store but you quite quickly forget these things and move onto the next thing.
7. Where do your magical moments come from?
I could answer that in many ways but I’ll try to stick to Clogau business at the moment! The magical moments are those moments when you make a decision and you later find the decision wasn’t just good but it was great. I mainly tend to remember the bad ones but occasionally I see a product idea outperform expectations or become the star product of the year and I suddenly remember that this came from an idea I had with Kevan on a train or with Sonia during a meeting in London. I guess another example might be moving in to our own retail stores. I had a turnover target for the store which I thought was challenging – the store now does four times that target. That’s pretty magical.
8. What excites you most about the future of the industry?
Actually, there is a lot that worries me at the moment, the footfall everywhere seems like it’s down against previous years and this doesn’t seem to be surfacing in any consumer reports just yet. That’s said, these problems always drive innovation so whilst I see the high street struggling slightly at the moment businesses like Clogau look to other channels to market for growth. We have International, Travel retail, Web, TV shopping and a couple more and these are the channels that are performing positively at the moment.
9. How do you create magical moments for your customers / staff / business?
I was only watching a video online this morning of our retail Ops Manager being surprised by the Staff in the London Westfield store with an array of gifts. It made me think that the team spirit is definitely there and it’s strong. Sure, there are times when you’d like to see more of it but I think as a business Clogau has a great way supporting the team through company events, industry events and even through general contact – communication and general contact is crucial though for staff to feel loved. The same often applies to the customer too and achieving staff motivation is crucial if you want to deliver a positive customer experience. This is something we’ve learned through our own retail experience. The fact that we’re selling something emotional and with a story means that we need to get this right and we’re getting increasingly good at this.