Food businesses and change

Food businesses and change

We just love the way our great food businesses have adapted to the changing world.

Over the past few years, we have all seen the real value of our local food ecosystem.

Now is not the time to forget the true value of our local food producers, cafes, bars, restaurants and retailers.  The next few years will see even greater changes in our relationship with the food we eat.

This is Cumbria

Recently, we had the privilege to present at the Grocer Live at the Farm Shop & Deli Show in the NEC.  We were there as the organisers of This is Cumbria a collective of Cumbrian Food Producers who with the support of Cartmell Shepherd, Enterprise Answers and Thomas Jardine & Co were spreading the word of the brilliant food and drink produced in our place.

On the stage the previous day we saw an interview of Henry Dimbleby by Adam Leyland (The Grocer’s editor-in-chief) on the National Food Strategy.  People outside the food sector may not yet be aware of the National Food Strategy but its recommendations will form part of the way we view our food. There are four main objectives in this plan.

  • First is to escape the “junk food cycle” which will protect the NHS.
  • Second is to reduce diet-related inequality.
  • Third is to make best use of land.
  • Fourth and most ambitious is to create long-term shift in food culture.

Carlisle and the National Food Strategy

It struck us as we listened to Henry how in many ways Carlisle is already working towards his objectives.

  • Many of our great cafes and restaurants are already offering healthier alternatives.  These range from dairy free milk for your coffee at Bruce and Luke’s to delicious vegetarian options at the Good Sister.  Every month the Guilders from the Guild go for a meal at a local restaurant and everywhere has offered a gluten-free option.  This was not the case at the NEC cafes where, by each afternoon even fresh fruit was a rare delicacy.
  • The work of the late Rachael Rodway founder of Carlisle’s Foodbank will continue. Alongside this are many other projects focused on diet inequality that Emma Mackie from Food Carlisle can direct you to.
  • Carlisle folk have always had to make the best use of our land.  A prime example of forward thinking comes from Evas Organics. There are many more examples all around our city from allotments to forward thinking farmers.
  • The most ambitious objective to create a long-term shift in food culture.  This is where Henrys plan leans towards the blunt instrument of legislation.  This is a very difficult way of creating change. Already the government has delayed the banning promotions on ‘High Fat Salt and Sugar’ because of the impact this would have on food inflation.  As Carlisle residents we can all play our part in our food ecosystem.  Money is getting tighter so when we treat our selves let’s look to support our local food heroes.  WE have everything from brilliant coffee shops to the Lounge on the Green, finalists in the Cumbrian Food Awards alongside the renowned Cottage in the Woods and L’Enclume.  Carlisle businesses already support their local food supply chain.  Examples we have already mentioned include Cartmell Shepherd sponsorship of This is Cumbria and the Guilds monthly get togethers at local restaurants.

Local Food Ecosystem

In many ways Carlisle has always led the UKs food and drink movement. From Carrs Biscuits founding principles of affordable biscuits to the State Management control of alcohol sales.  Let’s continue the tradition. What do you as a local business or local consumer do to support your local food ecosystem?

First published in Carlisle Living


It’s good to talk

Now more than ever it’s good to talk

Change is a constant in our life.  At the present time running a team or a business we appear to be surrounded by change.  If you have experience running things, you know the solution to a problem will pop in and out of your head when you least expect it.  In your head you have the solutions to all those niggling problems or the way you can really grab the most recent experience.  The problem is these thoughts circulate around and create noise and until you take actions they stay there constantly adding to the noise.

The best way to start to convert these ideas into actions is to talk about them.  You can do this alone or with your team.  Talking to yourself can help but you don’t always ask yourself the right questions. Talking to the team is good as long as you are ready to move the idea forward.

The third option is to talk to a mentor or a coach.  A good mentor or coach should listen to you first and then help you verbalise the next steps you need/want to take.  This allows you to continue the conversation with your team and hey presto your ideas are converted into actions.  In most cases you already have the answer, the coach/mentor is simply there to help you move those ideas on.

