Running a pub for the first time: do you have what it takes?


When you’re considering running a pub for the first time, it’s OK to experience pangs of self-doubt. After all, it’s a massive undertaking and there’s lots to learn.


Besides, anyone who enters the trade brimming with misplaced self-confidence, will likely exit the trade humbled and out of pocket. Long ago, things were much simpler. Being a publican was considered a comfortable retirement proposition.  But times have changed. Competition is fierce, and changing economic and social factors have made the situation more challenging for working publicans. Are you cut out for running a successful pub? Read on to find out…



The 8 personal traits of a successful pub landlord

If it’s good enough for royalty, it’s got to be a winner with British over-55’s prepared to pay for a bit of luxury.

1. Passion

Passion underpins everything. If you have that innate drive for running a successful pub, then you can find a way to succeed.

Passion is:

• What gets you out of bed to receive your morning delivery every day
• What motivates to work bank holidays and open the pub on a Christmas Day
• What drives you to do whatever it takes to make your customers happy
• What gets you doing whatever it takes to make your pub a success
• When the romantic ideal of owning pub is exposed to the hard realities of day-to-day management, will you still have the drive to do your best?

There’s a blog entitled A Pub Landlady’s Life which offers detailed real-life insights into what it’s like to a be a publican day-to-day. I recommend checking out some of her early blog entries.

2. People skills

Pubs are a people business. You’re serving customers and managing staff. The whole business revolves around social interactions; so if this is something you’re uncomfortable with, then it could be a problem. Do you have a proven background in communicating effectively with others? Do you have a warm and friendly personality? It’s worth considering the different aspects of one-to-on interaction. Interpersonal skills include: verbal communication, body language, negotiation, listening and decision-making. To get you thinking further on this issue, there’s a useful resource at Mind Tools. Featuring a test to evaluate your people skills, it also contains great insights about interpersonal development.

3. Customer service excellence

Running a successful pub is not just about being able to talk to customers in an engaging and welcoming manner (although that IS very important), it’s also about being determined to provide the customer with what they want. So, find out what they want. And then go out of your way to give it to them. Every aspect of your business should be geared towards providing the best possible service for your customers. Be wary of getting wrapped up in your own vision for what makes an ideal pub – it may not be the same as what your customers want.

4. Entrepreneurial flair

Entrepreneurialism engulfs a broad range of capabilities. Here I want to focus on the ability to adjust to trends and take advantage of business opportunities – or even create them. Every successful business owner needs to keep an eye on the bottom line. Ensuring your pub is a financial success needs be a key drive at all times. Even if you lack a background in sales, you are now in the business of making sales. BUT, we’re not talking about the hard sell of a telesales company; we’re talking soft, sociable sales. Here’s an example: I knew a pub that was set inside a small, quiet road. They launched a street party which brought together community groups from the local area and invited anyone and everyone along from the local area. As you can imagine, the pub was heaving with custom!

5. Marketing nous

Successful pub owners need to be expert marketers. You don’t need to know all the marketing terminology, but you need to be able to identify opportunities and exploit them. Underpinning great marketing, is an understanding of:

• Who your key customers are
• What these key customers want
• How you can provide what they want
• How you can reach out to them

Understanding your pub’s catchment area is crucial. Fortunately, we’ve got some advice on how to do that. Check out our guide on how to target the right customers. There are so many aspects to your pub’s marketing. It encompasses your staff, the decoration of your pub (inside and out), your website and social media, and much more besides. Practically every aspect of your premises is potentially a pub marketing tool.

6. Financial management acumen

Do you have a background in handling money or careful budgeting? Because when you’re running a pub for the first time, you need to be aware that financial management is a big part of the job. You don’t need to be a financial expert, but you do need to have: a good (conservative!) instinct for budgeting, a decent understanding of financial management essentials, and – for the more technical stuff – access to an industry-savvy chartered accountant. Before taking over any pub, you really need to get a look at the previous incumbent’s takings. Breweries and pub companies often help with this if you’re taking on one of their pubs.

7. Attention-to-detail

Do you have an eye for detail? If so, that will put you in good stead for when your running a pub for the first time. It underpins your capacity for shrewd financial management, and your ability to understand and provide for your customer-base. If you’re the type who likes to act on instinct, it’s crucial that you’re able to develop your analytical side as well. Running a pub for the first time requires in-depth consideration and business planning. This should be reflected in the pub business plan, which in itself is a huge step towards making your dream of running a pub a reality.

8. Ability to work unsociable hours

While this is a very specific point, it is one which every prospective pub owner must consider. As pub landlord – or landlady – you will need to work at times when friends and family are having their leisure time. Weekends, evenings, public holidays, even Christmas day! Are you prepared to do this?

Do you feel ready to run a pub?

Whether you’re running a pub for a brewery, pub company or as a freeholder; all these points are equally valid. There are some skills which CAN be learnt. Taking a primer in financial management, enlisting on a people management course, or learning about marketing… It all helps prepare you. However, that innate quality to converse with people in a welcoming way, that passion for customer service, and your ability to sacrifice for the cause of business success… These are innate qualities which are hard derive from a textbook.

(Article source: Pub Landlord Advisor)

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