An interview with Tony Patel

Q: So Tony what are your first impressions?
Tony: I must say first of all how grateful I am for the warm welcome I have received from everyone. So many people have introduced themselves to me which I have really appreciated and has made my first days as manager of the HUB, so enjoyable. But my first impressions are of the friendly atmosphere that exists at the HUB particularly between the staff, our volunteers, and our customers. This is Ellen’s legacy and I am very proud to have inherited it from her. It is my determination that this should continue as I recognise that this is what makes the HUB the special place it is.

Q: It must be very different for you to run a business where volunteers play such an integral part.
Tony: Yes it certainly is but in many ways this is what appealed to me about the job in the first place. Having now been here for two weeks, it is clear that this unique model really does work. I am so impressed with how hard the volunteers work and how flexible they are in adapting to the day-to-day challenges. I particularly like seeing the way a volunteer one day becomes a customer the next.
I had my first experience of putting out a plea for help when we were short of staff one day and the response from volunteers was fantastic. The dedication they show is truly impressive and I can see at first hand, how much they are appreciated, particularly now of course by me. I even found that one of our volunteers used to be my GP! And with the wonderful Judith, Sharon and Sarah I could not feel better supported.

Q: Have you started thinking about any changes you might make?
Tony: Obviously there are a number of ideas that are already in my mind but nothing will happen too quickly or without first consulting with my team. Everything I suggest will be measured against the original objectives of the HUB so as to maintain its core purpose and objectives, namely to serve the local community and to provide a safe place for people to meet, eat and enjoy themselves, either alone or with friends.

Q: On the business side – what opportunities do you see?
Tony: Well I am looking at each area of the HUB in some detail to see how we might create more revenue by using some spaces more productively. For example it is quite possible that with a bit of reorganisation we might be able to stock a wider selection of wine. I am also looking at the sales figures for individual products to see if they justify the space they occupy. An interesting example of this is that, to my surprise, we only sold three candles in the last eight months yet we stock quite a few which take up valuable space. So this is the sort of review I am undertaking, but if we make changes they will be done carefully and always with our customer’s interests in mind.

Q. Do you think the HUB is making enough use of technology?
Tony: probably not but technology is a bottomless pit and we have to be careful that we match what is appropriate to our size of operation to what is available at what cost. However, I do think our EPOS system (those clever machines we use to monitor stock etc) could be made better use of to provide more detailed management information and so I am looking into this and will make some recommendations to the management committee in due course. Also there is a App called Google Location which I have experience of using which can tell us about people movement in specific areas, and has proved a useful management tool in the past in helping to anticipate likely future demand. Rest assured however, anything we do decide to do in this area is unlikely to be noticed by our customers other than an overall improvement in their experience when visiting the HUB.

Q: Have you experienced the HUB being very busy yet?
Tony: Yes I certainly have and I am pleased that it happened so early on in my time here as it gave me the opportunity to see the HUB at full stretch. One Thursday in May we had forty two people in the HUB, a combination of cyclists, the Dementia Group, the Thursday Club, all here at once all enjoying food and drinks in the space of two hours. Thanks to some good advanced planning and hard work by the HUB staff and our volunteers we coped extremely well, although we nearly ran out of plates and cutlery! It was great to see the HUB so busy and a very good experience for me.

Q: So Tony, would it be safe to say that you are pleased to have taken the job?
Tony: Most definitely. I am feeling very excited and enthusiastic about being involved and helping the HUB move forward from the very solid base that I have inherited. No business should stand still and the HUB is of course no exception. I am confident that there are things we can do to improve our offer to customers but all in good time and always with an eye on maintaining the special atmosphere that has made the HUB the special place it is today.
Thank you Tony. Everyone is delighted to have you as our new manager and together with all our support, we wish you every success.


Lord Cameron, Leader of the House of Lords Rural Affairs Committee, visits the HUB
On 30th April, the HUB was privileged to receive a visit from Lord Cameron of Dillington, accompanied by Nick Gosse , chairman of the Cranborne Chase and West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
Lord Cameron, former chairman of the Countryside Agency and now Leader of the House of Lords Rural Affairs Committee, is a cross-bench peer and a member of the Panel appointed by Environment Secretary Michael Gove to review the workings and future policy of the nation’s National Parks and AONB’s.

Lord Cameron spent the day learning more about the work of the AONB. He was welcomed to the HUB by current chairman Will Hillary and former manager Ellen Smets and Ashley Truluck, the HUB’s first chairman, who is working with ANOB on regenerating the rural economy in Wiltshire’s own ANOB. It was a brief visit and Lord Cameron appeared to be impressed at the imaginative use of the URC church, by the work of the volunteers and by the role which it plays as a friendly and welcoming community hub as well as a shop, post office, coffee shop, meeting room and village archive.

AONB had anonymously tried to book a table for lunch in the coffee shop for the group but, as it was already fully booked, they had to go elsewhere for lunch – a sign of its popularity with locals and visitors alike.

Vehicle tax is now available at the HUB. Don’t forget to bring your V5/V5/2 and MOT.