Today’s guest David Lockwood has been involved with the British cheese scene for 25 years – and is currently the Managing Director of Neal's Yard Dairy. The artisanal cheese retailer works with about 40 cheesemakers. They select, mature and sell farmhouse cheese from the UK and Ireland. Their secret to their success? Always have a clear, long-term plan in mind.
I had a great time meeting David in person, checking out their dairy in London. Tune in to our conversation as we explore the history of Neal’s Yard, mission statements, paying your staff good salaries, being flavour-driven, treating your suppliers like they are your partners – and his brief stint working on Wall Street.
Neal’s Yard Dairy: https://www.nealsyarddairy.co.uk/
#114 Ari Weinzweig, Co-Founder of Zingerman's, on Self-Leadership: https://hospitality-mavericks.captivate.fm/episode/114
#91 Pim de Morree, Co-Founder of Corporate Rebels, on Progressive Missions: https://hospitality-mavericks.captivate.fm/episode/91
David’s email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Connect with the podcast:
Join the Hospitality Mavericks newsletter: https://rb.gy/5rqyeq
A big thank you to our sponsor Bizimply who are helping progressive leaders and operators making every shift run like clockwork. Head to our website at www.bizimply.com or email them directly at email@example.com.
Download Your Free Copy of From Fragile to Agile White Paper here👇
Michael Tingsager: 5:37 - It's so great to have you here David - look forward to diving into how we build better businesses.
David Lockwood: 5:43
Thank you, Michael. It's really an honour to be here.
Michael Tingsager: 5:46
And David for people that don't know like who you are, and also Neal's Yard Dairy. But can you talk a bit about you know, how long you've been around as a business, what your role is and how you got involved? Because you came from from the US right to the UK to sell cheese in principle.
David Lockwood: 6:10
That's exactly it. So Neal's Yard Dairy is a business that was founded in Neal's Yard. In 1979. There are a bunch of Neal's Yard businesses. The best-known I imagine is Neal's Yard Apothecary therapy rooms I forget what their official title is now because it changes over time. But we were all founded in Neal's Yard. And it was 1979 Nick Saunders, who started all the businesses, as a serial entrepreneur, decided he wanted to micro-dairy. And Randolph Hodgson, who's still one of my partners in the business. He came in and started making cheese and became the full-on owner within three months' time. And the business has evolved since then, the micro-dairy part of the business spun off into its own business. It's now out in Herefordshire called Neal's Yard Creamery. And that happened in the 80s. And we began selling while maturing and selling British cheese, not because we're nationalists, but because when Randolph was still making cheese, he would go to the farms. Well, actually, the farms, the cheesemakers came to the dairy first because they heard about this place in London. They get talking, and he'd end up going to the farm. And he'd always come back with cheese. Because he thought, Oh, this is great, we could sell it to.
And so that's how we got buying British cheese because it was easy. We didn't speak French even though Normandy is closer to London, and Lancashire, Lancashire is more local, because he can speak to them and you know in the language that he's comfortable in, or he could, and we got into maturing cheese for the same reason he'd bring back 10 wheels of Lancashire say, and we weren't going to sell it in one week. So we had to do something with it. And because the people who worked at the dairy and work at the dairy are curious, we spend time observing where the cheese would do best. And cheese is an amazing product because it tells you exactly what it wants and the way it behaves. And so they started paying a lot of attention to maturing. And also paying attention to the way cheese the cheeses tasted.
So it became obvious that from day to day, the cheeses would taste different, simply because it's a different vintage every day. And so they began selling the cheese on taste, which was very revolutionary at the time. And from there, it caught the attention and attention of people like food because all of a sudden it was this really fun, interesting thing for someone to come into the shop and walk through this journey of tasting you know tasting, say three different dates of Montgomery's cheddar to decide which one they liked best so they could take it home from their chef called Sally Clark, who still has restaurants in London came in. And after I don't know how long of battering Randolph got him to wholesale. And then in 1989, so 10 years after the business had been going. Jane Scotter, who used to be a partner at the dairy now owns Fern Ferro, which is an amazing biodynamic farm out in Herefordshire met Ari Weinzweig out in West Cork at the bean, and they got talking. And I can't tell the story as well as Ari because they were there and I wasn't Yeah, but long and short of it is Ari came back.
