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Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Day in the Life of a Great Harvest Bread Franchisee

By Candice Clem

There is pretty much one thing that sums up what Great Harvest Bread is about, and that one thing is great bread. Granted, that may be expected of any bakery franchise, but what Great Harvest Bread has is no ordinary appreciation of bread; Great Harvest Bread franchisees really love whole-grain bread, they adore it, and that passion spills over into the way they do everything else: with a hearty helping of generosity, a splash of compassion, and a massive dose of levity, three things that can't be anything but genuine.

Franchisors, franchisees, and employees all share one thing in common: the core Great Harvest Bread values: having fun, baking phenomenal bread, working fast to help customers, creating strong and exciting bakeries, and giving generously to others.

Freedom Franchises

It's this constant exuding of positive energy that defines the daily activities of a Great Harvest Bread franchisee, even though the actual practices of each franchise business vary. Of course every franchisee wakes up, heads to the bakery, and proceeds to bake fresh loaves of whole-grain bread for the day's sales, but while one franchisee may also bake a few dozen batches of cookies, another may be firing up the espresso machine or cooking a huge pot of soup.

Some franchised business opportunities are just cookie-cutter imprints of the same business model over and over again, with the same paint, same design, same products, and same routine, but Great Harvest Bread doesn't feel that that is any way to run a business, so they have instead developed what they call the freedom franchise system. The same name, recipes, and mission are passed down to every franchise as a general blueprint, but franchisees are given the freedom to expand on that basic schematic as they desire. In their own words, the goal of freedom franchising is to "create mom and pop whole-grain bakeries where mom and pop know what the heck they're doing." And from the very beginning, Great Harvest Bread moms and pops are given a huge advantage over the competition.

How It All Began

The very first Great Harvest Bread was started in 1976, in Great Falls, Montana. It had been a few years in the making, spawned by the merging of Pete and Laura Wakeman's love of good bread and their discovery of Montana's vast wheat country. They had previously sold bread from a small, roadside stand, but when they discovered the beautiful wheat fields of Montana, they began to think a little bigger.

In 1978, the second location opened in Kallispell, Montana, then another in Spokane, Washington. It wasn't long before the bakery chain, with its natural excitement, was growing faster and stronger than anyone could keep up with. It was at that point that the Wakemans decided to change hats. In 1983, Pete became CEO, opening and running the new franchise office out of Dillon, Montana and selling the original store to Pete Rysted, who still owns and operates it to this day.

Life As A Great Harvest Franchisee

From the beginning of a professional relationship with Great Harvest Bread, franchisees taking advantage of the franchise opportunity are considered a high-priority investment. Unlike many other businesses that offer new franchisees only one meager week of basic training, Great Harvest Bread requires a new franchisee be prepared for three weeks of training that take them on a road trip across the country. Seeing firsthand how a wide variety of Great Harvest Bread bakeries operate and learning about the business from expert staff at the franchising headquarters. After this intensive training, franchisees are then considered ready to move ahead with a businesses of their own.

After the new franchise owner is given enough practical training to match his passion for bread and business, the franchisor begins to help establish a new location. Finding a location, analyzing the local demographics, negotiating the lease, finding and purchasing equipment, and establishing a unique and appropriate layout for the new store are all included in the franchisor's involvement. For the Great Harvest Bread people, backing their new franchisee, the ultimate goal of all the preparatory work is to ensure that the grand opening is one of the greatest days of his life, and one that sets the pace for rest of his days as a food franchise owner.

But the help doesn't stop at the grand opening. After things are under way, budding franchises are visited right away, at the six-month mark, and again after 12 months have passed. The hope is not simply to start a good bakery, but keep it going.

What Franchisees Have To Say

Hearing the hype, though, may not be enough to sway more skeptical entrepreneurs to believe in the quality of Great Harvest Bread. What does have the power to convince them, however, are the words of franchisees who work on the frontlines.

Pete Rysted, owner and operator of the original Great Harvest Bread location, never expected to run a bakery, and never would have, had it not been for sorry economic conditions that cost him his previous job at about the same time that the bakery went up for sale. He says, "It was like being thrown into the deep end of the pool," but "owning this bakery has really opened up the world to me. It's changed my life in ways I would never have thought possible."

Some franchisees appreciate not only the practical side of this business opportunity, but also its deeply ingrained ideology. Sally Weisman and Tom Amundson of Minneapolis remark, "We've worked hard to create a business that gives back to the community... What has surprised us most is how rewarding it's been to grow and partner with our employees. We have been able to share a work environment that is fun, allows us to do our own thing, and provides a balanced work life. We feel lucky to have discovered and passed along a business philosophy that allows us to nurture families, while prospering at the same time."

Franchisor and franchisee agree: Great Harvest Bread is a winner of a company, with a strong past and a bright future.

Find more business opportunities including food franchises and bakery franchises at Franchise Gator

1 comment:

R Krishnan said...