Simon Howie, winner of the UK Butcher's Shop of the Year

Our job begins and ends with the fact that we are specialist food retailers. Yes, we compete with the multiples, but in essence we can be much more flexible and adapt to the needs of our customers.

So spending too much time moaning about the multiples' ever-increasing presence is a waste of time and energy. On a good day, the independent butcher cannot be beaten with regard to service and customer satisfaction.

Our challenges, I believe, are local, not national. My opinion is that small businesses need to be more inward-focused in order to ensure that the staff really are much better than average. We must have smart-looking staff, who are happy, knowledgeable people with a passion for their work, as well as clean and appealing shops and, of course, products that are the best we can offer.

Too many shop operators spend time looking at the bigger issues, which are out of their control and, as such, mean that the attention to detail suffers, thus reducing the impact the business has on the customer. We have enough regulatory and industry bodies to ensure that any issues we have are dealt with promptly, so my advice is: "Say your piece, then get back to the business of growing the sales figures".

In terms of the outlook for 2007, I think it is extremely positive....the gross margins are good in the trade, so it is all about growing the turnover and spreading the overheads as much as possible. Innovation and passion are the key drivers, but don't forget that it is not only the meat and other products that matter - it is not enough to say your beef is hung for 21 days - the customer has to have excellent friendly service in a shop where they feel they want to buy more than they had initially planned to.