By Tevin Tobun, CEO, GV Group (Gate Ventures)Tevin Tobun, CEO, GV Group
It took me 10 years to finally call myself the CEO of my own business.
This wasn’t because of any particular dislike for the title, but actually, because I didn’t think it mattered.
For me, it wasn’t important whether I was CEO, MD, or any other title.
I didn’t want to have a fancy title because, from the very outset, I promised myself that I would never lose sight of what actually did matter to the success of any company – the people on the frontline.
Titles and my own position were actually secondary to how I developed my team.
I’m very aware that it was an easy commitment to make at the time but I was also well aware that these things are sometimes forgotten as businesses grow and evolve. When businesses become about scale and size, there is a danger that some can see their people as numbers or headcount.
For some, volume is important. We are all in business to grow. However, this growth needs to be proportional to the needs and desires of the people helping them do so. Growth needs to be for the individuals and job roles, as well as the bottom line of the business.
I say this because the current fuel crisis, the pandemic, and Brexit, have taught our industry and others a lot of lessons. The packages, salaries, and conditions the sector has offered frontline teams have simply not been good enough. We have all been responsible for this.
People often use the issue of ‘perception’ as the key reason why we’ve always struggled. As the adage goes, ‘there’s no smoke without fire’, and the truth is that, often, the race to the bottom approach adopted for decades within the whole supply chain cannot continue. We all have a duty to ensure that we are creating a sustainable base to build from.
Our business is no different. As a partner to restaurants, wholesalers, and caterers, we are part of the extended challenges.
Whilst Brexit, Covid, and an ageing workforce have clearly exasperated the issue, the truth is that packages for drivers are all impacted by the race to the bottom that we’ve all inflicted onto our sector. Pushing prices down on contracts and going for the cheapest bidder cannot be the answer.
Excuse the pun, but price shouldn’t be the ‘driver’. It can’t.
A year prior to the pandemic, we developed a payment and benefits plan which aimed to bring drivers’ packages in line with our own aspirations; the aspirations I had when I very first started my business. This was a long-term plan which focussed on giving incremental rises which would help build a loyal and engaged driver population. This was a sustainable plan to build our business.
Brexit and Covid has put paid to that plan. Strangely, some could argue it has done so in a positive way.
We’ve had to accelerate our incremental plan and make changes right now. In the last few months, we’ve increased certain pay bands by 15%. This is a major jump and far harder to absorb, compared to the plan we had in place. But we’ve had to.
According to the Road Haulage Association, there is a 100,000 shortage of drivers in the UK. This is huge and, although severely increasing in the last year, it was an issue pre-pandemic too.
Like the rest of the sector, we have to adapt.
Losing the European workforce is clearly a blow, and the retail and healthcare sectors snapping up talent from hospitality during the lockdowns hasn’t been great, but we have to look at our own role and decide what we can do to make people want to stay. It’s a fantastic industry with opportunities at every level of the supply chain. It can’t be seen as having a culture of low-pay, long hours. We need to be competitive.
But businesses in our sector cannot afford to work how we used to. The last 18 months have exaggerated and exposed issues that have always plagued our industry. The staffing gaps in restaurants have been widely publicised, but the whole supply chain is in the same boat.
We have learnt lessons now, and maybe the pandemic and Brexit has made us move more quickly than we would have found comfortable, but it’s necessary.
The last 18 months have shown that the CEO isn’t the key to success and survival; it’s the kitchen porter, the driver, the cleaner, the person stacking shelves, the waiter, and the fruit picker. Without them, we have no business to run.
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Hospitality & Catering News: Who really runs a business? – 18 October 2021 – Who really runs a business?
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