Maltese Bread & Family Businesses

This morning I was reading an article as to how small & medium sized bakers where lamenting the drop in their sales revenue from maltese bread. The article had all the hallmarks of the usual issues that plague certain family businesses.

It could be that the supply chain issues and the Ukrainian war leading to a general price increase of various foodstuffs is having its effect on the sale of maltese bread. However I suspect this to be a case of the last straw that is truly breaking the camel’s back.

Many small & medium sized bakers failed to adapt to the changing market needs. Many people shifted to healthier options like wholemeal bread and rye bread. Long gone are the days where people bought maltese bread from a hooting van at some point in the morning or midday. With supermarkets and convenience shops open at all times of the day, buying bread from a baker within certain fixed times, is an obsolete model which is way past its sell by date.

Yet many family businesses get caught it in what I call the “engine room” – getting themselves busy on doing what they always did, without ever taking time to look around them and see how things are changing and how they should best adapt to remain relevant in the market they operate in.

It is easy to see that if these small & medium sized bakers remain fragmented as they are, they will likely perish. However if they join forces they stand a better chance of pooling their limited resources to do pooled investments to diversify and grow their offering. They could also work on building a different “niche” strategy to their business, possibly creating a “Maltese Bread Bakery tour” for tourists. There are surely other ideas that are not coming to me. The bottom line is that they need to transform their business model and work together in a strategic way.

Many of the failings of family businesses are linked to their inability to get themselves out of their daily “engine room” and to think strategically. They many times lack the structures, the data and the discipline to adapt in a timely manner and not a couple of breaths away from extinction.

This is why certain family businesses, now more than ever, need to be trained and assisted to manage their business well. The pace of change is so fast that business models have shorter lifetimes and can get quickly obsolete.

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