Words and Deeds

Creed Foodservice, one of the UK’s leading independent family-owned foodservice wholesalersputs trust and belief at the heart of its growing business. Chris Creed, Chief Executive, tells Leading why. 

“Employee engagement is fundamental. Everything else follows from that. 

This was what I came to understand from my time on LEAD. It’s all about how we deal with people. We’ve all had to learn that, as a leadership team 

There was no single lightbulb moment for me, it just all stacked up. LEAD was the catalyst for me learning this really important lesson. I think about it a lot, actually. 

Culture change has a massive impact on the business. We’ve simplified our values, which are ‘commercial, friendly, nurturing and proud’.  

The boss has to drive it. I have to demonstrate it all the time and so does my senior team – otherwise it’s just a joke. It wouldn’t mean anything. 

Sometimes that’s inconvenient, to be honest. It takes thought and time and it’s easier to take short cuts when you’re busy. But you’ve got to do things properly. What does it say to everyone else if they think we’re not demonstrating the things we say are most valued by the business? 

Actions and consequences 

The firm is expected to grow turnover from £63m to £72m this year. Embedding the values within systems is supporting this expansion. 

“When we’re recruiting, interviews are all about attitude, not what’s on the CV. 

And then we have an excellent induction programme that lasts a month – everyone does it, whether they’re a driver or a chef. The feedback from staff is great, they say that they really understand the business.” 

So, does the 20-60-20 rule apply in Creed? Are there still some doubters in the ‘bottom 20%’? 

I was talking to staff recently at our new distribution depot in High Wycombe, delivering to customers in London and the South East, and when we spoke about the values I could see some sceptical faces looking at me. 

I told them, this is seriousIt’s who we are and how we run our business. People who share these values do great here, because they get it. But if you don’t think it’s important then probably this isn’t the right place for you. There have to be consequences for breaking the values. 

The key is to find the right people, and then support them so that they have every opportunity to do their best – to succeed. 

Hesitant newcomers aside, there’s clearly a majority who are big believers in the Creed Way. The firm was recently announced as ‘Best Companies One Star’ accredited, following a company-wide employee survey completed by 76% of the 315-strong workforce, achieving a score of more than 660 points.  

This recent best companies accreditation standard moved Creed up from the previous year’s ‘one to watch’ rating. 

Belief and trust 

“Our staff are excellent. We get great feedback from customers; huge £100m+ companies who notice and comment upon the friendly and professional attention they get. 

Recently, we were delivering in the middle of the night to a customer that was opening a new café in London. When the driver arrived the customer didn’t have the right keys for the unit so they couldn’t unload. Instead of returning to the depot, the driver stayed until the new keys could be fetched. The most important thing to him was to do his job well – to make sure his customer could open for business the next day. 

That’s just one story but there are countless others of people going the extra mile, of giving more. 

When we asked staff about what the values mean to them and what they felt about Creed, many people talked about ‘belief’. They believe in what they’re doing, they believe that the business is doing the right things and that we can achieve our goals. 

That’s why we’ve created a new strapline ‘Believe in More’. Creed is full of people who are ambitious, who keep striving for more. Our Believe in More’ ethos is all about; thinking more, doing more and being more than just a foodservice provider.” 

The next step for us is to introduce team recognition, and we’re working towards achieving a two-star Best Companies rating. I’m really proud of the improvements we’ve made, but there’s still much more to achieve. When we get ultimate trust we’ll know we’ve got there. It takes time. You can’t demand trust, you have to earn it.” 

Leading by example 

“I was reading an article about teams and leadership, and there was something that really rang a bell with me. It said that when we tell people to do their job, we get workers. When we trust people to do their job, we get leaders. 

LEAD was life changing for me. Our business wouldn’t be anything like it is now without it. 

I’m very aware of the shadow I cast and how that affects those around me. 

I’m more reflective. I think about why something happened. In the past I’d have been much more reactive. The other day I discovered that some fresh food had to be thrown away because processes hadn’t been followed, which I was annoyed and frustrated about.  

But then I thought, why didn’t it happen? What else was going on in that situation, were we supporting them to be able to do the right thing, to do their job well? 

Gut instinct is useful as long as you give yourself time to think for a moment. 

I’m more open to seeing other perspectives now. We have to see criticism as an opportunity to improve, but that means not being defensive. I have to show my vulnerability too. I tell people they can challenge me. They need to know that it’s safe to talk about the things that don’t go to plan, or that they find difficult. 

If people really want to be more successful and be open to different ways of doing things, then LEAD is a great way of doing that. If it was mandatory in business, what a great country we’d have.” 

This article first appeared in Issue 1, June 2017, of the QuoLux business magazine, Leading.

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