During ‘normal times’ we can solve most problems and grab the opportunities we want.  In changing times we often need to rethink the way we approach things.  If we don’t convert the solutions we have in our heads into action, all we end up with is noise!

So what’s the difference between a coach and a mentor?

The Coach is performance driven, and is there to improve a persons on-the-job performance.  The Mentor is absolutely development driven, looking not just at a persons on-the-job performance but looking beyond, taking a holistic approach to help a person develop and grow.

Getting the right mentor or coach

We are all different and one persons brilliant mentor might not fit another person.  Coaches have different styles and techniques that again suit different people. Word of mouth is usually a good way of identifying a good business coach or mentor.

Google search will always help you identify the type of coach you are looking for. Coaches come in all shapes and sizes. From global teams like Potential Project who help you humanise your decisions in the face of constant change . Down to local Chambers offering coaching events designed to improve specific management or leadership skills.

In the UK, Be the Business can match you with a mentor that could suit your needs, if you are interested then contact them here :  Find a business mentor | Be The Business.

90 businesses conversations and counting

We have had the privilege of having conversations with over 90 businesses in the last 9 months.

We’re not talking about the 5 minute elevator pitches over a coffee at a crowded networking event. We’re talking about actively listening to someone as they open up their hopes and dreams in front of you.  These conversations are either actively mentoring the development of leaders or coaching specific leadership skills.

There are points in life where you genuinely feel you are watching real change happen in front of you. The last 9 months were one of these times. To each and every business might we just say again a genuine thank you for your honesty and your positivity. And to the various stakeholders who helped fund some of these meetings thank you (including BEIS, Cumbria LEP and Lancaster University).

If you are waking up in the middle of the night with a brilliant idea… And then forgetting the details in the morning, then it’s time to talk.

Give your trusted mentor or coach a call.  If you haven’t got a mentor or a coach and need to talk then give us a call or an email and we can sit down and see if we are the right fit for you.



Change and the food ecosystem

Lancaster University Creating change in the food ecosystem

You may have noticed that the food ecosystem is coming to the top of many agendas.  Government and business both recognize the need for change.  The blunt instrument of legislation can create change.  But changes in legislation often have unforeseen consequences.  Change in networks like the food ecosystem works better if it is driven by people within the system.

2.5% of the population are natural innovators and always open to change.  Everett Rogers well accepted model shows once you combine the innovators with early adopters (the 13.5% of the group willing to embrace change) you have a chance of driving innovation forward. So for change to happen you start with 16% of any group.

Finding our 16%

We are supporting Lancaster University as they drive change in the food ecosystem

Simon Sinek brilliantly explains how to make change happen based on Everett Rogers model.  His 5 minute YouTube is well worth a watch.

Once we have our innovators on board we will start to spread the word across the ecosystem.

The big step will then be gaining the early majority, but that doesn’t happen until we have the 16%…one step at a time.

SMEs collectively make up 96% of the food ecosystem.  By working with the most proactive SMEs in the Northwest Lancaster aims to create a movement that will create change in the food ecosystem.

Practicalities of change

We are now rolling out the ECOi Innovation catalyst which was successfully piloted in Cumbria in 2021Jacqui from Thomas Jardine & Co is the lead facilitator for this Lancaster University project working closely with Nicola Roberts their project manager.

Jacqui leads the ‘collaboratories’ . Enabling the task forces to drive the change agenda.  Lancaster University supports these groups with a multitude of resources from academics to engagement fellows to innovation and ecosystem expertise.

The great joy is working with businesses who are giving their time to become part of the task forces who are driving the first step of change.

Lancaster, llamas and change

The second “collaboratory” of the Lancashire group was held at the end of March and recruitment has already started for Merseyside.  This was hosted at the brilliant Wellbeing Farm  a B Corp business just outside of Bolton. The Lancashire task force: Ian Steel, Lee Sanderson, Chris Dew, Celia Gaze, Adrian Moeckell and Raphael Ogunrinde have now set two main Net Zero objectives to look at.  These are tackling ‘waste in food & drink’ and ‘packaging & transport’.

