It’s been a fantastic week in Yummy, I always say that, but this week really has, especially as we have new Bantam chickens!
Not many people get to write a blog they should have written last week (or maybe a month ago!) in a pub garden at 6am in the morning with a cup of tea, a goat nibbling at your shirt, a pig or two on the ‘great escape’ because I probably should have waited until my foraging chef arrived to let them into their ‘secret garden’ & the occasional chicken coming along to have a look at what you’re doing, realise you don’t have food & bugger off looking for worms.
The best thing in Yummy right now, my team are going from strength to strength. It’s all been about people this week, as it is every week, but this week we discussed my teams, the roles they all play, future planning & the potential future stars we are nurturing. We have some amazing talent in our business & it’s brilliant to see them motivated & driven to make Yummy great.
But, there is an element of sadness in my mood today.
Most of my team know what drives me, the majority of my friends, but I don’t often talk about it. Yesterday’s events however made me think about my Dad an awful lot. As a proud daddy myself I tell my team on a daily basis (as nearly every single one of them just makes me feel old now) that it ain’t until you have them that you truly understand what “I would do anything for my kids” really means. It happened for me the minute I cast eyes on my little boy, covered in horrible gunky stuff, a blue/pink tinge to his skin, screaming his lungs out, being jumped on by a host of midwives & doctors. He looked pretty pissed off about the whole situation, but then he calmed down – as soon as he was given to his mummy.
So, why yesterday?
Well, because we were invited to the Tenanted Pub Company Summit in London. The big issue at the moment, self regulation or let the planks from Whitehall get involved. I’ve never sat on the fence, most people know that. We’re big enough & ugly enough to sort ourselves out, christ the majority of MP’s can’t even do their bloody expenses right & they think they can come & fix one of the most complex industries in the World with a magic fairy wand? Well no chaps, afraid not. It was the first time I have seen Dr Vince Cable talk in public, he was crap. It was the first time I have heard Ted Tuppen talk in public, he was fantastic. I have a huge amount of respect for a host of people in my industry, the great guns from the Grand Met & Allied days, the new boys & girls making waves & Mr Tuppen is most definitely one of them. Vince, I think its time to step down & let new blood in, you’re clearly just going through the motions, be there as a council, the experience, the old head, but we need doers now, I get the distinct impression you ain’t that fused anymore.
Neil Morgan, one of Christie & Co’s big guns set about describing how the current economic downturn is a mirror image of the last one in the late 80′s & 90′s. It was frightening how similar the net effect was & is. This led me to start thinking of Dad. He lost everything & so did we, of course it wasn’t his fault, it was the recession, wasn’t it?
The entire day was geared to how the various pub co’s were supporting their tennants & lessees. Given that it’s what I worked on for the last 5 years at my time with Carlsberg, conceiving, creating & implementing We Deliver More it was interesting to see just what a game changer we were. Recognition won’t come the way it should, externally at least, but in nearly every presentation I saw the net results of what we, under the fab leadership at the time of Dave Scott had created. Basically, everyone copied it. The only issue, it’s taken them a while & I don’t actually think it’s going to be used by the masses. It’s there which is great, but to get the buggers to use it is a totally different thing.
But, at every step of the way an annoying interruption, like a fly that keeps buzzing around your head, distracting & annoying kept popping up. I was asked to sit on a panel & tell the room what I thought of my relationships with my landlords. It’s pretty simple, we have a fantastic relationship with one, frustrating as hell with another & none existent with the last. We’re very self sufficient, we actually don’t need anyone’s help, what we need is for them to not get in the way of our progress & if they have great people that can help us as Charles Wells do, we’ll take every single bit of it.
I make no comparisons to us & Richard Branson, he’s a figurehead I admire immensely, he’s an entrepreneur. Us, we’re just pretty good at what we do (everyone calls us entrepreneurs, but we’re not) & have the balls to risk everything for a vision we have. But, in his journey Mr B’s come across many a barrier. Whether it’s BA who actually ended up leasing him his first plane for peanuts or more recently brown envelopes in whitehall with his train services I guess that’s just the net effect of doing business. This is the issue for me – barriers & speed. We’re moving pretty fast, we have to, our industry is all about game changers & we want to be one of them. But, each time someone slows us down it’s as frustrating as hell. We don’t need slowing down, we don’t need someone else’s opinion, we would have done the research, the P&L, the risk V’s reward before we asked the question. Not that I’m looking for a simple yes, that wouldn’t be right either, but speed, that’s what we need. That’s where the frustrating relationships come into play.
However, it was pretty clear that a huge amount of time in the big pub co’s is spent on the crap, the people that shouldn’t be in business, that’s when I started thinking about my Dad. Is it the fault of the pub co’s to allow these people in? There’s a shop just opened in Market Harborough. It won’t be there in 6 months, I’ll state my entire business on it. Should the landlord be allowed to sell the lease to them? Is it their responsibility or should some people just never be given the opportunity to own a business?
My Dad lost his business, his home, his family, because he was a great auctioneer, but crap at business. It broke him.
I sat on the stage next to a chap who blamed the pub co’s. I don’t know his business, he clearly has come up against a huge number of barriers. He has 8 pubs, say that to anyone & they say ‘WOW’ 8 pubs, I did. But, I hate negativity, it doesn’t do anyone any good. Either get on, or get out. I don’t care about how many years people have been in business, Dad was in business for 10 years, but he was crap at business, the recession helped define that.
So, who to blame? I blamed my Dad. He turned from my hero to a guy I despised. 14 years he had put in, I don’t doubt for one minute that he had the same emotions as me the moment he saw me, but somewhere between that moment & living in a 4 birth caravan, downsized from a 5 bed farm with 26 acres of land, whilst having to do my GCSE’s it was lost. Add another 10 years of self pity, alcohol, wallowing & he was unrecognisable to me, just some bloke, one I had to keep paying bills for, looking after, bailing out of trouble, a pain in the arse.
It’s only now as I break my back building my little boy his own veg patch & this weekend gone it’s salad plot extension so that I can teach him about food, growing, nurturing, that I realise just what my Dad did for me. I had an amazing childhood, just a really crap teenage existence. But, it shaped me, it made me appreciate everything I am working for, it drives me, if someone wants to take it from me, god help them.
So, if you’re up there looking down, know you’re appreciated, maybe a little late, but I have learnt to respect you again. To you old man, at least you had the balls to try & do it, you just couldn’t bounce.
To all those blaming someone else for your failing businesses, maybe you should spend the day looking at yourself in the mirror & ask the question, who really is to blame, could you have innovated earlier, could you have fought harder, could the fault of failure actually lie with a less easy answer to swallow?
I’m sure the debate will continue, for us, it’s business as usual, if we loose it, it’s our fault, but we’ll bounce……you can be assured of that.