And I was managing the retail side of the deli at that point, and Ari said - I want to bring in the Neal's Yard dairy cheeses. I think they're going to be amazing. And we did in 1990, we were the first ones to import the Neal's Yard dairy cheeses, into America. And I met Randolph and Jean and said, Hey, I'd really like to know about maturing cheeses. Would it be possible for me to come and intern with you for a while? And they said, Yeah. So in 91, I came over for a year. It turned into two years and my girlfriend now my wife, Jennifer Caste came over as well. She's ex-Deli as well. And we learned tons about maturing cheese about working in a small business. And it was fantastic. And in that time, the export grew a bit. One of my other partners in the business, Jason Heinz took on the exports. When my training visa was up, and we moved back to America spent time with Jason building up American sales.
And then and my past kind of diverted for a little bit, I decided to go do an MBA at Georgetown and did and when, after working summer on Wall Street, realized there was no way I wanted to do that I was on the phone with Randolph who said come back, we'll be a partner in the business. And so we moved back in 98, which was really good for me. And I hope the day we are intimate in time, we opened up our business in Europe. And if you don't mind indulging me it's a great story. And it speaks to a lot of our technique method for going into a new market. In this case, someone did it for us. We had this guy who is an amazing customer Steve Saltzman and his father Harry was one of the original bond producers of the James Bond series.
And he comes into, you know, into Neal's Yard into the yard itself on his bike and his mountain bike every Saturday. And biker comes to Lancashire. She would love that cheese. And then he moved to Paris. And he'd still come by every once while when he was in town to buy a huge amount of cheese and take it back but said he's working on something for us. And it turned out he was going to every from formage-sais in Paris to find the one he thought was best. And he found a guy called Pascal trots, and Pascal was incredibly respected by the cheese selling fraternity and very very knowledgeable and not afraid of good cheese.
And so when Steve brought him the Lancashire he said Yeah, I see what you're saying I really want that I don't care if it's British. I just want it because it's good. And so Pascal took our cheese and with that all the other formage-sais in Paris and oh if he's taking it must be good enough and that that strategy for opening a market it happened accidentally in the States because Ari was interested and other people saw it there. But it worked in Paris and since then we've followed this trail. Now we now sell all over the world. But US and EU are our biggest export markets. We do a lot of business, and trade business in the UK and we have three shops and three joint venture partnerships with shops in Oxford, Manchester and Exeter.
Michael Tingsager: 15:06
The super interesting thing is that you've been around for decades now. The purpose of the business has changed because it's very clear on your website that the purpose is to produce cheese better.
David Lockwood: 15:22
Yeah, we actually cut it down to three words Improved British Cheese. Which, you know, mission statements are a dangerous thing. Because if you're not careful, they become trite. You could go into any motorway services in the UK, and buy that bathroom with a list of things saying it's been cleaned well into next week. Next to it, it says we aspire to have the cleanest and best bathrooms and motorway services in the UK. So we don't want that. But we really do want to Improve British Cheese. And we spend a lot of time talking about that mission. What does it mean? What's it look like? And it's that discussion around it. That makes it valuable? The three words, they're great, but truly, what makes them valuable? Is all the discussions around. Okay, what's it look like? Well, I want to make sure that this farm, call it Oh, the Fletcher's who make Berkswell And that Steven Fletcher is my age, you know, in his 50s. And what's going to happen? Well, his son, George has come into it has come into the business now and is very keen and interested.
And so it's going to there's going to be succession. And so that, to me is a symbol of improving British cheese, were hanging on to it, people coming into it, feeling that they could actually make a living making cheese selling cheese with a cheese shop. Vital, those are all indicators that our mission is working that our staff, our colleagues, they're not just staff, they're colleagues, they're friends, they feel that they can make a go of working at the dairy selling cheese, British cheese. Why we say British cheese is a question that I asked myself a lot. Because really, I want the cheese world to work together. But our focus can only be so so large. And that's why we narrow to British cheese but our community of cheese people and that could mean competitive, you know people with who are other cheese shops selling retail other wholesalers or exporters, or even producers we don't buy from and our community outside the UK in terms of matures, shops, etc. Throughout Europe, the US Canada, and wherever Australia,, that we need that to be strong that's going to see us through by building that community, we will have the strength to move forward. Strength, strength, and resources go on.
