Thinking about High Growth sat in a Temperance Bar in Rawtenstall

A Temperance Bar is a type of bar, found particularly during the C19th and early C20th, that did not serve alcoholic beverages. A number of such bars were established in conjunction with the Temperance Society, advocating a moderate approach to life, especially concerning the abstinence from alcohol.

Temperance Bars with full temperance licences (allowing them to serve on Sundays, despite English trading laws at the time) were once common in many high streets in the North of England. The movement had a massive following, fuelled mainly by Methodists. These bars were the first outlet for Vimto, also serving brews such as black beer and raisin tonic, blood tonic, dandelion and burdock, herb bitters and sarsaparilla.

The temperance movement (one foot in front of the other please) began in 1835 in Preston, amid concerns about the Industrial Revolution’s equally industrial levels of alcoholism. Although prohibition was never formalised in the UK in the same way it was by our supposedly sober cousins in America, a wave of non-alcoholic bars began popping up in most towns to guard against the dangers of heavy drinking.

In their heyday, temperance drinks were not only seen as delicious non-boozy tipple, but were thought to have health benefits: ginger for soothing nausea or colds, sarsaparilla and dandelion for detoxifying. I’m a little sceptical: according to family folklore, my gran’s deafness was caused when my great grandfather decided to shun the doctor and treat her ear infection with his herbal linctures.

Some of the most famous Temperance Bars carried the Fitzpatrick family name. The Fitzpatricks, a family from Ireland, came over to Lancashire in the 1880s. A family of herbalists, they turned to building a family-run chain of shops throughout Lancashire. These shops dealt in their non-alcoholic drinks, sold herbal remedies, and cordial bottles.

At their peak, the Fitzpatrick family owned twenty-four shops, all brewing drinks to the original recipes brought over from Ireland. However, as new drinks came over from America, the Temperance Bars slowly waned away. Today, Fitzpatrick’s Herbal Health in Rawtenstall is the last Temperance Bar in the country.

The Rawtenstall bar has been thought of with affection by generations of the town’s residents. It is notable for its old copper hot water dispenser, which was originally a fixture at the Astoria Ballroom in Rawtenstall. It has also won awards as the country’s ‘Best Sarsaparilla Brewer’, and for its dandelion & burdock.

The bar has recently reopened after four weeks refurbishment, with a fresher, brighter look and product innovations on the menu However, it has maintained its traditional offerings, past traditions and family-run ethos. The bar retains many of its original fixtures and fittings, including the ceramic tap barrels and shelves lined with jars of medicinal herbs. Mr. Fitzpatrick would be proud.

When I was growing up, dandelion and burdock was the social tipple of choice. Darkly mellow with just enough fizz and a pleasing aniseedy aftertaste, I used to drink it at my grandma’s house in Manchester – which we would gulp down with Jacobs orange Club biscuits. She would prop the bottle on the doorstep outside, ready for the man who collected the empties.

Apparently, dandelion and burdock dates back to the days of St Thomas Aquinas and it’s back, along with other old-style temperance drinks gracing much fancier menus than the chippies of my youth. For example, at the St Pancras Booking Office Bar at the London station, you can sip sarsaparilla or blood tonic whilst snacking on crispy calamari and parmesan chips.

The drinks may appear simple, but are unbelievably complicated. Sarsaparilla, for example, involves an intricate blend of sarsaparilla root, anise, liquorice, nutmeg, molasses, cinnamon, cloves, brown sugar, lemon juice and other botanical extracts.

But back to Fitzpatrick’s. This quirky Pennines apothecary, with its ceramic tap barrels and jars of botanical herbs and roots holds a special lure, with its ghostly inhabitants, unknown pasts and general eccentricity. Come rain, shine or old-fashioned drizzle, it will restore you, warm your cockles, quench your thirst and satisfy your need for quirkiness.

However, the fact that it is the last temperance hostelry shows you have to keep moving and innovate, otherwise your market evaporates as your customer preferences change or alternative products take your marker. The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew.

Rousing words from President Abraham Lincoln, taken from his 1862 annual address to Congress. It’s a call to action, which has resonance with the turbulence in most markets today. You simply can’t stand still, the need is to stay agile with a relevant value proposition and viable business model.

