By Empowering Workers, Food Businesses Win

Most food and farm business leaders know the value of a strong, engaged, committed team. But for those organizations deemed essential, operating through the COVID-19 pandemic has brought this into even sharper focus. They understand that their employees are on the front lines, continuing to work hard even despite the risks, to ensure Americans stay nourished and the company stays afloat. And for their teams’ dedication, the CEOs and founders whom FFI works with all say they are extremely grateful.

It’s experiences like this that really test businesses and show what—and who—they are made of. Companies rooted in values, with a clear mission and a culture of employee engagement and empowerment, have been better equipped to navigate the pandemic and recent racial tensions facing our society. Now, that’s not to say some amazing food and farm businesses haven’t faltered in these challenging economic times due to circumstances beyond their control. But in general, the current climate has demonstrated clearly that empathetic leadership, an inclusive company culture and a highly valued workforce matter.

Put simply, take care of your team and they’ll take care of you. Show them daily that you believe in their skills and talents, and they’ll rise to challenges. Give them responsibilities, and they’ll go above and beyond. And during a pandemic, make extra efforts to support and safeguard them—including inviting them to share their concerns and questions on the matter—and they will feel valued and heard and, in turn, supported and safe.

Sadie Scheffer, founder and CEO of gluten-free sourdough brand Bread SRSLY and Tera’s latest Edible-Alpha® podcast guest, is a great example of this type of leader. For the last several years, she has been working hard to make her organization less hierarchical and to cultivate leaders in as many areas as possible. As a result, her team gets behind the company’s mission and values, and there is now a very low turnover rate. Even as the pandemic drove demand for Bread SRSLY products through the roof, Sadie and her fellow leaders proved how much they value their team by dialing back capacity—and even shutting down for a few weeks—to ensure everyone’s safety.

It typically takes an upfront investment, in both time and money, to really, truly engage and care for employees and to nurture aspiring leaders. That’s why when businesses are hell-bent on operating in the most efficient manner possible, these things can fall by the wayside. But in the end, they almost always prove to be worth the investment. Workers work harder, achieve more and stay with the company longer, all of which pay off long-term.

Tera talks more about Sadie’s work and affirming organizational culture in our huddle notes from August 10th.

Webinar: New Opportunities for Farm Businesses
Join FFI director Tera Johnson for an engaging session on emerging economic opportunities and trends in diversified farming. Part of our new Farm Business Initiative, this webinar will cover what these enterprises look like, how COVID has impacted them and how rural communities can leverage diversified farms in economic development.

When: Tuesday, September 22, 1 to 3 p.m. CDT. Registration: FREE

And now, our roundup of the best food and beverage finance news, events and resources from around the web…

Consultant With TabletBusiness Model Insights

Raising CapitalRaising Capital

National Wholesale BrandsCPG/National Brands

Grocery Store Produce Section Market Trends

Regenerative AgricultureFarming and AgTech

Mergers And AcquisitionsDeals/M&A

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