We’ve just opened our third outlet, in Liverpool Street, so I’ve been flat out overseeing the launch process. We’ve been doing lots of promotional activity to try to achieve maximum impact, targeting local businesses and the huge footfall of people in the area. We’ve had people in branded Pod uniforms on the street handing out full menus, along with discounts to get people into the store – we tend to find that once people have tried Pod, they quickly become loyal customers because the food’s good. And we’ve also been doing lots of London based PR.
However, I’ve also been busy securing the final part of a new financing deal, which will allow us to open three more stores. We’ve raised £1m over the last four months, and that culminated in us signing one of the largest pieces of the deal last Friday. My whole objective was to try and get it signed off before Christmas, so I’m delighted we pulled it off. And I think it’s because we’ve been delivering consistent like-for-like sales growth; even November was about 18% up on last year, so the business is still growing fast despite the tough climate. Experienced, serious investors have seen that trend and decided there’s a very strong underlying business here.
I’d say to other entrepreneurs that funding is out there, but you need to have a seriously robust and compelling proposition. Anyway, it means we now have a strong cash position – property opportunities are starting to emerge, so the plan is to secure some prime locations over the next 12 months. This might happen in January, or not until August – it depends on availability,
I’ve also been doing some management reviews of people who are critical to the business, awarding their annual bonus and making sure they understand their objectives for the next 12 months. Even though we’re only a small business, I think it’s important to have a very clear incentive scheme for key staff , so they understand how they can develop their careers, how much they can potentially earn, and what it will mean to them personally if the business is successful. After all, that’s what gets them into work in the morning.
Last Tuesday we also had our monthly board meeting. I’ve got four non-execs, who are very actively involved in the business. My chairman is Nick Payne, who used to run Burger King Europe, and they’re all very experienced, heavyweight industry figures. My strategy has been to create a board that the business grows into. When you’re an entrepreneur you spend your life fighting fires and worrying about where the money is – but I try to spend at least an hour a month on strategy and incentive structures, because I think these are the building blocks of the future success of the business.
So it’s been a particularly busy seven days – particularly since my girlfriend and I had a baby three weeks ago! We’re going to be closing between Christmas and New Year, so I’m going to Cornwall for a few days to get some fresh air and inspiration...
Tim Hall is the founder of Pod, a healthy fast food chain with three London outlets.