"It's such a positive place to work": Bakers Delight franchisees

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Darren and Lisa King swapped running individual businesses under their own steam with joining an established franchise network. Darren explains why it works for them.

1. Why did you decide to buy a franchise?

Darren: Prior to working at Bakers Delight I was running my own business as a roof tiler and my wife Lisa, who runs the bakery with me, was running her own hair salon. The money in tiling, quite frankly, was not great – it is what they call a ‘closed shop’. I wanted to make the switch from the outdoor laborious work into something that was less physically exhausting and more sustainable for my family. We saw an opportunity to be more in control of our lives through a franchise.

Luckily, we know a family who are Bakers Delight franchisees who highly recommended the brand to us. They were able to tell us the ins and outs of the business and it sounded like a great opportunity. We decided to take on the challenge with our first Bakers Delight bakery at Lilydale, Victoria.

Since taking over the bakery we believe the head office support we have received has been instrumental in our success. From the initial baking and business training, to the ingredient buying power and scale of marketing support, our bakery has received huge benefit. I know through my previous experience as a small business owner, the support of others is extremely important. For things like the Food Safety system for instance, because Bakers Delight has its own internal quality assurance programs, our bakery often exceeds industry standards.

 2. How long have you been in the system?

We have been franchisees at Bakers Delight for almost seven years and eight months.

 3. How did you come to decide on this brand?

Through word of mouth; there was just no negative feedback about Bakers Delight and it was a trusted brand which was really important to my wife and me. Now that we are in the network and part of it, we see why it is such a positive place to work. For me it is also inspiring to witness founders, Roger and Lesley Gillespie, still taking a hands-on approach in running the network. We have no doubt that we made the right choice by joining Bakers Delight.

4. What surprised you about the business?

Probably the amount of hours you have to put in each week to get the most out of the business. As a business owner, you have to be prepared to invest time in hiring and training the right staff to set up your business successfully.

As a franchisee, you start out on a four-month training course to learn all aspects of the business and the trade. I found that the theory in training assisted me in setting up my bakery, but found that a lot of learning is done ‘on the job’. You learn as you go and our approach at first was to invest a lot of time at the bakery learning sytems to show our staff and apprentices that we are invested in the business’ success.

 5. How do you spend an average working day?

It changes from day to day.  I am only actually rostered on to work in the bakery on Fridays; if the staff take holidays I am rostered on six days a week. But if I am not working, I usually take my kids to school, come in and help the staff with the rest of production, after that I usually do some training with the team where needed or do a five star cleaning according to Bakers Delight standard.

I might chat to the front of house staff to see if there is anything else they want us to bake based on sales. I like to use the days where I am not rostered on to really step back and oversee the business, see where the opportunities are and work on improving them.

 6. How do you manage the roles as partners in the business?

I am in partnership with my wife, Lisa, who runs the front of house whereas my focus is predominately back of house and the baking side of things. We decided on this prior to going into the business together. We wanted to streamline operations, have areas of expertise and allow for a better work-life balance for our family. We have friends who have since joined the Bakers Delight network and they run their businesses in a similar way.

 7. How has the franchisor training helped you in business?

In terms of the people side of things, having run my own business in the past, I was used to the hiring and firing staff. But as part of your franchisee training, Bakers Delight gives you HR tips and one that stuck with me was the ‘sandwich effect’ when giving feedback to staff – telling them one thing they do well before offering your constructive criticism and ending on a positive note.

What was most invaluable was obviously the technical baking training. For the first four years you can pick it up pretty quickly, but you are still in learning mode. At Bakers Delight we have area managers who are there to support our team and through them we can give feedback.

 8. How do you raise your brand’s profile in the community?

I engage with the local sporting clubs by donating breads during the year or heavily discounting product for them. We happily donate bread to anyone who rings up for donations for sausage sizzles or charity events. We currently donate our surplus product to charity each night of the week, which is something Lisa manages and is passionate about.

 9. What are your goals for the business?

We want to grow the business. The shopping centre we are in is currently being expanded to include more retailers which we are really happy about. We expect the expansion will bring more shoppers who are coming into visit as opposed to passing through, which we intend to capitalise on.

Originally we tried to be multi-store operators, but it didn’t work for us because we are both very hands on and we didn’t feel like we could properly oversee everything, so our focus is very much making our location a success.

10. How has franchising changed your life?

At the end of the day, I have always been my own boss but it allows you to do, within in reason, anything you want to do in life. If you want to go on holiday at any month of the year you can organise your staff around that. This lifestyle has enabled my wife and I to spend more time with the kids, we are able to pick them up from school and get involved in their extra-curricular activities. It has also allowed us the money to be able to send our children to private school which we might not have been able to do. It has given us a lifestyle and work-life balance that we are very happy with.

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