claire nuttal quote web

With the new year under way, I want to think about the value of time and its importance to food and drink businesses, people and brands.

Whether a manufacturer, retailer or somewhere else in the grocery supply chain, time is precious, often felt to be in short supply and frequently misused. It therefore needs to feel, and be, well spent. Crucially, as an industry, we have to do more to value the time we have in a day. Shoppers do at fixture! Brands have about three seconds before consumers move on, if that.

But being conscious of our own and others’ time also applies behind the scenes to the way we conduct our business. I have just been sitting with someone who told me his manufacturing employer insists if a meeting has been booked for an hour, it must last an hour. How ridiculous! Cutting out dead time - such as sitting in a meeting that has run its course - could mean the discovery of a spare hour in a day. And who couldn’t use an extra hour?

Conversely, let’s make sure we’re generous with our time where it’s warranted. A young food entrepreneur I know desperately wanted to get in front of a big four buyer last year to get a listing. After a 12-month wait, he was given a measly 15 minutes to present his wares. Unsurprisingly, it was a waste of time for both parties. It would have been better not to have had the meeting than to have a half-hearted, rushed attempt at it.

There needs to be respect on both sides. Turning up at a big food retailer’s corporate office and being kept waiting an hour with no real explanation is crap. It’s even worse when, as happened to me, you see the person returning in their car with a sandwich in hand, having nipped out for lunch and left me sitting there.

The lasting impression you leave cannot be underestimated. Behaviour like this can have a big impact on how individuals and their organisations are perceived. And the more senior you are, the more this matters and will have an enduring impact on your team and your brand.

I would love to challenge more fmcg businesses - both on the retailer and the supplier side - to do something truly bold around time management in 2016. Why not build ‘respect for time’ into your business values? Or make a point of making time for people? Why not talk to that person in-between roles who could do with feeling inspired? Sometimes just five minutes or a fleeting conversation across the commercial floor can mean the world and make an individual feel on top of world. Or spend 15 minutes a month with someone positive who makes you feel good about yourself? It will be worth it.

Claire Nuttall is founder of the Brand Incubator