But most businesses hesitate to adopt new thinking, instead they focus on hunkering down and a low-key ‘back to basics’ approach, defaulting to a risk-reduction focus rather than a growth mindset. Whilst this often secures bottom-line improvement, it is unsustainable and rarely offers anything more than short-term expediency.

It impedes curiosity and experimentation, and stifles thinking beyond the immediate time horizon. However, whilst organisations may regard seeking breakthroughs as too steep a challenge and are content with simply maintaining their business, research shows that focusing on short-term aspirations typically yields only short-term results, whilst those seeking significant breakthroughs will both identify the big ideas and also generate closer, incremental ideas along the way.

It’s about holding an ‘innovation mindset’. Over time, I’ve developed a pretty keen sense of whether or not my efforts with clients will be successful, and one of the biggest red flags that tells me I’m in trouble is hearing this phrase: That’s the way we’ve always done things.

I can’t think of a single sentence that’s more antithetical to growth and innovation than the blind acceptance that some things can’t be changed within an organisation. It’s a sentiment few companies can afford to indulge, but transforming an organisation from innovation-averse to forward-thinking isn’t always an easy road to navigate.

And that’s where you need an entrepreneurial leader, so lets say if someone was to build a passenger-carrying rocket for joy rides into space and offer you a ticket, would you go? Of course you would, especially if Richard Branson was involved.

He’s a live wire, someone with a can do, will do attitude who doesn’t let short-term difficulties become traumatic, although I’ve had some mixed experience with Virgin Atlantic – the last time I flew the rate of progress through the lounge to board the plane was so slow that technically I was classified as a missing person. However, his innovation in mass-market long haul flights has had an impact, and of course, very customer focussed.

But let’s consider Branson himself. In the last twenty years, barely a week passed when we weren’t treated to the spectacle of Branson’s mouse like whiskery chops being winched to safety from some vast expanse of ocean. His speedboats kept running into logs of wood or his balloons too heavy for sustained flight.

However, I like the way he’s made it in business without a pinstripe suit or an obvious predilection for golf, and despite the often-disastrous attempts to go across the Pacific on a tea tray or up Everest on a washing machine, I do like the way he keeps on trying, his boldness and give it-a-go attitude. He’s also dyslexic, so overcome that significant personal challenge too.

He may be a publicity-seeker, but he’ll get us in space with Virgin Galactic. My concern wouldn’t be the perilous spins, loud bangs and crashes of Branson’s previous failures as I sat in my seat, but rather the expectation that every passenger will have to conform to Branson’s relaxed style and only allowed to fly in jumpers and corduroys, and his beardy face beaming out doing the safety procedure promo. He’s got nice teeth though.

But recall Fatal Attraction, you thought Glenn Close was dead, you relaxed and then, whoa, she reared up out of the bath with that big spiky knife. That’s one thing Branson doesn’t do. No, not lie in a bath of cold water pretending to be dead, love him or loathe him, he doesn’t sit back and think That’s it, I’ve had enough.

Obviously he doesn’t need the money, but he just keeps on with his self-belief and crashes into the next idea. He’s a disruptive force that never gives up and while his opponents are kept fully employed wondering what he is going to do, he is busy doing it, and its often something they hadn’t thought he’d do.

Based on this inspiration, research, my own intuition and experience, I’ve developed a blueprint for creating an innovation mindset, which I’ve called High Growth Anatomy, an assessment of you innovation dna. It’s a series of reflective questions, structured as to ‘Go’ and ‘No Go’. Evaluate yourself, what’s your ‘Go’ score?

Foresight or Hallucination?

  • We have clear and articulated goals based on our purpose, of where we want to be in the next 6, 12, 18 and 24 months;
  • We have some thoughts on where we are aiming to be, but it’s more of a wish list than a ‘lets make it happen’ plan.

Front-foot or Back-foot?

  • As a team we are moving forward all of the time;
  • As a team we are fire-fighting most of the time.

Clued-up or Clueless?

  • We are clear about how we make a difference in our market;
  • We are unclear about how to stand out in our market.

Dexterous or Clumsy?

