Customers: What can businesses realistically expect?

I wrote this blog over a week ago and forgot to publish it – and I’m glad I did, because since I wrote it a shed load of snow fell onto the United Kingdom and thousands of restaurants, takeaways and cafes across the country have been left standing, wondering: where have all our customers gone? So I’ve decided to rewrite it in light of recent events. But, let’s go back to the beginning, shall we?

My first blog post started when chef Mark Greenaway introduced a new policy for no shows, intending to charge them £50 a head, which last week had the whole internet offering their opinion about whether this is really fair, or not. Fast forward just one week and millions of people up and down the country have had to change their plans, at the last minute, due to the inclement weather. Luckily, Mark Greenaway implemented his policy last week so he will not have been feeling the pinch at £50 a head. But his competitors will have been.

I’ve seen so many restaurateurs post about how “devastating” this week has been for their business. We ate lunch in a popular local restaurant today – out of a potential 80 covers restaurant, we were the only two in, for two hours.

So, when it comes to customers, what can businesses really expect?

Many businesses open their doors every day without any expectation of paying customers. Retailers, for instance, take a gamble that there will be sufficient passers by to keep them going. Cafes too. Hotels are a little bit different. Customers really want to be sure that there’s a bed there for them when they arrive, so there’s a trade off: they are willing to part with cash, up front, in return for a guaranteed room for the night.

But during the events of the last few wintery days, all gloves have been off. Millions of customers simply changed their plans.

If ever there was an argument for customers being THE most important success factor for your business, here it is, and as simple as we can make it: without customers, you don’t have a business.

And if your margins are extremely tight (and whose aren’t) a few days of unexpected loss of all customers could be nothing short of devastating.

Which brings me back to the first scenario – what happens when your customers book, but don’t turn up? Restaurants with high demand have always taken bookings but now, it seems, customers are “hedging their bets” and booking multiple restaurants so they can decide on the night.

If that is the case, then the restaurant really should be charging them for a no show. It would seem the customer is deliberately intending to let them, or another restaurant they have booked for the same time, down. It’s a bit like booking two shows at two theatres and then only going to one. However, throw in a flurry of snow and it becomes complicated. The weather is outwith the customer’s control. It’s outwith everyone’s control, actually.

So why this is happening? Why are customers covering their bases with multiple restaurant bookings?

The answer is, I believe, in how restaurants are deciding to manage their capacity. On a recent trip to Edinburgh, my husband and I made an attempt to eat in no less than 7 separate restaurants. We gave up in the end and drove home, some 45 miles away, and picked up a takeaway on the way home. Many were half empty, all asked if we “had a booking”. We were not the only ones in the queue with the same problem. You see, they had the capacity to serve us, they just chose not to, because they had a pre-existing booking (who, we are led to believe, have a high propensity not to show up).

Perhaps what’s really out of line here is the restaurant industry’s expectations that their establishments should be booked up months in advance in order to provide them with the security of knowing someone’s going to eat there in July. Moreover they are turning customers away, every single night, because of this policy. That’s a bit arbitrary, isn’t it??

If the customer is always right, how come the restaurants are getting it so wrong?

This weekend, amidst the weather chaos, I heard the plea of our local restaurateurs and headed out in the snow to “deliberately” eat lunch out. We like that restaurant, we know they are having a bad week, and we wanted to help. Lunch was also rather delicious. And they were extremely grateful that we had come in. It’s a win/win situation for us both!

So here’s an idea: Instead of charging customers who don’t show, how about not having a booking system at all and serving up delicious food to those who are literally standing on your doorstep and wanting to be fed. Or why not change your booking policy to only booking out 50% of your restaurant on any given night so you have additional capacity to serve those who simply had a notion that they fancied going out for dinner that night and chose you?

Sadly, on more than one occasion this year, I’ve left several establishments who are half empty but I can’t get a table because I don’t have a booking. I missed the memo that said if I want to eat out, I must plan weeks ahead. Cafes don’t really have this problem. They are either full or not and, as a customer, I accept that.

So I challenge the assumption that customers are just being very, very naughty and should be punished for suddenly deciding they really just fancied a curry rather than a steak tartare. If they are not turning up to a pre-arranged date, the chances are there’s another problem at play – maybe your food wasn’t good enough to entice them back, or your location isn’t the easiest to get to, or your service was poor, or (worse) because you’re all booked up you’ve done no marketing for 6 months and they’ve forgotten about you.

Chuck out the booking list, open your doors and take a chance. You might find that when you most need it, that customer loyalty you’ve built up over the years will pay for itself in dividends when it snows.

