Like most bosses, Anna Blackburn finds it hard to take time out to read. When she’s not running Beaverbrooks, which has won best place to work for two years running at the Retail Week awards, much of her time is taken up by her two young children, a situation no doubt complicated by the coronavirus lockdown - something so many working parents will be all too familiar with.
But that doesn’t mean books haven’t been influential on her career. Blackburn joined the century-old family business as a graduate trainee in 1998 and became CEO in 2013, before being promoted to managing director in 2018. She was the first non-family member to be appointed to the role and has taken the loss-making business into profit.
Beaverbrooks, which has 71 stores across the UK, posted pre-tax profits of more than £20m in 2019. Blackburn says books have given her guidance and opportunities for self-reflection, which have helped her define her leadership style based on collaboration and role-modelling.