As the UK remains in lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus, we take a look back on some of the LinkedIn musings from Make Venues Managing Director David Vaughton.
To all our customers & guests,
As we mentioned on Monday, we have temporarily closed our three properties in London, Bristol & Leamington Spa.
Along with the rest of the UK events industry, we have been closely monitoring the continually evolving situation regarding Covid-19. The wellbeing of our teams and you, our loyal customers, has been our highest priority. At this time, we feel that decisive leadership is paramount and therefore, following the latest government advice, we made the decision to temporarily close for an anticipated 12-week period.
Please rest assured that we will use this time to implement both venue and business improvements. We are still operating as a team, albeit in a remote fashion, talking daily and planning new menu options, facility upgrades, ways to support staff & help customers to postpone their events until we can reopen.
Our phone-lines therefore remain firmly open, so do get in touch if we can help with future planning. Our advice in this respect is to consider dates from July onwards, but also to make best use of historically ‘quieter’ months such as August, rather than go directly to the Autumn.
We would like to thank-you for your support during this time. We hope you, your family & colleagues remain safe and well.
It was only recently that I sat down with my comms team to do a piece to camera, presenting our five-year strategy for the Make Venues business. I talked about our investment plans, the development of our fantastic staff, the ingenuity of our chefs & planned improvements to our customer offer, which has won us the BVA BDRC VenueVerdict Award 2019 for Small & Mid-sized Group + Best Value for Money Venue Group for seven consecutive years.
Almost overnight, everything has changed. I’m now speaking to our GMs daily & together we’re supporting staff, customers & our supply chain in as many ways as possible.
Our focus is now on looking after all aspects of their wellbeing so that we may return stronger & more resilient than before - because we will return.
People will still meet & we remain committed to rescheduling those events that have had to postpone, as well as helping to plan for future new business.
Connectivity will always be one of the key drivers to wellbeing so it’s important we all keep the lines of communication active during this time. Our doors may be closed but our phone lines remain firmly open should any staff member, supplier or customer need to talk. Now is the time to support each other. The premier of our five-year strategy video will keep.
I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership. What's been underlined to me is that everything you do in a crisis is magnified & everything you say is interrogated more than ever. This is by no means a bad thing, but it does increase the level of responsibility & head space required. Here are three tips that may be of interest to other leaders.
- Act decisively, explain quickly. Many companies have had to react to an unprecedented situation. Actions have had to be decisive, even when negative. We all need to be clear on the decision-making process & its effects. This is important & takes clarity of thought in an often emotional situation.
- Communicate regularly, irregularly. I’ve realised that catching up daily with my senior team does not replicate the act of ‘walking the floor’. So, I’ve taken to dropping a call over to other staff to check-in at irregular intervals; to say hi, be visible & offer security.
- Repeat, repeat, repeat. Information is power, & some people enjoy knowing more than others. I've also witnessed ‘Chinese whispers’ as people try to predict the future. The only way management can counteract this is by being repetitive & consistent.
Leaders may act invincible, but we’re not. Now is the time when we need to be at our best.
At Make Venues, we said from the start that we wanted to stay in contact as a team, but also that we wanted to stay in touch as a community, with our suppliers, our trade partners & of course our customers.
We promised ourselves that our aims during this period were to return a better business, use this time well, give thought, & reflect on quality & where we can improve.
As we keep the lines of communication firmly open, here’s what we’re learning:
Support - offer morale-boosting content, knowledge-sharing, and wellbeing advice as part of every phone conversation.
Listen – what can we learn from our customer's future planning? How are they coping as a business & what do they need us to know?
Action – If you're taking direct against coronavirus or supporting those closer to the front-line, shout it from the rooftops. We all want to know more is being done.
Information – The appetite for information is huge. Share everything.
There will come a time of course when Make Venues will need to communicate all the offers & promotions necessary to get our business back up and running.
That time is not now however. It’s the Make Venues colleagues and customers who must first take priority.
It often takes a crisis for us to find a sense of perspective. Only last month, I was preparing a five-year strategy that would take Make Venues forward, into a new & exciting era of growth. The 'growth' was based on a few different elements.
I wanted to reward the people that have got us this far & give them an ambition for the future. I also felt a responsibility to grow the company.
Growth inspires, it creates purpose & job satisfaction for everyone. Like a sports team, people like a challenge, it brings them together towards a fixed goal. It also brings stability, something right now I’m delighted we have.
But there was also a deep capitalist urge within me that companies just need to grow.
This is more nuanced now. The latin word 'companio' - meaning 'one who breaks bread with you,' became the word 'company'. We are a group of individuals who break bread together, to share in common successes.
I’m incredibly proud of the company I’ve led over the years. It’s a strange feeling right now, but if anything, this situation has steeled my own resolve, & certainly of those senior managers around me. We don’t know what the future holds, but all future growth strategies will remember our primary desire to break bread together.