Business Minds with Jane Hillsdon of Dragonfly Marketing
FLOWER Settlers Inn
listair, you are the owner of the Settlers Inn pub and responsible for its recent revival. Can you tell us a little bit about your background and what brought you to Port Macquarie? I’ve been in pubs since I have left school. I have worked in nearly 100 pubs right around the state, including Port Macquarie, and had worked my way up to executive positions with some of the great pub groups, including Public House Management Group and Redcape Hotel Group. Both have been awarded Best Operators in NSW by the Australia Hotels Association on separate occasions. When an opportunity to purchase a pub that I thought had all the right attributes to succeed became available in Port Macquarie, a town that I already had my eye on, my worlds aligned. I knew Port Macquarie had a great community and was experiencing growth, and the fact we have family here was a bonus. You are a strong believer in having organisational values and instilling these within your team and throughout your organisation. Can you tell us what values drive the core of your business and how you chose them? Settlers was a challenged business when we took over at the beginning of 2016. One of the first things we did was to get the staff together and conduct a white board session to understand the reasons why the pub wasn’t succeeding. The staff really opened up on how they felt about that. From the position we were in, we created some core values and behaviours that meant something to us as a team. There were: 1) CARE 68 greater port macquarie focus.
We care about each other and our customers 2) DYNAMIC - We see an issue, we fix an issue and hopefully before it becomes an issue 3) PRIDE - We love Settlers Inn and we love coming to work. Of course, there are 1,000 behaviours we want our staff to uphold, but these three are a priority and a focus. They have really been the reason for our revival. What is it that you love most about running Setters Inn? Although I have always called myself a Publican, my last few positions in Sydney have been quite corporate. I’ve enjoyed getting back on the front line and engaging with our customers and with the great community we have here in Port Macquarie. I’ve enjoyed seeing Settlers becoming the community hub again. We now sponsor and support more than 12 sporting groups with strategies to assist them grow and succeed. This is something I’m passionate about. What has been a career highlight for you? There have been many things I’ve been proud of in my career - pop down for a beer at the pub, and I’ll gladly talk you through them! However, it’s a different type of highlight when you own your own business. Transforming Settlers from a pub that was in receivership to a pub that wins the category of best Hotel/Bar/Club in the region at the recent Port Macquarie Chamber of Commerce Business Awards after only six
months, is pretty special. It was definitely a highlight for both myself and my wife, Renee. What are some of the challenges you face running your business and how do you manage to overcome them? HR is a constant challenge for all businesses and has been a focus of mine here at the pub. Empathy is certainly a personal behaviour I concentrate on. Not to say I’m not empathetic naturally, but I need to remind myself that each employee is different and has different personal circumstances that sees them working here at the pub. I work closely with development plans to keep them inspired, but I also make sure succession planning is in place so as not to be left in a pickle. What has been the best business advice you have received over the years? An old, yet successful, corporate nark I worked for would challenge us very regularly on being effective and efficient. But the most important aspect was to understand the difference between the two. Don’t become a “busy fool”, by possibly being efficient on the wrong things. You have recently been elected to the Greater Port Macquarie Tourism Association Board. What exciting tourism opportunities do you believe lie ahead for the Hastings
region? Recently and especially in 2016, Port Macquarie has seen some great tourism growth thanks to the wonderful collaboration between the Council and the Tourism Board. The economic development of our region is a slow burn, so it’s the fantastic work that has been done for many years that is benefiting us all currently. Our focus this year is to make sure our local business members reap the rewards of this growth, while also looking to capitalise on this momentum to seek further opportunities and bring more events and conferences to our region. And finally, if you could invite any three business people to lunch, who would they be and why would you invite them? Firstly - Richard Branson. The Brand King, who would probably join us for lunch with a flock of air hostesses, hopefully to help promote some more regional routes to and from Port Macquarie. Secondly - Simon Sinek. For those who haven’t heard of him, try and find him on Facebook - he is a very smart man who can be presented with complicated issues; he then concisely articulates what the problem is and provides a simplistic answer for everyone to understand. The third person (and our second person may be able to assist here for us) - Donald Trump. Love him or loathe him, you can’t help but be impressed by his path to the White House. He had a goal to be President, and he set out and made it happen - even with a couple of real sandshoe blow outs along the way. If the lunch became a little boring, I’m pretty sure The Donald could criticise someone to spice it up. Thanks for your time, Alistair!