Last autumn, my wife, Colleen, and I invested in our local pub – along with 50+ other villagers. We lay claim to being the smallest community in the UK (160+ people) to own its own inn. After months of hard work by all, we recently got the good news that we’ve found the perfect tenants to run it. In early September, the newly named “The Winterbourne,” will open in the peaceful countryside of Winterbourne Bassett, Wiltshire with great real ales and a top-quality restaurant. So what are the lessons to be learned here?
I’d like to corrupt three cliches to answer that.
Teamwork is much more than a sticky note on a whiteboard.
When forming the pub, it was constituted as an Asset of Community Value. Investors are capped on any returns and can’t share in any capital gains on the property, which must remain in the community in one form or another. So with limited financial motive, the village spent nearly a year working together, many for several days a week, completely renovating the pub. No one got paid, but the rewards for me were far greater in getting to know many of my new neighbours (we only moved here a year ago and were rather disappointed to find out our ‘local’ was closing). A good team will live in the memory, through enduring friendships and industry contacts, far longer than a pay raise.
Patience is more than a virtue; it’s the key to survival.
The process of actually acquiring the pub was lengthy and tortuous, as was raising the funds. Renovation was even harder – for which enormous credit must go to the committee that never flagged in its commitment to making this initiative succeed. And finding the right tenants is trickier than you might imagine. Never once did I hear anyone even whisper the idea that it might not work. If self-doubt had crept in, I suspect the pub may have remained closed today.
To be successful is more than just keeping your eye on the prize.
It would have been relatively easier to do a quick paint job and be done with it. But the committee in charge of the project (I’m not on it) had a broader vision and stuck with it. Many of the changes are more than cosmetic (new roof, etc.), and have created a meeting place that looks well set for decades and generations to come. If you take the long view, it’s imperative that you do everything to the best of your ability. Quality is the foundation on which a service or technology business is built on, regardless of the price point. As our new chef said, “We create our menus from seasonal produce, and we don’t compromise on flavour and quality ingredients, no matter how humble.”
It’s a good news story, at a time when it’s so easy to get derailed by negativity.
Oh, and by the way, we’d welcome you to visit our newly restored pub. The Winterbourne is just three miles from Avebury, a stone circle that’s bigger than Stonehenge, offers free admission, and allows you to touch the stones! The pub will be open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays until the full reopening from the beginning of September.