Teaming up with his brother and father, a former rugby star launched one of Australia’s most successful pie shops. His story can certainly teach you a lot about what it takes to run a multi-million-dollar business.

After retiring from the Rugby League in 1991, Sean Garlick embarked on what would become a very successful business journey. After his brother Nathan mastered his pastry craft, he inspired the family to open the first Garlo’s Pies shop.

Bear in mind that this was before the business coaching and entrepreneurship mania. You couldn’t find steps to success by doing a bit of Google research.

“Not only had we never run a business before, we didn’t even know anybody who had run their own business. We had to make it up as we went along”, Sean says.

Together, they created a retail and wholesale business that returns $15m/year. The company operates across the globe, from the US to the Middle East.

And today, Garlo’s Pies is even more of a family affair. Sean brought his son Jason Garlick on board to serve as the company’s Sales Manager. As a side-note, Jason is also a CUB member!

So what’s behind all this success? What are the concepts that let the Garlicks build their incredible success from the ground up?

Here are some of the main points to take away from the story of Garlo’s Pies:

Tip #1 – Culture Matters

Regardless of your industry, the corporate culture has a strong influence on the success of your company. Still, many business people underestimate the scope of its effect. They simplify it to just another way to handle employees’ satisfaction, but it’s so much more than that.

Your business culture determines the way your stakeholders see you. Long gone are the days when consumers didn’t care about what happened behind the scene. Today, people don’t buy products and services. They buy people, connections, and meaning. None of this can exist without a healthy culture.

By investing in your company’s culture, you’re creating commitments within the company that ultimately affect all your success metrics. If your employees wake up in the morning hating the fact they have to go to work, they’re not likely to produce the value every company needs.

Sean Garlick says that this was one of the most challenging aspects of their business venture. In his words, “Trying to get good staff in our businesses, which were scattered all over Sydney was a difficult process”.

Even though this hasn’t changed to this day, the Garlicks are passionate about being an employer of choice. They invest a lot into their company culture to make sure their staff loves their job and stay loyal to their company.

If this is something that you’re struggling with, here’s some advice to follow:

  • Don’t micromanage – People value their autonomy at work. You need to show them you trust them enough to not hold their hand every step of the way.
  • Add flexibility – Giving people the freedom of flexibility plays a huge role in employee retention. Try creating a flexible schedule that leaves people with enough time to focus on their personal lives.
  • Don’t take employees for granted – Your employees need to know that their contributions are meaningful. This can even be more important than financial rewards in some cases. Make sure your employees know that you value everything they’re doing for your business.
  • Nurture strong relationships – Since they spend a lot of time at work, the workforce needs connections. Isolation can cause a huge lack of motivation, so invest in creating a sense of community.

Tip #2 – Offer More Products to Your Existing Customers

Getting new customers is the lifeblood of business growth. However, this doesn’t mean you should forget about your existing ones. Customer retention is one of the most important business goals, and there are many reasons for this.

First of all, focusing on customer loyalty sends a good message to your audience. It shows that your goal isn’t to get their money but to add value to their lives. It speaks volumes about your ability to listen to what people need and to find ways of meeting those needs.

The Garlicks understand this well. For their business to grow, Sean says that adding new flavours and products was the key move. Aside from the classic meat pies, which have always been their bread and butter, they added the Peking duck, lamb and rosemary, and all kinds of other flavours.

They then took this a step further by adding new products to their line-up. These included things that many people asked for like muffins and banana bread. This let them keep their customers excited about the new additions. At the same time, it created chances to expand their customer base.

No matter what you’re doing, there’s always a way to enrich your product or service line. Make sure to revisit this on a regular basis. You can bet that your competition is likely to be doing this, which can result in you losing valuable customers to them.

Here are some tips on marketing your new products to your existing customers:

  • Hype it up – Prior to the launch, make sure to get some buzz going around your new products. Make big promises, but make sure you can deliver them as well.
  • Tell a story – Each of your new products is an exciting addition to your business. Share your excitement with the customers through an emotional connection between the product and them.
  • Stay in your lane – Unless you’re launching an entirely new brand, make sure that your new releases have a connection to the current products. You’d have to do this for as long as it takes to position yourself in the market to the extent that your products are instantly recognisable. Only then should you think about branching out.

