Chris Smith, Managing Director of Marshfield Bakery
Moon Consulting have an excellent record of recruiting top talent for family businesses. In this article, Simon Quinn, Senior Executive Search Consultant at Moon Consulting, meets with Chris Smith, Managing Director of Marshfield Bakery and multiple Institute of Directors award winner. Chris tells us about growing a family business, his international ambitions and the challenges of operating in a rural location.
Chris at Tolldown Barn in the small village of Marshfield: the bakery is a hive of activity, the sights, sounds and especially smells vividly contrasting with the sleepy rural setting. It is from here that Marshfield produces over 200 different products to supply supermarkets, wholesalers and some of the biggest hospitality companies in the UK and internationally.
Marshfield Bakery was founded 30 years ago as a cottage industry with Paul and Lynn White selling homemade cakes into local shops. Now the business has a turnover of £4m and employs 65 people. This growth is largely down to Managing Director Chris Smith, who was awarded the IoD South West Director of the Year Award for 2015 and 2014 for his excellent leadership of the family-owned bakery, including a dramatic increase in sales, ambitious expansion plans and exploration of international markets.
"I joined Marshfield 4 years ago after a long and well-established career working in both multi-national PLC businesses as well as smaller private and family companies," says Chris. "When the opportunity arose to work within a family business again, where I could put my experience to good use and help the company grow - I leaped at it!"
Chris and the team have certainly achieved a fast level of growth during his tenure, and intend to keep this momentum going. He told me, "We have just completed an expansion of our current site by 80% and are investing over £400,000 in new equipment. This should create 25 new jobs by the end of 2016." Aspirations spread much further afield however, "We export to America and the market is growing. Our goal is to have a licensed manufacturer of our products in the USA by 2017," he explains.
Recruitment is one of the consistent challenges for Marshfield, which still relies on the local area with a limited talent pool. The company has been frequently praised for its innovative and proactive attitude towards recruitment, including working with the Universities of Bath Spa, Reading and Harper Adams to find talented food science graduates. They also run a successful apprenticeship scheme, hold employment workshops and recognise immense benefit in retaining their older staff. "Our highly skilled workforce across all age ranges is a major contributor to our success," says Chris. "It's in our interests as a business to retain the services of high-quality people for as long as possible."
Another challenge is the poor infrastructure in a rural location, including transport links and internet connections. The slow broadband speeds mean online operations take far longer, putting Chris at a disadvantage to his competitors.
Despite these drawbacks, Chris has an impressive determination to succeed, combined with a passion for learning. "A good leader is someone who leads from the front and installs focus and confidence in the team. People have to believe in the direction you are taking them," he says. "It's important to find ways to continue learning even when you are a managing director. Building relationships within groups, professional organisations and non-competing business to learn from your peers and create an open, engaging environment is key." Chris recently chaired a roundtable discussion prior to a distinguished speaker address by Dennis Hogan at UWE and supported by Moon. "Occasions such as this that enable smaller companies to engage at senior levels with significantly larger businesses are of immense value. All parties learn something that they can take and apply within their own businesses."
As our interview draws to a close, Chris takes me to his product development department where new experimental flavours are being woven into the bakery's famous flapjacks. I am lucky enough to sample a delicious (and top secret) bar not even in the public domain. Boasting such excellent products and an increasingly efficient operation, it's clear that the future will taste good for Marshfield.
About Moon Consulting
Moon Consulting understand the unique challenges of family businesses, including increasing growth and profitability while remaining true to the closely held ideals that these companies hold. We find the right leadership talent with the skills and cultural fit for your business across all sectors and sizes. Call us today to find out more on 01275 371200 or via firstname.lastname@example.org