Magazine article Management Today

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Magazine article Management Today

Like MT in Print? Check out Our Website for a Daily Fix

Article excerpt

You don't have to wait a month for your next dose of MT's sharp, insightful and witty take on the wonderful world of business. There's plenty more every day at Here are some highlights from the past few weeks - and yes, they are all female

THE ENTREPRENEUR WHO'S BUILT A SOUP-ER POUNDS 7M BUSINESS - Belinda Williams' Yorkshire Provender is a kitchen-table operation no more

Belinda Williams has always had a thing for natural food. Now the founder of a multi-million pound soup business, she was born into a farming family that wouldn't be seen dead in a supermarket.

'We made absolutely everything,' she tells MT. 'I often say to people the only thing my mother went out and bought was flour and sugar.'

So it was no surprise that she ended up in the food business. She set up Yorkshire Provender in the early noughties, because she was so disappointed with the quality of supermarket-own brands.

'Soup for me was the natural medium to share the food of producers I'd lived and worked among. A simple food that... would be exactly as it would be if you made it in your own kitchen,' she says.

Based in Northallerton, North Yorkshire, the business has grown fast 'It was really just meant to be on a small scale,' says Williams, who spent the early days targeting high-end grocers like Harrods. But after landing a listing at Selfridges she started getting calls from the likes of Sainsbury's and Waitrose. 'You get to a point when you have to make the decision: Do you do this properly and give it 100%, or do you just keep it as a cottage industry? We decided to give it 100%.'

Yorkshire Provender's soups are now listed in a number of Wholefoods, Tesco, Waitrose and Budgens stores, as well as on Ocado and regional retailers. The business expects to turn over pounds 7.5m this year and now employs around 40 staff.

Being based in the countryside has meant Williams has to work hard at recruiting. She speaks of a visit to the London factory of ready meals entrepreneur Charlie Bigham. 'He makes one phone call and the next morning he's got 350 staff,' she says. 'That's not the way it works in Yorkshire.'

Grocers have been in the news a lot recently - both for cutting prices and for allegations of mistreating suppliers. Williams says that working with the big names hasn't got any more difficult though.'Retailers are about providing the best possible value to their customer, and they can't afford to subsidise a small, albeit passionate, producer for something that doesn't hit the right price point,' she says. 'If Sainsbury's listed every person who thought they had a good idea it would be flipping chaos.'

Williams runs the product development and marketing, while husband Terry handles manufacturing. 'If you ask my children they probably say that we've worked too hard. But I think we've got a charmed life.'

WHAT WAR REPORTERS TAUGHT ME ABOUT BUSINESS - Experience helps you to manage fear, herd mentality doesn't, says Katarina Skoberne

One of my first jobs was as an interpreter for war correspondents. This was not a vocation I chose for myself; it was pragmatic and coincidental. I spoke some languages and a very short war broke out in my country in the former Yugoslavia.

My country was relatively fortunate, hence my stint was short, but even in those 10 days, seasoned war reporters taught me a few things about life on the front line. Here's what I learned:

Herd mentality breeds dangerous decisions

Many of the reporters would convene at the end of the day to compare notes and that process led to a streamlined and unified version of the events being reported. …

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