Foundation Chair and Vice in the spotlight

Published by Matthew Deaves on Thursday, 12 Jun 2014

Leading the third Oxford Summer School (OSS) Foundation at St Catherine’s College (affectionately known as St Catz) in Oxford from Monday 28 July to Friday 1 August 2014 will be new chairman Kim Kimber, Group Training Manager at Morleys Stores and vice chairman David Ramcharran, Head of Retail Operations for Historic Royal Palaces. Their function, in these voluntary roles, is to contribute to the development and delivery of the work programme alongside the Programme Director, to prepare and lead the team of Group Directors (GDs) who facilitate the learning groups and to host the school. 

We spoke to Kim and David as they prepared for the 2014 Foundation. Kim‘s OSS history dates back to 2006 when she attended as a delegate, returning as a GD 2007- 2011 before becoming vice chair at the first OSS Foundation. This is Kim’s first year as chairman. David was a summer school delegate in 1999, and since then has supported the school as a GD and by sending delegates. This is David’s first year as vice-chairman.

Q: Many OSS delegates have described their experience as ‘inspiring’- who or what has inspired you?

Kim: As a delegate at the Academy school, I heard Kim Winser, at that time CEO of Aquascutum, speak about balancing a family with a career. Up to then, I felt I had to choose between them. From that moment, I found a way to make both equally important. The opportunity to hear from speakers like Kim gave me the confidence to believe anything is possible if you have the right determination, passion and support.

David: I remember Dominic Prendergast (now MD of OSS Ltd) talking about
challenges - it’s the way you deal with challenges, turning them into opportunities, that makes you a leader. That was a key lesson for me. Attending the OSS very early on in my career gave me the solid building blocks to develop and choose which way I wanted to shape my career. I now have my dream job!

Q: How does your organisation benefit from sending delegates to OSS?

KK: Our delegates come back to work with new energy and ideas. We often notice an increase in sales as they use their new skills and confidence to drive their team and their department. The knowledge they bring back is shared so everyone in the team benefits from it. In my experience, the OSS delegates have a greater loyalty to the business: all
the Morleys’ delegates from the last seven years are still working for us! They have all improved in their role, taken on extra responsibilities, or been promoted.

DR: Our delegates come back with greater confidence and competence. We see results right away as they put their learning into practice, and long term we see sales growth and more creative thinking.

Q: How does OSS benefit independent retailers?

KK: Networking with other businesses is a great opportunity. Often Indies don’t
have the resources that big businesses have, so to tap into that knowledge and experience can be a real eye-opener.

DR: Historic Royal Palaces is the independent charity that looks after six extraordinary places that symbolise Britain. The charity relies on the income generated by retail to ensure that its work can continue. Whilst we are a large organisation, as an independent retailer, the principals of what we do relate to smaller businesses. The OSS helps any retailer to make the most of their resources, skill set and people.

Q: What can the class of 2014 expect from the Foundation school?

KK: The programme allows delegates to work beyond their comfort zones but within a safe environment. They will work with other retailers and develop a support network that they can draw on. They will leave with a better awareness and understanding of themselves and be able to use what they have learned as soon as they return to the workplace, no matter what role and or business they work in.

Q: How do you sum up the OSS experience? 

KK: I have worked with some great people during the last nine years and many have become good friends. For me, and for many others I know who have attended, the school is so much more than just a training course. It’s a real life-changer. You could call it “The X-factor of retail training”.

DR: “A positive lifechanging experience”. Since my involvement with OSS I haven’t looked back. Like Kim, I have developed my own career and the careers of others and made some lifelong friends along the way.

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