With Brexit looming on the horizon, creating a plan of how to take a business forward has suddenly become very difficult. With huge uncertainty on what affects the UK leaving the European Union will have on all types of businesses in the country, it means that businesses like ours are having to look at new ways of strengthening business actions to minimise the effects on the company, that leaving the EU could have or take positives from Brexit.
We have invested heavily on research and development, especially for a firm of our size. This was a strategy we were pursuing long before any talks of a departure from Brussels. In 2002 the company set up an in house technical department which has seen huge growth in its staff and responsibilities. A hugely important part of this department is the product development side, who work on creating new innovative products and work with customers to help create products based on their ideas. The latest products to come from this development department include a football shaped roll for the upcoming World Cup, coloured burger buns and bread with lower amounts of additives.
A large factor in the success of this department has been the strategy of combining experienced bakers with fresh young minds just out of education. The latest person to join the technical team is still in education, learning alongside working. This means that the department can stay up to date with trends, but also have the knowledge and experience to help bring these products to market. By having this department in house, it means that we are constantly evolving our product offering and able to attract more customers as well as giving existing customers new products to keep their consumers excited. The technical department also allows us to be able to keep up to date with regulations for markets and countries which helps to attract more and more customers from further afield.
University collaborations have also been a strategy that we have been looking to explore for several years. The bakery has worked with local colleges and universities to help teach students but to also ultimately learn from them as well. These students can offer an outside perspective on the bakery and the overall baking industry. This is evident as one of the main documents used in each bread batch made by our bakery was designed by several students some years ago and is still in use in the bakery today. We have also taken on a marketing placement student from Sheffield Hallam University. This gives us an edge on competition in this volatile post Brexit Britain as it’s the first time that the bakery has had a dedicated marketing employee in the business and has helped the bakery explore new ways of growing its customer base. This also gives the placement student incredible real-life experience of a real business and how it operates.
We’re currently looking to strengthen collaborations abroad, not just with customers but also with other bakeries. Staff have made trips to different countries not only to meet with potential customers but also to look at how other bakeries do things to see if we can better our business practices. The Department of Trade is another body that we have been working closely with. It is expected that this government body will have a huge roll to play in making sure the transition out of the EU is smooth for UK businesses. They have large amounts of funding available for companies that will still be looking at export opportunities in Europe and beyond. They have currently been helping Fosters at exploring different trading routes and transport options into Europe and other countries across the globe.
Overall, we’re trying to set an example of a company planning for an uncertain future. It is likely to be some time before the true effects on businesses are clear to see, but if companies start preparing for the inevitable now, much like Fosters, then they should be prepared to embrace the new challenges and the new opportunities provided by Brexit.