Business and Operations
Editor’s letter: August September 2011
By Laura Aiken
Over time, your contribution to the baking industry may become more about knowledge than product.
Over time, your contribution to the baking industry may become more about knowledge than product. For some careers, the final give-back is measured in degrees of inspiration. Just as people breed other people to survive, so bakers must also breed other bakers. Luring the next generation is critical to tackling the labour shortage faced by the foodservice industry as a whole. There are things we can all do. Fortunately, popular culture has been on our side.
At times, reality television has made a mockery of the human intellect (certain Fox programs come to mind), but the baking industry is lucky to lay claim to some of its stars. Shows like Cake Boss and Cupcake Girls have surely helped generate more interest in baking, pastry and chocolate arts. However, inspiring others to make the decision to step into a career is only the first milestone to surviving and thriving. It’s pretty tough to get far without support and mentors. There is nary a success speech without someone to thank. For all the joy your bakery can bring you, some of the purest may be in fostering the love of it in your own staff.
As business owners, you place an incredible amount of trust in your staff. I imagine, for a new entrepreneur, the first couple of hires are among the most nerve-wracking steps to take. The fear of losing trade secrets to an employee who may one day leave and become your competition is a normal feeling to have. But the more success you achieve, the stronger the desire to mentor others can be.
Fortunately, it’s not only pop culture fanning the flames of baking interest. There are many great bakers across Canada whose love of the craft filters through their staff, customers and community. There are many leading artisans teaching others the tricks of their trade. Programs dedicated to baking are proliferating from coast to coast. But we shouldn’t be content with this attention. We still have a very real labour shortage on our hands.
How much focus do you give to your staff? Do you create an environment of flexibility, creativity and innovation? Do you want your staff to succeed as much as you want yourself and your company to succeed? Giving back comes back. What you put in is what you get out. There is no shortage of old adages to point to the benefit of taking the scary leap in giving freely of yourself, hoping not to be taken advantage of, ripped off or generally betrayed. The truth is that this will probably happen at some point, even with good common sense and the protection of proprietary information in place. But we must hold close the conviction that the good will outweigh the bad, and remember that we learn from the negative experiences we have.
One simple way to inspire others is to let your passion be infectious. People who love what they do are contagious. Bakers have a lot to be proud about, supplying staples of sustenance and pleasure. If you have found yourself caught up in the grind, perhaps take a moment to reflect on what more you can do for your staff, who will pay you back tenfold in productivity and retention. Make your operation about the people over the product and the product will grow more than you ever dreamed.