People and businesses everywhere have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. But here in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, some businesses have done more than just survive. Many have changed business models, working practices or even completely pivoted to a very different economy, and some have even helped people or businesses in what is a very human crisis.
In this series of articles businesses share their stories and some of the pearls of wisdom they have picked up along the way.
Whilst everyone has done something different, they’ve also all benefited from some of the business support available – that can also help your business to thrive, not just survive.
We spoke to: Jacob and Richard, Director and Business Development Manager
Company name: Trentham Foods, Tittensor, Staffordshire
Business activity (day job): Specialists in the bulk supply of poultry and a comprehensive range of fresh and frozen meats.
Business activity during (Covid-19): Specialists in bulk-supply, and now bespoke packages of ‘product and delivery’ depending on the needs of the client
Pearls of wisdom to thrive not just survive: Be agile, do not accept a no-win scenario, get the help that is out there.
Looking at the individual client’s needs as a whole
Founded by Daren Durkin in 2006 and accelerated with the addition of son Jacob and a wider team in 2013, supplier of bulk-meats Trentham Foods was growing steadily by as much as 50% year on year. Then coronavirus hit.
“Our core business was to catering butchers who in turn supply the hospitality trade. So, you can imagine that the effect of lockdown was almost immediate,” explains Jacob.
We’re a small team but we wanted to protect jobs and the business that we had worked so hard to build up – we didn’t accept that this was a no-win scenario!”
Rather than feel paralysed by their core source of cash coming to an abrupt halt, they turned their attention to implementing plans that they had already in mind to modernise the business, but just hadn’t got around to yet.
“It’s fair to say that our plans to modernise over three years happened in three months,” continues Jacob. “We knew that we needed to spread the risk and develop more lines of income, and that actually we needed to branch out from our core activity that was essentially just supply.
“But what we did first was get help from the Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce to make sure we were doing what we needed to be doing, Covid-secure wise, but also to investigate what support was out there. Workshops and conversations with the business advisors from the Growth Hub made us realise that we needed to diversify our customer base, and that our website was no longer the perfect fit for what we did and were planning to do. They helped us access funding from the Grants for Growth fund to tackle that.”
Trentham Foods is now a business that has diversified its offering and customer base and worked hard to grow back to where they were before the pandemic hit. But what did they do back then at the critical time?
Richard states – “A CRM database was put in place and by contacting old and new clients, we reaffirmed our instincts that you could no longer just supply pallets of meat to customers to be successful.
“We had to become a solutions provider to each customer – bespoke to their needs. The one size fits all approach is out,” It’s a whole new market now – it completely re-evaluated itself”.
Continues Richard – “Now it’s about the right quantities of product delivered at the right time – so now we’re just as much about delivery and logistics using the just-in-time ethos as we are about supplying the product. The standard now is being master of logistics in addition to offering high quality product. We now offer the complete package of service – product and delivery. You can’t afford to just have a product focus these days. You’ve got to listen to the customer and adapt to them. We’re setting new standards.”
Wise words for many businesses.
Trentham Foods now has a few different product ranges and is recruiting additional team members with new and established revenue streams at the core of the business.
“There’s always potential economic shocks on the horizon – granted Covid-19 was the biggest,” Jacob sums up, “but for us the philosophy is the same. Don’t accept a no-win scenario. Take a holistic view of your customers’ individual needs. Adapt to them.”
With the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme now making a difference, their core business is returning.
“But adaptability and diverse revenue streams is the key. Don’t put your eggs in one basket.”
Follow Trentham Food’s lead with business support bespoke to you.
Trentham Foods has accessed a range of business support to help them through the crisis, including:
- Workshops and support from the Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce
- The Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Growth Hub – business support and access to the Grant for Growth scheme to help develop their website.
- The Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Skills Hub – to support staff training and access to funds for that training