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The Perfect Partner

Last weekend I spent a lovely few days with the ‘mitchell’ of bartlett mitchell: the ever delightful Ian Mitchell. Life is so busy now, it is very rare that we get to socialise in any quantity, so we convened in southern Spain for a few uninterrupted days with one of my best friends, Ian (and of course Angie his lovely wife).

Spending time with Ian always reminds me why I absolutely love him & how lucky I have been to have him as a partner – along of course with David James, who is the third partner of bartlett mitchell.

Ian is a true gentleman, a snappy city dresser and a guardian of old fashioned standards. Most of all he is an all-time foodie and a caterer through and through. This last skill was very useful as I invited six to dinner for which he cooked a stunning meal of steak, perfectly cooked to each person’s specific requirements!

People often ask about how we got together, how we get on and what the secret is to a good partnership – I believe we are one of few, in contract catering, who never fall out!

We first met at Sutcliffe over 30 years ago – Ian came from the hotel world and was bought into contract catering later in life and I met him when I was an area supervisor – a defunct label now. We progressed till we worked together properly at the British Airways contract at Heathrow. Probably the best job in the world then, when our key mentors, Oldfield and Davenport moved over to Compass, it was time for us to go too. Ian became the MD of the city unit and after a stint with BT, I became his operations director and that’s when we had the infamous conversation! It went like this: ‘I’ve had enough, shall we get back to being foodies and start our own company?’ Ian:’ Yes ok, lets’ go for it’. That really was it, such is the blind faith we have in each other and desire to do what we love rather than struggle to smile in a world of accounts.

So the secret to success; The key point is, you have to respect each other, have a common passion, a set of principles which drive you to common goals and values. Most of all you have to like each other, enough that if you fall out or have a row, you love/like them enough to want a way to make it work so you can carry on even stronger. Actually the fall outs Ian and I have had you could probably count on one hand, none were major and both respected the others point of view.

Ian has always said that there can only be one boss (but we all know behind every successful man there is a great women) and he has been unfaltering in his loyalty and support of me and the business. It’s important to us at bartlett mitchell that everyone can enjoy their work, have an input and have their say: be it right or wrong, we love a good confrontation, questioning if its right, so we like to think no holds barred. I recently asked the team if, in planning the strategy day we have twice a year, they wanted a session where they could ask anything they wanted of us. I loved the response which was, ‘why would we, we can do that anyway!’

So 15 years on our partnership is still going strong, I love my partners today as much as I did all those years ago and I’m delighted to say we are still going strong.

Wendy Bartlett