Positives we can take into 2009

This year the merry-go-round lurched from its bolts and spun into the earth leaving the fairground owners, visitors and those licking the candy floss bewildered and in shock. This was the year the growth stopped, the bonhomie halted, the year of the first real commercial pain for 20 years began.

But 2008 was a year of meaningful events for us to build on. No year can ever be a bad year if you can capture experience from it, that you can then adapt and grow and use into the next one.

The only experience that is worthless is the one you neglect to remember just before that moment of need when this experience could have helped you make the wise choice.

Three events this year have reminded us of previously successful experiences that will guide our thought process into 2009. A year at ‘How To Solutions’ we intend to make our most successful in business thus far.

1.The Olympics in Beijing – the power of shared knowledge.

2.Barack Obama clinches US presidency – a powerful recipe in how to present the benefits of change.

3.Catersummit – the power of the plan.

Currently the CBI is predicting a slow-down in the UK economy that commenced in the third quarter of this year and will see unemployment peak at 2.9 million in 2009 (over one million up from current levels) with the economy contracting by some 1.7%. This statement, which was released in November, followed a September release when the CBI felt the economy would grow 0.3% – a swing of 2% down. It bases this movement on a dramatic loss of confidence by both consumers and business in global and local banking system.

Foodservice often enjoys a healthy participation in the availability of disposable income – no great insight here. But with much less to go around (much less, not a bit less, much less) how when all the selective cost cutting is done, the poor performance eradicated and our focus turns front of house, could we use 2008 to grow through 2009?

1.Share your knowledge

The Beijing Olympics were a powerful, but planned, success story. Since 1998 the International Olympic Committee has been holding knowledge transfer workshops where past and present stakeholders of the event can debate their experiences on planning, operational and technical aspects of holding a great Olympics. Last month representatives from Beijing 2008, Vancouver 2010, London 2012 and Sochi 2014, as well as stakeholders from candidate cities for 2016, met to share experiences and recent lessons.

Many of the solutions to the next 18 months trading are already in your business and contained within your people. We recommend you find ways to bring them into the issues you face and ask for their help. Our local pub is already holding brainstorming sessions among key staff on the topic of growing turnover. They are looking at everything – customer service, staffing, training, menu planning – even down to the size and location of the Christmas tree. We think they will be among the winners in 2009.

2.Pick a vital ingredient and stick with it.

Barack Obama’s election concentrated on change as the critical success factor in gaining the White House. Once you have decided the change you need to survive and prosper, articulate it to those in your organisation and business simply and encourage them to make it happen. Live it don’t talk it. Lead it personally – don’t preach abstinence while indulging yourself. If you are aiming to improve your customer service or contact be the first to demonstrate how it’s done.

Obama used change as his guiding principal and emphasised the need for change in every state at every opportunity. He never missed an opportunity to remind voters why he was needed. He used every opportunity to persuade everyone that without him the benefits of change would not be felt.

Pick your own vital ingredients to thrive and prosper in a new commercial climate and stick to your guns until everybody in your team can feel the benefits.

3.The power of having a plan

Catersummit reminded us of the incredible power of having a plan. Speakers from Booker, Creed Catering Supplies, Makro and 3663 articulated with passion, enthusiasm and insight why their plans were working for them. Every slide from these presenters reinforced progress from planning; success from planning; direction and focus from planning. When you have shared your knowledge decided on your focus, build your plan. Then articulate and feedback on your plan at every opportunity, with the team who helped you build it.

The power of 2008 will be in its ability to engender within us the insight to ignite 2009. There are more than enough pointers in 2008 to make 2009 a great year. Not the same as other years, we have no doubt about that, but nevertheless a great year.

Farewell to 2008 and best wishes to us all for 2009.

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