Insularity 1

I went for lunch the other day with a senior leader from the worlds’ biggest retailer and, when we asked what they look for in the brands they scale with, the answer was “founders that genuinely hear other perspectives”.

Digging deeper, what they meant was the appreciation that as a founder there is the temptation to do everything: “It’s my business – no one knows this better than me” or “We’ll muddle through it ourselves”.

However, the best founders allocate time and budget to bringing in external knowledge; from shoppers; from buyers; from subject matter experts.

To be clear, this does not mean doing whatever others tell you to do – fickleness is equally destructive to a business – but it means creating the space to hear another perspective, understand it and make informed, educated decisions off the back of it.

Honestly, in today’s landscape, I have never been more nervous about the mindset of “it’s fine, we can work it out ourselves”. In particular, in the areas of legal, supply chain, finance, pricing / commercial strategy, product strategy and HR.

Why? Because like carbon monoxide, you do not notice something is wrong until it is too late and the damage is real.

There are two simple shifts in mindset on my mind this month:

  1. Focus on the few meaningful relationships, not the one thousand transactional ones

  2. Allocate budget where there is a need for a specialism and you do not have specialists in your team

1. Focus on the few meaningful relationships

When I talk about relationships, I do not mean getting lots of business cards at the Farm Shop & Deli Show. I am referring to dinners and lunches with category directors and commercial directors, with investors and acquirers. Ask them what is on their mind this year and beyond. Ask them what they think about your proposition. Build your believers.

We are lucky in FMCG – our industry is filled with genuinely kind, friendly, down-to-earth people, so making meaningful relationships is also fun and fulfilling in its own right.

Where can I do this? If you struggle organising unilateral chats, strike that first conversation at an event organised by someone else.

Retailer community at IGD events: IGD have trading updates with most retailers which is a great place to shake hands with category leaders. As far as relationship building, you are unlikely to get much more than a handshake, but it is not a bad place to start (and the content of the presentations are also very good).

The Grocery Aid calendar: Grocery Aid has a number of fantastic events from balls and lunches, to sporting events, where you can meet and spend meaningful time with people that can really add value to your business. Plus all proceeds go to a charity.

2. Allocate budget where there is a specialism needed

In an environment where risks and opportunities as % revenue have never been higher, make sure you really stress test the mission critical parts of your business.

For example, if you are not super confident in your unit economics, get advice. If you have established your manufacturing agreement on the cheap, get it reviewed. Being proactive about seeking support will fix unknown stress cracks before the dam breaks; proactive always costs less than reactive.

Our most requested consultancy this month

I hate to say it, but most of the advisory at the moment either involves a spreadsheet or a contract.

CPI advisory: Our Commercial Trading Team are getting their hands dirty supporting founders and leaders through cost price increases into the trade. If you are feeling out of your comfort zone, the team can advise you through the entire end to end process across planning, execution and implementation.

Cost support: Our Operations Team are offering a limited number, free of charge P&L reviews to help spot EBIT upside. All you need to do is download and share your Xero P&L and we will take it from there.

Risk support: We are hearing of all sorts of failures in the interface between manufacturer and brand, sending businesses into a head-spin. Our Operations Team are spending a lot of time on manufacturing contract reviews (from a commercial perspective) to identify risks and help navigate a route through them.

Financial review: While we do not execute in-house at YF, a number of brands are seeking FD advisory to help scenario plan. I have heard of more unforeseen cash squeezes in the last month than I have the last 6 months. Now is the time to be extra vigilant. If you need support in this space, I have a few trusted providers that can help.

If you think any of the above services would be valuable for your brand, reach out to the YF team at [email protected]

Looking to recruit? Here are some of the top candidates we are currently working with:

  • Supply and Demand Planner

  • Operations Manager 

  • Junior Sales Executive 

  • Marketing Executive

Email [email protected] if you would like an introduction.

Insularity 2

Theadora Alexander

Founder and CEO

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