WHO WAS THE CLIENT AND WHAT WERE THEIR CHALLENGES?
The Bevendean Community Pub (the Bevy) in Brighton opened in December 2014 as the first community-owned estate pub in the UK. Funded by over 700 local shareholders, re-built and dedicated by an army of volunteers and operating for community benefit through a huge range of events, engagement and services the Bevy is definitely ‘more than a pub’. Having made the difficult transition from a community campaign group to running an active community-led business, the Bevy nearly went out of business in late 2015. Having a secured a lifeline grant and operating under a new general manager, help was needed to ensure this didn’t happen again by ensuring the management committee fully understood their roles and responsibilities and that information was being shared and understood by everyone, particularly regarding the financials.
HOW DID WE HELP?
We worked with the staff team and the Management Committee to clarify roles and responsibilities, put in place additional, external support for HR and finance, develop robust financial procedures, reporting and management accounting, work through cash-flow management and ensured legal responsibilities with the FCA, HMRC and the Bevy’s membership were fully complied with.
WHAT IMPACT HAS THIS HAD?
Through a series of chats (down the pub naturally), an away-day for the staff and Management Committee, attendance and support at an AGM and a number of Management Committee meetings we were able to help the Bevy ‘steady the ship’ so they can focus on running the day to day core business and delivering community benefit. Through the period of our support the Bevy has now established robust financial reporting and forecasting enabling it to take action to improve its financial position, negotiate effectively with its major creditors to help secure its cash-flow, put in place strong, external HR support and adapt and strengthen the way its Management Committee and sub-committees operate and share information.
“Rather than having some consultants that only know what they’re doing in theory, Practical Governance have been there – supporting, involved in, or on the Boards of organisations like ours so they get what it’s all about. They also roll their sleeves up and get stuck in, make introductions to people they know and that can help us, and try to keep things straightforward. They don’t always get it right, but they’re not afraid to admit that and keep trying out new things until it really works. Everyone finds them easy to get on with, pretty important here because they wouldn’t have got very far without it.”
Warren Carter, Chairman, the Bevy
WHAT DID WE LEARN
Improving governance takes time and covers so many different aspects it can seem over-whelming, particularly for community groups without prior experience of running a business. At times, we may have been too anxious to push things forward more quickly than was possible and talk about ideas steeped in sector jargon which can be difficult to engage with. We focus really hard now on just the most important things at each stage, on doing everything we can to simplify reporting and our language. At the Bevy Management Committee meetings, we even introduced a ‘jargon jar’ costing a pound every time someone says something that others don’t understand. That has cost us a minor fortune, but it really works.
HOW LONG DID IT TAKE?
This work took place over a period of 6 months and took a total of around 10 days. For full disclosure, following our work, Bob Thust one of the Practical Governance partners who lives locally, couldn’t keep away and has now become Treasurer of the Bevy providing many more hours than that, but that’s a whole other story….