Fireking shares valuable lessons

by Charlotte Atchley
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Greg Acerra checks one of the machines at his 40,000 sq-ft bakery in Braintree, MA.
 

Making the jump from chef and restauranteur to wholesale baker, Greg Acerra, owner of Fireking Baking Co., found that running a bakery was not quite the same as running a restaurant. With the help of industry relationships, he’s been able to learn some valuable lessons. Knitting together his hands-on education over the years, Mr. Acerra put his focus on growing the business, choosing to hire gifted individuals to handle the baking aspect of the company.

“Have I taught myself to bake? No,” he said. “The business has grown so fast it has been way beyond my ability to do that. I just try to hire very good people, and I work very hard at trying to hold onto the people I have.”

To retain valuable employees, Mr. Acerra made a commitment to paying them well, offering benefits such as a 401(k) program and health insurance. As a result, Fireking sees little turnover.

As the company grew, Mr. Acerra began to expect more and more from his staff and sometimes gave the wrong duties to the wrong people. In running his restaurants, Mr. Acerra expects both artistry and number-crunching from his chef; the same, he found, is not true of his bakery.

“As I grew, I made the mistake of demanding those things from the same person, and I started getting pushback from people,” he said. “So I found a person who is strong in costing and percentages and let that person be responsible for that, and let the artistic people run with what they do.”

Mr. Acerra brought on a plant manager, Christopher Micallef, to handle production schedules and costing, allowing Fireking’s baker Krzysztof Ramotowski  to focus on the product development and quality.

“I found it better served myself, the company and the people to separate those duties,” Mr. Acerra said.

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