Here’s an interesting concept: let’s all slow down to build relationships, by speeding up the pace of communication. This doesn’t make sense to you? Well, it didn’t for me either, that is, until I met Matt Lauzon, the CEO of Gemvara, the fastest growing online jewelry store in the world.
Sept 17 @saelenghose I signed up for Twitter today so I could follow Matt Lauzon and see why he uses it religiously.
Lauzon is a bit too young to be a dinosaur, but that’s exactly what he is. By using modern forms of communication—social networking, more specifically Twitter—he is bringing back some of the core values we seem to have lost in this me-centered, steroid-amped, “bigger is better” world. In fact, Lauzon cares so much about connecting with actual human beings that he’s encouraged, no, rather demanded, that each of his “Gemvarians” get on board with his list of Core Values. And top on that list: build meaningful relationships with everyone you touch. At this point it’s clear he’s not your typical CEO of a multi-million dollar company—more like a CRO: Chief Relationships Officer.
Sept 18 @saelenghose I learned something new on Twitter. RT stands for Re-Tweet: giving credit to the person who said it first.
“Is this guy for real?” I ask myself, not in a sarcastic or condescending way, but more of “I’m blown away” type of way. But here he is, quietly, but energetically explaining who he is and how he runs his company. Actually he doesn’t need to explain either because they are one and the same. Matt Lauzon is Gemvara. And Gemvara is Matt Lauzon. He’s building a brand where there are no boundaries. “There used to be a personal life brand and a business brand,” says Lauzon. “Some CEOs aren’t comfortable with this approach. A lot of people say I’m giving away too much by showing what I’m going to launch. But our fundamental belief is that we are going to be authentic and transparent and that’s a way to build credibility in a relationship.” I joke, “Really what you are selling is trust, not jewelry.” Lauzon stares at me, and then jumps up to write it down. I don’t realize it at that moment, but this is my first Re-Tweet.
Sept 16 @saelenghose RT @mattlauzon Funny how as a kid you dread hanging with your parents but as you get older you look forward to it.
Matt Lauzon is much younger than I am. Or rather, I am much older than Matt Lauzon, so when I discover his Tweet late one night about his parents, my heart warms. As a parent of three children myself, I can only dream that my kids will be announcing to the world their connection to me in some futuristic social networking fashion as Lauzon Tweets about his parents now. “My heart warms” is an understatement, more like my eyes moisten, and I have a strong urge to wake my kids and hug them.
Sept 13 RT @mattlauzon Enroute back to Boston. Committed to staying connected with different offices. Constant communication is so important.
Gemvara is not just an online jewelry destination; it is a family of people committed to building relationships, which includes the people employed by Gemvara, the new customers that consider Gemvara their jeweler, and the many followers on Twitter and other social networking sites that just want to be be part of something different, something moving, something groundbreaking—a throwback, if you will, to a time when people did business face-to-face.
The beginnings of Gemvara (www.gemvara.com) actually began with Paragon Lake, Lauzon’s first company which he co-founded while still an undergraduate at Babson. “I was fascinated by mass customization and ecommerce, so I started the company with a friend. We saw how disconnected it seemed that people couldn’t get exactly the jewelry they wanted.” So Paragon Lake filled this void by using web-based technology giving customers the ability to create their own personalized jewelry. “We launched in 50 jewelry stores. Our initial plan was to connect stores and online business. But what we realized is that you had to work directly with customers to build relationships. It was hard to work through local jewelers because they had their own way of doing things.” Born from that realization was Gemvara.
Lauzon launched Gemvara in March of 2010. Since then the business has grown exponentially to the point where Lauzon needed a bigger space to run his operations. In the last few months he has moved his company from its incubator space in Lexington to its current location in the heart of the financial district in Boston.
So I ask him, “Let’s say I wanted to buy my wife a ring. Take me through the steps.” I wasn’t actually in the market for a ring, but after sitting with Lauzon and listening to him speak about his company I’m almost ready to break out my wallet and become a customer. He tells me that I could pretty much create any piece I want, choosing from the many choices of gems, precious metals, and accessories. Their rendering technology allows customers to virtually create the piece of their dreams. After the customer is satisfied with his or her creation, Gemvara uses several manufacturers right here in the USA to make the jewelry. By not housing inventory, Gemvara is able to pass along savings to customers.
Sept 20 @saelenghose If jewelry equals relationships and relationships equal Gemvara then it would only follow that jewelry equals Gemvara.
While Lauzon is explaining his company to me he suddenly jumps up to draw a graph. I smile to myself. He definitely is authentic. Lauzon draws while explaining how people make decisions about purchasing products. “Initially, the decision comes from an emotional place. ‘I want to surprise my wife with a gift.’ Then it moves to a more rational place. ‘Is this good quality? Am I getting a deal? What’s the return policy?’ Then it moves back to an emotional place. ‘Is this the best gift I can get her?’ He continues. “Most companies spend 95% of their time and resources on the rational part of the decision. But we’re about building relationships, so we focus on the emotional. We spend a lot of time talking to customers on the phone, email, or live chat, about things that have nothing to do with jewelry.”
It’s clear that Lauzon is sincere. Every time we talk about the nuts and bolts of his company the conversation reverts back to building relationships. At one point while discussing why he uses Twitter to stay connected to people he pulls out his phone. “For example, my mom knows what’s going on with me. She reads my Tweets.” As he tries to explain what he means, he pauses and says, “It’s so, um….” He pauses again, mind churning. “That would be funny. We should get my mom on the phone and have her describe how Twitter works for her. She would be so excited. Or would that be a weird thing to do?” I stare at him and think, “A loyal and loving son. If he’s not careful I’m going to hug him too.”
Sept 22 @saelenghose If you have no idea what Twitter is, join, just to follow @Matt Lauzon #Gemvara (# marks a keyword in a Tweet.)
As I wrap up our interview I ask him what’s in store for the future. He talks about doing another “Pay it Forward” event like the one he organized on a lark with friends in June of 2011, called Ruby Riot. (“Pay it forward” being when you don’t repay the person who did something nice for you. Instead, you do something nice for someone else.) Lauzon and some friends organized this event hoping people from all walks of life would come. “We just asked that everyone commit to doing at least one good thing for someone else. And over 900 people showed up. There were so many people, a second location opened up for the people waiting in line. I’d like to do more stuff like Ruby Riot. I’m passionate around the Innovation District, and the startup scene here in the Boston area. I’m trying to facilitate more people being successful here.”
And so it comes back to building relationships. Lauzon and Gemvara are the same, intertwined by a united goal of building a community, a family. This is easy for Lauzon because it’s his life, his job. CRO: Chief Relationships Officer.
Sept 24 @saelenghose I’m a believer. #Gemvara