We know, creating change is challenging but ultimately rewarding.  We are looking forward to see how this will roll out across the North West.  Call us if you want to know more or join the Merseyside task force.


Be the Business Mentoring

We wanted to share this opportunity with our network. We know  that one of the most effective ways of developing leadership and management skills and improving business performance is through business mentoring.

Be the Business is an independent, not-for-profit movement. Their mission is to help UK businesses improve their productivity and performance.

The Be the Business Mentoring programme matches experienced executives from some of the UKs leading firms with small business leaders that want to develop their skills and build their business.

Experienced business mentors from leading firms can provide a much needed sounding board for difficult decisions and help small business leaders build a plan for business growth.

The mentor and mentee register on their digital platform and are matched rapidly according to their business needs, experience and skillsets.

Mentoring relationships are offered for either

12 months to focus on long term growth, or for

12 weeks to address specific issues and challenges.

There are no charges or fees for the programme. If you want to know more either give us a shout or contact Sheena McDermott from Be the Business direct.

Global Cumbria

Have you noticed, Cumbria has gone Global

We really noticed last week how global Cumbria has become. It shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise.  We are getting used to global workers here at the Guild in Carlisle.

Last week just demonstrated the extent of the reach that businesses from our region have.  What we are starting to see are more and more projects from our region that have a genuine national and global reach.

Our contribution

We are used to working with partners and this gives us opportunity to lever our impact beyond that of our own local network.  A good example of this is our work with Lancaster University’s U Start program.  U Start is designed to support Lancaster University’s students, post graduate students and ex students who want to start their own business.  Thomas Jardine’s role is to run 1-2-1 sessions with these students.  As we start our fourth cohort we are truly impressed with the width and depth of these businesses.  From the Guild in Carlisle we are coaching students from across the UK, Europe, India and the Middle East.  These students are starting businesses from creative industry to health to solving todays supply chain issues and everything in-between.

Businesses from Cumbria LEPs network

Again working with partners we have worked with Cumbria LEP for two years now delivering part of their Peer Network and 1-2-1 business support.

It is always surprising the modesty of the businesses we have met during these two years.  From a global perspective some have the visible exports, some encourage global visitors and many just quietly work alongside national and global partners.  Unless you talk to these folk you wouldn’t actually know they had national and global reach.

Moving the Cumbrian Carbon Foot Print Project on

Last year we helped run the pilot for ECOi in Cumbria.  We were delighted to find out that this is been rolled out to Lancashire. It is also set to be expanded across the North West.  It is extremely gratifying to see how a project tested in Cumbria is starting to move out nationally and results from this will help solve the global problems around carbon and the food sector.  So the pilot from Cumbria is having an impact far outside our county.

It’s the odd conversations that really show Global Cumbria

Because of COVID , storms and everything else we had three social events this week at the Guild.  This is not a problem, it just gave us a chance to catch up.  This is when we realized how truly global Cumbria is becoming.

At a meal out we introduced our German Guilder to Lou who chatted about her plans to attend two animation conferences in the USA with her brilliant Plus 3K business.

After a round of crazy golf a few of us retired to Brewdogs.  There we were part of a conversation between Ricky one of the Guilders who has just got a contract to run part of the cloud technology for a Princeton University Project.  A Guilder who runs IT security for International companies then joined the conversation.  We learned so much around internet security!


We finished the week off with a round of clay pigeon shooting at Westlands Country Park.  Over lunch Dan from Sparrow Digital shared a story of how he won an all expenses snow board trip to the USA.  He deserved it, he runs a brilliant web development and Shopify business.

We are global , we all just don’t know it yet.

Go on scratch the Cumbrian surface you will find so many global connections. By all means share your global stories with us .  Cumbria is big and it is clever.






Lead like a ‘bat out of hell’

How do you lead?