Michael Tingsager: 18:51
The interesting about you know, is that when we talk about food, it's May you talk about making it better together with other people and making a living out of it. You used the word making a living out of a couple of times.
David Lockwood: 19:04
Michael Tingsager: 19:05
Can you explain why that is so important when speaking when we talk about food? Because I think there are a lot of people who think people listen to the podcasts properly know. But actually how hard exactly is it sometimes to make money when you do things the right way around food.
David Lockwood: 19:21
It is tough. Italian food is a tough gig and a lot of the time, especially in a city like London, it's difficult to make enough money to live recently. And I guess in answer to your question, why is it hard? Why do I talk about it? Because I worry that people don't value good food well enough and that the labour that it takes whether it's on the farm in the cheese room, in the maturing room, and then in the shop isn't understood, even with great customers two vignettes. One, we have a wonderful, wonderful customer who has been working with us since 1994, 93, even. And she came with us, when we're selecting Montgomerys cheddar, we go and select the batches that we like for most of our hard cheeses. Once at minimally once every four months, usually once a month on the biggest selling cheeses, and she was there, she had been buying from us for 15 years. And we were, we were selected through the cheese. And at the end, she's like, Oh, this is selecting cheese. It's not just picking the batch you like best. It's talking to the producer about what they're doing, understanding what's going on on the farm, what's going on in the make room, how they're feeling about things, and then understanding how that relates to the cheese and then choosing the ones that in the case of the cheddars that we're trying, how they're going to that they'll be delicious in nine months time.
And, and so that's one thing that's about that work and how difficult it is for us to express that nuance to people. The second one and this is it's painful to make out but I'll say it, we had a woman work for us, with us sorry. Who she's great. And is great. She now has a hotel in New Orleans. And at one point, I remember her saying to someone new about how well you can't really think about the salary so much, it's more like a charity to work here. And I have to say it was like a pin to my eye. Because if that's the case, no one's going to come in it. It's not sustainable. And, and we me Randolph and Jason at that time spoke about it and said that this isn't good enough. We need to change that. And so we need people to understand, that we're not going to pay banker salaries here. We understand that. And people who come and work with us understand it too. But we have to be able to pay people a salary that they could live, not survive, but live on in London, because that's where they're actually living. And also provides people with the opportunities to grow professionally, themselves. So that where they might not see as many financial rewards as they might in another business, to get those kinds of rewards when they're working with us.
Michael Tingsager: 23:42
That's super interesting, because what you're talking about is not just making cheese better, but actually making people better at something as well. And also that, you know, we have to spend the time and love to get proper food as well. And we talked when we walked around about the food system that is under pressure because we probably have industrialised too much of it and been become disconnected with you know, food and land and how nature works with it and things can be available around the clock. How do you look at you know, because one of the interesting things when you talk with, you know, a MD/CEOs its your job to grow the business that will be you know, your number one priority depending on the rapid growth you need depends on the pressure you have above and I know you have a very different approach to growth and how you think growth, what are the plans we for you as business and how do you you know because you've grown now from just in London, national, global in principle worldwide selling cheese? How do you do that? And I couldn't keep all you know the things the ethics in place at the same time.
David Lockwood: 24:53
So it's a challenge for us. We'd like to grow But our motivations for growing aren't only financial there. Yeah, of course, there are financial motivations to grow. But actually, our growth or desire to grow, it's very much mission-driven as well. It's back to that, showing, that if we're growing, we're creating a market for people to come in and make great cheese. Be we're in this position, now, we don't have enough of the cheese, the type of cheese that we need to sell to maintain our standards. And when I say our standards, it's a really distinct statement I'm making because someone might disagree with me, they might not like the cheese that we're buying.
And really like one that we choose not to buy, but our standards are about the cheeses we like best, just to lay that out there. And this year, we're capped. Right, but it's our goal, that in the next 10 years, we take our business from roughly 600 tonnes to 800 tons of cheese, which sounds either a very small amount or a very big amount, depending on your perspective, I was looking up, I think it was in 18, 19. That yeah, 2018 2019 the UK consumed roughly 429,000 tonnes of cheese. And we're looking to Nick another 200 tonnes out of that commodity consumption and make it into where we're going. That is the end of the market that we prefer. And in order to do that, we will grow, we will grow. But we need all these other bits of the market to come along with us. And that's what makes us interested in the growth and of things we have, we have different size producers as well that we work with, we're working with a producer, who has 19 Goats milking at this point.
