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Alumni Case Study: Oren Foods

Written by A.R.Fairbank@swansea.ac.uk / Thursday 20th January 2022

In our latest alumni case study, we catch up with ION alumni, and Oren Foods owner, Gethin Dwyfor, and Ken Lodge, General Manager and current ION delegate. 

Gwynedd based OREN Foods, is a family run business who has been supplying the local people and businesses with fresh fruit and vegetables since 1980. Growing from the back of a small van to now covering three counties with nine vans, owner Gethin Dwyfor joined ION leadership on a quest to better understand his leadership, its impact on the team and how in turn to improve business delivery. Ken Lodge, General Manager at OREN Foods, is currently an active participant on ION leadership and reflects below on the importance of professional development.

Gethin (pictured right), you took over the business from your parents. What inspired you and what joys and challenges did this bring?

Oren_Gareth.jpgMany joys, even more challenges! I’d always said that I would never take over the business, but after spending some time studying and travelling in my younger years, I had a real thirst to run my own business. I had always been interested in business and being part of the family business, each summer helping with deliveries and driving and so forth, it made sense for me to start with the family business as my parents were nearing retirement age…and in future to try something else if all went ok!

I went into the business seriously at around the age of 25 and took over completely 6-7 years later when I was 32. I remember thinking that I wanted to take over completely and own the company outright at this point. I wanted to make my own choices 100% and my own mistakes. I didn’t want my parents feeling that they had to come back into the business once retired. If it was going to fail, it would be on my own head and not theirs.

Turns out this was quite liberating, and they have been able to enjoy their retirement…mostly!

It’s always a challenge when any business transitions; my father and I did clash on occasion, but in the end, I feel so lucky that my parents were so open to my suggestions on how to move forward. I have heard from other family businesses, that parents will quite often stay involved with the business for a longer period of time - and even have some sort of ownership - but this wasn’t the way that I wanted to do it. I felt a clean break was needed to motivate myself and to allow my parents the freedom to enjoy a real retirement.

Why did you choose to enrol on ION leadership?

Ken: Having done two years of HR qualifications, I wanted to broaden my experience to a wider perspective to be able to advise a better strategic plan for growth and to develop the core knowledge / business acumen for my professional development with the CIPD.

Gethin: I always want to learn, and to expand my understanding in business. I’d been looking into leadership for a while and had been listening to podcasts. I felt I needed to improve my understanding on how my leadership was affecting those working with me, and how I could improve on the way I was running the business. Everything I had learned prior to the course was what I had experienced as the company grew. I’d also heard from others that the course was great for meeting other leaders in the local area and meant I could connect with new friends for advice and to hear/learn from their own experiences.

What did you get out of it?Oren_Ken.jpg

Ken (pictured right): From this course I have learnt a better understanding of my personal leadership style and other perspectives on change management and emotional intelligence. I have also developed my role within the business from HR and H&S Manager to become General Manager.

Gethin: Friendship and advice from people in similar situations to myself. An understanding of leadership as a whole and that there are many facets to leadership and no particular one is right. To be able to understand my own strengths and weaknesses and how my own style can and does affect others around me. Business organisation to and how important planning is.

Would you recommend the programme?

Geth: Yes, I would and already have. I believe that different people will get different things from it, and it can depend on the group of people who attend at the same time. For me, the advice and friendship of my course colleagues was invaluable.

Ken: I would definitely recommend the programme as it has really helped my professional development, particularly the 1-to-1 coaching given as part of the course.

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