  • We are agile in our business, we ‘seize’ the moment with alacrity;
  • We are blunderers, unable to move quickly or with grace.

Leaning-forward or Leaning-back?

  • We are restless thinkers, learning, imaging the future, eager to grow;
  • We are thinking about our future, but out time is spent living today.

Web-enabled or Webbed-feet?

  • We have a clearly articulated digital strategy in our business model;
  • We use the Internet and social media, but have no digital vision.

Harmonious or Mutinous?

  • We are all wearing the same jersey, pushing together in the same direction, one heart and one voice;
  • We’re a collection of tribes and opinions, connected but not united.

Curious or Cautious?

  • We develop lots of new things, some of them work, some don’t, but we’re always ready to experiment;
  • We generally keep trying things until they don’t work, then think of something new to have a go at.

Heads-up or Head-down?

  • When faced with a threat we respond rapidly and decisively;
  • When faced with a threat, we often step back and wheel-spin.

Fresh thinkers or Copy cats?

  • We are creative and restless, innovation is a core behaviour;
  • We don’t have a point of difference in our business model.

Stickability or Bendability?

  • When something is not going to plan, we reflect, adjust and kick on with renewed enthusiasm;
  • When initiatives do not work, we tend to give up and go back to what we know.

Kinship or Coldfish?

  • We actively pay attention to building our culture, values and spirit;
  • We do not pay attention to our internal culture – it just happens.

Connectivity or Disconnected?

  • We are hot wired, we’re all linked-in and linked-up;
  • Our organisation is not well co-ordinated – we’re disconnected and decoupled.

Insights or Blindspots?

  • We have a very good knowledge of our customers, their customers and our competitors;
  • We have an ad-hoc knowledge of our customers, their customers and our competitors.

These are uncertain times with Brexit, Trumponomics and a General Election. Companies are struggling to find the right balance between caution and optimism. No one knows what will happen next, and it is crazy to operate your business as though you do. But the more volatile the times, the more essential it is to keep your options open. Thus, taking less risk (closing down innovation options) is actually more dangerous than investing to preserve a number of future-focused options.

There are lessons for us all in the history of Fitzpatrick’s, decline and renewal, and the entrepreneurial attitude of Branson, where everything-is-possible and optimism rules. A strong sense of the possible is essential to driving innovation that in turn leads to success. Whilst the image of the swashbuckling adventure-hungry risk-taking buccaneering entrepreneur is somewhat of a caricature, positive energy and exuberance makes a refreshing change, as the news is a constant stream of maudlin and misery.

Things don’t just happen. You’re sure to get somewhere if you walk long enough isn’t the answer. Hope isn’t a strategy. It’s about strategic readiness, agility, clarity, direction and velocity and then execution. Sit down, have a glass of dandelion and burdock, and ask yourself the High Growth Anatomy questions and reflect on how to create your own future, before someone does that for you.

Thinking about high growth strategies whilst eating my fish & chips

What a week that was! Last week was National Chip Week and we celebrated in style with chips for tea each night of the week with a subtle variation – straight, chunky, crinkly, wedges and then alphabet letters to end the week on a Friday night high. Just like the rest of Britain, I just can’t get enough of the delicious potato delight.

So congratulations to ‘The Golden Fish’, Dagenham, voted Britain’s Best Chippy 2015, with special mention in the ‘fish & chips Oscars’ for ‘Fishcotheque’, Waterloo Road, London, ‘New chips on the block’, Uttoxeter Road, Stoke, ‘Codrophenia’, Walkley Bank Road, Sheffield, and ‘Frying Nemo’, High Street, Carlton.

Almost 676,000 tonnes of British potatoes are made into fresh chips in Great Britain every year – that’s 322 times heavier than the London Eye – farmed from around 14,000 hectares of potatoes are grown each year – the same space as 19,600 football pitches. The average spend in a fish and chip shop is £3.22 – less than half the average price us Brits splash out on a takeaway curry.

