Growing a Strong Bread Business with Great People

Growing a Strong Bread Business with Great People

Jim and Robin Condie took over the Clackamas Great Harvest in February 2006. The store was thirteen years old. Over the past seven years, they've nearly doubled the sales and have had a lot of fun in the process. Jim was an attorney is his prior life (still licensed) and Robin worked in the Biotech industry (immunology). Robin laughingly told me the bakery is much more fun than her prior work! They were tired of commuting and loved Great Harvest and the idea of doing their own business. They jumped at the chance to buy the Clackamas Great Harvest when they heard it was for sale.

As with any small family business, their secrets to success have included a lot of hard work and focus on the things that matter. Robin admits that part of their success is their great location - right next to a Nordstrom Rack in a shopping center with high identity. As we all know, potential doesn't always translate to success. It requires the right management.

Jim and Robin are hands-on. They don't have managers. They work with the crew and do the training. This keeps them in touch with the day-to-day workings of the business. In a bakery where everything is made daily from scratch (it's a production facility as well as retail), being in close touch with the business and the crew is critical for success.

What about their crew? It's an understatement to say when I clackamas crew photovisited them, I was impressed. Their people were attentive, enthusiastic, caring, really one of the best crews I've encountered in my 22 years with Great Harvest. I asked Robin about the crew. Her response was "I love them. We have an awesome crew." I've learned over the years that owners are not just "lucky" to have good people. It's a result of how they manage. I asked Robin what their secrets were in developing such a great crew. How do they empower them, encourage them?

Robin says it's based on trust and being open, vulnerable, flexible and teachable. She didn't just mean the crew - it applies to all of them, including Jim and her. They want people to express their opinions, to come up with new ideas. She says their crew is smart. The team training model is "to be open to what other people have to say."

They always give positive feedback when a crew member takes care of something, goes the extra mile. And they've developed a peer system where crew members call out their peers in a positive way. In essence, the crew holds each other accountable. Robin told me about exercises and games they play to show the importance of all supporting each other and being team players. She stopped at one point, concerned she might be embarrassing herself telling about the games! Quite the contrary. I was fascinated by how effective these exercises are in getting the point across - plus they're a fun bonding experience as well.
Great Harvest Clackamas crew with whole wheat bread photo









The team spirit extends to the customers. Getting to know customers' names and preferences and including them in the fun is stressed. Robin told me "Life is about connecting to everybody." It's no wonder customers enjoy coming to this store. Not only are the products outstanding, the atmosphere is inviting and fun with a wonderful friendly, positive group of people to meet you when you step in the door. Congrats to Jim and Robin and their crew for creating a great refreshing oasis in a hectic world.

Have you ever been to the Clackamas bakery? Do you have any favorite Great Harvest people stories to share? 

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