MY BEST ...
The best thing we did was to rebrand ChocExpress as Hotel Chocolat. We'd been ChocExpress since our launch in 1993, but by 2003 we felt the name had shortcomings. The business had changed over the past 10 years, and the brand was like a coat that didn't fit any more. We kept it on but it was uncomfortable.
People used to say that our chocolates were 'surprisingly good' - we felt that the name ChocExpress wasn't giving us the lift necessary for a luxury brand. The main requirement of the name had been to inform people that chocolates could be posted as a gift - quite unusual in 1993. Ten years on, we wanted something with an escapist element. Hotel Chocolat is that: an alluring name that operates on an emotional level.
It was a particularly good decision because it was driven by our own plans; we weren't just reacting to something. The name-change has made us more confident as a business and our growth rate has stepped up - we grew by 40% in the first six months of 2004, which is faster than last year. It's marked a growing-up process for the company.
MY WORST ...
I appointed the wrong person to a senior position in the company. That was three years ago and they left six months ago.
I consider it the worst decision because the difference the wrong person was able to make to a company was unprecedented. One person can change the company culture over a period of time and you don't really notice it happening. It was a bad decision and we perpetuated it for two and a half years - we should have faced up to it much earlier.
As a company, we are can-do, enthusiastic and hard-working, but this person wasn't able to make decisions effectively and quickly. The department they worked in was becoming negative and easily defeated by small obstacles.
Long-winded and with woolly processes, the section was turning into a political environment, where scoring points off each other was seen as an achievement.
In reality, little extra work came our way once we sorted out the situation, and we have a fantastic new person who has since taken over that role. It's all completely different now.