Inside Business – David Nygaard

No. 7: David Nygaard Fine Jewelers
A golden opportunity for at least one employee

Janet Dunphy
Inside Business – Hampton Roads
Monday July 11, 2005

Ana Nickell says she has become a better person since she started working for David Nygaard Fine Jewelers almost two years ago. In fact, she gets all choked up with tears when she talks about Nygaard.

Nickell worked for one of Nygaard’s competitors for 10 years. She quit and went to work as a telemarketer for half the pay, but was lured back into the jewelry business after Nygaard ran an ad looking for help.

She was embarrassed to use her out-of-date resume, so Nickell sent a hand-written note to Nygaard instead and he invited her to interview.

“After 10 minutes, I thought he was awesome,” Nickell said. “He has not let me down.”

Even Nickell’s husband has noticed a change. “He says I’m a better listener and I’ve become more caring,” said Nickell.

Nygaard looks at his employees a little differently than most bosses. To start, he believes that people, including customers, bear the “image deo,” or image of God.

“Every person is created in a way that is unique,” said Nygaard, who grew up in Kempsville. “There’s beauty and diversity in that image. Everyone has strengths they bring to the table. People are not necessarily interchangeable.”

His business is steadily growing. David Nygaard Fine Jewelers opened at Town Center in Virginia Beach about a month ago and a Newport News store will debut at the new Jefferson Commons Shopping Center in September. Other locations are Hilltop and Red Mill Commons in Virginia Beach and Greenbrier in Chesapeake. There are 21 full-time employees now and five more will be added at the fifth store.

The average starting salary is $25,000 to $30,000 for a sales position. The average compensation is $41,200. Nygard also offers group disability and long-term care policies with life insurance to his employees.

Other benefits include a clothing allowance of about $200 and free dry cleaning at Christmas time and free massages as a bonus. Managers get a $300 monthly automobile allowance because they are required to travel to other stores and respond to alarm calls in the middle of the night.

Besides holiday and birthday parties, Nygaard takes the staff members to trade shows and invites them to his home.

Nygaard’s goal is for his employees to learn and grow. He pays for educational and training opportunities and does not require employees to sign a noncompete clause because he thinks it would be immoral to hinder someone from providing for their family.

“I want to help people become more marketable and more employable,” said Nygaard. “It’s an issue of stewardship, not just using people or burning them up and sending them on their way.”

As a result, the stores are closed on Sundays. Nygaard said it is for religious and business reasons, the latter because it saves some operating expenses.

“I think everyone deserves a day of rest. We’re able to use that to recruit better-qualified people,” he explained. “I think it gives us a competitive advantage.”

In an effort to keep the lines of communication open, Nygaard instituted the “415 report.” This a weekly summary prepared by individuals staff members that should take no more than 15 minutes and is due via e-mail at 4 p.m. each Friday. It is supposed to detail problems, solutions, kudos and suggestions.

“I wanted to make sure I knew what was going on at the grassroots level,” said Nygaard.

Flexible scheduling to accommodate family needs is not a problem with Nygaard. The schedule can be changed and the hours made up at a later time. Nygaard’s wife, who home-schools the couple’s six children, has even cared for the children of employees in emergency situations.

Character issues are key when Nygaard is considering a potential employee. “I ask them what the best and worst things are that has ever happened to them,” he said. “How we overcome challenges makes a difference.”

– Janet Dunphy

Company description:

Diamonds and fine jewelry gifts at retail prices.

Addresses: 1635 Laskin Rd., Virginia Beach 24351; 2133 Upton Dr., Virginia Beach 23456; 296 Constitution Dr., Ste. 201, Virginia Beach 23462; 1412 Greenbrier Parkway, Chesapeake 23320.

Phone: 491-0222

Web site:

Top local executive: David Nygaard, president.

Number of local employees: 21 full-time, 3 part-time, 12 seasonal.

Top three benefits:
1. All employees get a group disability policy along with a new group long-term care policy with life insurance.

2. There is a clothing allowance for December holidays as well as an automobile allowance of $300 for managers.

3. Personal jewelry purchases are available at cost plus 10 percent. There are incentive programs for free jewelry and complimentary watches for employees and their spouses.

Fun factor: There are staff retreats to such places as New York City for industry trade shows. Birthday parties, seasonal celebrations and picnics are part of the company culture.

Community service: The company routinely purchases tables at major charity functions in the area, and employees are included at the event. The policy is to give to any legitimate charity that approaches the business as long as it doesn’t conflict with the company’s core values. The main charities are the American Heart Association and Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters.

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