What leaders think
CEO, Greene King
What challenge did you tackle and overcome in your business this week?
It is probably fair to say that the leisure and hospitality sector has suffered more than any other sector from this pandemic. The number of changes we have already dealt with and now continue to deal with daily is nothing short of challenging. Responding to the latest lockdown and prior to that unprecedented levels of ambiguity and the continuing changes in operational guidelines, means that every week, if not every day, has a new challenge.
Which ongoing business challenge is occupying your thoughts this week/month?
At Greene King we set ourselves 3 clear objectives right from the start of the crisis and these have stayed with us. These are to maintain financial stability; protect our people and partners and to come out of this stronger than our competition. My thoughts (and those of my leadership team) are very focussed on how the current situation is going to affect our people going forward and how are we going to protect and achieve the 3 objectives above.
In retrospect what would you have done differently in lockdown and therefore, how may this shape your thinking for any future lockdown (local or national)?
I don’t tend to dwell on the past or look back with regret. We have taken the learnings from the last lockdown to deal with the latest situation. At Greene King we have a culture of WIN/LEARN and then celebrate together. We have stuck to our objectives and values and these have taken us far. There have however been a couple of times where we didn’t communicate quickly enough, and some confusion resulted. We now look to ensure we communicate in sufficient time to avoid this in the future. We are also more mindful of the need to celebrate our achievements with our people, however small those achievements might be. We need to get some positivity back into our thinking and know there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Given the reliance on technology during lockdown, do you now envisage an acceleration in digital/ workforce transformation in the short-medium term?
We recognise that this year we have achieved things in 6 months that would have taken 18 months previously from a technology perspective. We will continue to drive digital transformation at a pace. However, what is important in the leisure and hospitality sector is the absolute need to have face to face contact. It is what many of our customers want and it is a pre-requisite for our operators to have the passion to deliver this. So even though the business will benefit from improved efficiencies enabled through technology we must never lose sight (within the constraints of safety) of the importance of the human touch and the need for the senior team to be out in the business.
What are the new working norms starting to look like for your organisation?
For us the new norms are changing everyday so, currently, this is such a difficult one to answer. Our business has gone from a similar working pattern for our pub estate across the entire country to one where we have different closing times and regulations in different towns, and regions. Agility in our approach therefore has been and will continue to be essential and something the entire workforce has responded to well.
There was a dramatic reduction in our carbon footprint during lockdown, what is your business planning to do to help continue this going forward?
In the short-term investment may be more limited but we intend to continue with our green credentials, particularly with regards to the carbon emissions from all parts of our business including brewing processes. We were one of the only major brewer who recycled wasted beer during lockdown rather than disposing of it into drains. Instead, we had over 9,500,000 pints recycled through a process called anaerobic digestion that allows you to recycle carbon dioxide back into the production process. We will also look to greater innovation in such areas as electric powered vehicles such as our delivery vehicles. Whilst we will travel less, we will also recognise that our people in pubs need to see senior people on a regular basis.
What changes personally will you keep from the lockdown period going forward?
I will keep to the greater levels of exercise and more time with the family. I will also make sure I spend more time out around the business.
Who or what has inspired you this week? (They don’t need to be famous)
This is an easy one. Prior to us closing down again I was with the team in one of our North-West pubs, who had traded under severe restrictions and were facing into the new lockdown and all the personal uncertainty this brings. This team, who were achieving the highest customer scores as well as impressive growth, were incredibly positive and professional. They were so proud and so happy to welcome customers. They were also lobbying me to talk to the government to make sure we can get back open as soon as possible.
Did you manage a holiday this summer and if so where / how did you spend it?
Yes, we (my wife and 2 teenage sons) went to our cottage in Dorset and had a great British holiday. It’s a part of the country we love and were able to do things like get out on a boat. We also visited a few pubs!
Any words of wisdom?
The message I am sending to the people who work for Greene King is plot a way forward to the Spring. Be agile in getting through the next 4-6 months without losing sight of the longer-term. Then be ready to pursue our long-term plans and enjoy delivering what we know we can achieve.