It’s hard to decide whether passion or work ethic takes the lead in determining the success of a small business, but there’s no doubt that Jim Woodard has both. At 16 he discovered his passion for jewelry after experiencing the day-to-day grind of working in a grocery store, at a gas station and on a farm. But it is his unquestionable attention to detail that impresses his customers and his community. Jim’s commitment to building a business on “old fashioned principals” has produced fantastic results for him and has given his community a jeweler worthy of their trust.
Citing the positives of the jewelry business, including, “you stay warm during the winter, dress up in nice clothes and work with the nicest people around,” Jim Woodard decided at 16 to make jewelry his career. Teaming up with a local, family-owned jewelry store in high school gave him the foundation he needed to move into an ownership role after college.
“I worked for the same family for 17 years; all the way through high school and college before deciding to buy one of their stores in 1991,” recalls Jim.
Since jumping into jewelry store ownership, Jim has made the most of his business in the small Tennessee town of Tullahoma. Known for the largest wind tunnel testing facility in the country and the Bonnaroo Music Festival, the population of this small town is only 20,000, but Tullahoma is the center hub for four other surrounding cities within a 15 mile radius, making Woodard’s Diamond Showroom a destination business.
“We have regional shopping and hospitals and businesses that make Tullahoma the place to come for more variety and choice,” says Jim. “At Woodard’s we offer our customers a diamond and jewelry showroom that would easily serve larger cities.”
Now in his 38th year in the industry, Jim proudly opens up about what has, and continues to make his business successful, starting with his talented team. Understanding that people can buy jewelry anyplace, including the Internet, television and the local gas station, Jim knew it would be people who set his business apart. Seeking out employees with a genuine desire to help and serve people was a foundational element in staff selection. Embodying a true Southern personality, complete with Southern charm, was also a plus.
Inventory that is large and unique is also critical to Woodard’s appeal. With variation in style ranging from classic to contemporary, Woodard’s cites the largest inventory selection in the southern, middle TN area. With continued reinvestment back into inventory product and merchandising display, Woodard’s is constantly adding new lines and remodeling their displays to continue to meet their customers’ needs.
Location, location, location... many claim this is the most important factor. Jim believes it has definitely played a part in his continued growth. “We have been in the same mall for 25 years and there is no doubt this has set us apart. We offer our customers a familiarity and comfort they can’t get anywhere else and they know we’ll be here for years to come.”
Jim’s been in the same mall for so long that he decided to gather a group of businessmen and purchase it. Venturing into the commercial real estate market wasn’t risk-free, but it was another way for him to invest in his community.
Investing in his community is a cornerstone of his business and personal philosophy. Jim holds numerous leadership titles from participating in his local Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club and civic clubs, as well as numerous non-profits. He also hosts a monthly business roundtable meeting that helps local business leaders and is actively involved in his church.
But it is his continual drive to watch, read and study the trade that keeps this small-town jeweler ahead of the curve.
“I believe you have to read industry publications like SJN and Instore, as well as join your local state associations to understand what’s happening in your industry,” says Jim. “Joining buying groups and attending shows is another critical factor. These allow you access to the best brains in the business so you are able to pick up on what they are doing and what you can do better. A great store experience can’t be defined as one specific thing. It is the whole experience; from the greeting at the door all the way through the follow-up thank you cards.”
As long as Jim is at the helm of Woodard’s Diamond Showroom you can expect continued advancement, fresh merchandise and friendly personnel to greet you when you walk through doors. Jim plans to build on, and invest more in technology, including laser welders and social media.
For the newbies just entering the business, take it from a pro: “Find role models and mentors like Bobby Wilkerson, Shane Decker and Brad Huisken and let them introduce you to people and coach you in the best ways to do business in this industry. Take calculated risks, but be prepared to work. This is not an easy business. It is not for the timid.”