Staff feels ownership in Jules Bakery
| Julienne Hardin (center front) empowers her all-female staff through cross-training and open financials. |
“My philosophy is based on the old saying that it’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission,” she says.
Every one of the more than one dozen employees at Jules Bakery is cross-trained to have at least a basic knowledge of every job. Employees also have access to daily and monthly sales numbers to help them understand the financial side of the operation.
“Everything has been developed from a team approach,” Hardin notes. “I may be the person who makes the final overall business decisions and I sign the paychecks, but my employees are comfortable taking leadership roles and the accountability that goes with those roles. We recognize each others’ strengths and weaknesses and cover each others’ backs.”
As a result, Hardin spends her time carrying out her long-term business plan and designing the specialty cakes that have made her bakery in Marion, Iowa, just northeast of Cedar Rapids, a destination. And, 97 percent of her team members have been with the company for at least two years.
Hardin comes from a business rather than bakery background, with a marketing degree and extensive management experience. Prior to opening the bakery in 2001, she was vice president of communications of the Cedar Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.
“I spent several years dreaming and two years diligently researching our business model and writing a business plan according to my theory on management style,” she explains. “I’ve always believed that people are capable of and willing to make good decisions if they are allowed to do so.”
After researching her market, she determined that there was a need for a scratch bakery. Annual revenues exceeding $300,000 have confirmed her initial evaluation.
Hardin’s philosophy is based on her own personal core values of integrity, respect, improvement, discipline, decisions, appreciation and inclusion. These values are part of the company’s mission statement and extend to interactions with customers and vendors as well, she says.
“We really do encourage customers to tell us if they are not satisfied, since this is how we learn and adjust,” she points out. “But, most of the time, our customers show us how satisfied they are by rewarding us with their return business.”
However, that doesn’t mean the customer is automatically always right, she adds.
“We treat them with respect and expect the same in return,” she explains. “If they don’t want to do that, they’re not the customers we want.”
La Panetiere choreographs production
| La Panetiere is a true family operation with Owner Michel Gehin (center) working closely with his wife, Nelly (right), and sister, Francoise Georgel. |
Although the 2,500-sq.-ft. production area (another 2,500 sq. ft. is dedicated to retail) does not have room for much large equipment, the staff–both sales and production–works like a well-oiled machine. It has to because everything from the cakes and pastries to the cookies and breads is baked in the bakery’s single stone hearth oven.
“Everything cooks beautifully in that oven,” says Gehin. “But one oven means keeping a very tight, 24-hour production schedule.”
Gehin, a Certified Pastry Chef with more than 40 years of experience is at the helm of the operation. Founding partner and brother-in-law, Denis Georgel, headed up the bread production until his recent retirement. Georgel’s son, Christopher, has taken over the dough detail.
Handling the books and customer service are Gehin’s wife, Nelly, and sister (Georgel’s wife), Francoise. But, even though La Panetiere is the very definition of a family business, non-related staff members are never regarded or treated as outsiders.
New employees often come from a local culinary school, first as paid apprentices, then as full-time staff. Gehin recently hired two new graduates and is bringing another apprentice up the ranks.
“During their time at school they learn the basic skills; during their apprenticeship here, they get hands-on training and learn how we work at La Panetiere,” Gehin says. “When they join our staff, they already know where they belong and what their particular job will be.”
| Production employees work closely with the sales staff to ensure display cases are full of fresh product. |
In the retail area, Nelly and Francoise share the responsibility of keeping the five display cases stocked, rotated and clean. Item rotation schedules in the front are as rigorous as the actual production schedules in the back.
Cakes, for example, generally have a three-day rotation. Breads, however, have a one-day shelf life, with leftovers making the move onto a separate day-old display or becoming croutons or crumbs, which are purchased by a restaurant account.
Fine-tuned timing between the front and back ensures a smooth and constant flow of fresh product. Baked sponge cake layers wait in the freezer for quick retrieval and finishing on an as-needed basis. Mousses, popular as cake and pastry fillings, also are made in volume and frozen.
Known for its cookie trays, La Panetiere is always ready to put together a varied assortment at any time. Batches are baked just about every day to maintain the supply and are stored in airtight containers for immediate accessibility.
Providing consistently fresh product and fast service is a that La Paneteire has been maintaining since it opened in 1990. While most customers probably don’t notice the carefully choreographed behind-the-scenes ballet the La Panetiere team performs, the Gehin/Georgel collaboration is an undisputed hit.