And they're not they're not high, high, high yield producers either in those ghosts, that is compared to our largest regular producer, who makes about 425 tons of cheese a year. So we're working in a large spectrum of range of sizes. And with this 200 tons more that we picked out. We want a nice spread of all of it. But people all people who are trying to do a good job who care about things it until well, until very recently when we talked about the mission. It was also we're flavour driven, you know, we want it to taste the way we like it best. And that was the bottom line. And actually, as a group, the working group of directors, in our latest vision, we came up with the idea that actually it's time to expand that. We need people to be doing it sustainably as well. And I'm not a farmer, I never have been. But I'm learning so much about it. And one of my greatest teachers is a gentleman called David Clark, he is a farmer and he makes the Sparkling Red Lester and Sparkling Blue.
And what he's taught me is every farm needs to be farmed, the way that farm demands it to be farmed. And it's just it's like, that's it. And he's saying do it well. But you can't there's not a model that's going to work everywhere. For everyone. What you want is for people to have these principles that they're working towards, but how they get there is down to geology, geography, capital, and the decisions you make around it. And your personal set of beliefs now, so we're learning about that, that there's all the sustainability stuff that you know, there's Carbon sequestering and how are you? Are you carbon neutral? There are issues around others my cat there are issues around pollution and what are you doing with the water watercourses? Are they protected in the way of farming? There are issues to do with soil regeneration. How's that fit in? There are other issues in terms of animals, there are some people out there who feel that we shouldn't be farming animals at all and that it's wrong.
And we don't happen to feel that way. But it doesn't mean that their point of view doesn't deserve to be understood to see is, is it because they don't, ethically they don't believe it's right. Or if it's from a climate standpoint depending on the type of farm you're working with, it does matter what's going on. And these are all questions that we're working with. Those are external ones, with ours, our producers. And then internally, we need to be better too. Because you know, you can't just look out and tell people what to do. We need to change what we're doing, we need to not be wasteful like I showed you on-site at the arches. You know, if there's spare heat coming out of our refrigeration that needs to become warm water. If there's cleaning to be done, we need not pollute the watercourse. And so it's about what we do. And that's vital.
Michael Tingsager: 31:39
But interesting, if I'm like listening to you and summing up this talk about the growth, it's about in principle about becoming better. So maybe there's a demand that's even bigger, that you can serve those customers those willing to pay there. But if you can't do that in a sustainable, holistic way, where everybody wins, you're not having healthy growth, that's in principle, but you're saying
David Lockwood: 32:02
No, no, it's not that if we can't, it's that we will do that we will yeah.
Michael Tingsager: 32:09
Because again, it's about the pressure you put on you know, the farmers, the animals, I guess, and all those things that some time and hyper-growth come in, and we want to, you know, this is a great business, let's put it in a model, as you say, and then we'll let's see how fast we can grow that.
David Lockwood: 32:27
For us, the danger in that sort of thing is that when for our customers, and actually the way we feel about things, if we go too quickly, and choose the cheeses that we don't particularly feel strongly about, or should, you know, from shouldn't be on our counter. We're sliding to the squeezed middle, and we're not going to compete there. We compete on flavour, and on service, and hopefully knowledge as well. We try not to waste our customer's money, or our suppliers, frankly, on things like transport, doing it poorly, or, you know, we work, we work with a lean system. We're not Toyota, but we're trying to be good at these things. But the focus is the quality of cheese, that's what keeps us in business that that's what will help us achieve the goal of improving British cheese. And, so the way to compete at that level is to understand what you're good at and build on that. Does that make sense to you? Michael?
Michael Tingsager: 33:55
It totally makes sense. Because again, it may feel contra intuitive compared to the normal growth paradigm where we talk about a year on year or week on week improvement of sales and profitability but you talk about delivering a vision, understanding the seeds you plant today will prosper tomorrow. And you just made a 10-year plan or commitment vision can you just like shortly explain how you did that and why you work in 10 years instead of three years one or one year plan.
