Family-run Carrs Pasties has been manufacturing baked goods in Bolton for over 80 years, but for the third generation – brothers Matt, Joe and Liam – taking over hasn’t been straightforward. A new mentoring scheme turned out to be the expert-led, experience-based support the family firm needed.
Matt Carr remembers how simple running a business seemed when he was a boy. “My dad used to turn up in the morning and bake pasties. Then at the end of each day, we’d have a bit more money. The company’s bigger now and more complex. We’ve pretty much had to learn how to run a business.”
Getting an expert perspective
Having previously had business skills training, Matt knew this time he needed targeted support in key areas. “I’d had business mentoring before, but it was fairly broad: understanding the numbers, writing a plan and so on. It gave me the tools to start moving forward, but without the experience to know what works or where to start, it’s not quite enough.”
It was a local business hub that introduced Matt to the Be the Business Mentoring for Growth programme. “With Be the Business you get access to an expert with experience in your sector, someone who’s been through the issues or exact growth stage you’re going through. Even if it serves to validate your own instincts and ideas, that’s incredibly valuable.”
Matt talked about the three areas he wanted mentoring to focus on. “Your mentor actually looks into your business and helps you decide what to focus on. At Carrs we wanted to learn how to plan for expansion and maintain productivity as we grew. We also needed help identifying new customer groups.”
Uniting leadership behind same focus
The Mentoring for Growth match-makers introduced Matt to Andrew Peters, MD of Siemens’ motion-control plant in nearby Congleton. An expert in lean manufacturing, Andrew had experience in increasing factory output through productivity and efficiency, rather than expansion. “Andrew came in and helped us focus, almost from the first day. He made us think about what’s important, so we learned to zoom in on just a handful of things,” Matt said.
Getting the leadership team on the same page has also proved to be a huge benefit. “My brothers and I all had slightly different ideas and ambitions about what we wanted from the business” recalled Matt. “It’s natural when you have several people running things, but we really needed to be a united front. The mentoring programme really helped us unify our ambitions and get us working from the same perspective.”
Assigning numbers to commitments
Under the guidance of their mentor, Carrs Pasties has committed to a number of confident growth plan goals over the next two years. Currently doing 90 per cent of business in Bolton where the company was founded, Matt and his brothers are keen to broaden their catchment out to Manchester. “These goals have given us direction and made scaling operations feel attainable. To support the extra production, we’ve committed to building a new bakery in 2021.”
Throughout this rapid expansion, one of Carrs biggest challenges is to keep a family feel at the heart of things. “We’re a family firm, so we really value the families that work in our business and we don’t want to lose that as the business changes. We give staff a four per cent pay rise each year, and we’re determined to get to the point – by 2021 at the latest – where we’re paying the living wage.
The unexpected perks of mentoring
Unsurprisingly, Matt is a strong advocate of mentoring programmes that match business owners with relevant experience and expertise. “More surprising perhaps are the other benefits he discovered: “By joining Be the Business programme, we’ve met a lot of other local business owners that are in the same boat as us. We keep in touch with those people. Also it’s been quite a spotlight for us: we were featured on the BBC Breakfast Show in May, which was amazing.”
To find fame, fortune and a TV appearance – or at least some solid business support from an experienced mentor – join Mentoring for Growth with Be the Business.