This week, we meet the Director of 8 Retail Consulting, Stephen Balmer-Walters.
What is your role and what does that involve?
I’m the Head of 8 Retail Consulting, a consultancy that helps businesses, predominantly focused on retail businesses as this is where my expertise lie. The key element is to allow businesses to make a return on their investment.
It’s about harnessing experience and knowledge gained over many years to help businesses be better. We focus on 8 key areas, that I believe when done well will deliver a return on investment, but it should never be detrimental to people. Starting with people will enable you to grow your business in the right way. Without the people you can’t actually deliver what’s necessary.
We sometimes forget in business that it’s quite simple. If we get the right people on board in the first place, give them the right support and training and share the strategy and objectives with them, together you can deliver. In a nutshell that's what the business is all about.
What previous education/work experience helped hone your skills to get you where you are now?
I’ve been very fortunate in that I started in retail from being very young, working for a business called the British Shoe corporation which is part of the Sears group. They invested a lot of time and energy in me as an individual, training and supporting me throughout my early years. I had 12 amazing years there where I learnt a lot about cost, people management, marketing and operations, which really set me up for the rest of my career. You could almost say I had a 12 year MBA and it never stopped, with all the jobs I have taken on after that.
You never stop learning in this industry. Every day I see something which stops me in my tracks. We never stop learning. The beautiful thing about retailing is you can be whoever you want to be, it’s just about pulling it together.
It’s about a product fundamentally and it’s the service you give with that product. That's what sets me alight. There's no better feeling than seeing a customer walk away happy, or seeing an employee grow and develop over time.
What skill is most critical and why?
The way in which I interact with people and how I empower people to deliver the overall objective is a skill, but it’s also an inner feeling. It’s something I really believe in and it’s something that comes naturally. I think it’s my biggest trait and without it, I wouldn’t be anything.
Can you offer any advice to someone starting out?
In the early years, I’d say don’t take things too seriously. It’s advisable to try a little bit of everything until you get to a point where you feel comfortable. Don’t be afraid to experience different things. If you’d have asked me when I was 15/16 years old “Do you know what you want to be when you grow up?” I wouldn't have had a clue, so there is that element of trying different things. When you find what you want to do, push hard and try and shape something in that area.
As a young teenager, I went to dance school and learnt how to dance properly. That had a huge effect on me later on in life. Dancing allowed me to communicate with people, it allowed me to express myself and really listen to the music. I took some key influences from my earlier years which have stayed with me today. Even though what you're doing might not feel like there is an end goal, those elements, skills and experiences that you build up may end up helping you down the line.
If you would like more information on the #MySkillsStory movement, check out City and Guilds. If you'd like to see if your skills are a good fit for the roles we have, check out the Epos Now career pages.