Duncan Murray Wines

Megan Murray

Established in Market Harborough in 2001, Duncan Murray Wines is an independent wine merchant, well known in the community for its enthusiastic advice on its carefully selected range of wines, beers and spirits, and its regular tasting events. 

It’s great to have a chance to work on the business rather than in the business.

Megan Murray

What impact has the Help to Grow: Management course had on your business? 

We found the introduction to new models, framework and ways of thinking about the business very beneficial. Then it was all about selecting the ones that were going to be most useful on a day-to-day basis. We took away practical tools like assessing company values and processes that we could implement right away.

All of us on the course were small businesses but we were one of the few retailers, so we needed to think about what would work in terms of our specific needs and what we had time for.

So, overall, it’s the sense that we now have lots of tools that we know are out there. 

Which tools did you find particularly helpful?

I instantly found one of the very first sessions about reassessing values via a pyramid system really useful.

There were certain things that just clicked really quickly, where you thought, ‘okay this is a really good means of thinking about things.’ There was one exercise of sticking post-it notes to assess processes, which was a really useful and practical exercise that we can use as a training tool. It’s just a really simple and analytical way of thinking about the best way to do stuff by breaking the process down into constituent parts to find the critical points. So, for example, it helped us assess how we were processing web orders. That really stuck with me. And it was fun and low tech as well. 

How did Help to Grow: Management help with your business strategy?

The business planning model was a very strategic tool to help us really sit back and take the time to evaluate every aspect of the business. So, it was an opportunity to do some proper planning which can be difficult amidst the day-to-day running of a business.

So, it's having that chance to work on the business rather than in the business, not least because we were bound to two hours on the Tuesday and then coming in for peer group sessions on the Wednesday. So, once you’ve committed, you’re forced to say, ‘here's a time that's dedicated to this’.

Is there anything specific that has come out of that chance to look at the bigger picture?

We had a really constructive talk about pricing and strategy in the context of the cost-of-living crisis during one of the one-to-one sessions. We were talking about driving footfall and what we had tried, and we were encouraged to flip things to see them from a different angle. It crystallised our plans to get a range of wines in, which we called ‘budget smugglers.’ They are all at £7.99 and it’s working. So that has been something simple that has worked for us, but sometimes it’s the simplest ideas that are the best.

That process also showed that it’s all about perception, because we've always predicated our offer on the fact that we offer value for money at any price point. However, the mere fact that we're an independent wine merchant means people are going to have preconceptions about price. However, if we headline the fact that we are well and truly aware of the fact that people are really strapped at the moment, then I think that helps a lot.

What advice would you give to someone doing the course?

I think the more specific you are about what you want to get out of it the better. With the one-to-one aspect in particular, this led to a very constructive conversation.

I think we all know that we've got knowledge gaps in terms of what we're doing, so I think the more that we can access expert help the better. And then the side conversations you end up having with your peers are also really helpful. 

What made you join the course?

It came along at the right time and also at a particularly tough time for retail. This is our 22nd year in the business now, so it was an opportunity to get some fresh ideas, particularly around getting a website going. So, it was great to have that input around digital activity as well.

We knew a few of the other attendees, so it was good to know there were people we were already collaborating with to some extent. It’s helpful to get together with people who are all facing the same kind of challenges. There’s a ‘greater than the sum of your parts’ kind of thing that comes out of it all collaboratively as well.

Can you say a bit more about the peer-to-peer aspect of it?

We found it really valuable. Even though we were quite a disparate group, we were still able to bring our shared experience to the peer-group sessions. So that was relevant across different sectors.

It was good to see what other people were experiencing and how they’ve approached different situations and challenges.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about the course?

As alumni, it’s left us with a useful resource. We're still getting contacted about events coming up and whilst they're not all going to suit us, there's that sense of being part of a community now which is a really good thing.

For more information, please email us at h2gm@dmu.ac.uk or apply now.