David Lockwood: 34:31
So why? Why we did it is very simple. We can get wrapped up in the day-to-day really easily. And without that long-term outlook. We'll keep paddling along but we're not going to do anything special And if we want to really make a difference, to do things well, and I'm not saying we have to be the only ones out there leading the charge, I'd love it. I'd love it. I mean, it's wonderful. Actually, I do love it that the courtyard dairy and the swings go and Kathy swings go have come along, they're a smaller retailer. And they do a bit of wholesale, but they're doing the right stuff. They're working with producers, and we're there together. But there's that leadership in the industry that I want to be in, and, and to have the ideas to have the mindspace, the bandwidth to actually do this stuff, you need to think ahead, think what's important, take that time.
So we went away, and spend some time thinking about it, a lot of time thinking about it, and wrote it up. We had, we're also really fortunate because we have an amazing, amazing bunch of managers, and actually, colleagues, who aren’t managers to her set, demanding saying, what's the vision? What are we going to do? Where's the path? You know, not, this is exactly what we wanted, we're going to be doing, but what's it gonna look like? What do you see it looks like at this point in time. And so those, that combination of things drove us to put together, it's actually still in a draft format because it's not done till March. But the initial vision and the next step for us is the strategic plan, which is, what are the steps to making that happen. And that's something that will work out with the team.
Because, frankly, I'm not the one who's going to make the sales happen at our new shop in Islington. It's the North of the river management team, Miranda and Will who are going to take care of that. And, and that's where their responsibility will come into play. And it's not to say I absolve myself of that I'll be active in it, but they need to believe it, because they're going to do it. And so that's we're going to take that vision, which is pretty close, close enough that we could start working on that strategic plan. And put it into place with nice, clear metrics, and places where we check in to see how we're doing. Because if we need to change things, that's okay. I don't know what's going to be happening in 10 years. If I did, I'd probably be on an island in the Bahamas.
Michael Tingsager: 38:03
I'll be Advisor to the President.,
David Lockwood: 38:06
I what I do know is that we can make a good guess at it. And I don't know, I love the Sun Tzu's things, the first casualty on the battlefield is always the plan. Absolutely. But that doesn't matter. The point that point is that you've taken the time to think things through beforehand so that your next plan won't be based on anything. You've done a lot of that work already.
Michael Tingsager: 38:06
It's interesting, you're talking about planning and thinking ahead. And we touched a bit on the people bit and involving them in the plan and you know, writing up like a thing like this, and you could see when we're in a factory, we could see that people were working on eating, they're part of whatever had to be delivered, and you had different plans on the wall standards and so on. We'll come back to the standards. But what is your approach to people because you talk a lot about partners, business partners, and people being involved in joint ventures, how do you see people connecting with this way of growth? How do you think people management or leadership as a company?
David Lockwood: 39:23
I think that I think we're absolutely dependent on people. And, and that there's no better way to demotivate your workforce than to not treat them with respect and as the intelligent human beings that pretty much almost all of them are. And some of them, you know, I can't think of anyone who's worked with At the dairy, who didn't have something valuable to contribute, at some point, you know, some of those, those employment terms didn't and you know, in glory, but honestly, when you treat people with respect and listen to them, what they see and what they hear is amazing. And their ability to contribute to feel part of things is is, is vital to making a change. And I guess why I keep I go beyond the dairy is, if, when I think of our suppliers that we buy from as partners, it changes the relationship, it means that I'm listening to them more, and they're listening to me more. And, and we get places faster. Likewise, with customers, they tell you stuff, sometimes they liked hearing it, sometimes you don't. But it's the stuff you need to know if you're gonna keep doing things.
Well. Yeah. And, and so I guess that's it, just listen and listen and be respectful. And if we do that, it's not going to focus back cheese doesn't make itself, right. It's the people who eat well, the cows make it but the cows get a lot of help from people in terms of the feed and the milking and yeah, but But and so that's, that's why it's so important. And I think that when people are interested, they stick around longer. And that intellectual capital that they've acquired over time. It's amazing. And as much as it hurts when someone leaves who you really enjoy working with, honestly, if they stay in the industry, it's great. You know, we're here in Borough, talking, there was a manager here for I don't know how many years, maybe 8, 10 years, who left recently, and now he's making cheese and we sell it. I love that, that that that's exactly what I'd like to happen when people or they open a hotel in New Orleans, or whatever it is, you know, but we stay friends.