The last couple of years have truly tested leadership skills.  Many of us now feel we need to retune our leadership style.  This isn’t a seismic shift in our styles just  a check that we are still leading our teams in the direction we want to go in.

Different goals

We all build our lives differently. As leaders and managers we all have goals we aim for. These goals can be transient and can be left behind. Or goals can be attached to our very soul and can’t be let go. One persons driving ambition may seem a folly to another. The trick is not to let go of what you really want to do.

Different theme tunes

In a way this is reflected in our different tastes in music. We all have different tracks that just hit our sole. That means we all have musicians who we have never met who have had a huge effect on our lives.

One of ours was Meatloaf a highly unlikely rock star who sadly left us this January.

Why ‘Bat out of Hell?’

Meatloaf’s iconic theme tune ‘Bat of Hell‘ will not be to everyone’s tastes. Now, if you have time, please bear with me and listen to the words in the track carefully.

Clearly the character in the song had issues BUT nothing including death would divert him from his goal.

Ask yourself how strongly are you attached to your organizations goals? More importantly how attached is your team to the goals you are aiming for?

Tuning in

These last few months we have worked with students on the very start of building their businesses, with Cumbrian Businesses building and growing their businesses and with individuals and organizations giving their time to help fix global problems around carbon emissions and the the faltering health system.

 Creating a solution

We are now working with a small group to build a leadership program for businesses with a turnover of £4m – £50m here in the North that will be second to none.

If you are interested in creating a business community that will achieve its goals please give us a call now: phone, email details here

If your not ready to lead like a bat out of hell BUT want to shout about how you are achieving your goals please share what you’ve done with us on Facebook, Linked in or Twitter…let’s make a change today.

All change

All change (again)

Did you know ” may you live in interesting times” is an English translation of a Chinese curse?  We are all living in “interesting times”.  Sometimes it feels like a curse , other times it feels like a huge opportunity.

Take last week…

Global change

In a meeting with Be the Business, Jacqui heard from another business that Chinese manufacturers are now working every other day.  We will let you think about how that will effect the global supply chain.

Conversations with businesses across the country highlight the shortfall in applicants for all sorts of jobs. It’s not just HGV drivers.  Then we hear other businesses are reporting shortages in everything from sugar to wood.

And on Wednesday, listening to  Jezz Fanzo speaking at the City University we heard the delicate balance of change required to achieve future human and planetary health.

Businesses dealing with change

There are three groups of people that make business work: customers, people in our business and suppliers.  Businesses develop their strategies to ensure they get the most from these groups.  As Albert Einstein said ” We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them”.

At the moment it is not enough just to solve the problems you may have created. The last three months have seen dramatic changes in the circumstances and attitudes of all three groups (customers, people and suppliers). This means business have to find solutions for all parts of their business.  In normal times we only had to fix problems for customers or suppliers or our team NOW it is everyone.

At an IFB event we saw how established family businesses are identifying the right type of NED into their business to help navigate change. Increasingly family firms are looking for NED Expertise in specialisms that didn’t exist twenty years ago.

Our first peer group of this season focused a lot of time on managing and leading change.  This was the same for our mentoring sessions that all saw the speed of change businesses are currently facing.

Are we keeping up?

How do we keep up with change? Where are the credible sources?

In previous times of change official statistics and academic journals quickly appeared to fall behind current business reality.  This is because their very nature is to capture what is happening NOT guide the future. Trade events were always  a great way to see the barometer for your sector, but were expensive and with travel could be time consuming.

BUT times have changed, the virtual world is now speeding up communications between business and ‘credible’ information sources.  Last week we ‘attended’ a virtual session on the food supply chain with the City University in London.  We also attended the Institute for Family Businesses launch of its new guide for recruiting Non-Executive Directors And Jacqui attended her virtual meeting of Lancaster University’s Leaders in Residence

We got our weekly updates from the Office for National Statistics keeping us up to date with national trends.

At the same time we attended local face to face meetings with Carlisle Food City at the Civic Centre and virtual local meetings with Carlisle Culture.

