This blog post was produced for inclusion in the Birmingham Economic Review for 2021.
The annual Birmingham Economic Review is produced by the University of Birmingham’s City-REDI and the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce. It is an in-depth exploration of the economy of England’s second city and a high-quality resource for informing research, policy and investment decisions.
This post is featured in Chapter 3 of the Birmingham Economic Review for 2021, on the city’s labour market and current and future challenges
Click here to read the Review.
In 2019 the Wouhra family sold East End Foods, a business we collectively worked on for 50 years and by the sale it was one of the most successful businesses in its industry within Europe which many of you will recognise as you hopefully have East End Foods products in your kitchen cupboards!
We recognised the potential the Wholesale Division had and as I was looking for the next challenge as an entrepreneur, I along with my Wife, Father, Mother, and Brother embarked on the process of buying back the wholesale division from the Private Equity buyers, which some would say was crazy! Our cash and carry business was a £160million turn over start up, and following the Wouhra’s stepping away from the business, to reach our goal of growing it three-fold in 5 years, we knew we would need to hire a new management team and supporting teams. Together we could cultivate the organisational culture that we wanted, one that would be completely different from the old East End Foods culture.
At Lioncroft we wanted to hire a diverse group of people, introducing younger minds into the mix of established staff who have been working with us for many years. Creating diverse teams mean you will create well rounded ways of doing things, as everyone will bring with them their own experiences and ideas. When you create a mixed team of different ages, genders, backgrounds, and such it is important to keep everyone feeling welcomed and safe within their workplace; this is something we take seriously. We try to pair new hires with current staff so that work ethics, best practices and general knowledge is passed on and developed but we do continue to work with our staff to develop this further regardless of how long they have been working with us.
Keeping everyone safe was one of our top priorities when we began hiring new teams at the beginning of the Pandemic in early March 2020. As we were considered essential workers in the food industry, it was imperative we supported our staff both in coming into work and knowing that they were able to take the time off to self-isolate if required. We quickly adhered to the government guidelines and introduced safety procedures and procured PPE for all staff who needed it. Additionally, when it became available, all staff members were offered the first dose of the vaccine during work hours so those who wanted it were able to have it without needing to take time off. If your staff feel safe at work, then they will be able to come in and offer the same outstanding services they offered under normal circumstances, and this was true at Lioncroft.
We now find that not everyone is looking for a short-term job anymore, which perfectly suits the way we want to build our workplace as we want to encourage and enable our staff to stay with us long term and build a career with us. We offer in house training to ensure everyone is equipped with the knowledge they need to do the job and going forward we intend to put staff that benefit from it, through certain qualifications. We are open with our staff that there will be opportunities that present themselves for all who want them, and that we will promote from within those who show that they have the work ethic we seek and work hard and recruit for the more junior roles.
We wanted a light-hearted and open workplace where every staff member is encouraged to speak up, share ideas and opinions and grow as people. So, we created a shallow hierarchy and an open-door policy for the management team mean every colleague has access to any member of staff they need to speak to, including myself. A good business culture will pay for itself, and so we pride ourselves on ensuring the business is the grounds for positivity, hard work and fun. Though we may not have team-building days at the moment due to covid issues, we regularly engage with our staff to build up relationships with everyone and get to know our staff.
To us, no one is a number, first and foremost they are people and this respect we give our staff is returned in ten-fold because everyone is happy to come to work and perform at their best when they are here. Our staff who are treated with respect, are supported, and valued give our customers the same respect and level of understanding so they can offer the best support they can. Because at the heart of any good business, is a group of good people and with this at the heart of our culture, we know that we can propel the business forward and reach any goal we set our minds too, together.