Formerly at Julius Klein Group, Joel Klein has been the founder and CEO of Ritani.com since 2009. He is based in New York and lives in Brooklyn with his family.
Where did the idea for Ritani.com come from?
Diamonds have been in my family for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a family business that has become one of the largest diamond wholesalers in the world. So you can say, I grew up amongst diamonds.
I watched my friends getting engaged and asking all of these questions about diamonds. Over the past decade, online shopping has become more and more popular. The diamond industry has been known to be antiquated, and diamond buying can become incredibly confusing. Watching people I cared about going through this process was eye-opening, so I started Ritani.com to help folks just like them.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I am not only a CEO, but I have a family. It is important to remember that entrepreneurs have so many other things going on in their lives other than just business. Both time management and prioritization play a profound role in all of my days, and making the most out of my time is critical.
When it comes to Ritani, I run a very close-knit company. I don’t micromanage my team, but overseeing all of the moving parts helps me keep everyone on track to meet our goals.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I start with brainstorming. It sounds simple, because it is. I sit in a room and write ideas onto sticky notes. When an idea worth trying actually comes together, I just go for it. What is important to understand, however, is that it takes a team to bring ideas to life.
I am very grateful for the many partners we’ve had over the years. In particular, our suppliers, retailers and investors who believed in what we were trying to achieve even before the business was what it is today. If it weren’t for my family who taught me everything about the industry, I am not sure where I would be. It really does take a village!
What’s one trend that excites you?
My whole life revolves around the diamond industry. I began my journey in the midst of natural diamonds, and now the industry is seeing a surge in lab-grown diamonds. In fact, just the other day we offered one of our customers the opportunity to grow their own diamond based on what they were looking for. Regardless of what your opinion is on the current lab-grown trend, it is incredible to see how technology has shaped this industry.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I try to make sure I am focusing on one thing at a time. Many years ago, I started noticing myself trying to juggle 5 different tasks at once. So many little mistakes began accumulating – to the point where I was even dropping the ball on important relationships. It was then that I wrote myself a note that said “one thing at a time” and left it on my desk. Since then I have tried to keep my focus on one task at a time – devoting all of my attention to each action. I think it has helped me not only be more productive, but also be more effective and meaningful.
What advice would you give your younger self?
One lesson I have learned over the years is that sometimes just because something isn’t broken doesn’t mean you shouldn’t improve it. You hear people say all of the time – “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” Well, I just don’t believe that is always the case. There is always room for improvement.
When I was younger I was always afraid that when things were going well, if I were to change anything, I could upset the whole system. Now that I am older it makes a lot of sense that things change rapidly. As an entrepreneur, you have to constantly be reinventing yourself and trying new things or you will lose.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
In the diamond industry, I am constantly pushing transparency for the consumer. There’s no value in creating opacity in the market. Customers should fully understand the value of what they’re buying so they can make the right choices. The industry is not on board with this, but we think it’s important for the customer and so we did it – starting with our Diamond Pricing Transparency tool.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I have always done my homework when it comes to our competitors. Competitor Analysis keeps me and my team focused on what we need to do to improve. One of my favorite activities is to chart out what everyone else in the industry is doing, and learn how we can do it better.
Not only does doing this provide clarity for industry trends, but it allows us to make sure we are doing everything we can to always be improving our customer experience. At the end of the day, what matters most is that we are doing everything we can to make the shopping experience as seamless as possible.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Constantly being innovative and trying new things has helped us build our business to where it is today. Success in today’s business climate means being adaptive.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
The diamond industry has historically been operating in the same way for a long time. I thought that consumers would want to start shopping for diamonds online and so I decided to launch a website for that. I have made so many mistakes I have started losing count. But as you can imagine, going from selling to retailers to selling to customers directly has been a very educational journey. Many things need to be right to be successful online – my focus has always been to give our customers an incredible experience.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Become a custom jewelry design company and let us be your manufacturer. In addition to having our own brand, we love working with designers and supplying them with materials that are difficult to source (like diamonds).
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Our team recently sent one of our top gemologists to meet 1:1 with a customer in another state just so that we made sure they had a great experience with our company. Our customers mean everything to our business. I believe that regardless of your industry, keeping your customers at the top of every decision is key to long term success.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Our executive team uses Asana, a project management tool. Asana allows people to comment and collaborate on projects. It’s helpful for me so that I can stay in the loop on what’s going on with our team, and it allows for everyone to work together seamlessly.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is a good read for anyone in a growing business, regardless of their role. Having a product-focused mindset and being open to a process of constant experimentation and learning is crucial for bringing out innovative new ideas.
What is your favorite quote?
Alan Kay said something that resonates with me each and every day. “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” To be a part of shaping the future is a feat not many people can say they have done. I am constantly challenging my team to think of innovative new ways to help our customers shop for diamonds, and they have done it! Just this year we released two industry-first tools on our site: Transparent Diamond Pricing and Market Analysis Tool. Alan Kay’s quote couldn’t be more spot on.
- Going the extra mile for customers is essential.
- Trust your gut.
- Focus on your top 3 tasks every day.
- Trying new things is rewarding.
- Run ideas by your team and decide which ones are worth pursuing.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.