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Sometimes great tips come from a completely unexpected source.

There I was, enjoying Sunday afternoon with a celebrity autobiography on a cosy chair, cat on my lap, only to find I had to take action as the author is not just telling their life story but providing advice that might work in my business too… time to grab a pencil and make notes!

Here, for those of you who don’t want to read the warts and all history of the Ramsay Empire, are his tips for big businesses or those with aspirations to grow. I have grouped his tips under three topics: attitude, financials and excellence.

No Swearing Allowed

You won’t be surprised to know that Ramsay’s autobiography includes the occasional profanity. He is undeniably a down-to-earth businessman. But he maintains a clear distinction between his attitude when working on his business, and when he is in his kitchens.

He says you need to know what you are aiming for to reach it. How many of us only have a glimmer of what we might achieve?

Now the book reveals neither a ‘grand plan’ nor an idea for ‘world domination’. But Ramsay had a vision of what his business could achieve. Aiming high meant they were open to all sorts of opportunities and were ready mentally to move when doors opened.

What he and his business partner didn’t know was how growth happens. Business growth doesn’t happen by chance. A fantastic product may get you so far, but without intelligent marketing and a growth strategy your client base may never reach its full potential.

Ask yourself: what’s my big goal for my business – aim high!

Ramsay is dismissive of people entering the restaurant business as a hobby. He warns against vanity projects. His approach reminded me of Matt Crabtree who asked an audience of professional speakers to decide if they were running a business or on a crusade.

It’s fantastic if you have a business you’re passionate about and this will of course make it so much easier to sell. But, is everyone as excited as your business as you are? You need to make sure your business can work without you – as he did when opening a branded restaurant in Dubai.

Your business systems have to be fit for your company’s future needs. If you intend to be the public face of your business, you need to ensure your personal brand is strong. As you grow, you need to surround yourself with equally passionate employees and clients. By nurturing their talent and investing in their development, you can turn them into advocates for your business.

Ask yourself: do I know what I need to make my company worth buying?

Cooking the Books

Like all good story-tellers, Ramsay recites the legendary example of a business lunch where the wine bill ran into 5 figures … at that point the business agreed to write off all food expenses as the £600 meal tag was dwarfed by the drinks bill.

Sometimes discounting or giving away a product or service devalues it in the eyes of consumers. Why would you pay full price knowing that something will be on sale next week?

Successful businesses give clients the feeling of added value. Could you give away your time helping a client with a problem, or perhaps arrange an introduction to someone who may be the perfect client for them. These type of well thought out ‘freebies’ lead to repeat business. And even better these clients are likely to become advocates of your business. And there is no better marketing than personal recommendations.

Ask yourself: how can I give added value to customers without devaluing my product?

Instead of assuming that the money will look after itself, Ramsay learnt the hard way to keep a control of the financial information and income streams. After some hard-won lessons, he recommends having separate accounts for separate projects so you can see which elements of your business are profitable.

Ask yourself: which elements of my business make the most profit?

To create a bigger company, you need to scale up your income, your systems, your associates or staff and your financial operations. Instead of focusing on the small-scale clients, you need to think what you need to start doing to bring in bigger clients.

This is where your growth plans come in. A big client very rarely lands in your lap by accident. Ensure your strategy has a clear path to getting yourself in front of those big clients. And make sure once you’re there, you make the most of the opportunity.

Ask yourself: If I want to submit bigger bills, what do I need to do? Change my client base? Change my product line? Work with associates?

Excellence is King

Finally, he talks about the importance of grooming your winning products daily. The minute you sit back complacently, then you create room for the next bright young thing to come in and steal your clients with their winning ways… and you may not notice until it is too late.

As yourself: am I keeping my products new, my clients happy and my service levels excellent?

Creating a winning business requires hard work, 17-hour days, sweat and toil if you’re a chef… and the same is true if you want to succeed in any business.

Huge thanks to Sarah Fox of 500 Words for this contribution…

Book: “Playing with Fire” Gordon Ramsay (2009)

If you’re looking to grow your business, Sarah will be speaking at our Ensuring Business Growth Seminar in Manchester on 21st June June 2018.