From his early days spent flipping burgers to founding catering service set on transforming the hospitality industry, Totally Delicious MD - Dominic Bowers - tells BQ how he got where he is today.
What is it the company does?
Totally Delicious was formed in 2009 with one driving force – to transform catering. Whether it’s a restaurant in a tourist hotspot or a workplace café, we believe every dining experience should be enjoyable. We don’t just provide delicious food and drink, we know that a dining atmosphere and quality of service can make or break a café or restaurant. As such, we put just as much effort into sourcing and training the best people, from top-class chefs to experienced waiting staff. Alongside our flagship restaurant at the award-winning Trentham Estate in Staffordshire, we now run and manage catering operations in a range of sectors including tourism, leisure and the workplace.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
My role is to support and motivate our teams by being an ambassador for our brand and leading by example. Day to day, I focus on developing client relationships, driving new business and organic sales, steering the organisational structure, focusing on communication and discipline to ensure we achieve our goals. With 13 different locations, it’s really important to keep this consistent behaviour and inspire the same consistency from the people we have.
It’s so important I spend my time on the business and not in the business. That’s always a challenge in a people-centric, hands on SME.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I’ve always worked within the food and drink industry, from my early days of flipping burgers in McDonald’s to eventually moving into the family business - Springbank Vending when I was 25. My role there was focused on sales and marketing; I love working with figures and feel very comfortable with the commerciality of deals. I worked my way up within the business, eventually a becoming regional director before the company was sold in 2007.
Following this, I worked for the new international owners in national accounts which helped to expose me to the culture of a larger PLC structure. In September 2009, I kicked off Totally Delicious with just a laptop and an idea! I could see there was a need to create a food and beverage management company that could solve the problem of sterile canteens and average visitor attraction refreshments that were not working commercially or focused enough on customer service.
It’s been hard work for nine years, but I am proud to say we now have 13 sites with 120-plus staff and sales close to £4 million a year. We’ve made some good choices (and some not so good ones) and our success is a testament to these decisions.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
I am a huge believer that people work for leaders, not companies. A great leader for me always acts with integrity and is not afraid to be brutally honest. I think people seek out the truth and respect an honest approach even if it is not what they want to hear. People want to work with individuals they can trust. I also think it is incredibly important to have positivity and drive as a leader. In my experience, people are more inclined to work with you when they see your own positivity and drive. Lastly, I’d say to be a great leader you must give the people in your organisation genuine authority and responsibility, as this makes people feel valued.
What has been the biggest challenge in your current position?
As the business grows so does the challenge of engaging with our teams and fostering a strong company culture. With more people on the payroll, it becomes increasingly important to ensure communication within the business remains clear and relevant. The needs and demands of the business have changed as we have grown and we try to encourage resilience among our long-standing staff while maintaining the same high standards and attention to detail. At the same time, we want those joining Totally Delicious to understand our business vision from the start so that they feel engaged and committed to what we want to achieve.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I like to think I’m pretty good at keeping a sense of balance. If it’s all getting a bit much, then I use some sports psychology - my son plays tennis at a good level so I tend to lean on this. My main philosophy is to ‘control the controllables’. I don’t get stressed about things I can’t control.
To keep chilled I love watching sport. As a Man City season ticket holder this has been more enjoyable in last few years, and I love watching tennis at all levels as I find it really therapeutic. I also like to swim.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I honestly didn’t have a clue. I was pretty aimless in my teens and fell into hospitality but I soon realised I loved it. I found using my strength in creating relationships with people through a personal and honest style meant I also had an ability to sell well.
I think I was lucky I found something I liked and then went from there. You have to love what you do… and I do!
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Lack of accountability. I find people want titles, a pay rise, rewards and recognition but really struggle with accepting responsibility and consequences. People who put their hand up and say I messed up, it was my fault get my respect. However, some people still tend to look for a list of excuses and deflect on to someone else.
I also can’t abide a lack of honesty. Trust is everything and I expect people to be straight with me.
I don’t tolerate either behaviour, although sometimes it may be that a little more coaching and guidance is needed to spell out expectations.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
We have a plan to treble in size through new store growth. This is very achievable with a strong people base who want to be part of next generation. We can’t do this without everyone pulling in the same direction. I want Totally Delicious to be seen as a company that’s really well respected as a great place to work with a fantastic brand reputation.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Don’t do it unless you are willing to:
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
It’s OK to make mistakes and it’s OK to ask for help. Honest people want to see you succeed. But also don’t be too proud. We all need others to be successful. The whole is better than the sum of all parts.
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