“Find someone to share your heart, give to your community, be at peace with yourself, try to be as human as you can be.”
It is my core belief that in order to form a community, the brand must first be willing to share what is at its heart, something that’s more relevant now than ever before.
Having worked in the hospitality industry for the past decade I have experienced my fair share of both success and failure.
For seven years I worked for the Soho House Group, working my way up from reception eventually becoming the UK’s Member Relations Manager. Being part of Soho House during the beginnings of its growth phase was one of the most valuable learnings I could have wished for and what remains at the heart of this behemoth brand, is its members and focus on community. This taught me a lot and still informs my work today.
Taking my hospitality experience, I have been an advisor for some fantastic brands working to help them form Community and Partnerships. I led the launch of goop in the UK whilst working with The Communication Store and have since worked on big scale projects with The Varkey Foundation, Pimm’s, Pimm’s x Wimbledon Championships and community builds for Body by Simone and The Stratford Hotel.
Below are five tips for building a Community and instilling a Culture that has longevity.
- Know who you are and what you have to offer: Having a clear idea on who you are as a brand is important, a strong identity installs trust from the outset. Be sure that you know what your voice sounds like out in the real world, it is imperative that a new brand sense checks what their messaging is, and this is where the world of PR is very much of relevance. In my personal experience employing experts at this stage to help form the brand helps to guide its infancy and also helps expose them to the expert’s networks and skill sets.
- Employ the right people/ internally/ externally: Forming Community and Culture begins with employing smart, it is not exclusive to the consumer or the member, creating a strong sense of community from within is truly the backbone of what will make a hotel/club successful. Allow your teams growth and focus on in house development and retention, community like consistency and familiarity, allow your staff the ability to be an individual who thrives within a team.
- Who are your tribe: Investing in your founding customers, for me is a no brainer. I would always advise that a certain amount of budget is set aside during the opening first year. Being smart with “making bills disappear” goes a long way and helps create a loyalty between you and them. But even before we get to the opening, the investment must start with an understanding of where you are opening and who your business is. Identifying and putting together a collective of people to engage with, helps form a sense of investment for your customer. Ego so often gets in the way, this belief that people will just show up when you open always shocks me, having a great product or an amazing chef isn’t a big enough pull. If you haven’t made your house a home, then people will not come back… the way you make people feel, will always be remembered far more, than any dish or cocktail.
- Putting the guest first: I have always believed that it is important to listen to your customer and with smart recruiting and training you can give your staff the empowerment to understand why a customer or guest may have arrived at a place of confrontation or dissatisfaction. Empathy can go a long way in hospitality, taking away the ethos of ‘I am right, and you are wrong’ and replacing it with simple listening skills. My belief system is, ‘what can I do to make this happen for you?’ I do not believe in a firm no, always explore solutions, present options and give your customer a sense that you are going the extra mile for them.
- Protect the brand: Making difficult decisions in order to protect brand identity can be one of the hardest struggles for a new Hospitality brand. With most departments battling for space, sales and marketing v’s member/guest space, it is important that you don’t offset the balance with confusing your message. Allowing the wrong people in creates distrust from your customers and although it might seem appealing to open the flood gates to corporate opportunity, if this is not what was in your original plans and doesn’t align with your brand ethos, then you have to ask yourself what has gone wrong? and how have we got here? There are plenty of opportunities to get this right, events won’t always generate big revenue, but they can be fantastic press pieces for your business and an easy win to expose yourself to people en masse.
The next few months will be incredibly tough for the hospitality industry. In times like these community is highlighted as a crucial part of human survival and it will be the role of community that will keep businesses big and small afloat.
I will stress again, having a great space and product, is simply not enough, without people there is no heart – and without heart the business will sadly not survive.
As we move through these times of uncertainty with bated breath, we need to realise that in order to move forward, we must look inward with a flexible approach. Quite often, the most appealing offering is far simpler than you may think.
Simon Carroll is an expert in Community & Culture Building and has partnered with Palm on many projects and events.
Follow on Instagram @simplysimonc or email him directly on firstname.lastname@example.org