Getting To Know You: Peter Harvey, CEO, Talarius

What do you currently do?
I am the Chief Operating Officer of Talarius, the UK’s largest operator of amusement arcades. With 168 venues across the UK, we provide low stakes slot machine entertainment to adults over the age of 18 in a social, safe environment under our Quicksilver, Silvers and Winners brands. I am proud to have overseen a significant turnaround of this business, after it was damaged by a perfect storm of legislation in 2007, including a new tax regime and the smoking ban.

What is your inspiration in business?
I operate under the philosophy that the secret of turning around organisations and running successful businesses is to drive performance through people.

My career in customer facing businesses, including restaurants, pubs, shops, hotels and entertainment venues, has taught me that customer satisfaction is crucial for the success of any company. Every customer should be given an enjoyable experience, whether it is for two hours in a restaurant or just five minutes in a shop, to keep them coming back again and again.

Customer satisfaction can only really be driven by excellent service provided by a whole team of employees. It comes from the helpful, vigilant staff working in the venues, the dedicated team of engineers who keep the machines running smoothly every day, and a whole range of others working across the organisation.

These employees need to be passionate, motivated and have the tools available to them to be able to provide the best possible customer service at all times. This is why I place a huge focus on staff training and development. I sit on the board of trustees for People 1st, the leading skills and workforce development charity for employers in the hospitality, tourism and leisure sector, and we have introduced our own variation of the charity’s excellent Management 1st training programme, along with many other initiatives, for our staff. We also run an extensive incentives programme which sees members of staff rewarded for their hard work and achievements.

Who do you admire?
I admire organisations with a strong philosophy that penetrates through the entire business and to which all employees are aligned. Everyone shares the same goal and wants to personally invest in helping the company to achieve them. Although they use different mechanics, John Lewis Partnership and Timpson are prime examples of this as they operate in a way that allows the people in store to ultimately determine the success of the organisation.

Looking back would you have done things differently?
No, we make decisions based on the best data and insight available to us at the time. Rather than regretting past decisions, we should instead focus on what we do next. Success, in my opinion, comes from being agile enough to be able to react to new information.

Our customers’ habits and requirements are always changing so we need to constantly adapt in order to ensure they have the best experience possible. What worked yesterday will not necessarily work tomorrow, and something we tried three years ago that did not work may now be relevant for today.

What defines your way of doing business?
A finance professional by training, I am able to convert sales to profit and this has been invaluable in the four successful business turnarounds I have been involved in. In times of trouble, it is necessary to ‘cut your cloth’ to a size that suits your sales as a short term solution.

However, it is equally important to invest in areas that will create sustainable medium- and long-term value as well, and this includes investing in your employees. It’s crucial to ensure that all members of staff understand the company’s values and the role they can play to determine its success, to inspire them to invest themselves in the business and provide the best possible customer service that keeps customers coming back to venues again and again.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out?
Have the courage of your own convictions, and recognize that it’s the best teams, not individual players, that ultimately prosper and succeed. As a business leader, you must build the team that is right for your company, grow together, and win together.