Top 20 Tips from 35+ years of experience of dealing with pubcos and brewers:
1. Don’t trust them “to do the right thing”. Ultimately, in business, you cannot trust anyone to do anything but what is in their own best commercial interest; sad, but true.
2. Don’t expect them to be “reasonable”. They will not do anything beyond their remit or beyond what is required of them in the covenants of your tenancy agreement / lease.
3. Don’t believe the hype! A Business Development Manager’s primary focus is to improve the business of the company s/he works for and a Business Relationship Manager is only interested in managing their relationship with you to further their company’s objectives. Titles, codes of practice and charters are all PR; the only thing that governs their behaviour is the law and the contract they have with you.
4. As Samuel Goldwin the famous Hollywood producer said “A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on!” … get everything in writing. If you do not understand what they have written to you or any document put before you demand that they clarify and explain them; if you still don’t understand then seek professional advice.
5. Sign nothing until you have sought and got professional advice and are sure you fully understand that advice and the ramifications of what you are about to do.
6. If you are taking on an agreement (or make any business decision involving your landlord) and are looking to rely on information provided by the landlord then don’t. Try and get independent verification of things such as barrelage, takings and overheads (most pubcos and many brewers use draught beer dispense monitoring equipment; insist on seeing reports to back up any claims by the landlord or their letting agents). Both your landlord and their agents have clauses in their agreements that specifically deny you the right to rely upon the representations they make to you, so don’t expect to rely on them or use the information provided against them, unless you can prove that the information given to you is false.
7. Record details of all meetings, either in person or by telephone. If you have a telephone conversation, confirm the content to that person in writing as soon as you can. This could be in the form of an email or a letter. Let them respond in writing if they feel your understanding of that conversation is not their understanding. Keep copies of all your correspondence safe (including emails), you may need them later.
8. When you meet with their managers don’t go it alone. If you do not have a business partner, other director or a friend who can sit with you and witness what transpires at a meeting then get a member of staff to observe. (This may be exceptionally difficult with certain discussions but this should not deter you). Some managers of pubcos are not averse to distorting the meaning and outcome of meetings and in some circumstance be less than honest with you to achieve their and their company’s ends. Be sure that if they make a mistake they will do everything to deflect from that mistake and in some instances they will be economic with the truth to protect their and their company’s position.
9. When you meet with their managers have your agenda to hand and insist that your agenda is fully dealt with to your satisfaction before they start on theirs. You are the customer, they are not your boss, your needs come first. Take minutes of your discussions and what you and they have agreed and insist they sign your minutes. If they refuse then mark “MR BLOGS of XYZ Pubco/Brewery refused to sign”. Keep all copies of your minutes safe you may require them later.
10. If they have an agenda and take notes and ask you to sign a meeting note then look at it carefully and if you feel they have misrepresented your discussion then write on the notes and initial your note. Keep all copies of their notes (they usually provide them) safe in case you need them. If you refuse to sign then write to them at your earliest opportunity explaining your reluctance to sign.
11. If they agree to do something, get it in writing and get a clear timetable written in for when they must do what they have agreed.
12. Know and understand all your rights and responsibilities under the terms of whatever lease or tenancy agreement you have; they have a perfect understanding of these agreements i.e. they’re to protect them not you. Do not be fobbed off if you feel they are not acting in accordance with your tenancy or lease agreement.
13. If you have to complain, do so in writing and ensure a copy goes to the chief executive (managing director) of the company. If your complaint is sufficiently serious copy your letter of complaint to the British Institute of Innkeeping (BII). The BII has a vested interest in ensuring pubcos and brewers act fairly and in accordance with industry charters that the BII enforce.