Name: Jennifer Best
Job title: Director of Poco
Qualifications: B.A. (Hons) in Philosophy Politics and Economics
What was your first environment/sustainability job?
When I was Manchester University I spent the summer after my first year doing an internship in Beijing with the EU-China Information Society Project. That was the summer of the Beijing Olympics, so perfect timing! My main responsibility was organising Chinese delegates to travel to Europe to learn about emergency response systems in leading areas of development. I absolutely loved it but realised then that sitting at a desk all day was not for me.
How did you get your first role?
Between graduating and opening Poco I did what felt like a thousand different jobs in an attempt to try and find something that got my heart racing but it wasn’t until the opportunity of running my own business came up that I found something that really challenged me and that had the potential to have a positive impact on the community at the same time. We opened Poco when I was 23 and I’ve been a Director ever since!
What does your current role involve?
A bit of everything, that’s why I love it so much. On any given day I could be overseeing performance reviews with my team, putting together cashflow forecasts, writing a sustainability policy, managing bookings, organising staff training and meetings, wine tasting, re-upholstering the chairs, the list goes on!
How has your role changed over the past few years?
In the first 3-4 years, I worked on average 80 hour weeks, juggling paperwork alongside managerial floor shifts. When we decided to open our second site in London I took on a more administrative role so that I could manage the expansion of the business. When the site opened in London we soon discovered that our resources were far too low and once again found ourselves stretching into 100 hour weeks. I was travelling between Bristol and London and trying to keep both teams morale high at the same time. Unfortunately, we couldn’t keep the site going in London but it has all worked out for the best; my business partner and I are now able to work on the business rather than in the business. Our incredible managers run the day to day requirements and Ben and I manage the operations. We can now afford to get creative about what direction the business is going in rather than feeling like we are just treading water. I’m fascinated with our waste production so one of the first things I did when I realised I had more time on my hands, was analyse the waste stream of each product that enters the restaurant. Sounds nuts I know, but it has been fascinating to explore and consequentially minimise our waste further.
What’s the best part of your work?
Working with our team. You meet the most incredibly diverse and creative people in hospitality. The turnover rate is much higher than other industries but I feel like one of the luckiest people in the world to be able to meet so many incredible people.
Holding a celebratory space for people to dine in is also for me quite magic. Sharing food together is sacred and to put love into a space in which people feel nurtured feels very special indeed.
What’s the hardest part of your job?
I would usually say finding decent chefs, but we have been exceptionally lucky recently to have a stellar team come together, in particular, our new Head Chef, Ian.
What was the last development/training course/event you attended?
I attended ‘The Journey’ programme at Embercombe last November. It was a week-long self-development and leadership course based at a community in Devon. We had recently sold the London restaurant and I realised that I had lost a sense of personal direction over the last, crazy six years since opening. The Journey reinstalled my sense of purpose and allowed me to understand what my true values are.
What did you bring back to your job?
An incredibly strong sense of needing to do everything I can within my sphere of influence to make a positive difference to the world around me.
What is/are the most important skill(s) for your role and why?
You need to be able to lead by example and have the capacity to motivate and inspire people. Restaurant work in its nature is quite transient so you need to get people on board with similar values as the business in order for them to be effective ambassadors. You also need a sense of humour and compassion, managing a team well is very hard but it is a lot easier if you give your team the space to have their say.
Finally, a bit of advice…
I know now that I need to be healthy and balanced in myself in order to give the best I can and I urge all young women fighting to assert themselves in higher education and in their career to nurture their emotional and physical wellbeing as well as their work because it will ensure you remain balanced and as effective as you can be.
Jen Best is also a member of Catalyse Change CIC Advisory Board. She is speaking at our next monthly Bristol Young Women’s Catalyst Meet-Up Group, 5-7pm, 18 April 2018, The Folk House
Do visit Poco Tapas Restaurant http://pocotapasbar.com/ – we highly recommend it!
She will also be at our Catalyst Bootcamp on 1-3 August 2018 – tickets available now!