ABA Chicago Forum a High-Level Discussion on Strategic Plan

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On March 20, at Transitions Learning Center -- the event space for Transitions Bookplace -- in Chicago, 37 booksellers attended an ABA Booksellers Forum from noon – 2:00 p.m. and, later, 27 attended a financial seminar presented by ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz, from 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Regarding the forum, ABA’s Domnitz said that booksellers attending were "deeply engaged … It was one of the best discussions of strategic planning we have had at any of the forums."

Among those present at the forum were Domnitz; Ann Christophersen, ABA vice president and secretary, from Women & Children First; Karl Pohrt, ABA Board member, from Shaman Drum Bookshop in Ann Arbor; Jim Dana, executive director of the Great Lakes Booksellers Association; and Len Vlahos, director of BookSense.com.

At the forum, booksellers had the opportunity to offer opinions on ABA’s future direction. Attendees discussed the proposed changes to ABA’s Vision Statement and proposed new Strategic Goals, and as part of the process, booksellers were given the chance to rank each of the goals in terms of importance.

There was also a lengthy discussion on whether or not to expand the membership base to include a wider array of bookstores, such as used bookstores, said attendee Amy Blake, owner of A Women’s Prerogative in Ferndale, Michigan. "It was a good discussion, though we didn’t end up with a general consensus," she said. "We discussed the pros and cons of the issue -- it’s more complex than it looks."

Other topics of discussion were Book Sense, BookSense.com, the online delivery of Bookselling This Week, and the Book Buyer’s Handbook online. Christophersen noted that the Book Sense-related discussion covered the needs of specialty stores and how Book Sense is becoming more useful to them. Blake said that there was also discussion on the difference between being a Book Sense bookstore versus a BookSense.com store.

Overall, said ABA’s Vlahos, the discussion at the forum was very high-level and sophisticated. Added Christophersen: "The group was very engaged with good ideas." So much so, that the meeting lasted 30 minutes longer than scheduled.

Following the forum, Domnitz conducted a financial seminar, which explored a system of financial controls meant to allow the bookstore owner/manager to predict performance, and then measure outcomes against those predictions. Seminar attendees received a computer disk with a series of Excel worksheets to allow them to integrate what they learned into their own operations.

Domnitz’s seminar won rave reviews from attending booksellers, including Howard Mandel, owner of host store Transitions Bookplace, as well as A Women’s Prerogative’s Blake. "I thought the financial seminar was the best thing I have ever done through the ABA," said Mandel. "It wasn’t basic; it wasn’t for someone just starting out. This was for people who already had a historical perspective [on budgeting]."

Augie Aleksy, owner of Centuries and Sleuths in Forest Park, Illinois -- which is staffed by Aleksy and one part-timer -- asked his part-timer to fill in for him at the store so he could attend the forum and, especially, the financial seminar. "I’d recommend it to any bookseller," he said. "Even if you have to close the store, the info you gain from [Domnitz’s] seminar on finance and budgeting is worth the time of the part-timer you have to pay at the store."

For information on upcoming ABA forums and financial seminars, click here.
-- Dan Cullen and Dave Grogan