Rolling in the dough
TOM O’TOOLE IS THE TYPE OF BUSINESSMAN WHO EMBODIES THE DEFINITION OF WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN AUSTRALIAN. HARD WORKING, READY TO LEND A HAND AND FULL OF SPIRIT. HIS JOURNEY HAS NOT BEEN A SMOOTH RIDE, BUT EVERY OUNCE OF HIS SUCCESS CAN BE ATTRIBUTED TO ONE SINGLE STRATEGY – HARD WORK. TOM OFTEN ATTRIBUTES HIS MOTIVATION FOR SUCCESS TO HIS CHILDHOOD OF POVERTY. FROM A YOUNG AGE HE WAS DRIVEN TO TURN HIS LIFE AROUND TO CREATE A BETTER FUTURE. WITH LIMITED SCHOOLING AND THE CHALLENGE OF A LEARNING DISABILITY, TOM UNDERSTOOD THERE WAS ONLY ONE WAY TO IMPROVE HIS SITUATION AND THAT DEPENDED ENTIRELY ON HIM. FOUR DECADES LATER AND TOM IS THE OWNER OF AUSTRALIA’S MOST SUCCESSFUL STANDALONE RETAIL BAKERY BUSINESS, BEECHWORTH BAKERIES. THINK BUSINESS MAGAZINE CHATS WITH TOM ABOUT HIS REMARKABLE TRANSFORMATION FROM BAKER’S APPRENTICE TO SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS OWNER, SPEAKER AND MENTOR.
think: What were the defining factors that transformed your business from a start-up to a fully-fledged company?
After the break-down of my marriage I was forced to ask for help with the aspects of the business I didn’t know about. This was a huge challenge for me but also a great help because I had to learn how to take care of my business. It also prompted me to change my management style and get my staff involved. It gave them a sense of ownership, which inspired them to help make the business a success.
think: As your business expanded to include branches in other towns how did you establish and maintain connections with each community?
In the beginning it was difficult because I was determined to give back to each community in a big way, but it was also very rewarding to build meaningful connections. We do a lot of sponsorship, we employ locals and we do a lot of demonstrations and giveaways at community events.
think: How do you stay connected to employees that are geographically spread out?
As well as taking to time to regularly visit the different stores we have a monthly in-house newsletter for all staff and the store managers stay in contact with each other through group messaging. We also make a point of having our management meetings in person.
think: How do you continue to motivate yourself after so long in the same industry?
I’ve been in the baking industry since I was 16 and in the beginning money motivated me to relieve me of poverty. I’m still passionate about the industry because my team motivate me, I remember to be grateful for what I have and remind myself where I came from. I subscribe to every baking magazine in the country plus some overseas publications to keep up with what is happening in the industry and I give myself the task of going to the gaol every week and talking to prisoners about making life changes. Most of all I try to be grateful.
think: How does Australia’s culture impact how you run your business?
We are a country style business, we embrace and promote the Australian culture as part of our brand, because it helps us with our business values. This has helped to increase our customer base to include the tourist demographic.
think: What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far as a leader?
Asking for help, learning how to let go in order to grow and giving staff the space and freedom to take control.
think: Do you believe start-up businesses have it easier these days?
I think the rules and regulations that businesses have to follow now compared to 40 years ago make it harder, but I also think there are more opportunities than ever before. We are no longer restricted by our location because of the access to resources that technology offers.
think: What do you feel are the biggest changes to the Australian Business landscape in the last few decades?
Mainly technology and social media. They have connected the world instantly.
think: What is the one piece of business advice you would like to pass onto the next generation?
The importance of helping people and not being too proud to ask for help when you need it.
think: If you could change one part of your career what would it be?
Learn to work ON my business earlier instead of always working IN my business because working in my business is staying in my comfort zone so it was easy for me to do, but I wasn’t pushing myself. I wish I had thought bigger. Had a bigger vision for myself earlier.
Top principles to business success
My business has been and always will be about people, not about the product
It is vital to treat each and every customer as an individual
Always be available to serve your customers’ needs consistently
To find out more about Tom’s inspirational speaking events, visit: