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In this article, Conor Kenny, Head of hospitality industry advisors, Conor Kenny & Associates, looks at effective ideas that can help make your Pub stand out from the crowd in a testing market.

The One Magic Thing

Many years ago I was giving a Workshop to a bright bunch. Slowly but surely we were weaving an intricate patchwork towards an effective solution. One guy was just not with the programme. Every so often he would say “Conor, what is the one thing you are going to get us to do that will fix all this?”
I paused and said “If I knew the answer to that I’d be joining all the Lotto jet set on their beach”
The way forward for any business is to weave your own intricate yet simple set of solutions to your unique challenges.
That’s the plan!

 Work Harder

A recession brings many challenges. The beauty of owning a Pub is that you are in control of your own destiny. Not only that, but you can trim your sails (and adjust your rudder) with speed.
The first new idea is to get used to the notion that a recession will demand one simple fundamental. It is that we will all have to work harder, smarter and for less. Your first bright idea is to accept that and avoid denying it. Then, gather up your troops and prepare for the climb.

 Family Values

2009 has already created lots of panic. Panic means “I don’t know what to do” Panic is toxic, dangerous and useless. More importantly, it is the kiss of death for a leader. Leaders must remain calm, steady the ship and keep the crew working in the right direction.
A good company is run in just the same way as a good family. There is the ebb and flow of debate. There is healthy disagreement. There is opinion, advice and laughter. There is a leader and everyone understands the hierarchy. They don’t mince words and the truth flows free. Above all, there is respect for one another and there is listening.
You cannot build a business, a company or a pub on your own. It is your people, and only your people who can do that. This year, above every other year, turn to your people, be truthful, ask for their help and invest in their future. It’s not just your Pub, it’s theirs too. Guess what? They will surprise you.
As John Quincy Adams once said;
 “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”

 The Strategy of Failure

New market conditions bring new challenges. New challenges bring new reactions. Reactions sometimes leave footprints. Footprints can be used in evidence!
A tough market inevitably means a change of plan.
It might mean cutbacks, working harder, redundancies and so forth.
It might also mean a change of tactics - some of those might just be scary (and leave footprints)
Recently there has been a lot of Press (and some first hand stories) of rumour spreading. Rumours that target their competition in an aggressive, untrue and malicious way.
It is the 'Sting of the Dying Bee' and it is the death knell for a business.
It is the strategy for failure, the beginning of the end.
In a small community people talk and it won't be long before the target of the propaganda knows the source.
What's more, so will the staff and so will their customers.

 Partners - Not ‘The Enemy’

Your suppliers can become your partners – not the enemy. The Pub business is especially lucky to be surrounded by some of the greatest marketing thinkers in the world. Ireland has an incredible history of creating world class, world beating and world renowned brands. Think Guinness, Baileys, Jameson, Tullamore Dew amongst others. In other words, your suppliers know a thing or two about your business.
If you see your suppliers as the enemy who your mission is to “squeeze the best deal possible from” you may just be on a well worn, predictable and dull path to failure. On the other hand, if you ask for their help, their ideas, their expertise and their enormous ingenuity, flair and creativity, you might just make a new friend – a very precious friend.
On the other hand, if you still see them as ‘the enemy’ at least compromise and bear in mind that Old Persian saying;
“He who wants a rose must respect the thorn.””

 Back to Basics

There is no mystery to making your business more successful. There are fundamentals and then there is competitive edge. The fundamentals must precede the edge.
Pubs, like any business, must know the fundamentals, implement them, challenge them, refresh them, revisit them and police them.
The market will tighten and people will demand more. Money will be more carefully spent but it will only be spent where it is worthwhile.
You must give value. Food must say ‘great’ not good. Staff must be sincerely friendly, fast and efficient. Your Pub needs to be clean, safe, warm, cosy, snug and happy. You must try harder and be seen to try harder. Your Pub must be cheerful and an escape from the misery – not an addition.
But these are the new ‘givens’ in a tough market. However, the ‘givens’ must happen before the exciting innovation. Twin the two and you will plough happily up the steep hill.

 So Hard to be Humble

Albert Einstein said; “Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of truth and knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the Gods.” This year, more than any year, it won’t be hard to be humble – it will be imperative.
That means being sincere, listening to what customers actually want, investing in your staff and going the extra mile – every single day. It will mean saying ‘hello’. More, it will mean saying ‘thank you’ and it will mean truly respecting that your customers have choice.
If you dispense hard work, a friendly smile, good products, great value in a warm atmosphere you will prevail. If you wait for the tide to turn, make sure you have enough fuel for a very long wait.
Above all else, humility will earn respect. Respect comes from trust and sincerity. Not a bad thing to focus on in a sea full of pirates.

 The Ideas Factory

Some of the most successful businesses were built in times of great hardship. They emerged in response to what the market wanted.
If you are doing well you are giving the market what they want – do more of it.
If you are not, quite simply you are not giving the market what they demand. But fear not! Help is at hand. In fact lots of it. It is right under your nose.
Sometimes leaders get lost. Good leaders ask for help, bad leaders drown quietly.
At the start of this bright New Year the sun will shine and clouds eventually give way to lazy hazy sunny days. Gather your troops, set out the challenge and ask the questions; Where should we go? What can we do? What shall we try? What will that do for the customer? Our business? The town? Our community?
Set out 4 tests. Make an idea only an idea if it is going to have a high impact on the customer, make them smile, is easy to put in place and be a point of difference.
Then, when you have gathered up your ideas, get cracking and get them going.
If they work, more of the same, if not drop them.
Prepared to be surprised, pleasantly surprised.

 Bright Ideas Bright People

The people you work with know you, the Pub, your market and your customers. If you take only one message from this little paper, take this;
"That your people are better persuaded by the reasons they have themselves discovered than by those which have come into the mind of others"
It is taken directly from our own website and it is what works.
If you ask your team for help, direction and advice they will give it.
If you give them a voice, they will answer.
If you encourage them, they will respond and if you empower them they will amaze you.

 Marathon Approach

I have run 8 marathons and though the miles on the clock are getting high, I shall continue with this challenging adventure. Over the years the best advice has come through running and the friends I have made. One particular saying is especially appropriate;
“The race is not always to the swift but to those who keep on running”
Or, as Winston Churchill said;
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."
In the meantime, keep on running. Not a bad idea!

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