Walking into the newly remodeled Duluth, MN Great Harvest, I was immediately welcomed by Ian Kidd behind the coffee bar, chatting with and serving his regulars that meet there every morning. If ever there was a picture that echoed the ambiance of “Cheers”, this was it. This man is a natural. His easy and friendly way with customers beyond a doubt makes the Duluth Great Harvest bakery a neighborhood gathering place. The icing on this impression was watching Ian hanging out with his crew for a casual cribbage game after a long day of production.
Ian Kidd may be a familiar name to those who follow hockey. Growing up in Gresham, OR, Ian played Junior Hockey in British Columbia, Canada, helped take the University of North Dakota to the National Championship, and continued to play professional hockey for 9 years after that. In the mid-nineties, Ian and his wife, Liz, decided to look for something new, their “life after hockey”. They were intrigued by the idea of a franchise. Liz loved the atmosphere and the products in one of the Wisconsin Great Harvest bakeries. When they discovered it was a franchise, they started researching and the rest is history. They opened their own store in Duluth, MN in May, 1997. Ian says Duluth has been a great place to have a business, as well as live and raise their three kids.
He has also gained a reputation internally as owner-trainer extraordinaire for new Great Harvest bakery openings. A few years after opening, he was recruited to help open new stores with the opening trainers from the franchise office. To date, he has done more openings than any other owner-trainers.
Ian shared with me some of the things he likes about Great Harvest… “I never tried to reinvent the wheel. Yet the business allows me to be me. I’ve always grown – both the business and personally. Everyone is in it for the right reasons. It’s a group thing. We’re all in it together.”
I asked Mark Peterson and Paul Tikalsky, two of Ian’s friends here at the home office, why he excels as a small business owner and trainer. They told me his strength is team-building. He coaches well, but he’s a “player’s manager”. He works side by side with his crew and wouldn’t ask them to do anything he wouldn’t ask of himself. He built the store hands-on and is 100% woven into his business. His people respect him as their boss. Not only does he manage well, he’s invested in his employees’ lives and helps them out when needed. He has a big heart. On the surface, he’s quiet (until he pulls a practical joke on you!), but as the saying goes, still waters run deep. Paul told me of a story at a store opening…Ian was explaining to a sweets baker that he could train her in systems but in the end, if she wanted to be good at it, she had to throw herself into it. Sounds like a coach who has been there, who knows what it’s like to play and work hard and do one's best for the benefit of team.
Thanks, Ian, for your awesome store, the excellent work you’ve done as a trainer of new owners, and for the years of friendship.