There’s no better way to learn how to grow a business effectively than to learn from the mistakes of those who have been there and done it. In this Under the Spotlight feature, we take a look at one such business that has grown from a start-up to become an international company operating in five countries across Europe.
Fruitful Office is a London based supplier of fresh office fruit to more than 5,000 companies across the UK, yet just 10 years ago the business was just an idea Vasco de Castro and Daniel Ernst, the business’s co-founders, were discussing in their shared flat.
The business model
After seeing suppliers struggle to deliver office fruit baskets of a consistent quality to their own workplaces, Vasco and Daniel decided to try and do a better job. The business model relied on their ability to find a way to get the fresh fruit for the office quickly from local wholesalers to the end customer. But with the business created in the midst of the economic recession of 2007-08, and with small business failure rates consistently high, had the duo bitten off more than they could chew?
Making it happen
As with any start-up, one of the most important moments in the early days of the businesses was the dawning realisation that you can’t be everywhere and do everything yourself. Vasco and Daniel recognised the importance of building a team who shared their passion and vision for the business.
Initially, they did make a few hiring mistakes, with the early 4.30am – 8.30am fruit packing shift particularly difficult to fill. But after that, Daniel and Vasco took a number of steps to make sure their employees were engaged in the business. That included empowering staff members to be autonomous, make decisions and recognise the important role their contributions had in the business’s success. They also put training and development programmes in place, and of course, they made sure all their staff members had their five-a-day!
Creating scalable processes and controls
One of the biggest challenges the duo faced was putting in place dependable processes and controls that would grow with their business and maintain the freshness and quality of their fruit. Rather than a central distribution hub, Fruitful Office built local connections with wholesalers and suppliers so it could deliver fruit which is local to its customers. The logistics around this have been understandably challenging, but it’s also been well worth the effort.
The fruit of their labours
One of the biggest factors in the growth of the business has been positive word of mouth, with recommendations from happy customers responsible for much of the business’s success. This was only possible because the team spent the time in the early days putting fruit quality and service standards in place. The company has also shown a strong commitment to charitable causes and this, along with the consistency of its offering, has been responsible for building the company’s all-important reputation.
What have been your biggest challenges when growing a business? Please share your experiences with our readers in the comments below.