Many bakers and owners of businesses with either sons or daughters do relish the thought of their children coming into the business… maybe one day, hopefully. On 4 February this year, that day arrived for me, as Stephen Paul Smart started working with Greenhalgh’s Craft Bakery.
What seems decades ago - I remember the conversation vividly, while he was still at school - Stephen and I chatted about what he might want to do when he left school, university etc. There was never any hesitation in his voice: “I want to come and work in the family business.”
So you start to plan, and plan well, as this is the first member of the third generation of the family wanting to come into the company.
And you start to realise that a lot has changed since I entered the business 35 years ago – has it really been that long? There are no bakery colleges to speak of – or hardly any – and the courses available did not seem such a good idea: just what are these NVQs anyway? So we researched universities that could give him a degree in worthwhile subjects, which would help him with his career long-term.
We finally settled on Nottingham Trent University (an old polytechnic), Brackenhurst campus, where he studied Food Manufacture with honours, along with many other things - Brackenhurst being mainly an equestrian centre with many young ladies who brought their own horses… enough said! Stephen and I decided it was prudent to take an industrial placement year, and this is where Stephen and I will be forever in debt to Stephen Orchard, then of Allied Mills in Sydney, Australia, where Stephen worked in the test bakery for nine months. Our gratitude also to Brett Warburton, of Warburtons of Bolton, who organised nearly 12 months’ work-based experience for Stephen in the firm’s businesses in Winnipeg (Canada) – literally studying and testing wheat from seed, to harvest, to bread on the table. There was also a three-month secondment to Winnipeg University to study wheat with Dr Harry Sapirstein, a totally inspiring man, who helped Stephen fully understand wheat as a plant and also as an ingredient.
The years at university soon came and went, along with all the bills that needed paying. As a young man, my dad (William Allan) brought me straight into the business from Salford College and I felt that I’d missed out on something - life experience most probably - so Stephen and I jointly agreed that it was best if he had 10 years’ experience in high-profile businesses, gaining knowledge to bring back into Greenhalgh’s. He would then re-join the business by the time I was 55 years of age… and yes, 55 came around too quickly, before you ask.
It is an amazing feeling to know that the next generation is starting to appear. My daughter, Georgina, is also working her way through the retail sales part of this business, but first she is busy with producing grandchild number one - soon to arrive.
As my Dad always said: “Time stands still for no man, so get planning.”