George North: ‘It’s all about the small adjustments’

By Anna Jordan on Small Business UK - Advice and Ideas for UK Small Businesses and SMEs In this episode of Small Business Snippets, Anna Jordan meets George North, pro rugby player and co-founder of cafe, Baffle Haus The post George North: ‘It’s all about the small adjustments’ appeared first on Small Business UK.

George North: ‘It’s all about the small adjustments’

By Anna Jordan on Small Business UK - Advice and Ideas for UK Small Businesses and SMEs

George North at Baffle Haus

Welcome to Small Business Snippets, the podcast from Today’s guest is George North, professional rugby player and co-founder of Baffle Haus, based in Monmouthshire, Wales.

We’ll be discussing sporting mentality and how it can have a positive effect on business success.

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Hello and welcome to Small Business Snippets, the podcast from I’m your host, Anna Jordan.

Today’s guest is George North, rugby player for Ospreys and Wales and co-owner of Baffle Haus café in Monmouthshire.  

George has teamed up with sports stars and small business owners Dion Dublin and Sheli McCoy on Smart Energy GB’s Small Hacks for Small Businesses campaign, to share tips on how the skills they’ve learnt through sport has given them the edge in the business world, by applying a ‘marginal gains mindset’ – a term used in sports psychology that refers to making small changes and improvements that build to significantly boost performance.

We’ll be discussing how a sporting mentality can be a positive influence on business success.

Anna: Hello, George. How are you doing?

George: I am very well, thank you. How are you?

Anna: Yeah, not too bad, not too bad.

Okay, so I want to get straight into the meat and bones of the podcast today. You own Baffle Haus with four others, so the business is owned between the five of you. One of them is Andrew Salter, the cricketer.

George: Ex-cricketer! He’s now a man of leisure. He’s retired.

Anna: It’s the dream, isn’t it?

I understand he’s quite into the content creation side, the social media side. As a co-founder, what do you bring to the table?

George: Right. I guess the obvious answer is I am head of security in case anything kicks off! I’m joking. That is not really my role. I’m good for that, though.

For a bit of backstory, we are five guys with very different skills and very different jobs outside of Baffle. I guess my element is more around the commercial side, bringing brands in as well as help organise events. A bit of jack of all trades, master of none.

Between the five of us there, we’ve got boys with very different skillsets, but we do crossover. I would say a lot of my stuff is more commercial: bringing brands in, bringing in manufacturers. In opening those doors, we hopefully providing a better service for Baffle to help to bring people in, with other cocktails as well, I guess. But to summarise, that’s me.

And I’d love to know more about the technology that you use in the business. How have you utilised tech?

George: Through Baffle Haus, now we are more of an established business. We just started on that handshake and we said we’ll see how it goes, see if there was a market for it. We got very busy very quickly. So very quickly, we had to upgrade our point of sale system (POS), taking the stock, what was selling, how much we were selling. We then got the kitchen, needed a system to get the orders from one space to the other, from the counter to our shipping container, which is a kitchen, which is doing tremendously well. We rely heavily on it, especially with the shop and on stock and what we’re selling there.

Same with rugby, obviously. I use a lot of it in rugby, for analysis and keeping a track on the games I’ve played, how I’d be playing that and how, as a team, we’ve been playing as well. For me, it just helps the whole process be a lot more efficient. That’s something we’ve been looking at now. And we’re in the process of getting a smart meter installed purely to help us be more efficient with our spending. We know exactly what we’re doing, how much energy we’re using. That technology has allowed us as a small business to try and streamline it and be more efficient in everything we do so there is no wastage.

Yeah, efficiency is key there – for an athlete as well as a business owner. It’s just about those little bits of improvements that you can make. Then you stand back and you go, ‘Oh, actually that improves the whole operation’. That comes into the whole idea of marginal gains theory. Tell us more about that.

George: Marginal gains theory is massively from a sporting background. I started sport young – I turned professional at 17. Marginal gains, whether it be physically or mentally, it’s about the small adjustments that you make day-to-day to have a really big effect on the process or the outcome. 

For us in rugby, that might be looking at the opposition or changing a tactic for a couple of weeks to implement that, to give a bigger picture in the tournament for, say, Six Nations.

With a business, it’s just understanding what is most important, whether it’s in our plan, whether it’s short-term, medium or long-term plan, how we can implement small changes to have a big effect. Like I said, with our small business it’s about being efficient. So, trying to limit waste from the kitchen, waste from the on the shop and stock, waste from energy with electric and gas and just to try and make the business as smooth and as streamlined as possible so that we can still keep going and provide a service for our very loyal customers.

For us marginal gains is not being afraid to change little things along the way. If it’s not quite working, or we’ve seen something on one bike night, one event that worked well. There’s just taking a bit of initiative and just changing the product for the next time we’d run with it.

I think as well as part of it is understanding as a team that you set your plans in the short term, medium and long term, but that you have to be quite fluid with them as well. You can’t just be stuck in the mud, and you have to adapt to them as well. That for us is, from a business point of view, is why marginal gains works for us. What can we get the next one per cent difference that makes a big difference for us as a business?

