Three-Part Harmoney (yes, Money):
Networking : Marketing : Fulfillment
What are YOU doing when you aren’t cooking for your hotel restaurant?
Most chefs de cuisine start their day with morning staff meetings, review invoices and new orders being placed, review daily prep sheets (if this has not been assigned to someone else), review the week’s budget and any cost overruns, prepare reports for weekly department meetings, and so on. Somewhere, and at some time, they spend the rest of their time trying to catch up on emails and respond accordingly.
What’s the connection? Well, in order to get one’s products and services accepted within the luxury hospitality trade, it behooves one to have some level of business acumen and an existing “saleable” product and/or service for the intended market. Getting inside the corporate haven where the executive decision-makers oftentimes rely on their low- to mid-level administrators to determine whether such products / services have a place within their corporate brand is another matter. It helps to have a contact capable of networking the specialty trade with a focus and desire to assume spokesperson capabilities. This is where my job as a consultant comes in to play and often requires my sustaining intermediary relationships with various parties to attain the desired result.
When deciding whether to take on a client’s case (or cause, if they are working under the auspices of a non-profit foundation), I review their initial communication and “sales pitch” to determine various parameters I take into consideration. Some of these include the following:
- What is the current level of their business activity? Are they a start-up, or a going concern seeking to expand their products / services through self-growth avenues and diversification modalities?
- Will their current business model be adequate to handle unforeseen market changes, and to what extent are they prepared to redirect their efforts (i.e., expand the base of their market segment, or consider re-tooling their advertising/marketing budget)?
- How are they currently promoting/marketing their product/services and through which type of media (e.g., print media such as newsletters, brochures; online presence such as a website, e-newsletters, e-commerce; sales representatives, etc.)?
- Are they providing their product/service locally, nationwide, internationally – and why?
- Are they following an existing business plan, or are they in the process of restructuring their organization?
- Do they have investors, VC (venture capital), or are they being subsidized by grants – other funding mechanisms?
- If they have a website, are they set up for e-commerce activities? How responsive is their personnel to managing online sales, providing reliable customer service, maintaining sufficient inventory to fulfill orders? Do they outsource their online transactions and why?
- Is their product/service relevant to the trade (i.e., are they providing actual support to a going concern – hotel, F&B operation, other venue) or is this a start-up organization lacking focus? Once I have conducted my preliminary research and delineate the areas where I can best service my prospective client, I then try to find a sense of mutuality in our relationship. Most of the time, it’s a matter of judging a client’s receptivity to either going into new directions, based on a course of action we determine from a feasibility study; re-branding their products for a different market segment; identifying growth patterns for their business to attract new investors; or even consider an outright buy-out by a trade competitor. The latter issue can be beneficial in varying degrees of a complete sell-out, retaining certain limited control over proprietary products/ingredients, or receiving sufficient shares in the new company as well as a bonus sign-on feature to the new Board of Directors. I like this last option the most for obvious reasons. It’s possible but not always plausible.
- Subsequent to the above-noted steps, we then converse about the type of remuneration for our professional services from a one-time consultation fee, project-based commission work, and/or profit-sharing in a client’s business with varying degrees of binding commitments by both parties. Always being flexible in today’s economic market is an ideal standing; however, one must recognize that commitments for working together as a “team” relies on integrity, values, business acumen, and loyalty. Open lines of communication form the basis of a good business relationship and encourages great minds to think alike…
- These indicators are, of course, very generalized. It merely provides a starting point for our discussion while, at the same time, they help identify what the client’s wants and needs are respective to their contacting me. In most cases, I will look at the prospective client’s immediate competitors, research those companies as well as my new contact. Checking on a company’s background history is readily available through various online industry trade sources, aside from the more general testimonials and commentaries found on the Internet.