Olympic standard coaching inspires Scotland’s SMEs to go for gold, says Rebecca Bonnington from Shirlaws

Olympic standard coaching could inspire Scotland’s small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) to go for gold.

That’s the view of Edinburgh-based business expert Rebecca Bonnington, a Partner with international coaching group Shirlaws.

She was commenting after Elise Christie tugged at the nation’s heartstrings when she crashed out of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang this week, missing a medal for the second Games running.

But even as she hobbled off the ice supported by head coach Nicky Gooch, Elise was telling journalists that she’d be back for Beijing 2022.

Rebecca says: “While natural talent and a bullish attitude like Elise are the backbone of any athlete’s success, the pressure is now on her coaching team to make sure she’s on the podium in four years time.

“The same goes for business success, with more and more SMEs acknowledging the value of coaching as they strive to deliver results and scale their operation to the next level.

“Like athletes, there’s enormous potential for businesses to use coaching to identify and achieve their goals.”

It’s a view echoed by Tricia Fox, founder and MD of Perth-based PR and marketing agency Volpa, who has been working with Rebecca to scale up her business.

Tricia says: “Anyone who thinks success is achieved in a vacuum is kidding themselves. I’ve never heard of a single successful athlete who hasn’t worked with an exceptional coach who has helped them make the 1% difference that delivers gold. Business is no different. Rebecca has given us critical insight and a shone a strategic light on how we can leverage our existing strengths and build a better business. Her advice is based on clear strategic principles and, importantly, her experience as an entrepreneur.”

The main thrust of Rebecca’s work at Shirlaws involves coaching and consulting with high achieving executives from large corporates and entrepreneurial businesses on how to make more money, more time and reduce stress.

She’s recently developed the CIRCLE Programme which condenses Shirlaws unique business frameworks into six intensive and affordable sessions aimed Scotland’s SME and family-run firms with turnovers less than £1.5 million.

Rebecca adds: “The CIRCLE Programme has been designed by Shirlaws with the needs of such business owners in mind. The work we do makes a huge difference in a very short space of time to businesses and business owners. We know this because we’ve been working with SME and private enterprise businesses for 20 years now. Using our tried and tested models and frameworks, we help grow your business, whilst successfully giving you access to more money, more time and less stress.

“We would now like to share this incredible knowledge through our CIRCLE Programme with smaller businesses who are ambitious to grow and want to use the Shirlaws’ frameworks to create strong, sustainable businesses.

“I don’t want to work with anyone who is interested in a fast buck, I work only with clients who work hard and want to build something sustainable and of quality. If your business is above £1.5m turnover then you’ll be able to work with me one-to-one on your business. If it’s below that, the CIRCLE Programme is designed especially for you.”

There are still places available to join the Circle Programme. Contact Rebecca Bonnington on 07734 934084 or rebecca.bonnington@shirlawsgroup.com for more details.

First Scottish Business Expo promises to ‘shake up’ business networking

An exciting new celebration of business in Scotland and one that promises to ‘shake up’ business networking is set to launch in May this year.

Scottish Business Expo will bring together some of the best business talent in the country to share their experience and knowledge with fellow entrepreneurs.

The two-day event takes place on the 4th and 5th of May 2018 in one of the most iconic settings in the world – overlooking the Forth road and rail bridges and the new Queensferry Crossing. The venue is The Queensferry Lodge Hotel in North Queensferry.

The inaugural Scottish Business Expo will host eight inspirational speakers and include an exhibition, gala dinner and more. The aim is to bring businesses together, with the opportunity to display their products and services. With plenty of social opportunities to mingle with speakers and VIPs, and a packed programme of valuable learning over the two days, the event promises to deliver on its slogan, ‘More than just networking.’

The Scottish Business Expo is hosted by the Lodestone Lounge, an online community which helps entrepreneurs to navigate business growth, founded by Dr Wendy Sneddon. Wendy has just been shortlisted as one of Britain’s Top 50 Business Advisers in a competition organised by Enterprise Nation. The winners will be decided by public vote and revealed next month.

Wendy is an experienced business and leadership coach, who has been supporting businesses with strategic planning and team management for more than 20 years. She is a fellow of the Institute of Leadership and Management, associate member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, and award-winning author of business management guide, Get Out of Your Way.

Wendy explains: “We’re shaking up the traditional business networking model with our first Scottish Business Expo. It’s about getting more out of a business event: more fun, more inspiration, more creativity, more challenge. We’re looking forward to welcoming business owners from all sectors, people who are already passionate about what they do but are motivated to do more to ensure continued business growth. Over the next few months we’ll be sharing more details about the two-day calendar, as well as our own tips on business networking.”

