Beals Barn – A Local Business Phenomenon

All successful businesses do much the same things, but they are harder to do than you might think.

I help run a business association where I live in Wadhurst, East Sussex, and we recently visited a small local nursery and tea rooms that has become very popular of late. These days, the mere mention of Wadhurst to anyone within 30 miles is likely to provoke the response of  “Oh yes – near Beals Barn!” There is actually a lot more to Wadhurst, but that is another story. Last Tuesday evening we did a bit of networking, listened to the Beals Barn story, and then Giuseppe, of Vila Sophia Wines, ran a super wine tasting – it’s what business networking should always be like.

As I listened to Lynn and Roy’s story it become clear that they had built their business, and their success, on ten things that are, in my mind, critical to any business’ success and they are these:

PASSION. They chose to do something that would give them pleasure and would sustain their drive and enthusiasm even when things were tough.

EXPERIENCE. They leveraged prior knowledge. Lynn had catering experience and Roy is a pretty knowledgeable plantsman having grown up on a farm.

ENDEAVOUR. They both work extremely hard. They often put in 12 hour days and it is hard work too. They also work smart, taking small steps forward in response to demand.

LEADERSHIP. They have a leader – Lynn! Clear, unambiguous leadership is a much underrated requirement for business success.

EXCESS DEMAND. They are doing something for which there is a very strong demand. Many people follow their dreams into back-waters of demand which is a major reason they don’t succeed.

UNIQUENESS. They have a unique proposition – no other business has the same combination of products, location, price, promotion, people, processes and physical evidence that they do.

LOCAL. Being local is a vastly underrated differentiator and should often be emphasised more. Much of the food they serve is grown in the nursery too.

RESPONSIVENESS. They adapt quickly. In the last two years the business has been transformed from a small nursery with a shop to THE place to lunch in and around Tunbridge Wells.

CONSISTENCY. They align things so that they deliver a consistent service. You always get a great welcome, often from Lynn and Roy personally.

STANDARDS. They don’t compromise on quality.

So, why not copy them? The problem is that Beals Barn is a success not because they do one of these things, or two, or three; no, it is a success because they do ALL of them. You could too, but most people don’t have the energy, commitment and drive and they often don’t take the other points above seriously enough. The biggest mistakes people make are: they decide to start a business with no prior knowledge or experience of what they are doing, so have an enormous learning curve to climb; they don’t take small enough steps or learn quickly from feedback; there isn’t enough demand (in fact, they often don’t even understand that demand means that people will buy what they are selling not that they might benefit from it!); they don’t have a unique proposition in the market; they don’t focus enough on the local (or any other niche) market; and they are not consistent with delivery or standards.

The reason not everyone does what Lynn and Roy has done with Beals Barn is that it is very hard to do: to get the decision making right, make the right choices, and then invest the money, time, energy, and emotion in making it happen. Beals Barn is a local business phenomenon – copy them if you can, but don’t be surprised if you find it harder than you thought it would be.

This sort of achievement must be a young person’s game right? Perhaps one of the most amazing things about Beals Barn is that, whilst it is always impolite to mention a lady’s age, I hope Roy won’t mind me telling you that he is 75 years old!


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