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Change: ways to add momentum
on 16 July 2013
Part 2 (part 1 below)
One person cannot be the sole catalyst for change. Great ideas can come from anywhere. You have to trust your team.
These thoughts on leading change from Richard Gerver, formerly a star head teacher and now a travelling speaker, form a cornerstone of Change, his exciting new book published by Penguin.
Gerver is a maverick and most independent retailers will warm to him immediately from the pacey prologue. Change is a short book. It is beautifully presented and filled with ideas that will encourage you to live your dreams and to connect to other people.
"We have all got to stop assuming we live in unique little silos that nobody else could possibly understand," says Gerver.
He recommends that you take time out from your shop to explore the world and learn half-a-day at a time from other people's experiences. His book is not about self-help nor is it a management book. What Change does do is give readers ideas on how their ideas about developing their businesses (and lives) are worthwhile.
As a head master of a small school, Gerver had to manage everything himself. People used to bring him problems and feel they had done their job leaving him to solve them. What he found was that his real role was to refuse to be responsible for everything. The more risk he took in empowering the people who worked for him, the better results they achieved together.
His book is packed full of interesting stories followed by questions and suggestions about what readers might want to do next. At one level, readers can substitute shop staff for teachers and customers for schoolchildren. This works powerfully.
"Kids, like customers, are not stupid. You ignore them at your peril," says Gerver. "They don't like being passed off with something that you, yourself don't particularly care about."
Teachers used to do things because they were told by people at the top that they were safe things to do. The children saw through this and did not respond. What we had to do was change the focus and say we're not here for the government but for the children, says Gerver. So we built the school for the children, to make it as exciting as Disneyland, so they were queuing up every morning to come to school.
Similarly with your customers: Gerver encourages you to trust your instincts and to do what you think is right. While he respects rules, he also believes in adapting them if they don't work.
Change is "not a how-to manual that says if you do this, this will happen. What I want is to actuate open-ended questions and to sit back and watch the power that leads to dramatic transformation", he says.
Gerver's book is about an outlook on life that will suit the sensibilities of many independent business people. He observes that "knowledge that is not passed through the heart is dangerous." If you like this idea, you will like his book. Reading it will challenge and encourage you to be a lot braver about making your own decisions, about delegating and about listening to your customers.
Part 1 (main review is above)
The most memorable idea in John Stanley's keynote presentation at the Local Shop Summit was that the world of retailing will change more in the next five years than it has in the past 100.
As a result, local shopkeepers were going to have to change their thinking, embracing things like using social media to establish themselves as "day makers" for their local communities.
The usual suspects heard his message and their positive feedback energised the team who put together the event. But what of the other retailers there: what were they thinking? I don't know but I will have a stab at it.
One of the first retailers I met more than 20 years ago when I started to cover this industry ran a small local shop and was passionate about his customers and what he sold. In the town where he operated, his shop had a reputation as the place to go for hobby magazines and collectables. His passion for news and for stocking the latest stuff translated into a successful business.
However, as the industry changed and as shoppers changed he refused to change the way he operated. So enlightened in terms of understanding what shoppers wanted, this man was openly dismissive of investing in EPOS. His business horizons were limited by the size of his shop, which was small.
But he was a driven man and he had a cause, which remains a just cause. He wanted newspaper publishers, in particular, to return terms to 26.5% which had been the case in the 1980s when his business was doing well.
His tragedy was that as shopping habits changed and as more competition arrived and as the ubiquity of his offer diminished he was left selling commodities in a shop with no advantages of scale.
For him, change was a negative. As the world changed, he would think fondly of the past. Collectively with retailers like him, he hoped they could agitate for special protection from the market. This strategy has still not delivered. It was not a wrong cause. The mistake was, however, not to embrace change.
My next column will be about how to embrace change, with an interview with Richard Gerver, who has written a remarkable book on the subject of Change.
Gerver made his name working in education as the national curriculum was introduced and as a generation of teachers abandoned the profession because of change. His personal stories will appeal to the maverick soul that every good independent possesses. When you read about his staff and his pupils, think about your staff and your customers and the power of the book will be clear.
And think on his words: "At what point did we start to wish that Christmas was just like it used to be, for television programmes that crackled and in black and white?"
Nostalgia for a lost past is not the path, he says. Change is part of our lives and his book explains how you can thrive in a world of change.