As Steve Plarre, CEO of Victoria-based bakery chain Ferguson Plarre Bakehouses, says, business owners should keep their growth strategy aligned with their core purpose, or risk everything going pear-shaped.
The family-owned company has been operating since 1901, and Steve says his core focus is ensuring the business continues this remarkable longevity.
“We want to hand it over in good nick so that it's got another 100 years to go,” he explains.
As such, Steve says he takes a very long-term view of growth within the business, opting for a more organic approach.
“We're happy to look at five, 10, 15, 20-year time frames for certain things,” he says.
“I would hate to think that I've got a two to three year time frame to either impress upon someone because I'm the latest CEO, or I've got shareholders banging down my door for an immediate return.”
Steve admits this is in stark contrast with businesses aiming for short-term profit gains, such as listed companies or those owned by entrepreneurs seeking to build up and sell the business within a fixed time period.
“Last year we wanted to add 10 stores and we opened one store. We did that because we had one franchisee who we thought was the right match for our business and wanted a store in a place where we were happy to negotiate a good lease outcome, and that was it,” says Steve.
“We said no to quite a few franchisees – they had the money, they had the intent; we didn't think they had the ability to represent our brand well in market.”
He adds: “If we add 10 stores this year, I'd be really excited. But if we add only one because there was only one person and one site that was appropriate for our brand, I think that's something to be proud of too.”