First published in EP Foodservice Magazine, Issue April 2016
The Importance of Trust, by Lou Willock, Founder of IndiCater
Why trust matters in the Foodservice supplier and client relationship
A few years ago I received a copy of ‘The Speed of Trust’ by Stephen Covey from Hamish Stoddart, Managing Director of the highly successful Peach Pubs group. Hamish believes in the fundamental importance of trust between supplier and client, and gives a copy of the book to all his new suppliers, highlighting the value he places on the relationship. A powerful message and one which will resonate strongly with those working within the Foodservice sector both as client and as supplier.
Throughout my career, I have worked hard at building trusting relationships. In the 1990’s I formed a contract catering company with Mike Day, managing in the region of 70 contracts throughout the South. I believe our success was heavily driven by the trust that clients placed in our ability to provide an outstanding service, -the result of establishing honest, open and mutually respectful relationships from the outset. Our contract retention bucked industry trends, black losses were not something we experienced.
When Mike and I sold that business we went on to set up IndiCater, providing back office management software to the Foodservice sector. We became a supplier to the very sector we had worked in and fully understood how vital an open relationship would be in order for both us and our clients to prosper.
Working in the field of technology, clients place enormous trust in our service. Our software sits at the very heart of a business, collecting confidential and sensitive operating data that is used by the client to help manage their business more effectively. For some, technology is a ‘dark art’ and as such, clients are heavily reliant on the software house to use their expertise and knowledge to protect the clients’ best interests, without necessarily understanding what that might look like technically. In the same way that a patient has to trust a doctor to prescribe the right medication, our clients entrust us with their raw data to deliver management information.
A mutually trusting relationship between supplier and client doesn’t just happen. It requires a significant investment in time and effort by both parties to get to know one another and understand the role that the supplier will play within the business. At IndiCater, this means identifying and talking to the key stakeholders within the business about what is important to them; building a picture of collective needs; understanding the culture of the business; establishing realistic timescales for development and mobilisation; presenting transparent costs with no hidden extras and being accessible. There may be occasions when something goes wrong and there is a misguided temptation to conceal this from the client. At times like these, trust can be tested and survive but once broken is generally irretrievable. A genuinely trusting relationship will provide a platform to freely discuss any obstacles as they occur, often resulting in jointly finding the best solutions.
Establishing trust is not the result of contractual small print, it is demonstrated in the respect that businesses have for one another, acknowledging that they are mutually reliant. At IndiCater, we are so deeply embedded within a client’s business that we see ourselves as a ‘partner’ as opposed to a ‘supplier’. Partners work together towards common goals, stripping out the invisible barriers that are sometimes associated with the term ‘supplier’.
We take our relationships and responsibilities very seriously. We have to. We are custodians of client data with a collective turnover in excess of £40m per annum. It’s not our data of course, it belongs to our clients and remains confidential to them alone. We are very proud that our software is the vehicle they continue to trust in processing the numbers.
“Be honest. Tell the truth. Let people know where you stand. Use simple language. Call things what they are. Demonstrate integrity. Don’t manipulate people or distort facts. Don’t spin the truth. Don’t leave false impressions.” Stephen Covey on building trust.
IndiCater Press Release
IndiCater, niche hospitality software specialist based in Henley-on-Thames, is delighted to announce two new appointments to the Board.
Debi Nichol joins IndiCater as Managing Director from the Met Police where she worked for the last four years, initially utilising her outstanding leadership and operational skills to oversee catering, transport and other logistics for the London Olympics. Mike Day, previously Managing Director of IndiCater, takes on a new strategic role as Executive Chairman. In addition, Bob Cotton MBE, previously Chief Executive of the BHA, has been appointed as a non executive director.
Following on from the appointment of Russel Joffe as a non executive director last November, the expanded Board will help guide the company as it continues to grow across all hospitality sectors, adding to its market-leading presence in the contract catering sector.
Mike Day, Executive Chairman said, “This is an incredibly exciting time for the company. I am looking forward to working with a strengthened board to ensure that we maintain our strategic goals of helping our clients to improve their profitability and efficiency through innovative software.”
