The Business Magazine asked the CEOs and leaders of the Thames Valley SME 100 Growth listing, which celebrates the region’s high-growth small and medium-sized enterprises, to share their experience of managing a company in 2021. We asked Tom Newey, the CEO of Cobbs Farm Co, the following three questions:
Hungerford-based Cobbs Farm Co was listed at number 59 on The Business Magazine’s annual Thames Valley SME 100 Growth list. The company had a 7% increase in its turnover compared to the previous year and a overall growth of 15.7%. Founded in 2006, Cobbs Farm Co aspires to provide a welcoming food retailing environment with a focus on locally sourced products and supplemented by quality food from further afield. Alongside retailing activities, Cobbs Farm Co provides a friendly, wholesome café which has proven to be highly synergistic with our retail operations, as well as other diverse leisure based activities from our indoor play barn to our Internationally award winning vineyard, Alder Ridge.
Tom Newey: Like so many others, the pandemic caused some huge challenges to our business. For me, one of the hardest decisions I had to make was to keep our shops open, at a time when it would have been so easy just to shut the doors. Equally, closing the restaurants was incredibly hard at a time of year when you are gearing up for the stronger months. I’d made a call to close the restaurants a few hours before we were forced to do so and it felt awful.
Balancing the needs of all our employees throughout the last year has been tough. Those coming to work in our shops, day in, day out and at times in fairly scary circumstances. But we also had those staff on furlough from our restaurants and engaging and supporting them was just as vital.
In spite of everything thrown against us and with huge parts of our business closed down, we managed to grow like for like group sales by 27% and operating profit to over £1mill.
Tom Newey: Our customer base grew significantly throughout the last year, which led to our year on year growth. It’s been rewarding to see that we managed to not only retain those new faces but also see the return of old ones. A huge positive for us was that we were able to create an even stronger bond and level of engagement with our employees. In spite of everything thrown against us and with huge parts of our business closed down, we still managed to grow as a business.
Tom Newey: I’d like to try and remember what normal felt like, although I think the reality is there are so many things that simply won’t return to the way they were. That’s not necessarily a bad thing either.
Like most of the population, I started riding a mountain bike last year and enjoying the Downland around me. Sadly finding (or making) the time to enjoy this activity has not been easy. To be in a position to be able to throw a great summer party for all the staff at Cobbs!
Cobbs Farm Co is included in the Thames Valley SME100 Growth index for the second consecutive year. To qualify for the listing, businesses need to be based in the Thames Valley, have a turnover of no less than £1 million and no more than £20m, and have grown their turnover significantly in the past year.
All Thames Valley SME 100 Growth members are now invited to enter the nominations to this year’s awards, which will recognise outstanding achievements in six categories.