Edmund May on work experience

Spartan Press were very pleased to welcome Edmund May on work experience at Spartan Press during August 2012. Ed is a post graduate music student (fresh from Durham University) with a passion for Jazz piano. We were also blessed with a ceremonial visit from Mark and Rosalind Dicken (of Fuller Music fame). The first photo shows Ed on the left, standing next to Rosalind and Mark Dicken, Guang Yang (Spartan’s computer expert), and Mark Goddard (at the back), prior to a champagne and fish ‘n chips feast to celebrate four years of Spartan’s ownership of Fuller Music. The second picture: the nervous beginnings of the obligatory tandem trip to the pub for all Strathmashie work experience candidates!

Here's Ed's report...

During the 2 weeks I spent at Spartan Press I had the most wonderful experience of what a small business ought to be; and of the attitude and organisation needed to make a success of it. With more or less the entire operation based in splendid Strathmashie house, office space and a family home share not only a roof, but an atmosphere characterised by high spirits and hard work.

It really is a well-knit community, with a very different flavour to the usual publishing houses. Everybody "knows their job" – Dave and Annette, for example, are stalwarts of trade and retail sales, respectively – but will pitch in wherever help is needed, and Mark’s unceasing commentary keeps the gang informed of the smallest developments from all corners of the house. From the very first day I was made aware of this, as an entire library of music found its way to the back yard, neatly packed in a daunting number of large boxes. This was the complete stock of a music company recently acquired, and the next few weeks were a hectic time of unpacking, sorting, scanning, reshuffling and updating, as over 14,000 books were added to Spartan’s stock.

This was just one – rather significant – operation, but there was much else to do in preparation for the September rush, where “back-to-school” orders come in at a great rate from all over the world. The number of loyal customers enjoyed by Mark and the team is striking, and an indication of the tremendous service that surprises people because it is so rare. The catalogue of printed music is sizable, but if an item is not in stock it will quickly be procured, or honest advice will be given as to alternative suppliers. Books are sent off extremely quickly, generally arriving the next day. This sort of service doesn’t seem to be difficult, but requires knowledge and conscientiousness; and it is educational to spend time with a company so completely geared towards doing its job thoroughly, without compromise.

The database "Zeus", having been developing for the last 9 years, is powerful and flexible – it can cope with just about anything that does not require human judgement, and the early Highland mornings often see Mark tapping away, adapting and refining to bring the system up to date with the company’s latest developments. He is ably assisted in this by Guang, technological wizard who has significant input in various of Spartan’s offshoot enterprises, including at least four websites, and the management of server space, 400 miles away in London. Meanwhile, the print room is a constant scene of activity, in which Tess, Jay, Rose, and most of all, Pat, realise the physical production of all Spartan Press volumes, and take on additional print jobs for other companies when time allows.

Thus a musical work can be scored, its cover designed, and the whole thing printed, bound, marketed, and sold within the walls of an old hunting lodge. Such all round experience is available to almost anyone enthusiastic enough to get in touch, and despite the hectic atmosphere Mark and the others are generous with their time and keen to demonstrate and explain just about every side to the business. A taste for microwave curry and a liking for huge animals will work well in your favour, pub sessions and long walks are promised, and during my stay we visited the Newtonmore Highland games – terrific and not to be missed!

I hope that anyone considering coming to Spartan Press will be persuaded to get in touch with the Goddards, as the experience is invaluable, and neither the place nor the people will be forgotten.

Ed, Rosalind, Mark (G),
Mark (D) and Guang

Ed and Mark on the
company tandem

Ed with Merlin