A standout start
As I went through the training process to become a Cobs Bread franchisee, I was asked to prepare a few different financial projections. The first one focused on what was required just to break even—in case I wound up with a slower bakery, I had to know what I needed to do to ensure I wasn’t losing money. The second projection focused on what I thought my bakery would actually achieve and the third was a high-end projection of what, in my dream world, my bakery’s business might look like.
Throughout training, I was often warned to be realistic in case the franchise didn’t start off with a big bang. I would have to build the brand in my area before I could expect major success. I was encouraged to ask myself questions: what would you be prepared to do if the need arose? Are you prepared to sell your vehicle, for example, to keep costs balanced?
While I appreciated the extensive planning, no one really warns you about what to do if you open and business is absolutely gangbusters. Yet, that’s exactly what happened at my location. During our first five weeks of business, we were the busiest Cobs in Canada. We smashed all kinds of sales records for opening day, opening week and second week. It was an amazing feeling.
It was also challenging, though, because I wasn’t really mentally prepared for that kind of intensity. I was at the bakery each day from about 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., working non-stop. Throughout those first five weeks, it sort of felt like I was just trying to stay afloat and survive.
Staying in touch
Things have calmed down a little since we opened, but it’s still a busy career. When the schedule says it’s my day off, that really just means I go for a run in the morning first and then I come to work. I make sure I’m here by noon at the latest to cover my morning salesperson’s break, but usually it’s a bit earlier. On most other days, I’m here by 8 a.m. I always make sure I’m available to help out if my team needs me on the floor or to cover breaks.
Two days per week, I assign myself to day baking. That’s partly to cover my regular bakers’ days off, but I also really enjoy baking and still want to be a part of that process. I don’t ever want to lose touch with the production side of the business. Doing this also gives me an opportunity to spend some one-on-one time with my bakers.
On most days, I leave around 5:30 or 6 p.m. However, I do regularly make time to work the closing shift with my student employees. I do that for a couple of reasons: first, it helps me control labour costs during months like January and February when sales aren’t as strong. Second, it gives me a one-on-one opportunity to work with lots of different students.
There are also a few regular customers who come in the evening, not the daytime, and if I worked only day shifts, I would never see them. I think it’s very important to be the face of your business, so I like to see all of my customers at one time or another and stay connected to all of them.