Join industry leader groups to get inspired

Q: I run two successful cafes. I don’t have a lot of space in either and I am really challenged when parents arrive with buggies and young children. How can I handle this delicate issue?

A: This is indeed sensitive. You run the risk of not only alienating parents, but also their family and friends. When I ran Superquinn, we embraced parents with children in every possible way. In fact, we positively discriminated in their favour.

We removed sweets from the checkouts to prevent rows, we provided supervised play facilities to allow mum or dad to shop unstressed, and entertained school tours at our bakeries so children could learn and we could immerse ourselves in the local community.

I understand the space restrictions, but I have seen cafes doing some innovative things which might help. Several have a dedicated number of mornings per week when they encourage parents with children to come and they remove some of the tables and chairs to allow room for buggies for a number of hours at a quieter time. While this doesn’t stop someone wandering in of their own accord, it does encourage those with children to come at a time which is child friendly.

Training staff to take some practical measures would also help. For example, if you have a storage area, perhaps staff can offer to put buggies away and assist parents with seating and ordering.

Other cafes provide distractions such as tablecloths and crayons for children to drawn on, or even a specific tiny play corner which keeps the children occupied while the parents eat. My advice is to make your response one of proactive management, rather than thinking about imposing some sort of ban that could have dire consequences on your business.

Q: As a young managing director of a successful company, I am unclear how I keep my role fresh and can use it to guide the company to success.

A: Congratulations on taking on a challenging role at a young age. There are lots of debates about what makes companies successful, and these centre on having the right product to offer, the right team, great marketing. But while all of those things are important, if you don’t have strong leadership within a business it may not succeed.

Your single biggest role will be to keep the business energised and challenge those around you to strive for perfection. The biggest problem you are going to face is that you will have no one to challenge you, and the role of managing director can be isolating.

I suggest you join a number of industry leader groups which will help to inspire you. Those leaders don’t necessarily have to be from your sector. The fact you are sitting with other senior level people will be inspiration in itself.

During my decades of running Superquinn I travelled extensively as I found that, in the majority of cases, for every problem we faced someone else around the world had solved it already.

Think about how you want to spend your typical week too. It is all too easy to get caught up in meeting after meeting and, before you know it, months have gone since you have last spoken to the customer. Whether that is a business-to-business customer or a consumer coming through the front door, you need to have some mechanism to keep in touch with the grass roots.

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