Five Minute Q&A
Sandra Crowley


With responsibility for Barnes & Noble College bookstores in Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa, our ‘Five Minutes With…’ feature takes to the road with Regional Manager Sandra Crowley for a discussion on meeting customer expectations, her love of Freshmen Move-In Day and the value of waitressing.

What was your first job?

I started working at the age of fifteen, and like many other teenagers began working fast food at Kentucky Fried Chicken. It was a great and fun work environment as all the neighborhood kids worked there. A year later, I took a job as a coffee shop girl. It was at a restaurant with a one-stop shop concept that included a coffee counter, sit-down restaurant, lounge, and banquet facility, and offered catering around the city. I worked in all facets of the restaurant and it was that experience that really taught me about the value of hard work and how you run a business with a lot of moving parts.

How do you describe your current role with Barnes & Noble College?

My job is overseeing the daily operations of our bookstores. That makes me a coach, trainer, motivator, and hopefully, a complete support system to our bookstore teams.

What are you working on right now?

Wrapping up Spring Rush, and even though the focus is all about the business in the stores, I want to be sure I’m communicating with all of my managers and teams and remembering to thank them. It’s important to me that they know how much I appreciate, recognize and acknowledge all the hard work that they are doing on their campuses during this time and throughout the year. Day to day, I’m always working with my store teams on hyper-local initiatives and looking for ways to drive incremental sales. Each campus is unique, which makes each store’s opportunities vary. This makes it both fun and a challenge each day!

For all the diversity in your customers, what do you find are the similarities?

The commonality is service. Everyone wants and expects great customer service. It’s our job to provide that high level of service. How we get there and what route we take may vary from customer to customer, and that is our job to navigate and work through. At the end of the day, our number one priority is to know we exceeded the customer’s expectations!

How do you think Barnes & Noble College has changed since you first joined?

We have definitely grown and expanded. We have 743 stores across the country, and while we continue to grow as an organization, I love that we are not afraid to ask questions. We make positive changes based on our learnings and that is what helps us to continue to grow. We also continue to add talented people that will further help grow our future. Yet, with all these changes, our core foundation has remained the same and that is what has made us a strong and solid company with great core values.

As a regional manager who is constantly on the road, do you have a favorite journey?

The time I can collect and gather my thoughts is usually on the way home. I spend that time in the car re-thinking the day. Anyone that knows me well, will know I will think through all the parts of the day. Luckily, the beauty of a long commute home is the opportunity to strategize next steps and building a plan for the next day — that and playing really loud Rick Springfield music!

Where do you think the biggest opportunities lie for Barnes & Noble College for the future?

Today, I think technology is seen as both an opportunity and a challenge. Many of our campus partners see us as a partner that really understands technology and, in particular, its effect on students and their study habits. As digital, mobile and social technology continue to grow, our job will be to continue to explore that growth and look for opportunities to build our campus partnerships

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?

If I wasn’t doing this, I’d be an event planner. I love the detail and organization that goes into a successful event. I’m also passionate about pug rescue. I volunteer with a rescue organization and I have three at home – Coco, Rocky & Bella!

Favorite part of the bookstore?

When I’m in any of our stores, I love to rework walls. My managers will tell you that I’m famous for saying ‘let’s re-work this wall, it will only take a few minutes…’ We tend to get dirty and spend more than a few minutes on them!

Favorite book or book you’re currently reading?

I just finished The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis) with my son, Ben and I’d recommend it to any adult or adult with children. I’m also just starting Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City. It’s based in Chicago at the time of the World’s Fair, and I love thrillers and crime mysteries.

Digital or hard copy?

Both. I’ve downloaded to both my iPad and my phone, depending on what and where I’m reading, but I think I still tend to gravitate to a hard cover book.

Most valuable thing you’ve learned at Barnes & Noble College?

Everyone — from the student bookseller to the executive leadership team — we are all smaller parts of a bigger picture. No one can achieve success without the help and support from their team. Whether it’s the bookstore team, home office team or fellow managers. We all complete each other. We all complete the big picture of Barnes & Noble College.

Best day at Barnes & Noble College?

There have been a lot! But I think move-in day for freshmen is hard to beat. It’s heartwarming to be able to interact with the parents and the opportunity to reassure them that the bookstore is a resource for their sons or daughters with everything from hoodies to textbooks. I love that opportunity to engage with them and I hope it makes them feel just a little bit better that their child has a resource away from home.