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Featured Businesses“How Taking an Optimistic Approach Helped Us Thrive During Covid-19”

“How Taking an Optimistic Approach Helped Us Thrive During Covid-19”


st pierre group 500 x 500 250x250 1 Paul Baker, founder of St Pierre Groupe, explains: “How Taking an Optimistic Approach Helped Us Thrive During Covid-19”

International bakery business, St Pierre Groupe, has grown its team by 33% during lockdown. The Manchester-based company recently became the UK’s fastest growing branded bakery supplier, with Baker Street, Paul Hollywood and St Pierre in its portfolio (52w/e May 2020, Nielsen data for the UK’s Top 10 Branded Bakery Suppliers). Founder, Paul Baker, shares his insight into growing a business and a team amidst a global pandemic.

We faced new challenges thanks to the global health crisis. COVID-19 didn’t come with a manual and so, like everyone else, we had no choice but to face issues head on. We’re an ambitious company with big plans, so in order to maintain our pace of growth, we adapted quickly. From leadership styles, operations and communications, we decided to make the best of a bad situation, using the crisis to take a step back and look at the business overall. What could we learn from this situation to improve our company? This optimistic approach is part of the reason our business and brands have continued to thrive

Since lockdown began in March, we reported an increase in sales. Consumers were looking for comforting, convenient foods which meant an uplift for all three of our brands. This increase in demand meant that it was more important than ever to work strategically with all of our suppliers, ensuring that our most popular products were readily available for customers. As a result, we reviewed our processes across the business and decided to streamline our offering. This had a knock-on effect with production partners, haulage companies’ warehouses and customers, reinforcing the need for team work, which already plays a huge role in our company culture. 

As an international company with teams in the UK, France, the US and beyond, we were already utilising video calling methods but responding to COVID-19 meant that we took time to dig deeper into how we could use our systems more efficiently.

We enjoyed significant growth of 30% year-on-year in 2019 and despite COVID-19 we knew it was vital to continue our investment in good people. Restrictions meant we were unable to hold face-to-face interviews and whilst in-person has always been our preference, we were already set up to recruit via video calls. You actually get a little more insight into a person when they’re relaxed in their own environment and video interviews with potential new team members meant we had the type of conversation starters that you can’t prepare for. Microsoft Teams had the added benefit of being able to share documents so candidates were able to present to us as they would normally. We also conducted office tours and inductions via video link which provided a new perspective for us. We relocated just before lockdown, so our video tours gave us a chance to show off our new space too. We’re keen to show candidates that we’re a great place to work and being able to demonstrate the benefits of our new Didsbury premises gave us a renewed excitement about our new home!

Over lockdown, we actually hired 18 new candidates. It’s testament to the team we already have in place that we were able to continue adding more talent and now we’re looking forward to a big reunion as soon as possible.

When I take stock of the past few months and the challenges we’ve overcome, I’m prouder than ever. Businesses who made sure they were flexible in their approach before COVID-19 will now be in the strongest position when life begins to return to normal. Remaining agile is key – pandemic or not – to building a strong, dynamic team who can drive new thinking. These are the vital ingredients that businesses must have if they are to achieve future growth. We’re as excited as ever about what the future holds.


Scott Oakes, Commercial Manager at St Pierre Groupe, started in April, said: “Starting a new job at the beginning of April during a global pandemic and a national lockdown I was obviously nervous and for a short while I was apprehensive that the role would still be going ahead, but everyone at St Pierre Groupe has been amazing. All induction programmes went ahead online, within a week I had ‘virtually’ met the entire team and all fears were gone. It was clear from the first teams call that there is a real family closeness at St Pierre Groupe and a feeling that everyone is in this together. Working in the Food service sector the lows have been clear for everyone to see, entire industry sectors closed, unable to have face to face meetings with key buyers etc. In a positive reaction to this though it has enabled us to adapt and pivot to a new way of working, focus on new different markets and opportunities, as well as plan for the future and how we tackle the new normal.”

Sam Elmidoro, Social, Content & Community Manager at St Pierre Groupe, started in June, said: “Starting a new job during the pandemic has been surreal and daunting to say the least, but St Pierre Groupe has made the whole process very smooth. Not only have they approached this from a practical angle, but they are extremely conscious of the emotional impacts of joining a new company during lockdown. 

“They’re very aware that it’s not a normal situation and it may be affecting people in different ways. But they’re extremely supportive and I think that’s testament to the company culture and something that’s encouraged from the top down. It has also been really refreshing to be told to take the time and space to do what I need to do, to learn what’s important in the early days of a new job and to get my head around the company. Regular chats with my line manager and the rest of the team to talk about both work and life has felt reassuring that they are looking out for you as a new team member. I’m looking forward to a point when we can all eventually work together in the office and celebrate the growing team.”



st pierre group 500 x 500 250x250 1

St Pierre Groupe


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