How To Survive Your First Year In Business (page 2) 

You don’t need to publicise “under new management” right away: You can actually start your business, set it up, get some of the suppliers you need, before you publicise your launch. It is sometimes good to get to the stage where you have a few stories ready, to get positive news flowing and momentum going. And you can definitely have multiple launches, provided there is something to differentiate the products you offer, for instance many big companies go for a “soft launch” where they allow customers to eat or drink for free in return for feedback and the chance to allow new staff/menus/systems to bed in before charging customers. If you are thinking of a comedy club or live music program, before you start a major marketing push you might put on a couple of nights to iron out the mechanics of putting on live entertainment. One of the best “under new management” banners I have seen is “Under New Attitude”, not only does it signal the traditional announcement of a change in publican but heralds your intention to offer the best of service to your customers.

Do be thorough in your recruiting: If you want to reduce the percentage of bad hires you make, recruiters can be invaluable, especially for the specific roles you have limited experience of yourself. Depending on how you value your own time is a key decider in the recruitment process, for instance, you may well be a great cook, but is being stuck in the kitchen 10 hours a day the most effective use of your time and management skills?

A recruiter’s experience allows them to root out those candidates who really know their subject matter and can do the job well. From their pool of candidates they can shortlist ones with a genuine interest the pub trade, or those who are a good fit with your values/offering. For instance you might be an experienced pub manager but not a professionally trained chef or vice versa, so use a specialist catering staff agency to get the best pub manager or chef for your pub.

Visit the Staff section of the website for more information on hiring staff

Do build up good word-of-mouth: you could put on free charity fundraising events to get yourself some testimonials. If your customers are enthusiastic about what you do, they will be your best sales force.

Be bold: One of the first mistakes people make in business is thinking that other businesses are unreachable. It’s the opposite. Other businesses are in business to do deals … try calling them, you will be surprised what happens. For instance do you have an office or factory in the neighbourhood looking for catering for meetings or a lunchtime sandwich delivery?

Do plan your ‘hard’ launch(es) well: Launches are great but they can use an awful lot of cash on food and drink, which will be consumed by people who aren’t going to provide any lasting value. Consider your guest list carefully.

Do make sure you’re concentrating on the right aspect of running a business: Focus is key, either you’re focused on starting and growing your business, or you’re focused on putting on your first beer festival, or you’re focused on putting on entertainment. It can be really hard to think about more than one thing at a time. Many pub start-ups fail because the key players have been working so hard on one aspect of the business that they have taken their eye off  other more critical parts of the business such as staffing or minimising costs.

Do think carefully about how you’ll reach your customers: Delivering your message to your intended customer base through the correct channel is vital. PR may not work for everyone just as paid for advertising doesn’t work for everyone. It very much depends on your market, your messages and, of course, your budget. For instance a leaflet drop in one neighbourhood might bring in lots of new custom, but try a different locality and you get nothing. Having a pub website helps of course, but you also need to proactively engage with potential customers through social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook.

Do consider sourcing locally: I believe wholeheartedly in sourcing locally wherever possible, not only does it mean more local businesses are inter-trading, it also means there’ll be more working capital swimming around, resulting in a stronger local economy. This ultimately means more jobs will be safeguarded and created and an increased pool of potential customers for your pub. Other advantages can include being able to hold smaller stocks as local suppliers will generally be able to get something to you quickly if you need it, whereas a national supplier will be less flexible.

Don’t be afraid to work with other pubs: whilst this requires trust and understanding, there are common opportunities for pubs. For instance one of the best known beer festivals, the Long Itchendon Beer Festival, grew from three local pubs agreeing to put on their separate beer festivals at the same time. Over the years it has grown into a huge event attracting thousands of customers.

Do be passionate about your pub: you’ve got great ales, tasty food, interesting entertainment, you work long hours and are risking your money on your pub so you obviously have the passion and energy to run a successful pub. Don’t keep it to yourself though, try and tell four people a day about it, learn from their reactions and carry on accordingly. Up-selling isn’t just for your staff!

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