How one franchisee moved from financial systems management to owning a bakery

By Sarah Stowe | 29 Oct 2015 View comments

David Ralph has taken Bakers Delight to heart, opening up not just one bakery but four. Here the New South Wales based franchisee shares his story.

Tell us a little about your work life before becoming a franchisee.

After training as a CPA and climbing the corporate ladder for the large-part of my career, my last role was as the Asia Pacific financial systems manager for an American technology manufacturer.

Although I worked hard to build and shape the role, I could work and work for two weeks but then turn around at the end and have nothing tangible to actually show for it. I was also spending a lot of time travelling overseas and eventually realised I needed to leave the corporate world in favour of a more family-friendly lifestyle. 

Why did you decide to invest in a franchise?

My wife Margaret and I started looking around at options and eventually settled on the idea of purchasing a business.

As a numbers man, I could see that finding the right franchising system would be a safe and secure investment for our family’s future and would offer us the opportunity to reward our hard work and success by continuing to invest in further franchises within the same company.

Why did you choose this brand in particular?

I didn’t have any previous baking experience but have always had a passion for food.

 

We looked at several options but the Bakers Delight name kept coming up during our research. They are a strong company with excellent systems and support in place. At the time they were expanding rapidly and had a fairly flexible model, so there was clear room for creativity.

What skills did you bring to the business?

My numbers background and trade understanding gave me a good basis for becoming a franchisee.

Before we bought our first franchise in 1999 in Norwest, we trained six days a week (completing our baking course in three months) and also completed a Certificate III and IV in business. The skills we developed during our training and in our first venture helped us to gain confidence and go on to become multi-site owners a year later when we bought our second bakery.

What has been the biggest challenge as a franchisee in a new field?

Purchasing our second bakery changed things completely for us. Suddenly we had to split our time and resources where previously we hadn’t done before, which was a challenge. I will always remember opening our second bakery in Carlingford Court really well because it was right before the Olympics.It all happened so quickly – I thought I knew what it meant to be tired before that, but looking back I realise how busy we became and how hard we worked.

But it’s the best decision we’ve ever made. I now get immense satisfaction owning and managing multiple bakeries.

How has the franchisor helped you gain confidence in your business?

Being part of such a wide, experienced network has had a big impact on our success. We’ve had opportunities we couldn’t have created for ourselves and have had constant and ongoing support from the company and our peers.

Over the years our relationship with Bakers Delight has matured. At the start we needed a lot of support and took full advantage of the talent pool within the business, getting advice from our peers who had a diverse range of backgrounds and wealth of skills and creativity.

We learnt some really important lessons from our peers and as a result of various discussions, implemented a range of programs to motivate our staff, including incentives, mentorships and reward programs for those who perform well.

We’ve been fortunate to have amassed a lot of experience over our 14 years with Bakers Delight and now enjoy imparting this knowledge to others within the network. We’re often asked to present at state and national conferences in Australia and last year spoke at a conference in Canada to our Canadian franchisees.

What will you do with this business and your new-found skills?

We now have four bakeries and 120 staff (including our three kids who were instrumental in helping to get our fourth bakery up and running) and juggle our time between all four bakeries, trying to visit at least two each day.

It’s early days to say whether we’ll continue investing in further bakeries, but for the time being we are enjoying the challenge of owning and running four sites and our roles as mentors to the rest of the network.

Images: Bakers Delight