First Published in EP Entrepreneurs & Innovation magazine April 2016
Future-proofing an established and successful software business for long-term growth
By Mike Day, Founder, IndiCater
Last February, sipping my favourite cocktail with my wife Pat on the 57th floor of a stunning hotel in Singapore, I found myself contemplating the challenge of how to achieve the next stage of growth for IndiCater, the hospitality software business I formed with Lou Willcock almost 15 years ago.
Leading up to the trip, Lou and I had both recognised that IndiCater needed significant growth in order to fund continual research and development investment in the application. Increasing client charges or external funding were not routes we wished to take in order to meet our objective of continual innovation, embracing the opportunities presented by ever-changing technology, whilst meeting the exacting needs of our clients.
We set a target of doubling our turnover within eighteen months but this would present its own challenges, including some personal soul searching alongside learning from past mistakes. Questions arose, such as did we have the right company culture and team to implement the systems and processes required for a fast-growth environment? Were Lou and I as founders the right people to run the business on a day-to-day basis or should we step back and find a Managing Director; if we did appoint an MD would they be from a corporate background or a younger entrepreneur? Was our Head of Technology and our board of directors strong enough to achieve our aims?
New sales would be required quickly in order to invest in any new team changes and appointments. Both Lou and I would need to reengineer our own roles in order not to stifle any new appointments, whilst continuing to be heavily involved in the business.
The process of introducing change commenced with listening to clients, partners and industry experts outside of the company and trusting their insights about our business. Chris Sheppardson was a key confidant, extremely supportive and clear about the skills we needed to complement those of Lou and I. The Managing Director’s role would be the hardest to fill and take the longest time to get right. Initially we concentrated on ensuring that we had the right heads of department in place for both Client Services and Technology, a process which resulted in the creation of a new role as Head of Product. A new Head of Technology was appointed externally, other positions were filled through internal promotion.
Strengthening of the board was the next focus and with Chris’s support we attracted interest from potential NEDs who we might otherwise have never considered. In late 2015 Russel Joffe joined the board, familiar to many as the face and founder of the successful high-street restaurant brand Giraffe, subsequently sold to Tesco. Russel’s fast growth achievements with Giraffe, Laurel Canyon Ventures restaurant group, and previously with Café Flo are already having a major impact on IndiCater. In a recent interview, Russel commented “I am enjoying using my restaurant experience to help IndiCater further shape their profit improvement software to meet the specific needs of this vibrant sector, whilst ensuring their growth plans benefit their clients across all hospitality sectors”.
Balancing the board is the recent NED appointment of industry stalwart, Bob Cotton OBE. Former Chief Executive of the BHA (British Hospitality Association), his reputation and understanding of the sector needs very little introduction.
In January 2016, we were delighted to welcome Debi Nichol to the team as our new Managing Director. With outstanding leadership skills and operational strength, Debi has worked with the Met Police for the last four years, initially overseeing catering, transport and other logistics for the London Olympics. Prior to that Debi was Commercial Director with SSP and also Sales Director with Compass. Debi said “The role entrusted to me is a wonderful opportunity to lead the company to the next stage of growth, remaining committed to clients and customers, and understanding their software needs and aspirations. I believe growth will come through clearly demonstrating that IndiCater is the software provider of choice, offering unrivalled solutions to the hospitality sector”.
With the team now in place, I have taken on the role of Executive Chairman to help guide the restructured company through its next phase of growth. This will include future-proofing the business whilst ensuring our product continues to innovate and help our clients improve their profitability and efficiency. Lou Willcock remains as a key director and great ambassador for the business.
Watching my son Matt embrace his new role as a father to our first grandchild Maisie, I am reminded of the parallels in creating and building a business. It starts with an idea and with a little fear attached. The baby is born and what follows as the child grows is a series of stages, each needing different things from the parent. Parental roles change, just as business roles need to change, becoming more appropriate as the child or business grows. As Matt recently said in one of our regular FaceTime chats “In more ways than one Mike’s new Day has come”.