Case studies

Academy

Former delegates talk about their experiences and the benefits of attending the Oxford Summer School

Tom Rawlinson
Marks & Spencer, Commercial Manager

Since returning from the Academy I have completed all my objectives I set myself. I am currently in line for a promotion and the managerial skills I learnt will help me lead a team of commercial managers in my next role.

One of the key benefits for me was working with a varied group of retailers. It was fantastic to see how other retailers operate and how different functions within them work. I definitely developed skills I had prior to OSS through working with others and seeing how they did things. My two biggest learns were one about myself, the effect I have on others and what I can bring to a team. The second was about business, understanding the future of retail and how we much adapt to a changing multi-channel platform and customer expectations. OSS is about taking yourself out of your day-to-day comfort zone and I found out many things about myself.

I feel the lectures combined with group work was really helpful. I use the finance day as an example as we were taught the theory in the lecture theatre, then went and tried it as a team and then came back to the lecture to review making sure we took away all the important learns.

OSS differed greatly compared to other training in the retail industry. No other retail training that I have done would give you a week of complete focus on your personal development in a safe environment. It truly is unique!

I would strongly recommend any serious retailer to attend. You will be a better version of yourself as a result of doing it. If you miss out you will kick yourself when you meet others that have and seen how it has benefitted them. OSS is a unique opportunity to become a better version of yourself who is ready for the future. I am fortunate enough to have been invited back as a Group Director and see this as another opportunity to use and develop my managerial skills. I achieved the course objectives and definitely came away with a wealth of ideas that can be applied to the business I work in.

Vijay Chavda
Premier Convenience Stores

It was a fantastic week. One of the main things I will take back with me is the realisation that in retail, we all face the same issues. How to deal with these issues? That’s where the Summer school simply excelled. The speakers were inspirational; the challenge of the exercises forced you to think and act ‘in the now’. An aspect I appreciated was the quality of the delegates.

The background of each delegate was very eclectic as was their respective industries. Admittedly some points in the week were very challenging, but the quality of the individuals that I was fortunate to work with made the whole experience both revealing and enjoyable. The opportunity to attend and experience the Summer School was invaluable as my future lies in retail and the issues discussed will essentially be the same 20 or even 30 years down the line!

Frances Proctor
Fenwick, Toy Buyer

I had three main objectives for my time at OSS:

Team Development – to draw on the ideas and experiences of fellow delegates and guest speakers in order to motivate and empower my team
Profit Enhancement – identify new approaches and drivers to achieve this taking into consideration risk analysis
Self Management – to develop profile, assertiveness and influencing skills

I learned skills at OSS to accomplish my objectives and these have really benefited my development.

 For example, when I started on Toys we were experiencing some difficulties with a concession of ours. This was particularly challenging situation as we were in peak trade but we were not seeing the required results. I made the decision that we would need to terminate the contract and take the product selection in house. I had to employ decisiveness and confidence in my ability which were skills developed at OSS to respond to this situation.

It was great to be able to interact with those from different retailers and to learn about different workplaces and the initiatives in place there. It was refreshing to hear about other people’s frustrations within their work environment but also positive learns that I could take on board and implement myself day to day.

There were a number of practices and learns that I try to remind myself of on a regular basis and have really helped me:

  • Success is a decision to commit
  • I have the tools to achieve – it is the process of how I implement them
  • Don’t lose sight of the original objective
  • Consider KPI’s on a monthly basis – know the position of your business
  • Calculated risks make the difference
  • Play to your strengths, however, do not ignore that your ability has no boundaries

Colleagues that had attended OSS told me it would be challenging and rewarding. This is a 100% true, however, the overall experience was much more fulfilling than I could have imagined. I was also fortunate to make some great acquaintances who I have stayed in touch with following OSS.

OSS highlighted to me that anything is possible if you put your mind to it. You have the tools and it is up to you how you decide to employ them in your self-development and career progression. After completing OSS I was promoted to buying toys which involved larger buying decisions. I have also made more calculated risks in my buying decisions which include FOB buying and exclusive negotiation.

If I was to speak to someone who was hesitant about attending I'd say not to be hesitant at all and be open minded to the experience. You will be challenged at times even pushed out of your comfort zone but it is an opportunity for self-discovery and empowerment which you will find puts you in a better position when you return to the workplace and even changes your overall attitude and outlook to approaching day to day tasks within your job.

Summing up my experience of OSS I'd agree it is a challenging and exhilarating week which will lead you on a journey of self-discovery and empowerment.


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