There was a great interview this weekend in the Daily Mail with Angus Thirlwell – founder of Hotel Chocolat.

It’s refreshing to see an example of a business bucking the trend and thriving against the gloomy economic climate. And that’s exactly what you get when you read about Hotel Chocolat – the British chocolatier.

But let’s look at the facts:

  • Hotel Chocolat set up in an extremely crowded market place
  • They aren’t the cheapest – in fact, they’re probably at least seven times more expensive than the cheapest chocolate
  • They have more established mid-market brands to compete with
  • They aren’t the most expensive

So how exactly has Hotel Chocolat gone from strength to strength?

Well, we thought we’d examine a couple of the strategies which we believe have ensured Hotel Chocolat’s continuing success.

Education, education,education…

We’re constantly talking to small business owners about taking responsibility for all areas of their business – including finance and marketing. And when we work with small business owners helping them understand the fundamentals in these two areas is just one of the many services we provide.

Because it’s all very well to delegate growth strategies when your business is a big corporate, but if you don’t have the luxury of a finance and marketing department you need a thorough understanding of these areas of your businesses to guarantee the maximum chance of its success.

And this is exactly what Thirlwell did.

He admits that, whilst he has a sweet tooth and loves chocolate, he knew that this alone wasn’t enough to set his business up for success. Before launching his business Thirlwell did his homework and visited independent chocolatiers in Switzerland and France for advice. He also attended courses in the science of chocolate-making and growing a business.

Well, what a breath of fresh air this is. Unlike many small business owners, he didn’t just go from having an interest/hobby and think that was enough to set up a business. He actually did some research and educated himself in the areas he didn’t understand.

Did he know everything when he started his business? Of course not. But he understood a lot more than most business owners! And that’s what gave him a better chance of success…

Developing a unique selling proposition (USP)

This is another area that we work on with clients.

If you don’t have a USP, then how can your marketplace differentiate you and your product from all the other products? And if you don’t have a USP then the only thing your marketplace can differentiate on is price – and that’s really bad news and a recipe for disaster!

Very early on Thirlwell and his partner decided that the quality of their chocolate would be absolutely pivotal in developing the right product. They even went so far as to buy a cocoa plantation to ensure that the quality of their supplies was safeguarded.

This meant they immediately had a massive unique selling proposition – the only UK company to grow cocoa on their own plantation and therefore ensure that quality was at the forefront of everything they do.

Raising finance

A lot of small business owners are complaining about how difficult it is to raise finance at the moment. Well, Thirlwell and his fellow director came up with a unique proposition to raise money for their business in order to help fund its continuing growth.

The pair had already launched a ‘Tasting Club’ where members received and assessed samples of new chocolate product (another example of a USP in their business). When Hotel Chocolat wanted to raise finance, the 100,000 members were offered the chance to invest in bonds of £2,000 or £4,000 redeemable after three years with the interest paid in chocolate.

How about that for thinking outside the box? Fantastic!

And again, by doing something different Thirwell and his partner were differentiating themselves from the market yet again and strengthening their USP – not to mention developing the brand loyalty amongst its avid followers! A plan with no drawbacks!

In a similar way, when we first benchmark our clients against others in their industry, we can find big gaps in how the top performers in the industry are doing and the rest of the pack. When we start questioning how clients are doing things and throw a few suggestions out as to how they could do things differently, we quite often get told ‘You can’t do it like that in our industry’.

Well, for all you doubting Thomases, just look at what they achieved at Hotel Chocolat – launching their own bonds and paying interest in chocolate! I wonder how many people told them ‘You can’t do that in our industry’!

To read the full article about Hotel Chocolat, go here. It’s well worth ten minutes of your time…

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Why Friendly

The Friendly Accountants are Alternative Accountants. Unlike traditional accountants, we look forward - not back.

We work with small businesses and contractors/freelancers who want to embrace the world of online software and the benefits this brings.

So if you'd like to find out more, just give a call or drop us an email - no hard sell.

Just friendly, professional advice!

Who we are

We're a husband and wife team with over 50 years experience of working with small businesses.

So we're in a unique position to understand the challenges that you face every day in your business.

And what's more, we're fully professionally qualified so you can be sure that your affairs are in safe hands.

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