Conversations With My Younger Self

By Ian aged 48 and a 1/4, Director of restaurants and bars in and around Chester

As a business owner making the dream become reality is hard enough. As the business matures, keeping pace with change is the difference between success and failure. HM Magazine asked Ian Wade to look back and share the wisdom he has gained over the decades.

My 20s

A decade of boundless energy! I worked hard and long and if I could, I would have harnessed that energy. I stretched myself financially and borrowed what I could to make sure things got done in the right way and at the right time. I was also aware of the consequences of making rash decisions, for example, when assessing the risk of borrowing.

First impressions are massive. I encouraged feedback from customers and went the extra mile to make sure I was attracting repeat business. Competition is high among restaurants and bars and when you are the new kid on the block, most people will give you one try, if it’s not a success they probably won’t come back. And possibly never!

Being a great listener. I sought other people’s advice including from friends, family, and professionals. People are very important to me so I chose the right suppliers to work with. If a relationship feels right then it is not always about price such as when I was selecting the right site to expand in to, which included a lot of research and due diligence.

My 30s

What have I learned? I reflected on what have I achieved in the first part of my business life. I asked myself what went right and why, and if things went wrong how should I have dealt with it.

I knew that having a consistent product was important so I used my knowledge as the foundation for each new site as my estate grew. Customers need to see you can deliver on your promises and still maintain your brand quality. When they visited any of our sites they had an expectation which we had to live up to.

One part I struggled with was delegating. Looking back I would reassure myself that other business owners may also find this hard and I now understand that it is a key lesson to learn while growing a business. Also, I realised how important it was to build good relationships with banks, suppliers, customers and of course, my staff.

My 40s

Making time to reflect and celebrate. Having built up a successful business I took an overview of where I was in life. I was proud of building up a good reputation so, as with any business which has reached a more mature phase, decisions I made at this point were analysed even more to ensure quality and consistency is maintained. I became more cautious about risk taking as I became older as I had more to lose, both professionally and personally.

Today I can reflect on having a strong and loyal management team of talented people who now have been with us a long time and make my life easier. Over time I have come to appreciate their strengths and can let them do their job (see the point above – this has made me a much better delegator). I feel more confident in myself and the business compared to the earlier years and my success means I can project where I want to be in another 10 years and plan how to get there.

Ian Wade is the Director of Ring O’ Bells and Roberts & Wade Restaurants which currently run the following sites in and around Chester and are looking to expand in the next two years:

Ring O’ Bells (Christleton)

Urbano 32

Burger Shed