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Good governance: Damien Guivarra

Damien Guivarra CEO of Silver Chef

In the notoriously volatile hospitality industry, Silver Chef is an invaluable resource for cafés, restaurants and catering companies looking for top-line kitchen equipment with flexible financing. For three decades, it has funded commercial ovens, coffee machines, refrigerators and other essentials on a Rent-Try-Buy® basis, allowing its clients to get on with the challenging task of running a commercially viable hospitality business.

CEO Damien Guivarra says the company is ideally placed to help businesses across the sector. “Having been part of hospitality for the past 30 years, we can understand the pains and pressures that such businesses go through. That first 12–18 months is a difficult time for new businesses and cash flow is often very tight.” By working with Silver Chef, businesses have invaluable flexibility; while many fledgling hospitality business owners mortgage their homes and lock themselves into expensive equipment, with Silver Chef they can easily upgrade equipment after a year, pivot their operation to suit a changing market or scale back as necessary.

Damien Guivarra, CEO of Silver Chef
Damien Guivarra, CEO of Silver Chef

‘Big Hairy Audacious Goals’

Silver Chef’s commitment to helping people out extends beyond the company’s core business. It sets ‘Big Hairy Audacious Goals’, and the most audacious of all is lifting some 1.5 million people out of poverty. “We’re a company that absolutely tries to turn a profit, but we have a purpose as well, and that is helping people achieve their dreams,” Damien says.

“We’re a company which absolutely tries to turn a profit, but we have a purpose as well, and that is helping people achieve their dreams.”

“The beauty of having this purpose is that it drives the entire organisation. We help hospitality businesses achieve their dreams by giving them the equipment and the capital they need to be successful, but there is a wonderful synergy with what we do in our support of Opportunity International.”

Damien says the benefits of Silver Chef’s partnership with the not-for-profit organisation are numerous. For one, it gives the company a unique selling point in terms of recruitment. “We know millennials care about having a great career and making good money, but they also want to change the world,” he begins. “If you can give them a vehicle to do that, you end up winning more talent.”

Highly engaged and motivated staff makes for a higher level of customer service, which leads to higher customer satisfaction. This in turns leads to higher sales, greater profits and satisfied shareholders. “There is a wonderful virtuous circle that is created by having purpose at the centre of everything you do,” Damien says.

“There is a wonderful virtuous circle which is created by having purpose at the centre of everything you do.”

Nurturing longstanding relationships

The company achieved B-Corporation status in 2015, meaning it met criteria for environmental and social responsibility. On the company’s B-Corporation profile, it achieved an overall score of 93, which is well above the median score of 55. A minimum score of 80 is required to qualify for accreditation. This measure takes into account criteria such as accountability, transparency and stakeholder engagement as well as the company’s overall mission. Damien says the score reflects a common purpose through all levels of Silver Chef.

“That good governance score is a terrific acknowledgment of the alignment created through the business. There is alignment created through the business from the chairman and the board, and their commitment to steadily drive success both for shareholders and for the world through the positive impact they can have.

“That alignment carries through to the management team and to our dealers and brokers around the globe – to support us in trying to help get 1.5 million people out of poverty and create a positive impact on the world through our customers.”

This commonality of purpose also includes having shared goals with suppliers. “One wonderful thing about our company is that we have really deep, longstanding relationships with dealer partners like Hospitality Construction. It’s an interesting relationship because it is a win–win partnership. Our customers are very important to us and our dealer partners are just as important. We only succeed as a business if our partners can succeed.”

Damien believes Silver Chef has forged close relationships with its partners because it is far more involved than the average finance company, which might set its suppliers an annual budget and only occasionally see them in person. Instead, Silver Chef staff visit supplier showrooms on a weekly basis and constantly look for new ways to help them grow.

Damien Guivarra CEO of Silver Chef

A major change

A major change in the business was its decision to exit GoGetta, a sister company that operated outside of the hospitality industry. Damien says it ranks among the most significant moves in the company’s history, but he is confident it is the right one.

“We’ve restructured the business to make it a business of the future. We’re now going from a company that focused on three brands in several different industries, and was arguably a jack-of-all trades, master of none, to a company with a laser-like focus on one brand and industry where we have 30 years of knowledge and a history of success. We’re going back to what we can be the best at in the world. We’ve got global opportunities, so we believe the focus on a single brand will deliver success within five to 10 years.”

Damien sees his role as not so much telling his staff what to do but as giving them clarity and direction. “We aren’t the sort of company where myself or the management team scream from the pulpit telling everyone what to do. It’s about what we can do to harness and leverage the power of our people.”

“We have a company of committed, engaged and intelligent staff members. My role is ensuring we give them clarity, direction and alignment. But most importantly, it is to unlock their talent. What has driven my thinking and my career in the early days has been to add value to an organisation and to people. So while I didn’t initially think of becoming a leader, I did know I liked to add value to people. So I suppose, in some ways, that flowed into a leadership role.”

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