Here’s a little trick I use: When I’m having a conversation with someone I think I can learn from, I typically let him or her do most of the talking. I ask a few key questions, then I sit back, listen carefully, and take mental notes.
Kyle Cook is the vice president of Diamond Banc, a high-end lending and purchasing firm that educates its customers on the liquidity options for their jewelry.
Diamond Banc offers two primary services to the general public and retail jewelry industry. First, it purchases unwanted diamonds, gold, and fine jewelry. Second, it offers short-term loans using these items as collateral. Diamond Banc is operated in an upscale and professional environment, giving those with fine jewelry items unmatched access to liquidity.
Cook found his place in the jewelry industry by working part-time for Buchroeders as a teenager. Shortly after graduating cum laude from Columbia College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Cook accepted a full-time position with the company. Since then, he has transitioned into the vice president role at Diamond Banc, which is owned by Buchroeders.
In his personal time, Cook is an avid golfer who loves spending time with family and close friends. He is married to his high school sweetheart, and they have a young son and two dogs.
Where did the idea for Diamond Banc come from?
Having roots in the retail jewelry business, we knew there were a lot of companies that sold jewelry. However, there were virtually no well-funded, professional jewelry buyers with the knowledge to take every value-adding factor into consideration when purchasing diamonds and fine jewelry. Outlets such as pawnshops often don’t have the expertise to evaluate a diamond’s true value, and as a result, these establishments typically undervalue diamonds. We, however, have the skill set to accurately evaluate every diamond we encounter.
For example, about a month ago, we purchased a 1.26-carat round diamond of D color and internally flawless clarity — a near-perfect diamond. We paid $27,000 for it. Then, a few days later, we bought a 1.30-carat round diamond of K color and I2 clarity (more commercial quality), and we paid $850 for it. To the untrained eye, these two diamonds might look similar, but obviously, the value between the two is dramatically different!
We derived the name Diamond Banc from the fact that we operate with the same level of professionalism, confidentiality, and customer service as a traditional bank. Our lending division, which is now a major component of the business, was developed for customers who need access to funds but don’t want to part with their prized jewelry. So we began offering asset-based loans secured solely by the value of customers’ diamonds and jewelry.
What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?
I spend 95 percent of my workday serving and communicating with current and potential clients. This can include anything from responding to online email submissions to speaking with clients about the logistics of their transactions to assisting them with selling or obtaining loans on their jewelry assets. The other 5 percent of my day is spent thinking about ways to improve our customers’ experience by making sure we’re providing the funds they need in the simplest, fastest way.
To stay productive, I prioritize my to-do list by completing all money-generating activities first. After all, without those, nothing else on the list can afford to be done.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring ideas to life by being persistent, following up on everything, and never taking “no” for an answer.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
The overwhelming acceptance and appreciation for asset-based lending really excites me. It’s finally being recognized as a smart solution to raising capital and quickly getting individuals the funds they need. There are so many hoops you have to jump through to get a loan with a traditional bank, and people are beginning to realize that they can leverage the assets they already own and get the same funds.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I always look at the business through the customers’ eyes to figure out ways to improve operations and enhance the overall customer experience.
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
I used to do bodywork for my family’s collision repair center. It was a physically demanding job that often left me bloody and bruised. I knew it wasn’t the type of work I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
Ultimately, that job made me realize two important things. First of all, it showed me that I needed to pursue a new career doing something I was passionate about. Secondly, I learned that just working hard wasn’t enough. I also had to work smart to get where I wanted to be.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
If I could do anything differently, I would pay more attention to fully developing our website sooner. Early on in the business, the website functioned primarily as a contact and information page for local customers. We didn’t see the full potential of expanding our reach to the national level yet.
Over the past several years, we’ve completely overhauled the website and literally started from scratch with a national client base in mind, as well as user-friendly functionality. Loan clients can now access and manage their loan accounts through the website from anywhere! We are now reaching customers from all over the U.S., and as a result, business has more than doubled since the website re-launch.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I’m constantly trying to learn, whether it’s something related to my industry or something I can apply to my business. I take every opportunity to listen and learn from other successful people. Here’s a little trick I use: When I’m having a conversation with someone I think I can learn from, I typically let him or her do most of the talking. I ask a few key questions, then I sit back, listen carefully, and take mental notes.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Diamond Banc’s success circles back to securing necessary capital. Cash flow is extremely important in this business. Since we’re constantly buying and making loans on expensive diamonds, we have to make sure that funds are never an issue. After all, it’s not uncommon for us to have $150,000 tied up in one or two diamonds at any given time.
What’s one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
In the early years, we relied too heavily on third-party companies for our marketing efforts — especially online. We made the mistake of being too detached from the process, so we really didn’t know what it took to be successful online. As a result, we wasted a small fortune paying companies for poor results. We overcame this by bringing all online efforts in house and taking a much more hands-on approach.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Since I had a child not long ago, I think someone needs to make children’s clothing that adjusts in size as the child grows. It seems like my wife and I constantly have to buy new clothes for my son because he grows out of them so fast!
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
According to Ancestry.com, I’m related to American folk hero and pioneer Daniel Boone.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
We use WordPress, and we love it because it’s simple and effective. Through it, we’ve been able to add important features to our website. For example, we now have instant chat, which allows me to speak directly with potential customers and answer any questions they may have in real time. We also use it to stay in contact with potential customers through our customized lead follow-up system. And as I mentioned earlier, loan clients can manage their accounts through the website.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Everyone should read “Good to Great” by Jim Collins. Not only is it a great read, but it also offers a lot of great business advice. For example, one of my favorite concepts from the book is what the author calls the “Hedgehog Concept.” It’s a process in which you identify the core of your business (what the business does best) by examining your strengths and your weaknesses. Then, he suggests that you narrow your focus, goals, and strategies toward that core concept that your business does better than anyone else.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
Martin Rapaport )
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.