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MBS Honors Alan Leach

Posted by admin on 7/19/11 11:00 PM
Topics: mbs direct

Known for his unwavering commitment to both the company and our customers, Alan Leach, Marketing Services Representative, is retiring this Friday after 36 years! Referred to as Mr. MBS, his hard work and friendly smile have touched many and will not soon be forgotten. So, today, we take a look back at all that he has accomplished and experienced in his many years at MBS.

Q: How and when did you start your career at MBS?

A: "I started on March 10, 1975 as a Warehouse Manager. MBS was only a year-and-a-half old then and we were very small. In fact, I was one of about fifteen employees and some of them were part-time students. At that time, I primarily worked the orders that we received from customers. There were no computers here, yet, so the messages would come across on a Telex machine, which was kind of like an automatic typewriter.

Bookstores would send us a list of titles they were looking for and it was my job to go out into the warehouse, find the book, and write down how many copies we had available. After that, we’d Telex that information back to the store. It was a very manual process! I always say that the first automation we got, after I started, was the electric pencil sharpener!”

Q: How has the ordering process changed since you first started?

A: “It’s evolved 100%! We were the first in the industry to add a toll-free order line in 1978. When it rang to let us know a new order was coming in, you could hear it throughout the warehouse. It sounded just like the bell at a full-service gas station. We’d write down what titles stores were looking for and call them back when we found them.

Then, we went online with our inventory in April of 1979 and never looked back; everything changed after that. It went from a strictly manual system to a person being able to sit at a computer terminal and work the orders. We were confident enough in our online inventory that we no longer had to physically see the book on the shelf to know we had it. Now, it’s a completely automated process; we’ve come a long way!”

Q: How has the process of buyback evolved over the years?

A: "Buyback has also evolved greatly! When we first started, we had a big print-out that listed all the titles and prices in our buying guide. I think they only printed about 3-4 of them each month for us to use. That quickly transformed into printing more and sending them to our customers and then finally grew into computerized buyback.

That was a major change for both MBS and the industry, and is now used at hundreds of stores across the country. When we first went to computerized buyback it added a huge amount of credibility to the process. There’s always been the notion that if information is printed, then it must be right and having computers allowed us to bring that idea to the buy. Instead of a buyer looking at a stack of books and designating a price, students were handed an itemized list of the books they sold and the prices they received for them, exactly like a receipt.“

Q: Tell us about the significance of the ’85 World Series.

A: "The St. Louis Cardinals were playing the Kansas City Royals that year, so MBS kind of considered that to be our World Series within our industry. We had an employee at the time who was also a poet and she would write short verses about the previous day’s game throughout the series. This was back before we even had email, though, so we sent these fun poems out to our customers using the Telex machine.

It was very well-received because it was humorous and more personal than other promotions we’d done in the past. It was an exciting time and I got to go to one of the games but, unfortunately, the Cardinals lost! After the series was over, we took a picture of quite a few MBS employees in which half were wearing Royals spirit wear and half were wearing Cardinals for a two-page spread in the College Store Magazine."

Q: What would you say has been one of your strangest customer service requests?

A: “Before computerization, textbook managers would often travel around the country with their book lists to the various wholesale companies. After one of these visits, a manager called me because he had forgotten to get a gift for his wife while he was away. She collected state emblematic teaspoons, so I looked all over trying to find one I could send to him. I finally drove down to Kingdom City, Missouri and was able to find one! I sent it to him and got a nice thank you saying I saved his life by sending this spoon. That’s always stuck out as one of the more interesting requests I’ve received!”

Q: What has been your biggest challenge over the years?

A: “Probably, trying to keep up with all the advancements both internally as well as within the industry. There have been so many changes throughout my career that it takes effort, at times, to stay up-to-date!”

Q: What do you consider to be the best part of working at MBS?

A: “The people! It’s been great to come to work and see so many happy, smiling faces every day. Many people refer to our company as the MBS family and that is definitely true. No matter what department you’re in, you care about all the other people in the company because, ultimately, how they do their jobs will affect how you do yours. In a word, it’s been fun!”

Q: What’re your plans for retirement?

A: “My first plan is to not set my alarm clock on Monday for the first time in a long time! Beyond that, I have grandchildren in Florida and Colorado so I’m looking forward to spending more time visiting them. I would also like to expand my photography skills and work on a few projects around the house.”

Q: Many within the company refer to you as Mr. MBS. What does that title mean to you?

A: “I’ve always felt that there are so many people within the company that deserve the Mr. or Ms. MBS title. I try to live up to what I feel like that title would entail as far as taking care of customers and our employees. It’s definitely an honor, but I’ve never thought I should be the only one singled out. Truly, everyone who works here deserves that title because we all have our distinct jobs that, together, fit like a puzzle to make our company run.”

Q: Do you have any final words of wisdom to share with those in the industry?

A: “The number one thing I think people should keep in mind is customer service. Others will remember, more than anything else, the way they’re treated. Always go the extra mile when taking care of your customers' needs or requests because it can make all the difference!”


Congratulations Alan, from all of us at MBS! You will be greatly missed!

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