What do 10 years in business look like? Of course, the reality of 10 years hard work can look dramatically different from business to business. While some could be growing steadily, others might be on the road to collapse. But anyone who manages to keep a business running for 10 years, regardless of the level of success they have experienced, will doubtless have learned a lot of hard lessons along the way.
In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the UK fruit delivery firm Fruitful Office, an organisation that in its 10 years to date has grown from two-man band to a company that now operates in five countries across Europe. We’ll look at a few of the challenges it has faced as well as some of the key reasons behind its success.
Introducing Fruitful Office
Fruitful Office is a business that delivers fresh fruit to workplaces, initially in London and across the UK, and now in Ireland, Holland, Germany and Belgium as well. The firm has a challenging business model, with fruit being so highly perishable. That means, to maintain the quality the firm has become known for, a tight and widespread distribution network with a large number of local suppliers is essential.
The other notable challenge the business faced initially was the economic recession of 2007-2008. Despite high levels of business failure at the time, the firm not only survived but also experienced high levels of growth. But what is the secret of this success story? We spoke to the brand’s co-founder Vasco de Castro, to find out more…
Building the team
In the early days, Vasco de Castro and his fellow co-founder Daniel Ernst had real problems trying to find reliable staff who could work the unsociable 4.30am to 8.30am fruit packing shift. They learnt that if they wanted to have a team they could rely on, they needed to find people who really cared about the success of the business as if it were their own. “As the business grows, you simply can’t do everything and be everywhere, so you have to surround yourself with a great team you trust and feel comfortable delegating.”
Unfortunately, building such a team is easier said than done. That’s why they took important steps to empower their workers and make sure there were always plenty of opportunities for development and training. And of course, they always made sure their team had their five-a-day! Here are a few other tips to help engage your team.
Processes and controls
Given the complex business model, putting in place processes and controls that could be built on as the business grew was vital. Maintaining the quality and consistency of the fruit as the business grew from a company supplying five workplaces to 5000 workplaces was undoubtedly the biggest challenge de Castro and Ernst had to overcome.
As de Castro says: “The entire logistics around this is incredibly challenging. It involved setting up complex management systems and local distribution hubs throughout the country so we could be the local supplier for all our customers.”
Thinking beyond the business
As well as delivering a high-quality product and offering excellent customer service, de Castro and Ernst have always been motivated to look beyond the business and work towards a number of social and environmental causes. They have committed to an ambitious reforestation programme in Malawi and also support a number of causes closer to home.
What does your business look like after 10 years? What have been the key challenges you’ve had to overcome? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.