Hobbs House Bakery established in the Cotswolds in the 1920’s are a true family business with five generations of baking experience. Trevor Herbert, Chairman, and George Herbert, Managing Director, tell us how they have looked to their values when planning for the future.
"As the team grows, we need to be able to express what those values are, rather than assume them, and traditionally in the family business most things happen on assumption."
At the heart of Hobbs House Bakery is their purpose to bake what the customer wants. Historically bakers baked breads and left their family to deal with the customers. There was very little interaction with the customer. From the start Hobbs House Bakery were different, they knew they had to bake what the customer wanted.
As a really local employer Hobbs House Bakery train a lot of their people from scratch and whilst there is need to bring in some skills, a large proportion of their workforce can walk or cycle to the bakery. It is their people and being part of that local community which underpin Hobbs House Bakery’s lasting values. A good example of their values in action is a recent scheme with a local school where they taught the children to make bread and improve their understanding of both food and how to handle it. Hopefully inspiring a new generation of bakers.
It is incredibly important that their clear purpose and values are passed down to the next generation but there were challenges.
Whilst keen to continue those values, George Herbert also wants to modernise the business and that can be difficult. He believes sometimes in a family business, accountability can a challenge and it is important that everyone is known to be there on merit. One of the key things he believes Trevor did to help the process of modernisation was to bring onto the board a strong non-executive who, ‘can ask the difficult questions and hold the mirror up!’
"My role now is to set the vision for the years ahead." George Herbert, Managing Director
To be the best they can be in everything requires planning and there are specific challenges for family businesses. Starting the conversation around succession can be hard for a family to start and timing is critical. A clear purpose and values can help provide the benchmark for decisions around questions like how does a sustainable business grow? How to maintain trust both with employees and the communities the business serves?
As a fifth generation family business, Hobbs House Bakery knew they had to get succession right first time. In a fast-changing world they recognise that they need to be ready to adapt to new markets, new technologies and changing consumer expectations.
"What became increasingly apparent was that the language that I might use to describe our values needed bringing into the 21st century. There was a lot of assumed understanding, it wasn’t explicit."
Both father and son have embraced further education to help build a lasting legacy for Hobbs House Bakery. Recognising that what happens at board level impacts how values are activated across the whole organisation, Trevor has undertaken mentoring in his new role as chairman and George has started a 10-month leadership course. They have also embraced bringing in people with different skills sets to strengthen the business including a non-executive director that challenges them to be better and a non-family member director who brings skills that enhances them as a bakery.
George is clearly excited about the future for Hobbs House Bakery. With a clear purpose and lots of ideas for new products and routes to market he is confident they will develop new ways of doing business while staying true to their values. Hobbs House Bakery have successfully risen to the challenge of succession which many family businesses face. They used the opportunity to update their purpose and values to help the next generation continue to put bread on the table.
UK Family Business Leader, PwC United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0)7764 958585