It’s been a busy couple of weeks all in all. After months of preparing for investment and planning the roll out of our business in lots of locations, we are full steam ahead! This is brilliant news and a very exciting time. There are lots of challenges too though. Opening a new restaurant, recruiting great news chefs for our food business, working out the mechanisms for managing businesses and people at distance are all ones every growing business wrestles with. But for me there is an even more important challenge. Learning to speak in a local accent. Or perhaps learning to speak in many local accents.
Over the last week, I have been in Liverpool, the North East, the Midlands and London, building relationships with the people who will be our new staff, customers and trainees. And one thing that I recognise over and over again, on the train or in the car back home, is the strength of the local accent. And I have to be honest I love it…love the richness and diversity, the things to learn and the way to express things outside my home in Yorkshire. I have to add at this point that I do not have a strong local accent. My parents and Miss Witty, my elocution teacher saw to that!
So what’s all this about accents? At CREATE I have always been passionate about great food and about believing that everyone has talent, especially those who train with us and work for us…those whose journey has encompassed homelessness and lots of other challenges. I have also been passionate about the fact that the challenges and opportunities are different in different places. So I have always been committed to the idea that if CREATE was going to develop great food businesses and effective employment training throughout the UK, it had to be a mulit-local and not a national expansion.
So what’s all this about accents? In the places we are opening, in the opportunities that lie ahead, we need to express our business with a local accent. We need to speak about our business and our passion for social enterprise in a way that makes sense and has impact in many different communities.
We are not a supermarket chain, we are not a branded restaurant or coffee franchise, we believe that great local food and great local people matter.
I think in all of this the great bard’s line in Hamlet is ringing in my ears – “to thine own self be true”. This is not wishy washy playing up to some localism agenda. When Polonius speaks these words what he is saying is, stay true to yourself and your passion and, importantly, you will benefit. This is not altruism but good solid business sense. Be yourself, be different and it will give you the market edge. Stay close to your USP and not those that worked for others and you will have the edge.
So I think this learning about CREATE as a business, as a great food business, as a great work based learning business, as a social business, is true for all of us in this exciting, crazy, challenging world of social enterprise. To thine own self be true and speak your business and passion with a local accent. If we open in Wales I will tweet you all for extra help!