Tickets for Scottish Business Expo are available now, with options ranging in price through day guest, weekend guest to Silver and Platinum VIP packages, which include a 90 min slot onstage. For all ticket prices and details of how to get involved as a speaker or exhibitor, visit ‪ www.scottishbusinessexpo.co.uk

Balhousie Care Group’s chairman shortlisted as IoD Regional Director of the Year

Balhousie Care Group’s Chairman Tony Banks, who has been instrumental in turning around the fortunes of the care home firm, has been shortlisted in this year’s Institute of Scotland Director of the Year Awards.

Tony, who founded the award-winning care home group 25 years ago, is a finalist in the Tayside Regional Director of the Year category.

The news follows a hugely successful year for Balhousie Care Group, which runs 25 homes across the north east of Scotland including Dundee, Angus, Fife, Aberdeenshire, Perthshire and Stirlingshire. 2017 saw it secure a £49m refinancing deal, appoint its first Chief Executive, win several awards and gain the highest Care Inspectorate rating (Category 6) for two of its care homes. The Perth-based company also secured a major win at the UK-wide National Care Awards, when Operations Director Louise Barnett was named Operations Manager of the Year.

Over the last two years, Tony has overseen the launch of Together We’re Great, an initiative which has seen a positive cultural shift company-wide, and a Participation Charter which enables residents to be more involved with their care decisions.

Louise Barnett, Balhousie Care’s Operations Director, said:

“Tony is always looking for new and innovative ways for developing the business and the people in it. His leadership and belief in delivering the best care for our residents makes our organisation a special place to be.”

IoD Scotland said this year’s judging panel was impressed by the “very high standard” of entries. The awards ceremony takes place in Glasgow on 22nd March 2018.

To find out more about Balhousie Care Group, visit www.balhousiecare.co.uk

Leading law firm Miller Hendry strengthens its teams in Dundee and Perth with six key appointments

Leading Tayside solicitors and estate agents Miller Hendry has announced a raft of six key appointments and promotions, expanding and strengthening its teams in Dundee and Perth.

Aileen Scott and Beverley McMahon have been promoted into the roles of Senior Associates.

Aileen’s promotion enhances the Private Client Department in Perth, underlining the firm’s ongoing commitment to the ‘Fair City’. She boasts experience in the administration of executries, estate and inheritance tax planning, guardianships, wills and powers of attorney.

Beverley is a key member of Miller Hendry’s Residential Property Department in Dundee and is highly experienced in dealing with all aspects of residential conveyancing, including buying and selling properties, equity release arrangements, re-mortgages, boundary disputes and transfer of title, with a particular interest in domestic leasing.

The third appointment is Michael Johnston who strengths the team in Perth’s Residential Property Department. Michael joined the firm after completing his traineeship in Aberdeen.

Elsewhere, Lindsay Kirkwood has graduated from her trainee position within the firm to take up a new role as solicitor in the Private Client department in Dundee.  Claire Pirie has been appointed as a trainee solicitor in the Private Client Department in Perth, while Stacey Culloch moves into the same role in Dundee.

John Thom, Chairman of Miller Hendry, said: “I am delighted to announce these six appointments which underline Miller Hendry’s ongoing commitment to investing in our people to meet the growing demand from clients for our range of specialist services.

“I firmly believe that it is crucial to invest in training and promote from within. By developing our own talent pool we provide the drive for staff to work hard for both clients and the firm.”

Water’s Edge introduces the next generation of workspace with Smart Building technology attracting UK-wide interest

Intelligent workplace design is credited with boosting creativity, productivity and ultimately profitability. It’s a blueprint that tech entrepreneurs and developers of the Minecraft console editions, Chris van der Kuyl and Paddy Burns, are embracing in their latest business venture.

Tayforth Properties Ltd. – which is jointly owned by Chris and Paddy and operated by Managing Director Stewart Clark – is currently developing the historic Shed 25 building overlooking Dundee’s City Quay marina into the highly-anticipated Water’s Edge commercial office development.

Perth-based Smart Building specialist d3 Audio & Visual – who have worked with the likes of Manchester United FC, DC Thomson, Skyscanner, the Scottish Ambulance Service and the Welsh Rugby Union – has been enlisted to install a single connected system that will control and monitor everything from lighting and heating to security and energy usage via a smartphone, tablet or computer.

When complete in early 2018, Water’s Edge will combine a stunning quayside location with cutting edge technology, ultra-fast broadband and flexible workspaces. The development will also host one of Dundee’s largest restaurant/cafés which is due to open at the end of 2018.

