I have to confess I considered abandoning writing my latest book. There were moments during the gruelling two year global research programme when the challenge I'd set myself just seemed too onerous: 100 face-to-face interviews with the world's leading retail bosses. I'd recently sold my business and was looking forward to perfecting my ability to loose at golf on a full time basis. Looking forward to to having enough time to find my delinquent golf balls. Why would I possibly want to wander the globe, forever removing my lap top, jacket, belt and shoes whenever asked?
It was during one of these particularly 'self-questioning' periods that I was scheduled to interview Mike Ullman, Chairman and CEO, of J C Penney - the ubiquitous American department store group. But within five minutes of being shown into his Texas office by Monica Brady, his delightfully charming executive assistant, I realised why I had to complete my global research and complete my book.
For those who haven't, please read the J C Penny case study starting on page 143 of my book - you will appreciate the effect this man had on me and my retailing beliefs. There's a lot of talk about a retailer's workforce being their most valuable asset and indeed I've often talked about the 'workforce' being a retailer's most important customer but Mike Ullman brought all this philosophical 'speak' to life with humbling clarity in one giant altruistic ambition.
I am therefore particularly delighted and proud of his endorsement for my book: 'The art of being chosen'.
So others may learn, I'd always wanted to write a book on world-wide best practice retailing - though being nowhere near the same league as Mike Ullman, I am forever delighted that I chose not to retire. Not to give up my research and chose instead to realise an ambition to give something back to 'retail' and the people who work in it. As he generously put it: "In his latest book, Martin Butler demonstrates his considerable talent for mining insightful anecdotes and thoughtful commentary. Retailers just beginning their careers and industry veterans alike should be sure to read it."
Thank you Mike Ullman.