Coming back to your sporting background, how do you then apply the principles that you have as an athlete to the business world?

George: I think they tie over quite nicely to be honest. I think from my point of view, where I am in my career – I don’t want to say I’m an older statesman now – but you can put the dots together, I’m sure.

I think a big part of it is leadership. Obviously, knowing that we are a small business and how we are in our path, are we staying to our path and hitting our goals? I think teamwork is a huge one. It’s understanding, like I loosely said in a lot of words at the start, is knowing who’s best at roles and best at jobs and be able to dictate to allow those guys, allow our team and our staff to excel in what they’re really good at, and what they can bring to the company and understanding. That’s how the team works. Sometimes someone will be slightly better than you, but as a bigger picture, you have to buy into it.

Communication as well, again, ties in everything, and especially in hospitality where things could change very quickly. So just communicating on a day-to-day – where we are, along with a smart meter. It’s about communicating our energy bills, knowing when we have high peaks, low peaks. Even though we’re very seasonal in our business, we still have to provide a non-negotiable level of energy that’s needed. We have to then try and work out how we get to our bottom line each day, and can indicate that.

We dabbled in that goal setting, I think that’s a huge one for us. We started very much as a handshake over a pint that we’d start this process and see what happens and it’s gone by that now and it’s very exciting. But now as it as it’s turned out to be more professional, is those goals are more and more important and allowing us a real focus, to really go and get them and achieve and still be here, hopefully next year, the year after and to be here for many more years to come.

You’ve talked about communication there. On the show in the past, we’ve had, say, a sole founder or maybe two co-founders, but as a five piece that must be quite difficult to handle the decision-making parts of the business. How do you guys manage it?

George: Again, it’s technology. I believe everyone’s got this thing called WhatsApp.

Anna: Love it!

George: I love it and hate it in equal measure. But along with the rest of the guys that I’m involved with, that communication on WhatsApp is huge part of it and understanding how that technology allows us, very much in hospitality where, like I said, things change very quickly. When the weather in the event, or the sun is shining, like it always does in Wales, then we get an influx of customers coming in, and we need to just change people around within the day, move a couple of people off the shop, bring them into the coffee shop area, or the kitchen needs help running food, just those little comms.

On that, technology really allows us to, again, part of the team was just digging together go, ‘Right, slow over the side, let’s move people around’ and keep that product and keep our experience to be the best that can be for the customers for their enjoyment, essentially.

A lot of people we’ve had on in the past are former athletes, but you’re still playing rugby. So how do you how do you manage the two and all your other commitments?

George: Yeah, I’m still playing rugby now and I’ve got other commitments outside of Baffle. It’s getting busier with two young kids, and my wife and two dogs. I’m good at juggling.

I don’t know, I think that’s part of the beauty of the directors and the owners of Baffle is that I think we understand, like you mentioned, that Salts [Andrew Salter] is just one of our team. He’s from a sporting background. Sam, who’s probably our main guy on the ground, keeping everything going day-to-day, he’s from a sporting background, and he understands the pressures and requirements that are put on me. The knowing that when I’m in big campaigns like World Cups, Six Nations, Autumn Series, that I’m more of a distant employee, so I can do things remotely. When I’m not in campaigns, I try and get there as much as I can – maybe once or twice a week if I can – just to get hands-on and a sit down and a sense of how things are running.

But that for me is part of the balance and is leaning on those guys when I’m in my busy periods. Obviously, having that trust and that patience and then to go well, their patience in me I should say, that’s probably the right way, isn’t it? To say, ‘Look, G, you need to focus on your real job. We’ll take care of this for now. And then when you know when the other boys are busy, I’ll go ‘Right, I’m back’ and I’m able to have been more time on my feet on at the shop at Baffle Haus. I can take some of the weight from there.

And where we are at the moment, we’ve got some really exciting things going on. I can do a lot of that remotely. A lot of phone calls, messages and emails. But again, I can do that remotely whilst leaning on the boys at the same time. But the team has a real cool family dynamic to it. So, in terms of how I balance it is they understand what I need, and I understand what they need to get the best out of them.

Anna: As you say that communication must be absolutely vital.

George: Yeah. Like today, I’ve already had three phone calls. One of them was a business phone call regarding Baffle and the other two were, they were just wanted to say hi, and I was like, ‘I’ve got a bit going on today, guys. Can I call you back? Anything going wrong?’ No, no, it’s not just from a chat. And I’m like, ‘Okay, that’s good. But I got I got podcast on I’ve got different things where the kids do drop them off and pick up from school.’ It makes my passion for Baffle and my excitement for it even greater, because it is a great family vibe to it.

I’m sure that translates to out on the café floor or the restaurant floor as well. And that’s the kind of ethos that you try and put forward to your customers and your general branding, I’d imagine.