Andrew McCully, Co-owner, d3 Audio & Visual Technologies, explained:

“Given our track record in the field of smart technology, d3 Audio & Visual is delighted to be collaborating on Tayforth’s vision for this ground-breaking project. Water’s Edge really stands out from the pack with some innovative technology and smart design to automatically control internal operations. Everything in this workplace – access, alarm, lights, temperatures – will be fully automated and can be controlled simply and quickly with a smartphone or tablet. This makes for a great working environment as well as saving energy and cutting down on utility costs.”

Stewart Clark, Managing Director of developers Tayforth Properties Ltd., added:

“Nationally there’s a great demand for Smart Building space, and Water’s Edge has attracted a great deal of interest from employers across the UK because it ticks all the boxes in terms of technological specification, design and location.”

Businesses who are interested in finding out more about Water’s Edge should contact Stewart Clark on 07782 637 420 or email stewart.clark@tayforth.com

GDPR

GDPR help at hand for Tayside businesses

With only 100 days until new data protection laws come into place on 28th May 2018, many Tayside businesses are, as yet, unprepared for the changes that will have huge impact on the way they communicate with their customers.

To help prepare marketers and businesses for the introduction of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) one of Scotland’s leading marketing agencies, Volpa, is providing counsel on the practical implications for the industry.

Volpa will host a series of free events in Perth and Dundee that will see experts in marketing, Tricia Fox and Fraser Kirk, give advice for any marketers or business owners who use email databases, print mailers and telemarketing to promote their business; all of which are affected by the incoming legislation.

Volpa’s CEO, Tricia Fox commented: “GDPR is just around the corner and it is clear many businesses are extremely ill prepared for the changes. Now is the time for the marketers to make sure they are putting in all the necessary steps in place to ensure they don’t get caught out when the legislation is rolled out in May. What business owners should be particularly concerned about is the potential loss of data if they fail to re-obtain consent before the law comes into place and, in so doing, lose the opportunity to communicate with past customers and potential future customers.

“We would encourage anyone working in the industry in Tayside to attend our events to make sure they are fully abreast of what is to come. Volpa can also provide advice on GDPR compliance for those unable to attend.”

Volpa: ‘GDPR, WTF?’

Dundee: Discovery Point on February 13, between 10am – 12pm

Perth: McDiarmid Park on February 27, between 10am – 12pm

Both events are free to attend but attendance should be registered at the Event Brite page.

Cunningly Good Coverage

It was a busy start to the year for Volpa and our clients, but we have some cracking coverage to show for it! Here’s a round up of January’s best bits:

Award-winning care home director shares her views on the sector

What makes a good care home? And how are they changing for the future? Balhousie Care Home’s Operations Director Louise Barnett should know; she recently won the coveted title of U.K. Operations Manager of the Year.

We secured an interview for Louise on BBC Radio Scotland’s John Beattie show. You can listen here (starts at 19:15): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09ld5rc

 

 

 

 

 

 

Real Life Game of Thrones at Scone Palace

The Palace is getting back to its medieval roots this May when it plays host to the world championships for full- contact medieval combat, a sport rising in popularity around the globe.

Thousands will descend on the historic visitor attraction, known for being the crowning place of medieval kings, when it hosts the International Medieval Combat Federation World Championships from May 10th to 13th 2018.

Volpa secured national and local coverage, including BBC Scotland, Daily Record and The List.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biggest Weekend Comes to Town

Scone Palace had another huge announcement to make in January as BBC’s #BiggestWeekend will be coming to town, with the Palace the only Scottish venue on the line up.

With BBC taking the lead on PR, Volpa used the opportunity to comment locally, securing coverage in The Courier and Small City Big Personality.

Balhousie Care Group sets the agenda on loneliness

Loneliness is one of the issues Balhousie’s care workers address every day. Being apart from family – permanently – and having to make new friends is an isolation that is hard to fathom.

Volpa secured an opinion piece in The Herald, positioning Steve White, CEO of Balhousie Care Group, as industry leader on the issue. In this hugely personal piece Steve talks about the steps Balhousie have taken to tackle loneliness in care and encourages others to follow the group’s lead.

Competition, Business

Embracing Competition

Competition for any business owner is a necessary evil. In a perfect world there would be no competition, we’d all be unique. But the world isn’t perfect and it’s our competitors that keep us moving forward, force us to continuously innovate and give us something to benchmark against.

As I write there are beef and black pepper sausages sizzling in the grill, and six slices of thick cut back bacon sizzling beside them. I bought them yesterday from a long established butcher shop in my home town. It was the first time I’d ever been in to it in the 41 years I’ve been on this planet.

You see, I’d been taught from an early age that these guys were the “competition”. My Grandad ran another long standing butcher’s shop situated just a two minute walk away from this one. It was drummed into me that people who chose the competitors were “not our kind of customers” and therefore just a little bit, well, misinformed about their purchase.

