This post includes a video from Chris Creed, MD of Creed Foodservice who is on the LEAD programme talking about Employee Engagement together with the full version of the article in the September edition of Gloucestershire business magazine Agenda, in my regular column 'The Game Changer'.

Creed Foodservice supply caterers nationwide with food products and not only are one of the largest independent family businesses in Gloucestershire, they are also amongst the fastest growing. Since being on the LEAD programme, Chris Creed has wanted to develop an empowerment programme into the family business.

"We've always been quite an engaged business, but empowerment was something we always struggled with. We have now created a Lean Team and the Lean Team have been responsible and accountable for their decision-making and taking those decisions below the executive level."

You can see Chris on

The Game Changer

If running a business is not difficult enough, add in the family and succession then you really do have a plateful.

This was what the family at Creed Foodservice was facing only a few short years ago.

The drive and energy of the Creed brothers Chris, Paul, Philip and Steven enabled the company to grow, doubling in size to a turnover of �15m.

However over the next couple of years the family felt that the business had 'stagnated' and was not achieving the levels of growth they believed possible, Chris's time was also being demanded by the foodservice buying group he and other like minded entrepreneurs formed.

Chris and the other members of the family involved in the day to day running of the business discussed the issues and agreed unanimously that the way forward was to restructure the senior management team, as well as a new family ownership structure.

This signalled a major change for the business. Many family-owned and run businesses find change of this magnitude uncomfortable and difficult to deal with. For the Creed family, the consultative process they undertook gave them the confidence to go ahead.

There were two key principles the family agreed:

  • Key family members would remain in non Executive board roles that 'added value' to the business.
  • Chris, with his in depth industry knowledge, would be responsible for selecting and recruiting a new executive management team.

A new team was duly recruited covering the key functions of, operations/distribution, commercial/marketing, sales and finance, all of whom would report into Chris.

The new structure was a game changer for the business.

Today, by any measure, the company is a success.

The business has grown to circa �50m employing almost 300 people and will double in size again in the next few years. The company has acquired a second distribution site in Derbyshire thus extending its market reach. It is multi award-winning and recognised nationally for its expertise within the industry.

Much work is done with staff improving communication, recognising good work, training and developing people at all levels. A 'lean' team works with staff to drive new ideas and continuous improvement. Every day, and on the night shift, you will find Chris walking around the business engaging with managers and employees. He adopts a highly visible and open leadership style.

Operationally, Creed Foodservice is impressive. It distributes tonnes of ambient and frozen food, fresh meat prepared in its own butchery, fresh produce, as well as chilled, dairy and non-food products to thousands of clients, all of which requires immense coordination. Orders taken in the afternoon are delivered the following morning to chefs' kitchens across the Midlands and South. This personal service and attention to detail sets Creed Foodservice apart. Their on-time delivery performance surpasses the world-class benchmark.

The family are not resting on their laurels. They know that to double the size of the business the company must change again, and change continuously.

Chris and the executive management team have segmented their market place and have a clear focus on the needs of their customers in each segment. The company distinguishes itself in the market by being innovative, bringing new food from new suppliers to enhance and develop menus. Change is an ever constant. Continuous improvement and innovation are business drivers. Everywhere in Creed Foodservice you see managers and staff driving the change ensuring customers experience a high level of service.

As for the family, today three other members are still very much involved, filling the key non Exec. roles of IT Director where they have seen on-line ordering reach 10% of turnover in less than a year, Fresh Director where their fresh business has doubled in the past 18 months and Sustainability Director who has collected three national environmental awards in the last year.

Leading change is one of the most difficult leadership roles. Chris Creed, and his team at Creed Foodservice embrace change and they are another great example of a successful Gloucestershire business.

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