Mark Daniels: Be nice to your Business Development Manager...

Related tags Business development manager Business development

I don't like the amount of money I'm currently paying in rent. I don't like the price difference between my pubco supplier and the nearby cash &...

I don't like the amount of money I'm currently paying in rent. I don't like the price difference between my pubco supplier and the nearby cash & carry. I don't like the restrictions on my tie or the fact that I can't sell my customers Carlsberg.

There, I've said it. To be fair, though, I don't like Pokemon, Blackberry telephones, Julian Clary, or that Ferraris are no longer made with pop-up headlights.

What I do like, however - and I might get shot for saying this - is my current Business Development Manager. And because of that I quite enjoyed Alistair Darby's mildly inflammatory article on this website earlier this week. I wasn't surprised to see, but was dismayed at the quantity of, derogatory remarks about BDMs.

Like many, I've had to endure the poor performance of some BDMs - no returned telephone calls, ignored e-mails, empty promises - but recently I think I've been getting on quite well with my BDM, and I believe it's down in no small part to a conversation I had with somebody totally irrelevant to the pub trade.

Suffering in the down-turning economy, struggling to make ends meet, staying awake all night moving bits of pieces around in the hopes that my accountant might make sense of it all I eventually turned up at the doorstep of a good friend and successful business man. "Where do you think it's all going wrong?" he asked me. "It's all my BDM's fault," I wailed.

Okay - I didn't quite blame it all on the poor chap, but you get my drift. What I couldn't blame on the BDM, I blamed on the brewery themselves. My friend just looked at me over his coffee cup and smiled. He hasn't pulled a pint in his life, understands little about the keeping of beer but can look at a spreadsheet and move the numbers around to make sense of them.

Rather than side with me on all my troubles, he proceeded to decimate my own business practices and pointed out where I should be looking to make changes myself. His point was that, while the brewery's business model had some flaws in it, so did mine.

As for my BDM, he reminded me that before I bought in to my pub I spent more than ten years doing a job not too dissimilar to what these chaps do - just in a different industry. Every day I was on the road, away from home, starting early, working late, often getting caught up in the job at the weekend.

Sound familiar? And I had to put up with customers telling me that their buy prices were too high, their marketing funds weren't big enough, that our technical services charges were strangling their efforts to be competitive... I remember categorising my customers in to those who I would be happy to call in on for a coffee whether they had problems or not, and those who I wanted to avoid at all costs.

Like a pubco RM/BDM, I would spend my days liaising between customers who demanded ever higher discounts and my bosses who refused to sign them off. Somewhere in all of this I was trying to keep my customers happy and make sure my bosses still paid my wage.

At the time I had my conversation with my friend, Greene King went through yet another restructuring of their business and I got a new BDM. I bleated about it here, but I struck up a good working relationship with him, and I hope he will have me on his coffee list rather than his avoid-at-all-costs list. Even when we disagree on something.

Sycophantic as this might all appear, I'm not as naïve as I might sound. The pubco will, after all, protect its own interests first and it hasn't granted me a rent concession or a reduction in the cost of my tied product just because I'm being nice to them. It hasn't got Ferrari fitting pop-up headlights to their cars, either, but our working relationship is better, and some of the big headaches are now little ones.

But it is a two-way street. As publicans, especially tied ones, we are suspicious of the motives of our BDMs and the vast companies behind them. We don't trust them and we're unwilling to share our figures with them for fear of rent increases and further charges and we, understandably, put up barriers to protect ourselves.

Alistair Darby also states that everybody at Marston's relies on their publicans for their wage. It's the same at all the other pubcos, and they need to be aware that the decisions they make are affecting our incomes too. That can be especially annoying when a BDM turns up in an '09 plate company car and with a brand new Toshiba laptop.

The BDMs have a tough job. I recognise that. We all should. But the BDMs need to recognise ours is as tough, if not tougher at the moment, and we need the help and support of our pubcos rather than to be embattled with them.

I'd urge the Business Development Managers to go and see those pubs they've been avoiding because they don't want to be whinged at. I'd urge the publicans who want to punch their BDMs in the face to keep their cool and try to open up a dialogue.

Last week I suggested that we try and work together and avoid the infighting that is plaguing our industry at the moment. Steve W left a comment that stated the bickering might just be the reason the Government can't be bothered to take any notice of us. It's a good point.

If we can start by creating a truce between pubcos and publicans we'll go a long way to working in unity and achieving success on both sides. If that means an end to the tie, or a fundamental change in the way it is administered, then so-be-it.

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