For any entrepreneur, networking and peer interaction is vital to discovering new business ideas, developing innovative solutions, and finding camaraderie within an industry. But when in-person meetings aren’t possible, ABA member booksellers have found BookWeb’s Bookseller Forums to be a helpful alternative.
Networking with fellow booksellers and business professionals has been integral to the success of Changing Hands Bookstore ever since the store’s founding in 1974. “We have learned so much from our colleagues over the years, as well as from our sales reps and from speakers and workshops sponsored by ABA and the regional associations,” said Bob Sommer, Changing Hands’ co-owner with Gayle Shanks, his wife, and Cindy Dach.
Winter Institute, Children’s Institute, BookExpo America, and regional events provide unmatched opportunities for conversation and education, but booksellers manage heavy workloads and long hours in their stores, making face-to-face networking a challenge throughout the remainder of the year.
For Sommer, ABA’s Bookseller Forums are a prime way to stay connected with colleagues between events. Throughout the message boards, in particular the Bookseller-to-Bookseller Forum and the Social Media Forum, Sommer’s name pops up as he offers advice to new and experienced booksellers on topics from consignment policies to POS system options, from price tag printers to opening a bookstore café.
When he deems a forum discussion particularly helpful, Sommer will share it with other members of the Changing Hands staff.
Sommer’s engagement with other booksellers doesn’t end with in-person events and the online forums, however. Over the years, he and Shanks have invited colleagues from around the country to visit Changing Hands to shadow staff, ask questions, and take notes. Sommer also freely shares his e-mail address and phone number in the forums in case anyone needs a one-on-one conversation to solve a problem or is looking for a source for savings on freight, credit card processing, computer hardware, and more.
The connections Sommer has established with other booksellers work both ways, he said. On a number of occasions, Changing Hands has been the beneficiary of advice on a variety of store challenges from the likes of Vroman’s, Books & Books, and Powell’s, among others.
Visit the Bookseller Forums on BookWeb to see what indie booksellers are talking about today.