Customer Wise: Consistent quality needs no sales force
You’d be hard pressed to find a better example of how dedication to quality can pay off for a small business than Grateful Bread in Denver.
The bakery has grown from one employee in 2008 to 23 today by staying focused on quality handmade breads. Founder and head baker Jeff Cleary says his growing business turns away the vast majority of new customers to make sure Grateful Bread meets the needs of its current customers — some of Denver’s top chefs, restaurants, and hotels.
As you’ll see in this Q&A, part of our ongoing series featuring insights from Bank of the West small-business customers, Jeff’s dedication to consistent quality is just one of many useful insights that can benefit up-and-coming business owners.
Q: Think back to when you started your business. What do you wish someone had told you before you started? A: I think people really don’t understand the risks involved in starting a business. I’ve been in the food business for 30 years, and I have more of a culinary background than a baking background — I just always had bakeries with my restaurants. But after September 11, my businesses took a big hit, so we pretty much lost everything and had to start over. People don’t realize that when you are self-employed there is no real safety net, so you have to keep on going. I dove right back into my own business, and we started Grateful Bread. Based on your experience starting and running a business, what tips would you give someone starting a business today?
Pursue something you really enjoy and make a living out of it — that’s always best. I always tell people when you are young that’s when you should take the risk because there is a lot to learn. You have more resilience if you start pursuing what you love when you are younger. If you can make money at the same time, that’s the best.What are you most proud of when it comes to Grateful Bread?
The incredible crew I have working for me. We are pushing 10 years-plus with Grateful Bread. It takes five or six years to build a crew. We do business with the best chefs and restaurants and hotels in the city. Our standards are extremely high, we are selective in who we do business with, and I couldn’t do it without the outstanding crew I have.What does it mean to you to be “the boss?”
Basically what I try to do is set a standard, and I make people come up to my standards. I tell people quality is first and money is second. If we can produce a very high-quality product consistently, then we should be able to make money. We have created a niche in the market where we don’t look for business; it comes to us. We don’t have a sales force.
Being a boss is being consistent and being fair. I give a lot of latitude to my supervisors to produce the quality that we need. But you also have to be fair. People make mistakes, and it’s a matter of how you deal with them.
You can learn more at the Grateful Bread company site.