David Rainford

David Rainford, Independent Usborne Organiser


Leadership Academy - Autumn 2020

30th October 2020

On Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th October, we were delighted to be joined by over 150 of our wonderful Leaders for our final Leadership Academy event of the year.

Focusing on creating an irresistible environment, the objectives of this seasonal event are to motivate our Business Development Programme Members to consider the next steps for their Usborne businesses – and to give them the skills and confidence to simply do it!

So what exactly did this entail?

Day one

Our conference opened with a powerful "Ask the Leader" session, where Divisional Leader Kerry Stenson shared her remarkable Usborne story. Kerry's resilience and bravery has helped her balance being a single mum with developing the strong activities and strategies that have moved her business forward.

By creating a safe space for her ever-expanding downline (especially valuable during the challenge of lockdown!) she is most proud of playing a part in changing other people's lives, just as she feels Usborne has changed hers. Kerry's success has come from her choosing to believe she could do it... and she did! Her advice to her "New Organiser" self? "Stop holding yourself back".

Every Organiser's Usborne story starts with the books. An exciting sneak peek at the coming season's new releases and some interactive FAB selling top tips reminded us all why we love what we do. Our audience's favourites included Lift-the-Flap Questions and Answers Where Does Poo Go?The Gilded Ones and 24 Hours in the Stone Age – each provoking lots of stories and top tips on how to share these books as far and wide as possible.

Our Leaders then participated in an in-depth session discussing how Usborne Books at Home orders and manages stock, led by Inventory Controller, Grant Spence. Grant's insight into and explanation of the intricate balancing act of accessing orders, timelines for deliveries and forecasting future demand was very well received by Leaders who concurred just how complicated a process it can be. There was also a feeling of reassurance around the approach the team is taking to bring stock levels back to more ambitious and appropriate levels as soon as possible.

Our Schools Marketing Editor, Lucy Raby, then took the virtual floor to lead a fascinating discussion on working in schools, looking ahead to World Book Day 2021. Assisted by Team Leader, Beth O'Donovan, the session shone a light on Organisers' ability to offer a unique, hands-on personal service (that still saves schools' time and money) whilst operating virtually. Lucy also shared how Usborne authors are keen to support Organisers with flexible, low-cost virtual events, whilst Beth talked us through her incredibly successful virtual book fair strategy.

We were then joined by our highly anticipated keynote speaker, Usborne's Deputy Managing Director Nicola Usborne, who shared her view on the world of Usborne in 2020. Usborne Books at Home is a hugely important channel within the wider company – even more so this year in terms of overcoming recent challenges by putting more and more books into children's hands, despite the restrictions of lockdown.

For this, Nicola shared both her pride and her thanks to all Organisers. Looking ahead, Nicola hinted at a bright and exciting future for Books at Home and provided insight into her personal desire to incorporate even more diversity into the Usborne range moving forward.

Divisional Leader, Aneta Grzegzułka-Kanik, was generous enough to close our first day by sharing her experiences of working with Usborne and leading teams in Europe. Aneta talked about the importance of giving your business the respect, time and energy it deserves, and provided insight into her key focuses of setting and managing expectations while balancing the responsibility for each business between Mentor and Team Member.

Aneta was also open about her challenges with time management, juggling her overarching passion for working with schools with being an effective and supportive Leader, maximising her earnings and, most importantly, finding time to put herself first.

Day two

Saturday saw us dive straight back into our discussions – for New Gold Leaders, the first session of the day offered an opportunity to identify and discuss how they currently use their time (and how that time might be used more effectively). The contributions from each Leader covered everything from scheduling valuable content on social media to ensuring you have the right balance between your business and family life.

At the same time, our more Established Business Development Programme Members were considering the "Habits of Successful Leaders". With conversations based on the renowned Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, Leaders were challenged to make a choice around how they might build better relationships and achieve their personal and business objectives through focused actions and decisions.

Meanwhile, our New Leaders were discussing ways in which they could achieve greater clarity within their businesses – both this and effective time management are rooted in having clear goals and objectives. After all, if you know what it is you want to achieve, it becomes easier to focus your time on the most appropriate steps you should take to make those goals a reality. This led to our delegates considering a significant question – What does success look like for you?

The answer is often deeply personal – it often does not equate to a financial sum and may be more about finding happiness, confidence, self-esteem and personal validation. Our Leaders were incredibly brave and generous in sharing some of those personal stories, providing a truly inspirational setting for all attendees.

Our Established Leaders were challenged further – deliberating what is and isn't working in their businesses (and why) and considering what they would like to change about this (and by when). If you put the first thing first, what does this look like and where might it take you?

Post-lunch, both groups were asked to contemplate how to build authentic and supportive relationships through effective conversations. "Coaching" can sound like a rather daunting and unnatural proposition, but if you listen and seek to understand the person you are simply chatting to, you are able to offer more practical and appropriate support to those you are working with.

Our final sessions gave both Leaders the opportunity to plan and practise – having spent two days revisiting what they want from their Usborne businesses, they then considered why this is important to them and what they need to do to make this happen. Now was the chance to put those important first steps in the diary!

Our final message to all attendees (and indeed all Organisers): the greatest resources you can access in your business is you. As such, investing in yourself is perhaps the most important (but easiest to overlook) action to take in your business.

A huge thank you to everyone who joined us at Leadership Academy. We hope you found it as inspiring as we did!

What did our Leaders think?

"My top takeaway is to be brave and get out of my own way! I have already been implementing this in my business thanks to LA." – Shelley Short, New Gold Leader

"It has made a huge difference to the actions I will now take to move forward. I was starting to feel a bit lost and now I have a goal and an action plan to help me move forward." – Anne-Marie Fleet, New Gold Leader

"Being able to take two days out to really focus on my business along with an agenda packed with useful content means that I gained so much from the event." – Gemma Roberts, Established Leader

"It has given me more drive and reminded me to keep thinking back to my Usborne why. Keeping this focus will give me determination to succeed." – Kate Haas, New Gold Leader

"It was an incredible two days. I felt so motivated and energised afterwards even though it was virtual – I had the same level of excitement as I would after a face-to-face Leadership Academy!" – Emma Devine, Established Leader

"This was my first Leadership Academy and I found both days incredibly powerful and thought-provoking. As expected I learned a lot about the business, but I also learned a lot about myself." – Rebecca Gregory, Established Leader

Tags:business developmentmeetings and events