Handing off the keys

Keys, business, bakery
When businesses grow, owners must give employees more opportunities to exercise leadership skills.

As a business owner, it may not always be easy to distance yourself from the everyday projects, tasks, and busy work, especially if they were once a major part of your daily routine. Even so, any leader assumes the responsibility to be a reliable long-term planner and strategist.

Once a business grows to a considerable size, it’s time to consider dividing its operations into departments, delegating responsibility and leadership roles to your more motivated and reliable employees.

Train your key players

If you can’t guarantee that your business will remain in your family after you retire or leave, it is critical to document the specific operations of your business. Most importantly, your head management should be trained to perform their responsibilities independently, as well as inherit many of your tasks in the instance of your absence.

“Your job is to train people to do parts of your job, so you eventually work your way out of a job,” says Lynn Schurman, owner of Cold Spring Bakery in Cold Spring, MN.

If your business has grown considerably, developing departments and department heads is a step in the right direction. Distributing responsibility among a number of your most reliable employees can offer a sense of ownership, but most importantly helps maintain a self-sustaining operation. Distributing responsibilities to your managers not only simplifies your job, but is also a long-term strategy. These managers are being trained as major pillars to the foundation of your business and its successful operation.

Ideally, as an owner or head manager, you need to prepare your business for someone else to either purchase or inherit, so that they can maintain and improve its profitability.

“We are currently training managing partners in the case that we open a second location. We have them taking business courses, classes, and attending seminars by RBA,.” says Beth Fahey, owner of Creative Cakes in Chicago, IL.

Primarily, Fahey says they are training and investing in the managing partners to adopt major responsibilities as the business grows and to ensure the continued long-term success of the bakery in the case that the bakery does not continue with family members.

Build your manual

Schurman says some of the most important details you need to track about your company are who your typical customers, your market area, your specialty or product category, and of your closely documented financial reports.

Well-tracked financial records play a key role in seamlessly selling your business or handing it down to another member of your family. With this information, success and failure can very accurately be defined from an untrained eye. Having these stats not only sets the standard, but removes a tremendous amount of guesswork.

In addition, there is value in creating an official outline of the bakery’s departments and the responsibilities associated with each role in the department. This document can help illustrate the distribution of accountability within the business and improve the coordination and communication between departments.

In addition to issues related to management, the consistency of your bakery’s product is possibly the most important element. File away detailed descriptions, recipes and formulas of every regular item or specialty, so that it may be referenced by new hired staff or owners. In fact, Fahey plans to create video documentation of all of her bakery’s recipes to ensure the integrity of the original products.
 

Step away from the action

If you want to pursue any of these tasks, you need to be able to step away from your business and carefully evaluate how it operates and why it functions in that manner. While it may occasionally be necessary, it is ideal to avoid wasting your time in the decorating room or behind the register.

“I have to be able to turn over the day-to-day stuff. I need to be able to leave that to my managers so I can focus on how to increase the profitability of the company long range,” Schurman says. “If I’m busy with orders or production schedules, I can’t be focused on creating a business plan.”

It might be difficult to determine the appropriate time to distance yourself from the small day-to-day tasks at your bakery and focus on the bigger picture. But as a company grows, the roles of its owner, as well as its employees, should adapt.

“Generally, what I’ve seen is when people hit 10 years, they hit critical mass. You know you need to step away and look at your business, yet you can’t afford someone to replace you decorating or whatever got you in the business in the first place,” Fahey says. “As soon as we made the conscious decision to step away from the decorating table, our business became much more profitable.”

Being able to free your schedule to assess concerns such as the finances of your company, the managerial structure, or key demographics is critical to eventually being able to illustrate the DNA of your business to a potential buyer.