Employess Feel Appreciated & Valued at Great Harvest Bread Co.


(A top priority for the owners of Great Harvest’s franchise in Bend is “being great parents” to their two kids | Photos courtesy of Kristi and Jeremy Testerman)

“We weren’t initially looking to purchase a franchise,” said Kristi Testerman. “But my husband Jeremy and I, who work really well together, always wanted to own a business. And after discovering that Great Harvest Bread Company’s Bend franchise was for sale, we decided this opportunity was right for us.”

Admitting that the franchise they chose has its pros and cons, Testerman first enumerated the plus side of the equation. “Great Harvest takes the opposite approach from ‘cookie cutter’ models,” she said.

As stated on its website: “Our philosophy is simple: let’s create unique neighborhood bakery cafes that are a reflection of the Great Harvest brand and the bakery cafe owner. We are a freedom-based, healthy franchise that encourages excellence and individuality (not to mention a spirit of fun and generosity).

“That emphasis on a ‘freedom franchise’ was very appealing,” Testerman said. “But, on the con side, when doing our due diligence, Jeremy and I couldn’t come up with clearcut profit and loss numbers, as every location is doing something different.”

However, in weighing all the factors, “first and foremost to us was being great parents, and being part of our community, and Great Harvest’s model fit that priority. Our kids, now 13 and 15, can come in on holidays to help knead, slice, and bag bread.) So in buying the franchise, we knew what we were getting into, and don’t regret a thing.”

Added Testerman: “The franchisor provided initial training, checks in periodically to make sure that we’re O.K. and that we’re meeting quality standards, and offers help in any way we need, which includes obtaining lower prices for ingredients. We also have the opportunity to meet other franchise owners, and talk about what’s working (and not working) in their communities.”

As someone who “grew up loving baking and cooking — as well as art,” Testerman finds that “working with my hands is really rewarding,” and has thrived on the “freedom to create our own recipes.” One of them was inspired by the urging of her husband, “who is a simple eater, and wanted — in his words — ‘a plain, soft, chocolate chip cookie.’ Understandably, he told me that ‘I don’t want to have to buy either bread or cookies at the store.’”

Not everyone was initially pleased by new products the Testermans introduced, and some existing customers voiced their dislike. “Jeremy just kept reminding me that as long as our hearts are in the right place, and we are always doing our best, things will work out (and a little thick skin doesn’t hurt, either.”

Under the husband-wife team’s direction, Great Harvest’s Bend franchise has evolved in critical ways other than new additions to the menu. As Testerman explained, “From the start, we realized that we had to make changes in order to start making money, such as simplifying the menu and increasing the size of the batches being baked.”

“We also went from 15 employees to six, which has allowed us to take better care of our team,” she said. “Not only has the business grown since Jeremy and I bought it five years ago, but we’ve developed a culture that is reflected in how we work together. With fewer employees, everyone has more say, making their jobs more fulfilling. We also offer full benefits for our full-time employees. This combination has allowed us to obtain and retain better people.”

“The biggest thing I’ve learned during interviews with prospective employees is that people want a place to work where they feel appreciated and valued. With that as a priority, we now have a great team of really special, insanely supportive people.”

Acknowledging that Great Harvest “has been more of my baby thus far,” Testerman said that she and her husband Jeremy “have done a good job of being around for our kids. Looking to the future, our goal is working together more, and making this location all it can be, while becoming a bigger part of the Bend community.”



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