Editor’s Note: In this new column we will introduce people at the helm of various businesses within the antiques and collectibles marketplace. Whereas our Knowing Your Business column focuses more on the history and operation of specific businesses and their respective markets, this column is about getting to know the people influencing and championing the collecting community of today. The first entrepreneur in the spotlight is Bob Ellis, owner of Bavarian Clockworks (www.bavarianclockworks.com).
Antique Trader: How did you get started in the Bavarian clock business? (How many years, any special training?)
Bob Ellis: I’ve been an entrepreneur and small business owner for over 30 years. Running businesses and managing teams is a passion of mine. Before getting into e-commerce and antiques, I owned a financial services practice. I sold the company because I wanted a new challenge and a fresh start. Before that, I owned and operated restaurants.
I’ve been involved in a variety of different businesses and industries over the years. However, the one thing that has remained constant is my passion for creating something new and delivering top notch customer service. No matter what company you run, being honest and sincere with your customers is imperative.
Influence and Direction
AT: Please tell us about someone or some event that has inspired you along your path of entrepreneurship?
BE: I have a lifelong friend who owns a chain of very successful businesses that he started from next to nothing. His customers seem to love him and his employees, and he has always done very well for himself. He has been a great inspiration to me for many years and I have found his approach to be effective for us too.
I once asked him what he attributed his success to. He responded by saying that he has always focused on the wants and needs of his customers first and manages costs as a secondary measure. He says deliver value with a smile on your face and the customers will keep coming back. Seeing his genuine approach to delivering value has inspired me to do the same. That approach is very simple but usually overlooked.
Inspiring Next Generation Collectors
AT: What is one specific thing you are doing to encourage interest in collecting?
BE: I try to convey to our customers the long term value in collecting. When you purchase an antique it appreciates in value. There aren’t many other products you can buy, use, and see it become more valuable over time.
I also educate people that call in or send us email inquiries about the historical significance of our clocks and how they are made by hand. I respond to their messages and also write informational articles on our blog. Even if a person decides not to buy a cuckoo clock, I try to recommend a few other online antique stores.
In my experience the interest of a lot of customer's is in buying something rich in culture, something that you can’t find in big box stores. They just aren’t sure how to go about doing so and how to research the quality of an antique. Customer education is key.
AT: What is one thing you’d tell your ‘early entrepreneur’ self if you had the chance to share a bit of wisdom you’ve gained?
BE: I’d tell my younger self to continue to evolve and seek out learning opportunities. Your education never ends. I think that’s important for everyone, especially business owners. It’s easy to get tunnel vision and become accustom to doing things a certain way. You need to continuously expand your knowledge and skill set in order to be able to adapt to change.
There are so many free tools and resources available online. Regardless of the type of work you are doing, there is no excuse not take advantage of these. Entrepreneurship is full of risk and uncertainty, and the one thing that is a guarantee is things change over time. You should be malleable if you want to stay relevant in your career.
Benefits of Club Membership
AT: How has being a member of the National Association of Watch & Clock Collectors helped you?
BE: It provides our company with a level of credibility, helping us earn customer trust. The NAWCC is the largest organization in the world with a direct focus on horology. It includes over 14,000 members across more than 50 different countries.
The other benefit of being a member of the NAWCC is having the opportunity to network with other companies. Not to mention individuals in our industry. There is a convention every year as well as other events, which are great opportunities to meet collectors and help preserve the art, culture and history associated with timekeeping.
AT: What services does your business offer in addition to the sale of new Bavarian clocks?
BE: We focus exclusively on selling German cuckoo clocks. Our goal is to be the leader in our niche. I’d rather be excellent at one or two things rather than spread ourselves thin. However, we do have a network of clock repair shops throughout the world that we are able to refer our customers to in case their clock needs maintenance or fixing.