Some of the best-known bakery businesses in the UK have started, and continued, as a family business. Bakery retailer Greggs began life as a family venture, and Warburtons is still one. So what makes family-owned firms so special?
A new study into the UK business sector, carried out by Warwick Business School, reveals that small family-owned firms are regarded as more employee-friendly, motivational, passionate and creative than non-family private enterprises. Commissioned by insurer More th>n Business, it also reveals that family firms are perceived as offering better welfare conditions and more flexible hours, unity, purpose, trust, and less stress. Head of More th>n Business Mike Bowman says these perceptions could spur a surge in interest from job-seekers, who have suffered at the hands of the recession. With unemployment levels at their highest, rising to 7.9% in September that’s 2.47 million people out of work and with the 16-24-year-old age category hit the hardest, could this be an opportunity for bakers looking to recruit?

Top-calibre opportunity
"Family businesses have a great opportunity to attract some top-calibre talent out of the recession," comments Bowman. Despite the fact that only 6.5% of those asked feel family businesses offer good training opportunities and 9.5% believe they offer good career prospects, compared to non-family businesses, Bowman says prospective employees shouldn’t feel they won’t be able to climb the career ladder just because they don’t share a surname with the owner. "There are some great opportunities for non-family staff members to take on very senior roles, particularly at firms that have no succession plans."
Stephen Roper, professor of enterprise at the Centre for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Warwick Business School, says the nurturing aspect of family firms is one of their key strengths. "As they are often small, employees also tend to get exposure to many different sides of the business." He said this well-rounded aspect is likely to attract younger workers in particular or those going through a training programme. "If I was a small family business, looking to recruit, I would be saying, ’We’re friendly, we support our staff, we have flexibility’ those sorts of values."
Grant Gordon, director general at the Institute for Family Business, says a big challenge facing family firms is recruiting and retaining strong talent at all levels. "To achieve success, family firms must set out a clear strategy for remuneration, and accountability for decision-making, backed by a well-articulated long-term corporate vision," he explains. "But arguably the strongest pulling factor for a family firm will be a statement of values that have been demonstrably practised over the years, underpinning a positive company culture."
Trevor Mooney, joint MD at family-run Cheshire craft bakery Chatwins, has worked for both a national and a family business. "In a family business you are treated more as a person and a valued member of staff than just a number on a clock card," he explains. With over 30 of its staff having completed 10 years’ service and 20 staff having completed 20 years, the loyalty of employees to the firm is clear. "Because of our local family name, most members of staff have been brought up knowing Chatwins, so most of them tend to be recruited locally," says Mooney.
Iain Campbell, MD of Campbell’s bakery in Perthshire, Scotland, is the sixth-generation Campbell to run the business since its inception in 1830. His two sisters, Alison and Fiona, also work at the bakery, along with 15 other employees. Campbell says that family firms, by design, have more than a passing interest in baking and are more passionate about what they’re doing. "We say that we’re small enough to care, but large enough to cope (with orders)," he explains.