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2016 Spring Conference and Gala Awards - a review

14th January 2016

The 2016 Spring Conference and Gala Awards Celebration took place on Friday 8th and Saturday 9th January in beautiful Stratford-upon-Avon.

With our largest number of Organisers in attendence, the excitement was palpable ahead of the glamorous Gala Awards evening. The red carpet was laid, the champagne flutes were filled and Marketing Director, Mark Franklin was on hand to welcome over 130 first-time attendees to their special drinks reception.

At 7pm, the doors to the Grand Ballroom opened and our first-time attendees were greeted with rapturous applause from our previous attendees and a real party atmosphere!

"This is the largest ever Usborne event. Of course it is - we've just had one of the most successful years in our history!" - Mark Franklin, MD

Mark took to the stage to explain just a little bit about the huge success story 2015 became for Usborne Books at Home. A huge THANK YOU to all of you for helping to make that happen.

Between courses (and the odd round of 'Who wants to be an Usborne millionaire?'!), our 2015 Achievement Award winners were announced and the support for everyone in the room was truly a sight to behold.

Take a look at our list of Achievement Award winners and finalists from the night...

There was also the 'small' matter of announcing the destination of the next 'Up, up & away' Travel Incentive. The anticipation mounted and the presentation began with guessing games going on around every table. The undeniable sound of Elvis Presley echoed throughout the room and the cheers were quite extraordinary! VEGAS BABY!

Saturday brought a new day and a new start for your 'brilliant' Usborne business. The theme of the Spring Conference was quite simply, "what could a brilliant Usborne Books at Home actually look like?".

Marketing Director, Mark Franklin shared the excitement of our 35th birthday year in 2016:

"Not only is Usborne the only publisher to operate a direct sales/party plan division – it has been doing so, successfully for 35 years! And last year we grew 18% so it’s not like we’re just creeping along under the radar – we are a very serious bookselling and book-buying operation.

Back in the summer I suggested that we could be a £10m company by the time we turn 40 – just by growing 20% year on year from now until then. That’s the five year plan."

With the help of our amazing Guest Speaker, Andy Cope, attendees were able to assess not just their work with Usborne, but also consider the bigger picture. The three hours flew by and ended with a standing ovation - everyone loved it!

"Andy Cope said some very simple things that made a lot of sense and inspired me to change my mindset before I change my business." - Claire Flook

"I could have listened to Andy for hours and hours, it is always interesting listening to speakers and picking up hints and tips as to how I can improve my business." - Eileen Sandham-Mulholland

"Andy Cope was amazing. Not only will what he said influence my Usborne business but it will also have a big impact on my personal life. Thank you for inviting him and introducing his philosophy to us." - Trish Hennessy

After such a thought-provoking morning, Mark Franklin took to the stage...

"I see our next challenge as being not only continuing to improve and grow in terms of doing what we do (only better). I want to be pursuing Andy’s challenge – what does a brilliant Usborne Books at Home look like?"

Mark also highlighted our 'hedgehog' - the one brilliant thing that can move us from good to great and stay there:

To be "The best way to buy and sell Usborne Children’s books."

"It almost sounds too simple. But there it is. And I tell you why I think this is right for us on so many levels:

In terms of buying - No other bookseller offers the comprehensive level of customer service that an Usborne Organiser does.

In terms of selling - No one else offers the opportunity to sell Usborne books in a way that directly benefits (and can be shaped to fit the needs of) that individual seller and their family.

Believe both – dare to share both… that’s how your business will grow."

We must also, once again, thank our fantastic speakers - the Organisers who plucked up the courage to stand on that stage and share their stories. They really were incredible.

"The truth is, we all have various commitments and 'stuff' we are dealing with in our day to day lives, but only you can make the choice about whether that will stop you from achieving what you want." - Heidi Thomas

"When I think about the key elements to achieving brilliance in your business, they are really things we do every day - communicating and listening." - Julie White

The 2017 Travel Incentive

Our Business and Leadership Development Manager, Sue Bennetts and Senior Events Coordinator, Becky Budd took to the stage to announce the criteria for the 2017 Travel Incentive - the steps you need to take to ensure you head 'up, up and away!'

Beijing Wildcard Winner, Lisa Newton shared her thoughts on going for the incentive last year:

"Our team has always been active, so I started to use that to put little updates and set incentives at the beginning of each month [...] the thought that I was even in with a chance of going to Beijing was just amazing!"

Leadership Academy

"2016 Leadership Academy events will include hands on, specific training on recruitment, leadership, confidence, coaching and time management. We will also be adding a 'Book Sales' section to give attendees the chance to enjoy lots of new titles." - Sue Bennetts

Next, was the announcement of our second Leadership Academy for the May-August season.

"This May, our Business Development Programme event for Gold Level members will have a twist..." - Becky Budd

We really hope you will be able to join us on 25th-26th May at the Oxford Belfry for two days of business building, as well as a trip to the Crazy Bear in Stadhampton for our 35th Birthday Party! Get ready for canapes, pre-dinner drinks and fine dining with special guests, Peter Usborne and Publishing Director, Jenny Tyler.

After this wonderful announcement, Divisional Leader, Tracy Hickson and Team Leader, Sarah Barrett, shared their past experiences of these leadership academy events:

"The great thing about these training events is that they are designed with us in mind [...] you learn more from interacting with and listening to your peers than anywhere else." - Tracy Hickson

"I came away  inspired and motivated , I learnt so much from these wonderful people, I was absolutely buzzing [...] within a week, I had tripled the size of my team!" - Sarah Barrett

2016 Achievement Awards

Following on from the huge achievements since the launch of Passport to Success back in September we have, in line with our plan for 'brilliance', reviewed the Achievement Awards categories and criteria for 2016. Remember, it could be you on stage receiving an award next January!

School Aid

Have you ever wondered what happens to the books that get returned to Head Office that many children would be happy to receive? Well, we donate them to an amazing charity called School Aid.

But in 2016, as we celebrate our 35th Birthday, we intend to do something even better by raising enough money to establish an Usborne library in Africa. The chairman of School Aid, Janis Mowlam took to the stage at the end of the conference to share their story.

As the day came to a close, Mark Franklin shared a final thought that we hope will resonate with not just the people that were there, but with every Usborne Organiser within our community:

"Today, I want a 'Brilliant Usborne' to be... 'So simple and such fun that you never want to leave'. But what do YOU want Usborne to be?"

Here's to a hugely successful (and brilliant) 2016!