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Book review: Success the Lovefilm Way

Mark Mills

Simon Calver walks readers through the Lovefilm story in an easy-to-understand, no-nonsense and common-sense way, dishing out more tips than a drunken diner after a great meal.

The book starts with his childhood and the decimation of his father’s business at the hands of Tesco when Mr Calver saw, and more importantly recognised, the effect of competition which sprang from nowhere and may, in some way, account for his desire in later life to exit Lovefilm before the unexpected competition turned up. The childhood experience also taught him the importance of knowing your enemy and he advocates having a ‘common enemy’ in business that can help to focus your whole team’s energy.

Mr Calver’s formative years also saw him enjoy the team sport of rugby and the camaraderie, common enemy and combative nature of the game for hooligans played by gentlemen certainly gave him a tenacious streak when it came to selling the final part of Lovefilm to Amazon. In particular he said that dragging the deal the last few hundred metres over the line took effort when in effect the deal had already been finalised.

More importantly when Lovefilm faced disaster following a fire which almost wiped out its distribution centre, his people skills and ability to react to a changing situation, possibly learnt from his father’s business issues and the rugby field, saw him rally the team, survive and simultaneously change the business model for the better. Great leaders are judged by their actions in a crisis and by any analysis Mr Calver instinctively knew what to do, how and why his actions at that precise moment were critical to the long-term success of the Lovefilm business.

Mr Calver is generous in his praise for his team, credits the whole company with the success Lovefilm enjoyed while not pulling any punches about some of the characters whose usefulness had expired.

For readers seeking advice on how to run a small business or managers trying to figure out where to take their business next, it makes a great read. Mr Calver’s easy style keeps readers looking for the next lesson which, with scholastic predictability, buffers up to the previous one with only a short pause every now and again to digress.

Published by Capstone