The chef with no name 24 January 2020 How James Cochran lost the rights to his own name, and his triumphant comeback with Islington restaurant 12:51
In this week's issue... The chef with no name How James Cochran lost the rights to his own name, and his triumphant comeback with Islington restaurant 12:51
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Words from the Wise – Vic Laws

20 February 2012 by
Words from the Wise – Vic Laws

Vic Laws, founder, AVL Consultancy, shares his business secrets

Learn from an expert
We were doing the final presentation to win a contract from a competitor who had held it for 57 years. It was so important the vice-president (VP) of marketing had joined us from the US to help close the deal. The client was rightly sceptical as to whether we could deliver, particularly as the first year concession payment was nearly £500,000 and asked how confident we were. The VP took out his chequebook and wrote out a cheque for the first year's rent. "This is how confident we are," he said as he passed it over.

After the meeting we congratulated the VP on what a clever move he'd made, but asked what would have happened if the client had taken the cheque. He said: "Don't worry, it only had one signature, so it couldn't have been cashed!"

You only have one chance to make a first impression
Make sure that your first letter to somebody is perfect and has no spelling mistakes; check you have the person's right position and name and have signed it personally. There is no way you can correct a first impression.

Student business cards

Mistakes do happen
In 1985, I was phoned by a reporter and asked if I would give my comments on a few new pieces of equipment that were being introduced. One of these was coloured chopping boards and knives for chefs to use for different products. "These will never catch on," I said. How wrong I was.

Don't give up on good ideas
I once met with Norman Fowler and Ken Clarke who were in charge of the Department for Health at the time. We were trying to break into the NHS by offering to invest money in catering, cleaning and laundry services. They both said that would never be acceptable. Six years later they introduced the Private Finance Initiative (PFI).

Working on your own is lonely
Having worked for multinationals for many years, I found myself on my own working in a cupboard under the stairs. No PC, no secretary, no coffee area and only the dog to speak to. Then I got a phone call from a representative from Convotherm with whom I was friendly in a previous role. "Not sure what you're up to but if you want to join us we are always in the City Barge on a Friday," he said.

What a difference it made. So when you hear that someone has been made redundant or left a job, give them a call, see how they are and invite them for a drink.

best piece of advice

Be good to people on way up
While you will always have the unenviable occasion when you will have to discipline, sack or otherwise do that nasty job, try to do it with grace and try not to upset them. You may well be on the way up but you might meet them again when you are on the way down and they will remember.

â- 1979 director flight catering THF
â- 1983 managing director of airport services at Grandmet in UK & Mexico
â- 1983 Winning the Wembley Stadium contract from L&C
â- 1988 Consulting on CCT with Surrey CC which really got AVL off the ground
â- 2008 Meeting the Queen twice
â- 2011 Honorary Doctorate from UWL
â- 2011 MBE in New Year's Honours list

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