Tip #3 – Don’t Grow Too Fast

Once your business starts to grow, it’s all smooth sailing, right?

Not exactly. You see, how you grow matters more than how much you grow. Too much of anything is bad, and the same goes for your business growth.

The Garlicks had this happen to them at one point. Once their first bakeries started to take off, they got a bit cocky. They believed that the main focus should be on building more shops and expanding the company as much as they could.

However, this didn’t turn out as they had hoped. The next few bakeries started costing them quite a lot. If it wasn’t for the first few stores, which continued their stellar performance, they’d have been in serious trouble. Despite the immense growth, they had no economy of scale.

Once they realised it was the central bakery that was making the most money, they decided to focus on it. By producing more, they managed to secure lower prices for the ingredients. This was when, instead of opening new stores, they focused on growing the wholesale aspect of their business.

Here are a few reasons why your business shouldn’t overgrow:

  • Drop in efficiency – If your business suddenly starts growing at great speed, you might not be able to keep track of it. You might lose control of your operations if you’re unprepared for this growth. This can have a huge hit on your efficiency and end up costing you a lot.
  • Recruiting troubles – As you grow, it gets increasingly hard to find people that fit into your company culture. With rapid growth, you might need to hire many people at once, which can cause culture disruptions.
  • Customer service issues – In a majority of cases, fast growth can cause you to ignore customer satisfaction. You might get caught up in getting a hold of your business that you neglect to scale up customer service. This can hurt your reputation and put a dent in your brand.

When it comes to growth, always focus on quality over quantity. If your business escapes your grasp, you can lose control of it, which can only hurt you in the long run.

Tip #4 – Have a Flexible Business Plan

Your business plan is the first thing that stakeholders like investors and partners see. It’s also a description of your own journey to success. In this day and age, the journey may see you taking all kinds of roads, forked and all.

As Sean Garlick puts it, “It’s best not to have static business plans. We like to look at ourselves as being fairly agile and quick to react, which is ideal”.

For many businesses, a standard 40-page Word document doesn’t do it anymore. You may want to try out different things and ensure your business plan doesn’t leave you stagnating. Modern businesses need to continuously evolve to stay afloat, and your business plan should reflect this.

Here are some tips on developing a flexible business plan:

  • Focus on your best assets – The only things that should stay the same in your business plan are those that bring the most value. Identify your key value drivers, whether it’s technology, people, or something else. These are the things that stay constant, so don’t let it out of your sight.
  • Perform detailed risk assessment – While outlining different options, you should have at least a rough idea of their possible outcome. More importantly, you need to develop a contingency plan for dealing with different circumstances. This is one of the key features of a flexible business plan, so invest a lot in it.
  • Revisit the plan regularly – In an evolving business environment, things can get out of hand rather quickly. Make sure not to leave your plan sitting there without taking a look at it every once in a while. You’ll likely notice more than a few options for improvement as you go, so update your plan accordingly.

If you do this, you’ll have more options and strategies than your competitors. As there’s no way to tell for sure what the market will do next, you can only prepare yourself for all scenarios. A flexible business plan can make this happen, so try to break away from the norm as much as you can.

The Takeaway

Business success is always a work in progress. Even when you think you’re doing amazing, you can’t ever get complacent. Winners and losers trade places all the time, so it’s in your best interest to be always on the lookout for new opportunities.

As you can see, Garlo’s Pies knows how to do it. After almost 20 years in business, they’re working as hard as they did at the very beginning. Now that you know some of their secrets, see if you can incorporate them into your own company.

And if you join CUB, you’ll be able to learn directly from the masters! Jason Garlick’s always happy to network with new members and share his – and his father’s – experiences.

At CUB our ambition is to unite those who are changing the world through their businesses. We support these people by building a private community of Australia’s next titans of industry. And we bring these titans together to accelerate the achievement of each other’s ambitions.

If you wish to be considered for membership, please feel free to request a club introduction on our membership page: www.cub.club/membership.