Over the past year, I have had the privilege of visiting many of my fellow licensees, all very busy running their pubs. We've discussed some big questions: how do you increase profit, how do you get more custom and, sadly, the biggest question of all, can you still make money from running a pub?
The answer is yes, but many don't and I have now come to the conclusion that while many licensees do need guidance in developing their pubs, they also need to understand the financial side of their business.
As licensees you must understand that the success and the financial stability of your business is your responsibility.
Yes, it is a painful truth: "Many licensees are too busy working to have time to make a real profit." Take a look around the country at the most successful pubs, and you will see quality licensees, taking time out of their own pubs to look at new ideas, becoming more professional in how they operate.
So what is the secret to making a decent profit from running a pub? It's often just doing the simple things well. Sadly this lack of simple knowledge has caused lots of licensees to struggle and, even worse, lose their pub.
The majority of people taking on their own pub are simply not armed with the knowledge and skills needed. You are probably now thinking, if this simple knowledge is the key to success, then why isn't it easier to find?
There are people who should be able to help you. The most obvious of these would be your area manager or BDM. Surely these guys have an interest in your success? Yes, they do, but they also have an interest in at least another 50 pubs, many with more pressing problems than yours.
These guys do a good "across the board" job, but, quite simply, they don't have the time or knowledge to give you the edge. Your stock-takers and accountants can be helpful, but will still give you a bill.
We can blame pubcos, breweries and the Government, but, in reality, the drive for profit starts much closer to home. You need to become very proactive and professional.
Take advice from your pubco or brewery; many now provide helpful support, but real success will come to those who become self-motivated.
If you are serious about becoming successful, please don't be too busy working to make a real profit. Take a step back from your business, look at it with a fresh pair of eyes, learn to understand the finances and discover one or two new business-building ideas for your pub every week and implement them.
You will very quickly start to achieve what many say is becoming impossible. You will grow your business and start to make a real profit.
As an industry we have been warned — we must get our house in order. As individual licensees we need to raise our own standards and make ourselves good enough to run our pubs properly.