Keeping up is now a hybrid mix of virtual and real meetings.  The world is literally coming towards your laptop/smart phone and post COVID we can now also meet up in person again.

Times have changed

We are now in a new world. Let’s not try to grab old world opportunities. Embrace change but don’t get buried by it.

If you want to talk (face to face, on the phone or via zoom) about the changes you want to make then give us a call.




Use your time wisely….TRUST


How do you use your time?

There are moments in time that just stick with you.  The other day I heard Noel Fitzpatrick (AKA ‘the supervet’) on Desert Island Discs. Apart from his great taste in music I was struck by some of his observations on life.  The main one came from his father.  It was simple but profound advice “use your time wisely“.

This maybe stuck because that week our On It club had used open questions to see if I should spend time on a project that has been  bubbling along in the background.

We all try to save time or use time efficiently.  How many of us truly use time wisely?

Doing the impossible

This takes me to the second quote from Noel.  This comes directly from a farmer named Larry: “sure everything is impossible until it happens

Impossible, from the positive side: How many times have you faced ‘impossible deadlines’ and made them with time to spare?  How many time have you fixed your work life balance and still kept your business going?

Impossible, from a negative side: How many times have you missed a deadline because of reasons outside of the partners control? How many times have you lost your work life balance despite having both a flexible business model and a flexible family life?

If use time wisely and make good things happen then we can achieve the ‘impossible’.  But, if we use time stupidly we are in danger of allowing ‘impossible scenarios’ to happen to the detriment of our business and our personal life.

It’s our choice.

We all need a time monitor

We all know we can only spend the money available to us .  This income is made up of either a regular salary, profit available from our business or a credit stream from an outside source.  Once we have used this income up we have to wait for the next payment into our cash reserves.

Time is unusual.  We all start the day with 24 hours and no matter what we do with those hours we all get the opportunity to use another 24 hours the next day…

People would argue that it is impossible to use all those hours  wisely.  Perhaps we should all try to prove these people wrong.

Banks and accountants monitors your money spend.  Who monitors how you spend your time?

Most people might say that business/work and family are the main monitors of our time. Perhaps the true measure is that voice in your head that tells you if you have had a good or bad day and if you used your time wisely or wasted it.

What we really need is a time monitor that checks in with not how we used our time BUT if we used our time wisely.

Time Reclaimed = Unscrambling noise + Staying on Track

Our best time monitor is the little voice in our own head.  It will either be very quiet because you are using your time wisely or it will be constantly niggling away at your thoughts.  We can reclaim future wise time by clearing out all the noise that takes us to unwise time.  We can keep hold of that time by staying on track with our time for our personal and business life.

It’s a simple equation. Time Reclaimed = Unscrambling noise + Staying on Track or TR=U+ST

Back to On It and Peer Groups.

There is something about letting that voice in your head out into the real world.  We work with businesses all the time. We help them face change and fix on how to grow their business.  To do this we allow them to focus on what they want and how they are going to get there.  From then on we support their efforts use their time wisely to achieve these goals.

Without doubt the best way to support change is action learning in a business peer group (be it an informal group like the On It club or a formal group like the Peer Networks from BEIS). The other way of creating a small peer group is to work directly with facilitators like ourselves who help hold you directly to your plans and actions  as they evolve over time.

Time is the biggest thing people say they haven’t got. Have you worked out whose eating your time?  Do you need help with TR=U+ST ?

Let’s fix this. Email us now, or even immediately!

Future of Retail: Challenge or Opportunity?

Future of retail?

Has retail got a future? Yes.  Will it be the same as it was? No and yes.

We have been in retail for ever!  Jacqui was brought up in a family retail business.  Her earliest memories are of delivering groceries with her dad on a Saturday afternoon. Keith was a relative late comer.  His first Saturday job was a petrol pump attendant. Earliest memories were cold numb hands from filling cars with petrol all day.

