Should we listen to Vanilla Ice for management advice?

Simon Carey, Director at Blink Cafes explores whether companies who try to provide all services should instead collaborate for the best delivery.

Did musician Vanilla Ice have it right as a management philosophy?

Well perhaps if we put the words in a slightly different order, then he did. Maybe stop, listen and collaborate might be a better order of events. Are companies at risk of trying to be the “Jack of all trades” to secure a contract? Is collaboration a better approach to deliver the best customer and client experience?

So let’s stop for a minute and take stock of what it is we are trying to achieve in a typical catering contract. A typical contract normally covers a wide range of different offers and services. This would usually include a mix of coffee bars, fine dining, hospitality, retail, grab and go, micro markets and lots of different food counters. Is it possible to be the best provider in all of these different offers? Does this not just lead to mediocrity in some of them?

We then need to listen to what clients and customers are looking for. I often hear them asking for “best in class”, specialists or an offer that is as “good as the high street”. The question is; can one company deliver the best solution for all of the offers required?This leads us to collaboration. Would it not be better for caterers to collaborate with specialists for some of the services? I appreciate there would be a loss of turnover and income for the caterer, but the client and customers would be delighted with the offer. This should then lead to a longer-term contract. It should be completely fine to argue that there is someone who is better at operating coffee bars and that a partnership can be formed for that particular service.

I am strong believer that the best results are achieved when several parties work together and specialists deliver what they are best at. If you look to the wider world for inspiration, we could look at the food halls that have sprung up around the globe, pulling together the best food providers under one roof. Great examples include Time Out in Lisbon, Hudson Eats in NYC and even Street Feast in London.

It is also important to note that some of the leading brands in the world are looking to collaborate with SMEs in order to bring in new ideas and specialists into their companies. John Lewis, IAG and BUPA have all started incubators to collaborate with new partners. They have admitted they need support in certain areas. They fully understand that by improving one area it will develop their overall service. All they have said is “Come and show us what you can do and if it’s successful, come and work with us.”

I think we should encourage collaboration and appreciate the benefits it can bring, rather than be fearful of it. Back to Vanilla Ice for the reason behind this: “anything less than the best is a felony.