Entrepreneur David Heeley, president of Hi-Life Diner's Club which he co-founded in 1985, explains how it has grown to become the UK and Ireland's largest two-for-one dining club, with 100,000 plus members and a network of more than 2,500 restaurants.
"Hi-Life Diner's Club wasn't an "overnight" success as people often assume - it has involved 25 years of hard work and nurturing - and I believe far too many people go into business expecting to "make it" overnight.
One of the most important lessons I've learnt over the years is to avoid the trap of resorting to unnecessary borrowing when building a new business. Too many people borrow money in a bid to grow before they're ready, lured by the dreaded "get rich quick" mentality, but it only encourages them to treat it like Monopoly money.
By borrowing heavily, you run the risk of your loans becoming a millstone around your neck in the future and ultimately stifling your business's development.
One of the secrets to Hi-Life's success has been the diversity of its offering and target markets, which makes it more robust in difficult times. Our restaurants are located throughout the UK and Ireland, ensuring that all tastes and budgets are catered for - from Michelin-starred establishments to well-known chains like PizzaExpress or The Living Room.
Having steered my own business through two recessions in the past, experience has taught me that in times like these, it's more important than ever to be patient and take a long-term view. You should make sustainable growth and best practice your goal and never skimp on standards.
Clever promotional tactics also pay dividends and a recession is not the time to rein in marketing and PR spend. Rather, it is a prime opportunity to find cost-effective ways for putting a business on the map, ready for the inevitable upturn.
Time and again I've seen that when money becomes tight, customers who would otherwise eschew a discount dining scheme are more likely to take it up as a means of sustaining their lifestyle. This has certainly been the case for Hi-Life over the years and is worth bearing in mind, whatever your operation."