Successes and Failures 2011 The Retail Champion


Guest blogger No. 4 in our Successes and Failures series is

Clare Rayner, aka The Retail Champion!  

Clare shares a big success, and how it almost never happened-due to a failure!  

Clare Rayner The Retail Champion
Clare Rayner The Retail Champion

For several years people had been saying I should write a book. I dismissed it at the time as not for me – primarily due to the increasing number of unknown business people become self-appointed experts simply for churning out a self-published book and then claiming that they must be an expert; after all they had written a book! That was NOT how I wanted to be perceived, and so, because of this trend, the idea of jumping on the book-writing band-wagon seemed quite abhorrent…

It was in March 2011 that two things happened that began to change my view. I met Sue Blake, a PR person whose own expertise lies in helping business experts develop and raise their profile. She has also promoted literally hundreds of business books in her time, mostly published by “proper” mainstream publishers. Secondly I joined a speaking agency, who seemed quite surprised to discover that I wasn’t a published author. Now people who were used to working with experts all the time were expecting me to have had a retail book published. Hmm...


I’d never really considered approaching a mainstream publisher, the reason was because all those people who couldn’t get a mainstream contract had told of the horror stories of approaching publishers, presenting proposals, how many months it took, how time consuming it was, how much work… They all raved about self-publishing as this liberating new route to being published – this made me feel that perhaps this was the only possibility for me too.

So that’s my past failure – believing in other people’s spin. What I know NOW is that if their book had enough commercial potential they’d have been taken on by a main stream publisher.


Lesson 1: Don’t let other people’s spin cloud your belief in what you can achieve, they’re not you, you’re not them.


So, moving on… Some of the work I was doing on profile development with Sue included making minor changes to my online profile text. On linkedin she suggested adding “currently writing my first business book”.

It was true enough - I’d got a bulleted list of the chapters I’d include, and a synopsis, based on the 10-steps to retail success methodology that I’d created for my mentoring clients. Sue also connected me to Wanda Whiteley, a previous publishing director. I spent a couple of hours with Wanda and she really helped me to clarify my thoughts. Critically Wanda also assured me that there was a commercial mainstream market for my book AND highlighted which 3 publishers I should approach.


Now I had a plan, an outline proposal and a target list of 3 publishers to approach with the ideal one, Kogan Page, at the top of the list.


Back to linkedin – Sue Blake was connected to a commissioning editor at Kogan Page – Martina O’Sullivan. I leveraged common membership of a group to invite Martina to connect and said “we have Sue Blake in common, I’d like to connect”. What happened next blew away all my misconceptions about mainstream publishers and I hope this story will inspire you to NOT be swayed or held back by other people’s limiting beliefs!


Martina accepted my connection and 20 minutes (yes, 20 minutes) later said “happy to connect, I noted from your profile that you are writing a retail book – do you have a publisher for that yet?”


Amazing… so I replied “No, I’ve got an outline proposal / plan but as yet have not approached any publishers. Would you like to see what I’ve got so far?”

Martina said that she would, and 2 hours after I’d sent it (unpolished and not in their “standard format”) she contacted me to book to meet for lunch 2 weeks later.


I was so nervous thinking about this meeting – I really didn’t know what to expect! I still held that belief that all publishers are really tough-nuts and would make me jump through 23 flaming hoops and then say “don’t call us we’ll call you!” I was wrong again though… lunch was great fun! We got on well, shared similar values / expectations (that was probably because between Wanda and Sue they’d identified the right publisher for me) and the outcome was better than I could ever have imagined!



Martina said that they’d like to commission the book and that it would go forward to the next commissioning meeting, which was just a formality as it was already agreed internally! We talked about royalties, contract terms and launch dates over lunch. We agreed a launch of July 2012, so it could coincide with Independent Retailer Month 2012. That was at the end of July 2011 and immediately after that meeting I went away for 2 weeks holiday!



I started writing in mid-August as soon as I got back from Holiday and I finished the first draft of 77,000 words by 30th September. I had a full month to finesse the manuscript as my deadline for the final submission was 1st November. Again, I’d got some preconceived ideas about how long it would take to write; I’d heard people claiming that it had taken them at least 1 year to write theirs! Eek!


I knew that to meet my July 2012 Independent Retailer Month launch date I had a deadline to achieve that gave me just under 4 months to complete my manuscript... So, with that in mind it was a case of planning it out, allocating the appropriate amount of time and getting the job done – just like any other project planning, management and delivery!


And finally, here’s the link to the book on Amazon – I can’t wait to hold a copy when it’s actually printed! It’s so strange to see this and I still can’t believe I’ve actually done it!

The Retail Champion 10 Steps to Success is now on Amazon!  




The Retail Champion
The Retail Champion

The moral of this story, and the main lesson I’d like to share, is do not form beliefs based on the experiences of others. Don’t be ignorant to the insights their experiences can give, BUT don’t assume that their history defines the future, your future.


If you are clear about what you want to achieve and get advice from the right people (not people who might be jealous or have their own interests at heart, but people genuinely committed to supporting your success) then you too can break the mould and set a new standard.


Success Matters :-)  Here’s to 2012!


Clare Rayner, The Retail Champion
Clare Rayner, The Retail Champion

I met Clare Rayner as I meet most new people these days, on Twitter!   We'd been tweeting a good while, having conversations about things that were happening within the entrepreneurial community on line, and we certainly have a few things in common.  Recently we met in real life!  Shock horror! Yes, people who tweet actually exist in real life too!  We met at the Business Start up show, which Clare was speaking at, and we got on very well.  Clare's own 10 step approach to retailing is startlingly similar to the process I use with my own clients.   I can't wait to read Clare's book, and whether you're in the retail business or not, I'd say there'll be lots in it that is extremely valuable for anyone in business! 


Clare is known as The Retail Champion, and is one of the most well-known and respected retail consultants in the UK. A child born into a family of retailers and entrepreneurs, she is passionate about retail and business: it is in her blood. 

Clare started out as a fast-track graduate store management trainee for McDonalds, in fact I see her check into McDonalds ocassionaly on FourSquare, just to make sure they're still doing things right probably ;)  
From there Clare went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. 

Known as The Retail Champion, Clare is engaged by clients as a retail consultant, retail speaker and retail mentor. She is regularly called upon by BBC News (TV and Radio), commercial radio and various press to comment as a retail expert. Her retail business book, The Retail Champion published by Kogan Page, will be available from 3rd July 2012.

I am glad to have met Clare and look forward to seeing her go from Success to Success!  

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