Sabine Veit leads the way in bakery management
By Bakers Journal
Sabine Veit won Deloitte’s Best Managed Business award for the second time earlier this year. Bäckerhaus Veit’s CEO spoke with Bakers Journal to share advice on making a small bakery a big success.
Many bakeries have trouble getting their business off the ground. How can a small business break away from small-scale operations without getting into debt or worse, losing their business altogether?
“I think as a bakery owner, you really have to differentiate between being the baker, and the one who grows the business,” states Veit. “I think a lot of bakers have some really good skills for their bakery, and know their product, but they have no time or energy to work on the business…I think that really holds a lot of bakers back. The business can’t grow if the owner or somebody is not really working on the business of getting away from the small-scale, then it’s not going to happen.”
Veit recommends new bakery owners to be strategic in their plans and use research and develop as much as possible. When the facts are aligned, form a plan that changes for no-one. “Make sure you match product, channel, market and price in the right way, and stick to it. Don’t get side-tracked when sales are low, or if something isn’t working out, then try to do something that might be cheaper,” Veit advises. “If you’re not convinced, if you feel that’s just a kind of problem solver, instead of being strategically viable in the long term, that means it needs more money and more energy.”
The award-winning CEO believes that there are many bakers who “fundamentally, don’t get it right,” from public image, or pricing decisions to the shortcuts that they may have to take. “If that’s not all cooked up together – I learned this the hard way – it just won’t work,” affirms Veit. “I got really lucky to be here today. I do have some war wounds, but ultimately, Bäckerhaus Veit succeeded.”
Veit believes that putting her views second and making the customer’s needs first are among her keys to success. Hiring staff she feels confident will work in a position she isn’t as strong in is another factor. “Hiring people that are smarter than me, that’s a big one, you have to hire people that are smarter than you. And you’ve got to listen to them,” she smiles.
A successful bakery, she feels is like a functional kitchen. “You have to save energy and waste everywhere, and you have to be effective about it.” A successful bakery, in her opinion has “no reason to succeed” if it meets three basic objectives: Skilled staff, an immaculately clean shop and staff who are treated respectfully.
Cleanliness is underestimated, in Veit’s opinion. “If the doors are not clean, and the door handles are not clean? I cannot stand that. I see the details, and I always see it.” An outstanding piece of advice that came from a quality assurance specialist, who pointed out the difference between looking and seeing: “never walk through a bakery and don’t see what you’re looking at.” Veit feels that anticipation or distraction can cloud a shop owner’s judgement, preventing them from objectively seeing their shop through clients’ eyes.
Some factors that can impact negatively on a bakery are the staff. From the cleanliness and appropriate garb for the staff, “a clean blouse – not a knitted sweater,” as well as efficiency is always appreciated. Veit recommends that the shop takes note to have the right stock at the right time.
“I went for a cup of coffee somewhere where five other paying customers were behind me, with not enough staff to look after them, and the bakers were making more bread since they had just run out.” Veit feels that training staff to prioritize can prevent a sales plunge and a loss of reputation. She recommends that the staff should know what times of day are the peaks of business, and set a priorities in place. For instance, if there’s a line up of clients and the phone is ringing, should they take calls or serve customers? Answer: They should serve customers while the phone goes to voicemail.
“So, it’s really important to train them well…what kind of priority to look for, and what to have on the shelves, and then there’s friendliness, right? There’s a lot of learning, a lot of hard years…it’s a capital-intensive business, be really careful of that. Know your numbers, know before the month is finished where you are – don’t wait for the end of a quarter to notice what is actually going on.
“In the bakery business, we make a few pennies, we lose a few pennies, again, I’m on the burner first, so I’ve had to hire some good people to tell me that, “you can’t spend this, right now. This doesn’t make sense.” Think of your rationale a bit better, and build on something else… get some money in the bank before embarking on something that could really be a problem in the long run.
“You need good accounting from the get-go. Somebody who gives you a clear statement at the end of the month, so you know what’s actually happening.”
Veit says her biggest challenge starting out was learning how to say, “no.” “There’s so many great ideas, you go through any trade magazine, you see great ideas, but you really have to analyze, can you do it right now? Does it make sense for the business, for the machines you have? It is so easy to just do research and development…there’s a lot of money just sitting there, and you’ll never know if it will succeed. You’ll have to think long and hard as to how you’ll put your money towards your resources.” Multiple awards indicate Bäckerhaus Veit is on track for success.