I Joined in June 1999 as a weekend Sales Assistant in Peckham High Street Store. I applied to WHSmith as the brand appealed to me and initially only intended to stay for a short period of time…
After joining Peckham I was soon asked to deputise and run the store on Sundays, this was during my university time so the money helped. I graduated in Medical Biochemistry and Human Genetics and wasn’t really sure what I was going to do but knew I loved the WHSmith environment.
WHSmith offered me to join the Stores Graduate Programme which I snapped up for the next 12 months. On completion of the Graduate Programme I was offered a Business Accounts Manager role which entailed me dealing with all business to business sales out of London stores – I managed to increase these sales to ¼ of a million pound for the business which was a great achievement. Throughout this role I gained an understanding of bad debts and how we dealt with these as a business which led to me after one year of being offered a position within our Travel Head Office based in our Loss Prevention team.
After a short stint in the Head Office I went back to stores and took on our High Street store in Elephant and Castle as a Store Manager for approx two years, managing a team of approx 15 people. I was then offered the Store Manager position for our flagship High Street Store on Oxford Street Plaza which was daunting for me because of the profile of the store, but I took it in my stride and managing a team of c.50 had a successful Two years there.
I then moved onto our Lewisham High Street Store as SM for about a year. At this time in my career I had decided that with family we would be relocating to Bristol, I approached my line manager at the time and expressed I didn’t want to leave the business and WHSmith supported me fully in finding a role suitable within my desired location – South West.
I was offered our High Street, Bath store which was at the time was in our top 20 performing stores in the UK. So this was a big achievement and I felt honoured that the business supported my relocation and believed in my development and success. I managed a c.60 strong team in Bath for a couple of years and this increased my curiosity further about the wider business and my development opportunities.
I took a position as Stores Operations Manager – General Merchandising, Books and Marketing within our High Street Head Office to gain exposure to our HO environment and also develop my experience within the HO environment. Over this period I managed to network and build my profile across other areas of the business and through doing this after a couple of years, I was offered the opportunity to become an Area Manager for Post Office. This was huge for me as I had managed to progress throughout my career and now had the opportunity to take on my own region, which is what I had dreamed of! I was responsible for about 30 Post Offices across a large region.
Following this I came back into Head Office and led a project for British Book Shops acquisitions which again exposed me to other areas of the business and developed my skill set. It was in this role that I started to enquire about our Travel business as that was going through rapid growth and I managed to secure an Area Manager position for the South West for our Travel business.
This was a complete change and I didn’t anticipate the different challenges I would be faced with. It was like moving to a completely different company; however I loved it and had the support behind me from the business all the way. It taught me lots of new skills and felt my grounding in High Street certainly helped with the transition. I did this role for three years and then got asked to take on the Regional Business Manager role for Central London – which entailed taking on some huge businesses – our mainline stations! After a year I also gained Greater London and this is where I am working now.
My proudest achievement throughout my career so far is, well I have two: 1. my consistent career development which I never anticipated when I joined the company 2. Winning ‘Store Manager of the year for High Street’ in our Bath Store.
I think to succeed in WHSmith stores you need tenacity, resilience, fantastic people skills, and entrepreneurial attitude and have the ability to balance; dealing with analysing figures and hitting sales targets whilst building on strategy and your people’s development and alongside all of this managing the day to day running. You have to be on board with genuinely putting customers at the heart of what you do, especially in challenging environment like Travel.
Ryan Richardson – Regional Business Manager