I bought the original Dulwich Bakery Store in 2003 with 9 staff and a revenue of $600,000. In August 2016 I opened store number 9 and I now employ 80FTE’s.
To facilitate growth I built a modern manufacturing facility in 2011, which in 2016 still has some capacity to grow.
In the years around 2014 and 2015 the business achieved the size that allowed me to consider changing my management structure to run the business, to release me to look for other growth opportunists in bakery and food related areas, or simply do nothing.
Industry Leaders Fund
Co-incidentally Geoff Vogt approached me in late 2014 and he ignited my thinking with the prospect of executive study, assisted by the ILF and for me to grow my business.
The application for study was streamlined, professional and constructive.
I applied for a course which at the time was my preferred course.
However, it was after obtaining the grant from the ILF and researching further that course, that I reassessed the initial course I was going to undertake.
The initial course was more suited to a corporate role, rather than that of business owner looking to grow.
What I was looking for, was a way forward with my business, not necessarily a way to run it more effectively or profitably, but to grow it, as well.
The course I undertook was The Executive Program for Growing Companies at Stanford University USA.
The setting for Stanford University about 120kms from San Francisco, is impressive.
8500 acres of campus, facilities which include a church and Shopping Mall, all with a focus on proving education with a depth and breadth of teaching that places them amongst the top Universities of the World.
The course was held over 12 days, live in, on Campus and it was intense, with one day off during the 12 days.
Many of the things that impressed me, can all be placed in the superlative and these included the calibre of the professors and lecturers, the course content and its mix, the organisation of the course, both during lectures and after.
This has continued with continued support and contact.
The talent and skills of the attendees left me feeling I was studying with the cream of business. There were 70 attendees from 26 countries, and what also struck me was that all of the attendees were fluent in English. They alone were a huge motivator, as everyone who attended want to learn and question. There is a message here to network with winners.
The companies that were represented varied in size, and Dulwich Bakery was by no means the smallest business represented.
The course progression followed a logic, and was varied also which stimulated the thinking in several dimensions.
Every day was exceptionally well organised which left a feeling that there was not one opportunity of getting more from the experience.
There was not an intense pressure placed on the attendees, as the passion to learn drove most of us.
The content of the course was, as the title suggests, for growing companies.
Innovation, disrupters, resource allocation, leadership, systems, building challenges, organisation, opportunities, constraints, change, culture, decision making, and mix into that lots of strategy and that described the course content.
However, the words were not just words, there was structure, logic, case studies and examples. It was a comprehensive and motivating experience.
We had a variety of case studies for large and smaller companies, such as Facebook, Hewlett Packard, Tough Mudder and Blockbusters. The way and reasons some businesses succeed and also spectacularly failed.
Condolleezza Wright gave a lecture on the political arena and her experiences of her career and time in office.
After we were accepted into the course, we were asked to document a challenge which we had in our own business.
In my case the challenge was how to go forward to grow my business from my current very low resource base.
This developed into an extremely worthwhile exercise.
We were put into groups and had to present to our fellow attendees, that business challenge which we had identified.
They, as other business leaders would give their thoughts and recommendations. The sharing and discussion was enormously valuable.
What a game changing exercise. It was like the sun coming up in the morning.
This experience was a major learning for me, and has resulted in quite a change in my thinking about going forward.
I have a professional membership in accounting and an MBA, so I have a discipline in finance and business management.
The course was not about a subject or discipline such as marketing, finance or production.
This course has given me the tools to think differently about growing. It was about working on strategy, preparing and implementing for growth going forward.
I have begun the process of restructuring and am already looking to other opportunities for growth, both with the Baking industry, and food business generally.
Through the introduction into the ILF, I have benefitted by a game changing educational involvement, and I have been welcomed into the ILF family, which has been a tremendously fulfilling experience.
I expect in the years to come to be able to grow my business and employ more people, giving back some of the benefits I have achieved from the initial approach from Geoff and the ILF.