I have a pretty good handle on my email inbox. One of my best habits I have adopted is that when I’m processing my email, if the email response will only take 1-2mins to reply, then I MUST reply there and then. Simple. No need to procrastinate, flag it, or move it to a heaving folder never to be seen again.
And for a bonus habit: it helps if YOU write better emails in the first place. Make your emails as short as they can be, so that the email subject can read and reply in the same vein.
From growing the number 1 podcast on Spotify to leaping with patreon. This approach harkens back to 1000 true fans and forging your own path.
This week we launched a new “labs” blog for the good folks at Birmingham Museums Trust to share their experiments, announce new things or share opinions on any topic they wish. The aim of the game is to keep shipping.
In the summer of 2020 I was interviewed by Jane Finnis as part of a commission from the Europeana Foundation about digital transformation. The report is useful for everybody interested in digital and includes a few quotes from yours truly too.
Read the report and Jane has written over on Medium Why digitally literate leadership is so important right now.
After several months planning, Friday 10th July saw a group of us meet online to hear 18 speakers and performers explain “What Matters Now” to them.
I was proud to have a small part to play in organising and opening the event. Each person was given 5 minutes to have the digital floor and do whatever they felt. We had petcha ketcha style, poetry, DJ, song, and open minds and hearts. The performers and audience came from across the globe and the energy was 11/10.
The videos will be available soon.
The internet was designed for openess and collaboration. Big check in the boxes for this event.
Thank you to Mike for bringing us all together.
Lots of Love.
I regularly get emails from folks who have been instructed to get in touch with me to learn how I make money for our service. Firstly, it isn’t me making money. I help wrangle the conditions for our teams to do their best work and in turn revenue is generated. The services we provide are either designed to generate revenue OR making revenue is a by-product of something else we do. I’m sure that fancy business cases, spreadsheets and presentations work but I always start a simple question to my boss:
“What is the bottom line that you need from us?”
Once I have that single figure I can then set about to see how things need to change to respond to the goal. Better still I then internalise the goal as “how little can we afford to grow?“. Surely you’d think I would be always seeking the maximise right? wrong. Growing too much too quickly always has an impact on our resources. Sure we can sell more events but we would suddenly need to close public spaces in core hours which negatively impacts our public offer. I could insist our retail only stocked products in the £25+ region but alienate a large chunk of people who are in the £5-£25 region. The list of things I could do is endless.
So instead of having no constraints I prefer to have clear constraints grounded in walking a fine line of making money without stepping too far. Find out what is a sensible level of business by asking similarly positioned services to give you a benchmark. For example we need our retail to be in the 50p to £1 spend per head region, host on average three events per week and attract 400-500 filming days per year.
Grow by all means but not at any cost.
Slides from my 16th May 2019 talk at Museums + Heritage show at Olympia London. Do get in touch if you have any questions.
Zak will show you how Bristol changed from being a museum service to a cultural business. A focus on delighting visitors and being data-informed has seen the team of teams rise to the opportunities of income generation in the face of big challenges.
See the slides (8mb PDF)
The 22nd March 2019 officially marks the day our retail business revenue hit 100% growth since 2014-15 which you can see in the performance spreadsheet. A proud moment for the service. I want to kick-off by thanking the retail team who have worked their socks off and have been up for the challenge since day 1 in 2015. Also none of our success would be possible without the support of the other teams who contribute to the effort including Retail Thinking, user research, design & marketing, digital, documentation, programming and operations. Retail is a living breathing example of our team-of-teams approach to solving problems. Why try to do everything yourself when you have some of the best talent in other parts of the service willing to rolling their sleeves up.
Transformation is not easy but our goal has been to grow the business year on year using the four retail pillars of Buying, Staff skills, Visual merchandising (VM) and Performance. The Culture team need to make or save £436,000 between 2017-2021 as part of the wider Council savings programme. Retail is a core player in this growth.
A quick recap of the marathon to date:
- understand the retail business and begin to destroy and rebuild from the ground up (discovered we were running at a loss)
- Returned to the simple principle that “we should sell what people buy”
- 2016-17 – return to profitability and aim to maximise existing resources
- 2017-18 – build the case for long-term investment including roadmap for shop refits at Bristol Museum & Art Gallery and M Shed and further staff roles (starting with a Buyer)
- 2018-19 Ship projects that deliver against our objectives – bring the annual roadmap to life instead of it just being a paper exercise.
