How many of you have some cherished youngsters in your businesses? 

You have found them and cared for them; nurtured them into being your next protégés and you’re frightened of losing them because “it would be like throwing all that money away down the drain”, or “It would be like giving all your experience to your competitor”.

I, however, have a different point of view.

Every one of my better managers has worked somewhere else, because they have more experience of the trade. That`s why I sent my own son Stephen into industry, before coming back here.

I was talking to a young lad at a trade meeting earlier this year, a very talented young man that had just won a national award (at this point I must stress I would never poach a member of somebody else’s business at a social function or any other occasion – I find that practise totally abhorrent).

And, I asked him a simple question, “How much do you think you’re now worth?” It was as though I had opened a huge trap door in his mind, he had never thought of that, his actual worth.

His current employer had found him, trained him really well, but sadly hadn`t followed through with his actual worth within the trade, leaving him ripe for somebody to come along and double his wage, literally. However by having a chat with me for half an hour or so, it gave him an alternative perspective, a different view point to assess his career to date.

How good would it be if that young man had an internship, a formal agreement between two or more businesses where they could share staff for six to twelve months or longer periods without the fear of being poached by the host company? Just think of all the possibilities and benefits it would bring to your business in time, but also to the industry in general. We all have specialisms _ so if two businesses or more would just talk to one another and share those specialisms, businesses where there are no obvious conflicts of interest, and between you just agree some terms which would suit you all and your businesses. Items for concern, such as salaries, help with finding or subsidising accommodation needs could all be discussed. (Universities need to fill their beds out of term time, and they`re cheap) Some businesses may have already flats above their shops. Why not furnish one out and keep it to one side for bakery interns that pass your way? They will pay rent for it anyway, so why not?

There’s nothing wrong with being a little philanthropic either. Brett Warburton, from the very famous Warburton`s family business in Bolton, (there are a lot of good businesses come from Bolton) employed my son Stephen in their Canadian business for just under twelve months, taking him from literally planting wheat – to baking bread – a totally awesome experience for any young man coming into the bakery business. Indeed a very generous gift to someone who will be a part of the future of the baking business and I have shared that tale with hundreds in the industry, meanwhile the kudos for their philanthropy grows and grows.

Another good friend of mine, Stephen Orchard from Sydney, Australia once said to me, “It takes a strong manager to train their staff well, but it takes an even stronger manager to let those people go and develop to become better people.”

Somewhere in that statement is a lot of heartache, but the reasoning does come through. People who you train and allow the bettering of will always stay your friends, and one day, the trainee will become the master, and that really is what we want.

So where do we go from here? Are you prepared to open your bakery business for a learning experience? And are you prepared to lose one of your colleagues for a period of time to go and get more experience to bring back into your business?

Well I`m up for it, how about you??