Walking through the door was a big deal. I could literally hear my Grandad turning in his proverbial grave. And the comparison to my Grandad’s shop (which is now probably Scotland’s best known butcher, but that’s another story entirely) was immediately obvious.

I’d stepped back in time.

Here was a butcher shop that reminded me of the butcher shops of the early 1980s. Meat out on the table being chopped. Customers being served by the butchers. Simple shelving, good enough to hold the food it carried but nothing fancy or anything that could remotely be considered as “merchandising”.

They were queued out the door. This, in itself was fascinating. The reason the queue wasn’t moving quickly is that there was no separate cash office so the three butchers serving were slowed down by the fact they then had to wash their hands after handling money on every transaction. Put simply, because of the way they organise their shop, they serve considerably less people per hour than their competitors.

Based on the retail/purchasing experience alone, I would not be tempted to go back. Unless the product is absolutely brilliant. It’s a trade off, you see.

So let’s get on the with the fun part. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.

My husband, understanding the importance of this competitive assessment situation, took extra time over the consumption of his sausage and bacon rolls this morning.

Here’s what we learned:

  • the sausages are double the size, but seem to have half of the seasoning. We like our beef and black pepper sausages to be peppery. These were beefy, but not peppery.
  • My husband really liked the sausages, I wasn’t as keen. The skin was a bit tough which made eating them on a roll to be a wee bit more challenging than that of their competitors.
  • The bacon was nice and salty. This was to my taste but not to my husband’s.
  • The dogs were less picky and liked both. Ten out of ten from them.

Here’s what we concluded:

  • if it was me doing the shopping, I probably wouldn’t go back. The quality of the product wasn’t tasty enough for me to balance out the slightly wonky and inefficient retail experience
  • If it was my husband doing the shopping, he’d probably nip in to get some sausages but would happily leave the bacon behind.

Why does this matter?

It doesn’t really matter where I buy my sausages from – I’m sure you don’t care at all. However what it has taught me is that unless you experience your competitor’s full service, beginning to end, you can’t really judge and compare their offering. There’s only so much you can really tell from their website, or looking at their shop or from hearing someone else’s view.

In this case, time has ultimately told the story. Today I see a small, local butcher’s shop who hasn’t really progressed from what they were in the 1980s when my Grandad was trading. His store, by comparison, produced what is now one of the country’s top butchers as an apprentice, was subsequently bought by said apprentice after my Grandad passed away and whose products (and no doubt several of my Grandad’s original recipes) are now on the shelves of the country’s biggest supermarkets.

And, by a country mile, my preferred butcher.

INDUSTRY BODY AWARDS PR BOSS ‘ACCREDITED PRACTITONER’ STATUS

Tricia Fox, Managing Director and founder of independent PR and Marketing agency Volpa, has been awarded ‘accredited practitioner’ status by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR), the industry’s leading professional body in the UK.

The ‘accredited practitioner’ status is a hallmark of commitment to public relations’ professional excellence and is awarded to those who have shown clear evidence of keeping professional skills and knowledge up to date through the CIPR’s continuing professional development (CPD) programme.

Tricia, who founded Volpa in 2002, completed 120 hours of CPD, as required by the CIPR. This included guest lecturing slots at Forth Valley College and Robert Gordon University, several training courses run by the PRCA aimed at further developing her skillset and judging the 2017 CIPR Pride Awards for the Midlands region.

Lecturing and presenting is one of the activities a professional can undertake to gain accredited practitioner status. Tricia will once again be speaking at the launch of the Goddess Formula at Mal Maison in Dundee on 1 February. The Goddess Formula is a non-political, nationwide organisation for UK based women of any age, culture or creed; a networking organisation to share business passion and personal business success stories. Tricia will be sharing her own inspirational story at the event.

Tricia commented: “It is fantastic to be formally recognised as an accredited practitioner by the UK’s leading public relations professional body and a great way to be rewarded for all the hours spent on my CPD. I am looking forward to putting my lecturing skills further into practice when I speak at the Goddess Formula launch on 1 February, where I’m sure I will meet many other inspirational women business leaders, all of whom will have great stories of their own.”

Volpa is a full service marketing agency boasting dedicated publicity, creative and digital departments. Specialists in the tourism, hospitality and food and drink sectors, Volpa now has a team of ten and is on course for a £1 million turnover within the next eighteen months. The agency has received a raft of awards over the years, including three times winner of the Scottish Event Award for Best Marketing Strategy for its work on Scotland’s premier sound and light event, The Enchanted Forest.