Fish and chips was the only take-away food not to be rationed during the Second World War. Frederick Lord Woolton, Minister of Food at the time, even allowed mobile frying vans to carry fish and chips to evacuees around the country. Between you and me, I’ve always wanted to run a fish and chip shop rather than simply be a passionate consumer of the product, so I’ve been doing some research and planning into my potential new business: The Plaice to be

Fish and chips are the undisputed National dish of Great Britain, a cultural and culinary symbol of our country, instantly recognised as British the world over. Few can resist the mouth-watering combination – moist white fish in crisp golden batter, served with a generous portion of hot, fluffy chips. Like Vic & Bob, fish and chips are a classic double act.

The origins and development of the dish in the mid C19th are closely associated with the industrial revolution and it has maintained huge popularity as the original, affordable and nutritious takeaway ever since. Fish and chips were first served together as a complete dish around 1860 – Joseph Malin of London and John Lee of Mossley, near Manchester both staking claims to be the first ‘chippy’. However, the fried fish and cooked potato trades had existed for many years before this, with fried fish introduced to London by Jewish immigrants from Portugal and Spain in the C17th.

From the 1870′s the fish and chip trade spread rapidly, especially in London and the cotton and woollen manufacturing towns of the Pennines, and soon became a readily accessible hot, nutritious meal for many factory and mill workers. By 1910 there were 25,000 fish and chip shops around the country, peaking at 35,000 by 1927 and between the wars most industrial towns boasted a chippy on almost every street.

Probably the most interesting and patriotic claim is that fish and chips helped win the First World War! Lloyd George’s war cabinet recognised its importance to the Nation’s working classes and ensured supplies were maintained off ration. It helped feed munitions workers and kept the families of the fighting men in good heart. By the inter war years the trade consumed around two-thirds of the British wet fish catch. Again, reprieved from rationing during the Second World War, British soldiers identified each other during the ‘D’ Day landings by calling out fish and the response was chips. Any other response and they would have certainly had their chips.

British consumers eat some 382 million portions of fish and chips every year. That’s six servings for every man, woman and child. Annual spend on fish and chips is a staggering £1.2 billion, and 22% of people visit a chippy every week. The longest serving fish fryer is believed to be Bettina Dawson aged 90 of Moffat’s chippy, in Dumfries, Scotland who has been working in her family chip shop since she was 13 in 1936, that’s 77 years at the fryer!

Fish and chips, although still a great British tradition, has suffered a decline over the last couple of decades. The fast food market has changed rapidly since the 1980s as new types of fast food cafe have opened, giving people a huge amount of choice. Today, there are around 10,500 fish and chip emporiums in the UK, which dramatically outnumber the branded fast food sector, such as McDonalds, with 1,200 outlets. However, it’s the plethora of independent pizza, burger, Chinese and Indian takeaways which threaten too.

With McDonalds celebrating 40 years of UK success in 2014 and continuing to expand, how do you achieve high growth in a sector that has seen new entrants in the market, your product perceived as old fashioned, and compete simultaneously as an independent against national brands and low-cost local operators, when you’re just small fry(ers)? Here are my ’12 High Growth’ ideas:

Rebound First and foremost, complaining about your competition or lack of customers won’t help. It only makes things worse and demoralises those around you, and yourself. Today’s laurels are tomorrow’s compost, look forward. What are you aiming for? What does success looks like in 12, 24 and 36 months time? There’s no point in feeling sorry for yourself, reframe your own future.

Restart Forget about how you’ve done business in the past. It was good enough then but it won’t give you the results you want in the future. In order to become the best business you can be, start with a clean sheet of paper. What type of customers would it serve? Why should customers buy from me, and not others?  People get stuck in their own rut doing business the same way expecting things to change. Don’t be afraid to restart by changing your approach.

Rebalance Do you remember the reason you went into business? The end result of your risk taking should be freedom and fulfilment, not continuous hard work and a feeling of déjà vu. Dedicate time to rebalance your monthly, weekly, daily activities. If it’s all the business of today, no one is steering towards business of tomorrow. Specify what you should be doing, working ‘on’ the business, and not simply ‘in’, and rebalance your priorities.

Revisit How can you make money competing against a myriad of others based solely on the lowest price? In a tighter economy, the old strategy won’t work. Offering the same things every competitor does provides no advantage. Are your business strategy and business model viable in today’s marketplace? Will it build a winning company that works for you? Identify what markets and products will work in the next 12, 24 and 36 months.

