In 2002, after years of working in the hotel and restaurant hospitality industry, Robert Ancill challenged himself. Ancill wanted to build a company that provided full service restaurant and food consultation for other businesses. As a veteran of the restaurant game, Ancill knew exactly what was missing and how to better serve the industry.
The Glasgow, Scotland-born entrepreneur created The Next Idea with just $100. Since that momentous day, Ancill has seen his company grow into a world-wide consultancy and management group with offices all over the world.
Ancill isn’t just the CEO of The Next Idea, but he is often interviewed about the latest trends in the food industry. The Glaswegian has his finger on the pulse on the restaurant and hospitality industry; and he knows what will be hot even before it has been put in the oven.
Ancill recently sat down with Totalprestige Magazine to talk about The Next Idea, his career and achieving great success even when you’re told you will never make it.
Robert, can you tell us about The Next Idea and the services you provide?
The Next Idea is a full service restaurant and food consulting and management group. We provide services that cover everything from restaurant concept creation, business development and management, research, strategy, brand and product development, scaled location concept planning, and franchising through to design, marketing, execution, systems and operations, and communication.
How did the company begin and what have been some of the highlights?
The business was created when I was in restaurant operations. I realized that consultants were very good at providing road maps and strategy, however, they rarely supported the execution. The Next Idea provides the strategy and execution, thus providing clients with a robust follow through.
The highlights have included watching growth and opening our India and international licensed offices. We are also extremely proud of our many new concepts that have reached market and are thriving today.
Robert, you specialize in restaurants and hospitality, how can businesses benefit from The Next Idea?
We have a range of proven creative, operating and marketing services which cover all aspects of the restaurants and hospitality industry. Clients benefit from our ability to fill underserved areas in their businesses. Most companies have noticeable strengths and areas of opportunity; our expertise is in identifying those areas of opportunity and providing proven strategies that ultimately enhance profitability. We also work extensively with developers and hospitality and entertainment groups who need food and beverage support as a service to their primary offer.
Please let us know about The Next Idea Franchise program, your expansion plans, and how to become a partner?
The Next Idea provides multiple opportunities to license the TNI name and operate as a licensed office or distributor of services. This represents an opportunity for like-minded consultants and entrepreneurs around the world who can benefit from our broad network of clients, vendors and services.
Robert, what have you learned about yourself while running your businesses?
Truthfully, I was deeply academically challenged as a child, spending time in class dreaming as opposed to listening, and if I wasn’t dreaming I was doing something that was outside the rulebook. I was constantly being told that I was a failure and my future was bleak at best. I recall on one career evaluation, when I was around 16 years old, my evaluation report stated that I should focus on a blue-collar career path. The same report stated that I should stay away from professions, especially creative careers such as architecture and marketing.
Roll on 30 years: The Next Idea’s interior design and outsourced architecture department is possibly one of the largest in our industry and in the world. We have successfully designed multiple restaurant interiors and rolled out multiple franchise and corporate branded locations. Our marketing department index shows growth for our clients in 2017 on average 16% same store sales growth against the US market average of 4%.
While my ‘teachers’ were proved wrong a long time ago, reflecting on the experience, it taught me to listen to all sides and not necessarily side with experience. I think most of all, I have learned through my early life experiences and, applying them to my work, I have an ability to look past what is obvious and see what is possible.
Please let us know what sets The Next Idea apart from competitors?
The Next Idea is a uniquely branded consultancy. We follow our own systems and processes which have been successfully tried and tested over our 16-years of being in business. Most important is our ability to execute our strategies with clients. This mitigates stressing client resources and allows a business as usual approach as we make change. Our competitors typically follow more traditional consulting models.
What is the most challenging part of your work?
It’s all challenging. Managing a diverse team of creative and deeply intelligent consultants presents multiple challenges, as does managing our diverse client portfolio. With that said, possibly the greatest challenge is consistently coming up with The Next Idea!
Robert, what is next for The Next Idea?
Our strategy for 2018, and forward, is to grow our restaurant management division. We have proved to be very successful in managing client businesses and the team enjoy the extended engagement given they can experience the results of their hard work. We will of course continue to develop restaurant concepts and brands and grow the TNI franchise.
Were you ever influenced by other entrepreneurs?
Yes, of course. I found early on in my career you can always learn something from someone, even if it’s what NOT to do. It has value!
What is a day in your life like?
Very busy, very challenging, but never dull!
What makes you smile?
I know it sounds cliché, however, there is nothing more rewarding than a happy client. I smile when our clients give positive feedback.
What scares you?
An unhappy client.
What is your greatest achievement?
I think it has to be The Next Idea. I started the business from ground zero with $100. We are still in business today and have a presence across the world. I remember at school I was told that my options were very limited. I never liked school!
What is your secret talent?
I think my innate ability to understand a client and migrate their idea into reality, both creatively and physically, is both my secret talent and possibly greatest strength. Truthfully, it is a bit like a sixth sense and I often surprise myself, as well as the client, by getting it right first round!
Which historical figure do you most admire?
Mahatma Ghandi – I often feel that he achieved most while advocating peace. We can all learn from him.
Robert, do you have any hobbies?
I love to cycle, travel and explore. I am an amateur photographer and enjoy seeing the world through a lens.
What are you never without?
A photo of my children and girlfriend of several years. They all make the effort worthwhile.
Can you share two of your favorite quotes with us?
“Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.” – Norman Schwarzkopf
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma Gandhi
What have you sacrificed for success?
It’s hard to say, but for sure, I would like to spend more time with family and friends. I sometimes feel that our need to pay the bills and grow wealth comes before family and our personal life. It should be the other way round. I have definitely sacrificed some personal time to develop The Next Idea.
What advice would you give to anyone starting a new business?
Starting a business is a long journey, there is no readiness program, and while a business plan is important, flexibility and the ability to adapt to market change is critical. Most importantly, you should be open to criticism and feedback. I have watched many people freeze their careers and businesses due to an inability to listen. Most of all do something that you love. Then it’s not work!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
I think smaller businesses need to adopt a more influential position in effecting positive change. In today’s world, we face many challenges such as global warming, population growth and artificial intelligence, to name a few. Businesses need to be proactive in considering the future impact of these macro changes at a micro level, and developing solutions that will ensure continuity in jobs and trade, while still positively contributing to the community at large.
For more information on The Next Idea and its one of a kind CEO Robert Ancill, please visit www.TheNextIdea.net.