- 2019-20 increase the pace and profitability hi
We expect our services to be the best they can possibly be in our sector. Not just better than before or better than our nearest comparable museums. We should be as good as the best of the best anywhere on the planet.
We have made over 300 changes to the retail business. We have made every mistake possible and will make more mistakes in the future.
In no particular order I present a number of key changes:
- Spent lots of time watching how customers used the shop and listening to the retail teams views on everything
- Hired the services of an expert – Retail Thinking are a a consultancy who specialise in heritage retail and have been key to accelerating our growth. I have engaged Retail Thinking to help me learn the business of retail and act essentially as a head of retail. Money well spent
- Visit dozens of retail businesses all over the world and understand what works and doesn’t – I cannot stress enough how important it is to just watch other retail in action
- Ask for help – I have contacted and had help from many many amazing people in the sector. A special hat tip to Genevieve, Lycia, John and Alex
- 04/05/2015 rolled out Shopify POS as until now the staff EPOS didn’t collect product sales history or have any useful reporting – choose Shopify as it is affordable, great 24/7 support and has scalability
- Introduce Performance as a key strand Collect, Share, Use – Collect data , share it widely and especially publicly and make an effort to use that data. Sharing our performance data has led to invaluable collections. Performance is one of the four key pillars of retail. The others are Buying, staff skills and visual merchandising. Thinking of everything we do through these four strands helps keep us organised
- Removed the £5 minimum limit on card payments which immediately boosted sales
- Instead of calling the retail manager or me to get permission every time a customer had a non standard enquiry I told all staff that if the decision has a value of £100 or less they are free to make the decision – rapidly speeds things up and improves customer service. Typically the customer wants to do a deal on bulk orders
- 28/09/2015 started using user researcher
- Completed team review
- 9/10/2015 launched first bespoke range using La Belle Dame Sans Merci
- 04/11/2015 completed a partial shop refit at Bristol Museum & Art gallery as a small investment with Shop Services
- 04/11/2015 had first online order
- Discovering the Association for Cultural Enterprises who are a bunch of super talented people who are super happy to help us improve
- Focused on increasing awareness of the shops including putting glass cabinets in high traffic parts of the museums
- Worked on reducing the number of products and keeping our top 100 products in stock at all times
- Introduced exhibition inspired products which until now had been too weak
- Sales grew 20% compared to the previous year
- Focused on improving the online shop by handing the responsibility to the digital team – thanks Fay!
- Experimented with pop up shops over holiday periods
- 31 August Launched Guide to The Art Collection
- 8th July Accidentally turned off the ice cream freezer and lost all the products …whoops
- Used spare fittings to give Blaise at least
- Installed a number of lit glass cabinets at M Shed to raise awareness of the offer at the opposite end of the museum
- Started (and continue) to work with Jane Le Bon for key visual merchandising dates
- Banksygate – sorry !
- 30/06/2018 Refit Bristol Museum & Art gallery which included removing the stockroom to enable 20% more selling floor space – funded by Bristol Museum Development Trust [sales ended 52% up on previous year] and refit by ARJ-CRE8
- Introduced the new role of Buyer which has been a fantastic decision and the benefits are already showing
- Experiments with pricing including bulk discounts for buying The Guide to the Art Collection
- Sales 100% increase compared to 2014/15 for 2018/19
2019 (current year to do)
- 28/03/2019 launched M Shed Souvenir Guide which is the second print publication of its type. The original wasn’t popular largely due to a weak cover
- Refit at M Shed due in July
- 1/04/2019 Introduced new retail at Red Lodge and The Georgian House
- M Shed underperforms when you consider our visit figure so will be a focus for the year
- Publish a souvenir guide book to Bristol Museum & Art Gallery
- Consider refit at Blaise Castle Museum for 2020
- Let’s ship more projects and make a ruckus
Do email me if you have any further questions, advice or want to come and visit at zak dot mensah at bristol dot gov uk
PS At the time of finalising these notes Nipsey Hussle on 31 March died. I am a big hip-hop fan and listened to Victory Lap lots throughout 2018/19 and find business tips/books/ideas from rap. RIP.