Business Lessons in a Bacon Sandwich


For the sake of my host the hotel shall remain nameless. As will the ‘event.’

But it took place early in the morning, which meant that a bacon sandwich was an integral part of the proceedings.

Or maybe not…

A particularly un-riveting presentation finished. I marched towards the food, seeking some consolation.

I’m a reasonable chap: I’m not one of these people who insist his bacon has a precisely calibrated degree of crispiness. But, nameless hotel chef, I do like it to be cooked. Not sliced from the pig’s back and dangled somewhere near a source of heat for a few seconds.

No. I’m sorry. I simply couldn’t eat that. So sausage sandwich it was. After all, you can’t ruin a sausage sandwich – even if the bread did have that mass-produced-and-probably-yesterday’s look.

Nope, you can’t ruin a sausage sandwich. But this wasn’t a sausage. It was lukewarm cardboard in a plastic skin.

So where was this ‘event’ held? As above, it has to remain nameless. But it wasn’t Mrs Miggins’ Pie Shop and Breakfast Bar. It was a hotel: part of a chain and one that frequently caters for functions.

Let’s be charitable: it was early in the morning, it may not have been the head chef at work.

But damn it, a bacon sandwich is as basic as it gets. Anyone can make a good bacon sandwich. It’s simple (he said, triggering the most heated debate the blog has seen…)

  • Bacon from the local butcher – grilled in my view
  • Bread from the local baker – buttered if you insist, and thick enough for the…
  • Tomatoes – in a perfect world grilled and from your own garden. Failing that, plum tomatoes, which means Napolina, not Tesco’s

The point I’m making is this: a bacon or sausage sandwich is a ridiculously simple thing to get right. I can do it: you can do it. But if a hotel can’t do it, I have no confidence that it can do anything. Could I ever recommend that hotel to friends or business colleagues staying in the area? Not in a million years.

And that’s an essential message for all of us…

…Because sometimes we’re all in danger of forgetting the basics.

Yes, the numbers look good; yes, we’re well on with plans for 2016; and yes, we’ve just booked two of the team on that leadership development programme. Awesome, all guns blazing and mutual congratulations all round.

But there’s a list of calls you need to return. And did you thank Geoff for that referral he gave you? Or apologise to Fiona for being late to the meeting?

They’re things you’d never have done when you started the business…

We’re all guilty of letting little things slip. If you like, of concentrating on Saturday’s wedding and forgetting Friday morning’s bacon sandwiches. But the man eating the lukewarm cardboard has a daughter who’ll get married one day: and he knows one hotel that won’t be quoting for the reception.

For me, there are three things that are the ‘bacon sandwiches’ of my business. In truth, they’ve got nothing to do with business: they’re basic good manners. But for me they’re part of making sure I’m in control – and if I’m in control, I’ll get the big things right as well.

  • First of all, I say ‘thank you.’ It takes no time to write a quick thank you note and yet so few people do it. Without question a genuine ‘thank you’ note is the best marketing any business can do.
  • I stay in touch. Everyone in any form of sales business will tell you of the client/customer they lost touch with or wrote off as hopeless. Suddenly they’re your competitor’s top client. Stay in touch and catch up over coffee: it is so easy, and it consistently pays dividends.
  • And, as Louis XVIII taught us, ‘punctuality is the courtesy of kings.’ I simply do not know any successful person who is consistently late. I know plenty who are consistently five or ten minutes early to the point of OCD. So I pride myself on being on time: nope, it’s not always the easiest thing in North Yorkshire, especially at harvest time, but like the other two, it’s an integral part of my business – and who I am.

With that, have a great weekend – and now let battle commence. I’ll await the flood of angry e-mails from the brown sauce brigade…

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One comment

  1. Chris Wilson · October 2, 2015

    You can always rely on a lovely floured white and a choice of wholemeal at our meeting rooms, with thick cut, well cooked bacon, and nice flavoursome locally sourced sausages.

    But yes, I get the point. It’s the small things that add up to create a reputation. Pity VW didn’t think about that.

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