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16 February, 2007
LEARNING FROM others In the bakery business, the best way to get good ideas is to visit successful bakers, rather than invite in a bunch of management consultants, says Tony Phillips
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Reading Alan Stuart in British Baker the other week (12 January pg 13), I thought how true it is that small can be successful against the big boys and his comments about Peter Drucker were so right. The thing I remember of Drucker was his view that all car show rooms should have a red convertible on display, which would bring in the men as it would make them think of wild youth and sex, while their wives would then make them buy a sedan.
Somehow, my flashy cycle, complete with crossbar, did not really have the same suave sophisticated appeal to girls. Or was it my khaki shorts? One will never know.The question is could we use a similar marketing ploy in our bakery shop windows? A row of beautiful sausage rolls and Cornish pasties, our best-selling lines, do not seem to have the same appeal as that red convertible.Any suggestions you might have of products we could display, to inflame young men or women's desire and make them purchase in huge quantities, would be most appreciated.The mind boggles as to how one family has kept a business running so long and so profitably. It really is very rare, although there are a few Scottish companies that seem to have found the secret of continuity. Having met a few Scots, the one thing they all have in common is that they are such nice people; it must be in the genes or is it thanks to Scotch whisky?While I must confess that the Scots' reputation for being canny is true, I am not sure of the veracity of the story that, when Alan went into his local chemist and bought a baby bottle, his chemist friend said: "That's rather extravagant, Alan." "No not this time," came the reply, "the wife's having triplets."I have always considered the best way to learn and get good ideas is to visit successful bakers. They are always generous with their time and knowledge, unlike politicians, who never think things through. Why, only the other day I read that the government thought mini brothels were a good idea! Have they never heard of the economy of scale? Then there is the current craze to give fancy titles to simple jobs, such as destination expert for travel agent. These crazy ideas are usually thought up by management consultants, who are often brought in by management either too weak or inefficient to make their own decisions, which they are paid to do.In my view, consultants should be brought in to solve specific problems, particularly technical ones, and not general management ones. That is our problem and if we can't solve it, then perhaps we should not be running a company.The money spent on consultants could be better spent on new equipment or upgrading a shop or new office equipment, not having them present us with a slick folder containing pretty well what we had already told them.Another problem I have is asking someone who has had consultants in - and spent a great deal of money - if they were satisfied with the results. After all, how many people are honest enough to answer: "No, it was a waste of money." n



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