This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Allied Baking and Milling Group’s new CEO, the cheery antipodean Brian Robinson, at Allied’s headquarters in Maidenhead. Robinson arrived in the UK last November and was then struck down by a mystery bout of pneumonia – perhaps an extreme reaction to the change in climate. Thankfully, he is almost fully recovered and remains delighted to be in the UK, particularly, I am sure, now summer has finally arrived.
And Robinson is swinging into action too! Any competitors who have been lulled into a false sense of security by his slow start should watch out. Robinson plans to put a sizzle in Allied Bakeries’ business (pg 3). He describes himself as a “turnaround specialist” and says he works best in a company which needs “sorting out”!
Allied Bakeries is a relatively healthy plant bakery business, particularly compared to the likes of outfits such as the defunct New Rathbones. But it had been getting to the stage where it could begin to be called “beleaguered” in the last year.
Its troubles have been well documented, from the loss of the Asda own-label business to declines in Kingsmill revenues and profits. Not forgetting the poorly-received Kings’ Mill advertising campaign featuring an Elvis impersonator, which has now been dropped. “The King is dead,” as Robinson jokes.
When you look at it, Associated British Foods’ idea of bringing an overseas expert to overhaul its UK bakery business is inspired. Robinson has run bakery businesses in New Zealand, where he was born, as well as Australia, where he lived for 14 years, with some impressive results. He knows all the nuts and bolts of bakery, but he is not bogged down by an intricate understanding of the status quo in the UK.
He questions traditional ways of operating which may be less than efficient. And personally, he has all the enthusiasm and joie de vivre necessary to accomplish his goals. He is overjoyed to be in the UK where his ancestors hailed from and overjoyed to be working in a sector where people really have a passion for what they do. I think that is called having the right attitude!
Meanwhile, the deadline for entering our Baking Industry Awards is fast approaching – closing date is 16 June. Sylvia, who is on holiday this week, has asked me to urge you to get your forms in. Nothing ventured nothing gained!