George: Yeah. A big part of our thing is how our mantra – I don’t like to use the word mantra – but it’s our tagline, if you may, is ‘Share the Ride’. That’s I guess, how do we want everyone to come, whether it’s you’re a new a new learner rider on a scooter or a pedal bike to a big bike. Women, men, if they’ve got children in sidecars or you’re in a car or you’re a pedal bike, or you want to walk there – because there’s a great little forest around us as well – everyone is welcome and that’s such a big part and I think as soon as you come in and feel the buzz and you know the vibe day-to-day that you get a real understanding of that very quickly.

Talking about the future of Baffle as a brand, what’s coming up?

George: I’m not sure I can say yet, to be honest. We are in the process of looking at options for site two. It’s a bit of carnage at the moment but we think we are in discussions about that which is looking very positive.

For us, we want to we want to really push on from a point that we started last summer, but because the weather was a bit inconsistent, we couldn’t roll it out properly in terms of that Share the Ride line is doing what we call ‘Saturday Socials’. But we’re thinking about bringing them more regularly through the summer months to allow people just to book in and meet at Baffle Haus. An organised ride and back, just to create a bit more buzz and to really push that that’s what we like to do as a family feel.

You do check in purely for numbers so we can keep it small enough that everyone is enjoying it, and a bit more personal. Then we have a good little Riker Bat are trying to push them. And then we’ve got a few exciting days booked for different manufacturers to come down and show some of their new stuff which is wicked. And that’s as cool as well, because it gets people in who wouldn’t get to see new bikes. We get them in to show and for people to have a sit, understand what it looks like. So, we’ve got some big exciting bits coming up. Just keeping busy as per usual.

To wrap up here today, I understand that Baffle Haus is hospitality, it’s selling physical goods in-store and online. There are quite a few strands to it. And for anybody out there who’s listening today and thinking of starting their own business, or a business which is quite similar to yours, what kind of tips do you have for them?

George: Any tips? Don’t!

Our theory was that it’s something – and I think that’s why it’s been very successful for us – it’s a real passion for all of us. We thought that if we like it, then there must be other people that like it. And from that point of view, we just thought that we have to give it a go, otherwise it would always annoy us. Again, I was very lucky I’m not doing it on my own – I’m doing it with a good group of guys around me.

So, we were able to focus on, like I said, is best roles for best people you know, get to be able to delegate jobs. Sam is incredible at what he does day-to-day, running and managing, Salts – Andrew, sorry – Andrew Salter is content and cameras and building the brand up that way. Ollie and I are just busy where we can around and bringing people in, like I said. Harry is the organised one in terms of paperwork and legals and what have you. So, between us we’ve found our groove and that ability to trust each other.

With us, we did it probably slightly different ways to other businesses. We had a tiny budget, we thought we’d try to see if there was an interest for it. Then Covid hit and like many businesses that completely was rubbish with a capital ‘R’, and allowed us to regroup, sort of refocus. There was a real short window, we were open. It was a real window of excitement. And then when we opened again, then it just got even busier.

We did it a slightly different way. Rather than just getting a big lump of money together, investing all in, we started the opposite way and trying to build it up organically as we’ve gone. Along with every small business feeling the pinch, we’ve had to look at being more efficient with our timings, our pricings, our products, the amount of electric and energy we’re using and allowing us to budget that day-to-day and this time of the year is probably the worst for us. Very seasonal and hospitality is tough, but hospitality when it’s got motorbikes and cars is even tougher. Let’s see when it’s raining on motorbikes.

With the technology in mind, it’s a process we’re going through and we’re having a smart meter installed. It’s something I didn’t realise was an option for us as a business. I have one at home and I knew it was widely available for home use. But for us, it’ll be a big game changer with the business. Like I said, with a very seasonal business. It’s understanding how energy use goes up and down in terms of during the day and I guess that non-negotiable energy that we have to have and allowing us to keep on top of that helping our cash flow and keeping our business going.

But again, with the team we’ve got, the technology, it’s allowing us to hopefully keep us going, but also keep our product and what we’re putting out on the experience took to a great standard that everyone wants to keep coming back, which is hopefully – touch wood – something we’re doing.

Anna: Well, I’m sure that all the groups of friends who meeting around the coffee or a pint, you’ll hopefully that gives them some inspiration of how to get going.

George: Or not!

Anna: Yeah, let’s just chuck the beer mat and leave it.

George: Well, they could just come to Baffle Haus.

Anna: There you go!

George: That would be a way.

Anna: Great stuff. Well, I’ll leave it there. But thanks so much for coming on the podcast, George.

George: My pleasure. Thank you very much.

You can find out more about Baffle at and for further information on getting a smart meter installed, visit You can also find more tips to boost your business at Remember to like us on Facebook at SmallBusinessExperts, follow us on X @smallbusinessuk (all lowercase) and subscribe to our YouTube channel, linked in the description. Until next time, thank you for listening.

The post George North: ‘It’s all about the small adjustments’ appeared first on Small Business UK.