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Tue 30 Nov 2010 12:00 AM

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Nigel Witham

Know when to change your mind (and when to stick with your mistakes). A lot of the time the biggest challenge for your new concept is you.

Nigel Witham

This month’s column is about two related insights that are
opposite sides of the same, crocodile-infested, river. Before you start a new project it is worth
working out which side you’re swimming up.

The first insight is more for novices, or at least it should
be for novices.

When the going gets too fast

In Abu Dhabi
on a recent Saturday, I confess whilst resting by the pool, an email arrived
from an excited sender. They’d found my website and had a new F&B concept
(it was quite a good one but not unique). They were novices and needed a
concept proposal and business plan by Tuesday. They had no research or financial
plan at all.

This sort of thing happens quite often. The most time I have ever been offered to
deliver a complete new concept is three weeks and there’s never been any
mention of payment for my time and knowledge.

Now people are not often stupid but sometimes they need

The world is full of clever and experienced hospitality
corporations that have tried most things before. These people invest more and
more heavily in new concept development to stay ahead of each other. The tempo
of this war is ever increasing, as are the costs.

If you’re a novice, your competitors almost certainly know
more than you. The most likely mistake you’re going to make is thinking that
you need to appeal to a market of people that thinks just like you; I call this
ego delusion. Corporate players rarely suffer from ego delusion; natural
selection took care of it way back.
Here, within you, lies your biggest challenge.

Most concepts my team and I have developed take several
hundreds, or even thousands of hours work, often spread over a year or more
whilst it is analysed, tested and researched. I know other experienced
consultants also take their time. This is because all the obvious, quick to
develop, F&B ideas have been done already and are now commoditised and
unprofitable, except when very big (Starbucks, McDonalds), or very small,
expert and personal, (Rhodes Mezzanine).

I think it’s the fear of going on a long, uncertain and
potentially expensive journey with a designer who will challenge any ego
delusion that has led to the number of franchises in the UAE. This is a wasted
opportunity for the region to express itself in a genuinely interesting way.

Which leads me to my second insight.

Knowing when to change your mind (and when to stick with
your mistakes).

Even experienced outfits get this wrong and they really
shouldn’t because its easy.

Having said that you should take your time developing any
new concept, there is a good time to freeze the design and get on with
delivering it. That time is way before your contractor starts work, which is a
good reason why you should spend enough time on research and on briefing your

The graph helps show what happens to your project if you
keep changing your mind or deferring important decisions. I’ve found that
people who change their minds are often struggling with ego delusion.

Here are my messages:

• Take your time but don’t waste any.

• If at any stage you find you don’t have enough money, stop
and wait until you do.  If you haven’t
got the time or money to do it right what makes you think you’ll be able to do
it over?

• Know when its better to live with your mistakes.

• Changing your mind late can make a major dent in your
budget and seriously effect your project’s viability.

• Don’t look back, look forwards.

• Accept there is no certainty or guarantee of success.

I hope this helps. As always please post any questions or
comments for me on Facebook. Just search
for Nigel Witham Designer. Thanks all of
you who joined already.

Nigel Witham is a chartered designer who
has been running his own international design practice for 20 years. For
more information, email: nigel@nigelw.com.

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