Interview by Kelsey Meyer of The League of Innovators
This Interview was made possible by our friends at
The Bank of Missouri.
Michael Mills Menser Jr. is an experienced entrepreneur at the young age of twenty-seven. His experience includes being the President/Owner of Menser & Company, Inc., Diamond Banc, Diamond Banc 2 in Jefferson City, as well as being a partner in Uptown Entertainment, the parent company of local Columbia bar “On the Rocks”, and owning three downtown apartment units.
Menser & Company is the parent company of Buchroeder’s Jewelers. Mills purchased Menser & Company from his father in 2007. Buchroeder’s Jewelers has been in business since 1896 and is the oldest retailer in Boone County. As Mid-Missouri’s largest diamond supplier, Buchroeder’s focuses mainly on diamonds and bridal diamond jewelry. The store was named the best place to find a ring in 2011 by Inside Columbia Magazine, and Menser was runner-up for the Columbia Business Times Entrepreneur of the Year in 2009. Mills most recent praise comes from VOX Magazine naming him one of the 30 under 30 for his success as an entrepreneur.
Buchroeder’s Fine Jewelers is frequently praised for excellence in customer service. What do you do differently?
There are a lot of things that we do differently actually. I would say first and foremost we err on the side of generosity for our customers. So many companies look for the least they can do to get by, and I have found that if you give a little extra or go the extra mile, it pays itself back a hundred fold. We look to how can we say yes. We have no rigid corporate structures or reasons to get in the way of our client’s happiness. We do whatever it takes. If a customer is having trouble being financed, they can’t get approved, sometimes we will carry them in-store. If we need to deliver a package in another city, regardless of the value, we’ll do that. There’s nothing we won’t do. I would say our customer service motto is just erring on the side of generosity for our clients and showing them our appreciation for their purchase.
As runner up for Entrepreneur of the Year in 2009 from Columbia Business Times, and being named one of Vox’s 30 under 30 you are obviously doing something right. What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
I would say that one of the most important ingredients is to constantly be learning, and always rethink your business model. The first thing I do when I walk into my company every day is look around and see what are we not doing, what are things we can improve upon. So you should be committed to constant improvement, and then outwork and outsmart the competition. I would say being committed to constant improvement and having a ferocious work ethic and commitment to excellence will get you far.
Why do you believe it is important to have a good relationship with your bank?
Having a good relationship with your bank is paramount to success, absolutely paramount. Obviously, capital is one of the biggest resources that any company needs. It’s like blood or oxygen to the human body, to a company, so that’s very important. The beauty with like the Bank of Missouri, for example, is that its customer service is aligned with ours, where there are no corporate policies. They are malleable and flexible, and they are able to get done whatever we need. If I pick up the phone and call them, I know it’s going to get done, and I don’t have to wait to hear back for two or three days for a mundane request. Having that partnership is crucial in everything, because business is always evolving and changing, and you need a bank that can evolve and change as rapidly as the pace of business. That’s a strength that the Bank of Missouri has that few others have.
What have you done to improve Buchroeder’s while still maintaining the tradition of the company?
We’ve done a lot of change and improvement. Much like the other retail sectors, the jewelry industry has really changed. The traditional jewelry model that so many stores follow is that they have a little bit of every product. If someone wants an engagement ring, they have one or two cases. If they want watches, they have one or two cases. But I’m of the opinion now that clients really want category killers. Much like if you want a TV and you go to Best Buy and you see 500 TVs. So we’ve kind of adapted that same model, and we have geared about 80% of our business to bridal and diamonds, for example diamond engagement rings, wedding bands, and diamond earrings.
We have about six to eight times the selection of anywhere in mid-Missouri, millions of dollars worth of inventory. We’ve kind of chosen the hedgehog business concept of do one thing and do it very, very well. We can still get any product for someone. We are a full range jewelry store, but we have an emphasis on diamonds and diamond engagement rings. By doing that, I think that’s allowed us to continue to grow, because everyone knows that that’s what we’re known for. So I would say that’s one significant way we’ve changed the business model.
The store has undergone two renovations, and we’re about to do a third strictly just to do more and more bridal focus. So I would say that, and then being very flexible with our clients. As I’ve repeated already in this interview, the key is customer satisfaction or exceeding their expectations, because that’s so much better than traditional marketing. That’s going to bring so many more people back in. We pamper our customers and have a huge selection and then strive to be better. We also strive to have as close to a wholesale pricing structure at a retail experience, which is very difficult. Generally, you either have a retail experience and the prices associated, or wholesale or very inexpensive pricing and the experience associated with that. So our goal is to blend the two together, and so far it’s worked out very well.
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