Retool What should your business do to make use of online tools and media, to increase efficiency and deliver growth? Use the menu of social media tools to build a greater awareness of your brand and your offerings. Where can you leverage our online business model to greater impact? Take a look at this:

Refinance The best businesses are also the best funded and financed. A strong financial foundation provides the platform to innovate, and invest for growth. Now is the time to take a hard look at your finances, your financial systems, and your cash requirements. Prepare a 12-month cashflow, focus on managing your cash and use this information for strategy and pricing decisions.

Restructure Most companies use the same organisation chart for years without ever changing it. But over time, the old structure doesn’t work as business and customer demands change. Perhaps it is time to restructure and take a look at job roles, responsibilities, etc. What does the structure need to be to deliver the success desired?

Refocus What does you offer or what do you do differently to attract customers to pay for your services? How do you gather new fans of your company? Have you changed your target market to expand your customer base? Trying to convince new customers to hire your company using the same old price methodology won’t get you the growth you want. It is time to refocus your customer strategy and look for new customers in new markets by offering something exciting that gets customers paying you what it’s worth?

Rebuild Take a fresh look at your overall company branding, image, logo and website. Do they create any excitement? Do they give out the right impression to your customers? Does it promote technical expertise and value? Rebuild your marketing, almost as a relaunch.

Revamp What business routines do you call over and over, year after year? Have you called any new plays lately? Your management style must be agile in today’s competitive economy, what innovations have you introduced to refresh the business and shock customers (in the nicest possible way?) Think inside out, think like a customer.

Refresh How much time do you give your team to training to renew or develop new skills? Identify the training and development needs for each member of staff to get them performing at a higher level and with continuous improvement. Use personal coaching to stimulate and to get their heads up and seek to perform the best they can be.

Relive Are you living your dream with your business? Why not? Never forget your dream. Write down specifically what you want your business to do for you personally in the next 5 to 10 years. Next decide what you must do to turn your vision into reality. Make it personal, so your business enables you to work to live, not live to work.

Chip shops, like other local retailers, be they newsagents, estate agents or bike shops need to change their business model to stimulate growth, primarily due to the impact of new competition. Besides the above thoughts, other factors I’d build into my thinking include:

  • Understand your market On any Friday, one in five takeaways are from the chippy, and more than half the UK adult population visits a fish and chip shop at least once a month, so the demand is there. However, who will buy fish and chips from you? Will it be passing trade? Shoppers? Local office workers? School children? People living on a nearby housing estate? Most of your custom will be repeat business, yet I don’t see many chippies offering customer loyalty schemes, which offer many opportunities for growing your business.
  • Know your competition Remember, your potential market must be large enough to support your business. Don’t forget that the size of your market depends not only on the number of potential customers but also on the number of other chip shops and fast food outlets already supplying locally.
  • Sell the benefits of your product A portion of chips contains less fat that a prawn mayonnaise sandwich. Fish and chips have 595 calories in the average portion – an average pizza has 871; Big Mac meal with fries has 888. Besides it’s value, flavour, and availability, it’s also a healthier food option than most realise.
  • Product awareness Bear in mind that customers have become increasingly environmentally aware, so get your fish supplies from protected or sustainable sources and make this a virtue of your offering.
  • Product range Scampi and calamari feature on many chip shop menus now. In Yorkshire, haddock is the most popular fish, cod is a favourite in Lancashire. Chips with gravy is more popular in northern England than anywhere else in Britain. Provide a variety of products for your target markets.
  • Serve a niche Notting Hill lays claim to Britain’s poshest fish and chip shop. Geales serves roast sea scallops and rocket salad along with the traditional battered fish and chips.

The view that Britain’s favourite takeaway food has had its chips is greatly exaggerated, with some smart thinking the local chippy can batter other local fast food competition. However, in the same way that listening to a ticking clock won’t tell you much about time, only that some has been wasted, living on a diet of nostalgia will only result in a soggy, cold business for which customers have no appetite. You need to think about your menu, tickle your customers’ taste buds and get them licking their lips in anticipation – keep them coming back for more and make it The Plaice to be.