We joined Jacqui’s family grocery business at a time when the future of grocery retail was the giant sheds of the supermarkets and ‘experts’ were predicting the total demise of petrol forecourts. Do we still have grocery and petrol forecourts? Yes.  Have they changed? Yes and no!

We were in at the beginning of ‘convenience retailing’.  We helped develop the concept.  Jacqui became Retail Vice Chair of the National Guild of SPAR representing convenience retailers from across the UK and working with government on multiple retail issues.  Convenience retailing became the future of independent grocers and independent petrol forecourts.  The multiple retailers were slow to react to this new sector but eventually created their own versions.  So the experts predicted the end of independent convenience stores. Has the convenience sector got a future? Yes.  Will it be the same as it was ? No and yes, in an ironic twist an independent convenience retailers ( Mohsin and Zuber Issa) have now bought ASDA.

Retail is community…

Good retail, whatever it size or product, is embedded in its community.  Our proudest moment was been awarded the UK National Neighbourhood Store Award.  Good retail reaches out to  its customers, its community and its suppliers.  That’s why Tescos and all the other large grocery retailers CSR policies shout about their social impact.  It is not a coincidence that ‘community focused’ large grocery chains have survived whilst non community focused fashion retailers such as Arcadia have not.

Retail does not happen in a vacuum.  Cathy Parker of The Institute of Place Management is constantly driving the message home that the high street is a community that survives if it meets the specific needs of its ecosystem.

Online shopping is growing because it creates an online community of buyers and sellers that understand each others needs.  At the same time speciality shops are flourishing.  Holly Shackleton of the Speciality Food Magazine regularly shines a torch on the growth of this sector.

James Lowman of the Association of Convenience Stores advocates that good local retail when it is allowed to open belongs to its local community.  We captured many heart warming stories of the difference local retailers made during the lockdowns. We were extremely proud when one of them was recognised in the Queens New Years  Honours List.  It’s a shame that there wasn’t more recognition for the thousands of local retailers who stepped up to the plate.

Do community retailers have a future? Yes. Will it be the same as it was? Yes they will still be part of their community and no, the ways they interact with their community will change and their definition of local will embrace an online community.

Challenges or opportunities?

Life is full of change.  Change is always a challenge and an opportunity.  We sold our retail business a few years ago and the challenge was we had no qualification to prove we were retailers.   This led to the opportunity to complete a Masters Degree in Business Management.

From the Masters degree, we were then given huge opportunities to work within the HE Sector.  Jacqui focused on family businesses, Keith focused on the supply chain.  We started PhDs, we worked with government, we lectured, presented conference papers, we developed business programmes and we missed business!

So we started the Guild and went back to working directly with businesses.

One of our first roles as Thomas Jardine & Co was to advise a group of small retailers on how to stop a giant Tesco store been built on the edge of their market town.  We are not anti Tesco, we just want retail to have a level playing field.  Our role was to demonstrate to the local decision makers the depth and impact of the supply chains to the local retail community.  The plans for Tesco didn’t go ahead and it’s satisfying to see how well these local supply chains served the local community during lock down.

As retail develops all retail models face challenges.  If the retailer does not adapt to these challenges then a new retailer will see the opportunity and can then eventually replace the old retailer.  If the retailer adapts and changes to the new community challenges then they have a future but they will have changed. The retail market is now adapting to a post lock down world (Retail Gazette).

Solving challenges and opportunities.

Retail is about changing to the needs of your community. The best way to solve a challenge or take an opportunity is to do something about it.  The hardest thing is deciding what to do and then sticking to it.

The best way of thinking and doing is committing to a peer group. By sharing your thoughts and actions with a group of peers you will both decide what to do and then do it.  It is that simple.  Find a group of peers and get on with it.  We did this via the National Guild of SPAR.  What’s more, we are still doing this with the businesses we work with.  We are starting new peer groups with the Cumbria Peer to Peer Network.  The best thing is that places (for qualifying businesses) are fully funded by the Cumbria LEP.  If you are a retailer and want to share your experiences with us and other businesses that are part of your community then do get in touch.