Category Archives: MBA

Writing for pleasure

In the last 12 months I’ve spent more time writing than in the whole of the last 20 years combined, having started an MBA and also taken up journalling.

Buying a iPad really helped as it is not as intrusive as carry a laptop around, has made writing simply more accessible in everyday life, with programmes such as Evernote & Dropbox making it very simple to capture thoughts and ideas.

I thought this would lead to a lot more blog posts, but as I’ve written I realised that for me, writing is intrinsically private, it helps me think more clearly, process emotions and learn. Hence this very quiet blog.

There are also so many interesting writers and bloggers out there, that it has made me question why I would want to write publicly. The blogs I enjoy are those that challenge, introduce new ideas or are topical, these bloggers tend to write about subjects rather than themselves, although my favourite writers are those that combine the two. Even this post feels too introspective to me.

With my studies on retail, and my work in Christian bookselling, and I have quite a few opinions on a “trade in trouble”, but being fortunate to be working for one of the most professional and progressive companies in the sector, I don’t want give away the family jewels or come across as patronising, so I’m reluctant to blog in this area. The Christian retail trade need to engage with the harsh realities of retailing, and to win back the hearts and minds of the Church, and on it’s current course it is not going to do that.

So writing has become my new unexpected pleasure in life. I’m so pleased to have discovered it.

The scariest comment for booksellers that I have ever heard….

Last weekend I was attending my first study weekend for an MBA course that I have just started. In amongst the teaching, case studies and introductions was a session with the librarian, who took us through how to use the Stirling University Library facilities. Being a distance learning course, he focussed on how we could access the libraries online books, and with a throw away comment,  he added….

“As as University we buy nearly a million pounds worth of books, journals and reference works each year, and we try and and buy as few actual physical books as possible, we aim to get as many as we can as e-books”.

Most of the other students smiled and nodded, but I sat there as if the world had stopped around me and thought, “my world of bookselling has truly changed irrevocably”.

The implications of this quite logical step for the university are profound. Not only are they not buying physical books, which undermines the logistics of a viable booktrade, they are training a generation to read in ways which will change the face of bookselling. This e-learning generation will learn to default to ipads, kindles & netbooks as their preferred reading method. I’m not saying they won’t read physical books, and that won’t buy the physical books from bricks’n’mortar stores, but I believe that the nature of books and bookselling is changing more rapidly than we ever thought it would or could. As an aside, this is as scary for internet retailers as physical stores, because their primary purpose is to move actual rather than digital product.

As an avid user of the internet, I’ve always known, deep down, how this will change bookselling, but the starkness and reality hit me hard in that simple throwaway comment.

Bookstores will have to be simply exceptional to thrive, they will have to offer their customers an experience they enjoy so much, that they will choose to forgo the ease and price of online reading. This “being exceptional” will be different for different retailers, but will probably include a surprising breadth & depth of stock, being a specialist store, have deep community and customer relationships with loyalty schemes, a local distinctive, and a staff that are totally passionate about their store and the books they sell. These will be the basics, with other things like coffee, college bookstores, and new expressions of bookselling, having seen a really busy little bookshop in a market hall today,

and a mobile bookshop in my own town,  so I believe new types of bookshops will appear.

So what is important to the book trade now is “content” and “the customer”, because the rest of the book supply chain is imploding.

and yes, I will still be buying an ipad this week.

Back to school

After a real tough year in 2009, I’ve decided that I needed to take another approach to my work life. Having worked from the day I left school, started my own business, and worked my way up in other companies, I need, at this stage of life, to do something different.

So I’m going back to school. I’m going to do an MBA

It’s based at the University of Stirling and is the MBA in Retailing course.

I’m as excited about this course as it will be intellectually stimulating, fun & different to anything I’ve done before…. and a huge thanks and kudos to my new employers for supporting me in this.

It will take over 2 years, a shed load of time, commitment and hard work, and covers key areas.

• Managing the Strategic Environment

•Retail Management Context

• Managing Finance

• Managing the Supply Chain

• Managing People

• Retail Marketing

• Retail Buying and Merchandising

• Managing Change

So this weekend we have our first study weekend,

I can’t believe how much I am looking forward to this, a really great new chapter in my life.