I began this campus store adventure in 2012 with tons of excitement. I love to be involved with new things and our campus store definitely needed some reinventing. The challenge of turning around a store that was in decline was exhilarating, and I dug in with my normal zeal. I had done this in another operation on campus, how hard could it be? Naïve, right?
I started with 4 full-time and 2 part-time staff plus a couple of student workers. However, in that first year, due to retirements; people leaving for full-time employment; and employees choosing to go a different direction; the entire staff turned over. Try being a course materials buyer when you don’t know the difference between a publisher and wholesaler (yes, I was that green when my course materials buyer left). But I don’t like to lose so I chose not to give up. I hired new staff and started over! Then my store was successful, profits increased, everyone was happy, and I was the best manager ever… Well, not really.
We were paying too much for textbooks, students weren’t shopping in the store, campus faculty were directing students online, tour guides would stand outside the store saying “this is the bookstore, you can get your books here, but you will find them cheaper at Amazon or Chegg”. I was exasperated, I felt like Wile E. Coyote trying to catch Roadrunner, but instead taking anvils to the head!
So I sought help. My team and I first connected with OACS in 2013. We didn’t know much, but we found that there were lots of people in the industry that did. Making connections at OACS & NACS meetings allowed us to glean knowledge in everything from financial management to event planning and everything in between. We were amazed at the number of people who generously gave us time, encouragement and advice. We went to meetings with schools literally 10 times bigger and 2 times smaller than our store, but we found there were principles and pieces no matter the store size that we could take back and implement. We approached every obstacle as temporary, not an insurmountable wall. We figured out how to get around, under, or over it.
So what is the point? I would venture to say that many of you are feeling like you have been hit with a few anvils. You may feel like you are riding a wave that is headed for a rocky shore where you will meet your demise. Stop thinking that way! Take control of what you can control. Publishers might control how they will make their content available but they don’t control you or your campus. Get out front, talk to your administration, meet with your faculty, be the campus leader on navigating this new world. Control how content comes to your campus by being the expert your faculty and administration trust. When a new change comes, consider it a challenge, not a wall. Get out of your store and talk to industry colleagues. Attend meetings and conferences when possible. If you can’t travel find webinars or get on a listserv like the Hub and read everything you can get your hands on. Knowledge is power! As an industry, we have always been about supporting our schools, this is the time for you to shine! Always do your best, you will win some, you will lose some, but you will be satisfied knowing you gave it your all!
When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it. Henry Ford