Farro Fresh: The Growth Spurt Of The Niche Supermarket
When Janene Draper decided to go on the Owner Manager Programme in 2011 she was already directing a team of 120 staff, was running two successful grocery stores and was about to open another in Hamilton.
Janene’s company Farro Fresh which she started with her husband James Draper has grown considerably since first opening in Auckland in 2006 with only 12 full time staff. The concept of a large store specialising in New Zealand- produced artisan food was a concept with quickly took off with culinary-savvy Aucklanders.
Whilst growth is often a positive thing for a business, the rapid expansion and demands of the business meant Janene, with her little business background was feeling as though everything was coming on top of her. Both Janene and her General Manager were both over-worked, incredibly stressed and there came a moment one day where Janene felt it was all too much and she could no longer face going into work.
Her husband James had a degree in Business management and had completed a day and a half Icehouse programme, he insisted she not come into work until she rang Mike Stokes at The Icehouse.
James felt if he did the The Icehouse course first, he would be adding more changes to the business, a business that Janene was not coping with and it would be too much for her. However if Janene started the programme, she would come home with the changes and he would happily input them.
Before coming to The The Icehouse, Janene and James sat down with their general manager to start to establish a middle-management structure which would be refined during her Owner Manager Programme experience. Janene signed on to do the Owner Manager Programme with what she says was a great group of other people from a wide range of businesses. Although the time commitment and taking herself away from the business was daunting, Janene says it was good to finally step out and work on the business.
“Actually committing to that period showed me that yes, I can be away from the business and it can run ok without me.”
The support network and sharing experiences with other business owners was something Janene found real value in for her business and herself personally.
“Being surrounded by other owner managers meant I could really open up about the business with people who understood my opportunities and my challenges.”
The programme allowed Janene to implement ideas each time she returned to her business after a programme block. “Since completing the programme I feel I am more empathetic to my staff and have been able to instil real company values.” “The programme allowed me to identify the aspects of the business which were good and the aspects of the business which were not so good – this meant I could step back and see what needed to be done to complete our business as a whole – ‘our wheel’,” says Janene.
“We have now completed our business structure, and it means I have time to work on the business instead of working in it, like I was doing. I now find that the majority of my days are spent planning, and I know I have a strong management team to keep the day-to-day tasks ticking along well.”
Janene says the programme taught her how to empower and motivate the staff at Farro Fresh. “I know how to let go of things and allow others to take on responsibility and make decisions. I am also quick to pick up on actions, if something isn’t right I now won’t hesitate to tell staff, whereas in the past I was reluctant to do this.”
“There’s more accountability in the business, but because of this I feel my staff find it easy to approach me to discuss issues or decisions. And I’ve also learnt not to hold grudges!” She says. When asked about the structure of the Owner Manager Programme, Janene says the whole package set up worked perfectly for her. “The guest speakers really added something special, there was a snippet from every single speaker which I could apply to my business and take back to work.” Janene also found value in the previous Owner Manager Programme alumni who came to speak at programme blocks. “The alumni helped to show me that people everywhere had hardships and challenges – it’s about how you overcome them, and it can be done,” she says. The branding aspect of the programme facilitated by Dave Lewis of Vantage Point was particularly relevant to her business. “This part of the programme really allowed me to think about what makes us different from our competitors – how do we gain our competitive edge through our branding.”
Janene says the post-programme follow up she received with Dr Mike Ashby re-instated where she wanted to be. “We haven’t engaged with any further programmes or services since completing the Owner Manager Programme – the programme itself and the follow up have given us enough tasks to implement within the company which means we’re all keeping very busy!” Janene says she still keeps in contact with facilitator Deb Shepherd via email who she describes as “empathetic, fun, an incredible listener but assertive enough to hold the fort during programme days.”
When Janene started the programme Farro Fresh employed 120 staff over two stores with one on the way. There are now 200 employees working three Farro Fresh stores and one subsidiary store – Trader Jacks, which Janene says is a story of ‘Owner Manager Programme Success’ in itself. Janene says one of the key things the programme helped her with was learning to act quickly, and not let problems sit there burning away.
“We opened a new Farro Fresh store in Hamilton, however it wasn’t performing as expected. Because of the guidance of one of the programme facilitators Dr Mike Ashby, we re-evaluated the store and decided to change the format to an entirely new retail concept for New Zealand which would specialise in value – without compromising on quality.”
Weekly turnover of Farro Fresh has doubled since Janene completed the Owner Manager Programme. Janene realised the importance of the Farro Fresh brand to her business success and has now employed a marketing and brand co-ordinator. All in-store signage and branding is nowaligned and the co-ordinator will be focusing on building a social media profile for Farro Fresh. Janene also credits the programme for encouraging her to change to a more efficient accounts system.
The business benefits have been measurable, but the effect on Janene’s health and well-being since completing the programme has been something she can’t put any value on. “I am enjoying the business again, it no longer feels overwhelming, I’m excited about it and I even managed to step right out and enjoy my holidays this year.” “I feel confident and at ease knowing I have a middle management team behind me who understand that we are a family business, they know our hard work needs to go back into the bottom line, but that’s ok – they see the growth potential and are just excited as we are about the road ahead,” she says.
Janene says she would recommend The Icehouse Owner Manager Programme to others in a heartbeat – “It not only gives you structure, it helps you increase your business turnover, gives you foundations to grow the business, backed up with services if needed and you build life-long friendships with other owner managers.”
Check out the Farro Fresh website.