Michael Tingsager: 42:42
Do you see a bit like you are you're not creating good employees, you're creating good business people that believe in the same things that you guys believe in. So thereby, you know, you can throw a stone out and improve the world by they take some of the learnings because your way, you know, influence wherever you go and get your training or the companies you stay with for years, even decades, sometimes.
David Lockwood: 43:08
I would hope that rather than creating it's more that we allow people the opportunity to grow with what they already have, you know, and sometimes people are, they want it faster than we could offer it to them. Which is fair enough. Sometimes. Sometimes we just can't do or give what they want at all, you know, it's just, but then we shake hands and try and help them find that right job. I guess one of the things I've found more and more lately is people, people ask for a plan a very, you know, they want to know what am I going to be doing in five years? And I will confess to being quite mixed on this question. Because it reminds me of my summer as an intern on Wall Street. When that was the way it went, you know, well, this is what you do. And if you're good, you'll move on. And if you're not you move out.
And I would hope that we could give people an idea, or people would accept that we can give them an idea of where things will be. But also that we want to be nimble enough and small enough because we're not that big. That there's an understanding that things will change and that you have to be if you want that sort of clear hierarchy, or I don't know what the right word is but that clear path for what you're going to be doing over the next five years and the titles associated with it. Maybe you're better off at more corporate culture in more corporate culture, we are a corporation but in a more traditional corporate culture.
Michael Tingsager: 45:13
Because one of the things I noticed when I was walking around as it was not like, even though you gave people the freedom to operate as I could see it, permission to operate goals, well, you can see people, there was still a lot of numbers, I call numbers standards as well, we need to achieve this to do well for the customer, the quality and cheese and you know, you were quite rigorous about the whole safety around the place, you know, and as you should be from food safety, but also because you want to do a good job. And you can see that people were actually walking around writing down things. And there was like, a certain amount of standards a bit like, you know, one of my favourites, sportspeople around them. That is Michael Jordan, it comes from your country. It talks a lot about your, your fundamental standards every day. That's where it starts. Is that you know, can you see that? You know, it's no people normally think when people have freedom, there are no rules, there are no standards. But as I saw it in your business, and you can correct me, that's it. Was it all about the day-to-day standards that 1% better every day?
David Lockwood: 46:17
Yes. I think that people when they're held accountable for when things go well, as well as when things go wrong, are happy to work in the way we asked them to. Because it's fair, it's very, I'd like, here's my wish, that it is very clear what everyone's supposed to be doing at all times. And as much as you might, yeah, as someone coming through the first time to see all the stuff that's right. For me, I also see all this stuff that's not quite so right. But also know that we're all working really hard to make those things right, more, right. And working out what the next thing also that we could do a little better is that 1% You're talking about. But I think that I think that when people understand, you know, the mission, whether or not they could talk about it, but if they could understand it in their hearts, they will make good decisions, we also train people pretty hard, you know, the, for instance, the production line where the orders going out to get packed, to be fully trained in there is roughly 75 workdays.
Right? Which is, you know, and that's just the train to the basics, you know, trained to taste cheese, well, that's two years of tasting all the time, because you need to be through all the seasons all the time, you know, for so twice, you know, through all the seasons. If assuming you're paying attention when you do it. So we do spend an awful lot of time training. I think, fundamentally, and maybe my experience is different than most but I could say when I worked at Zingerman's when I've worked the dairy. I think most people really want to do a good job and want to, especially if there's a bit of recognition that they're doing it well. And so. So with that in mind, I don't think it goes to anarchy all that quickly. I think people if anything, become too uptight about the rules at times. Yeah.
Michael Tingsager: 48:58
But the interesting thing again, with standards, that's my own experience as well is that you know, often people in the very traditional organizations don't know the numbers, so they don't know what to improve and thereby they get demotivated but actually want to know what the numbers is because then I can see him part of pushing the cart in the right direction. And we touch shortly and we were walking around open-book management, you know, involving people in the numbers and you said like, you know, pre-pandemic, we had a down the wall and now we have it online. But again, you share the numbers with people so they clearly understand where the business is today and could be tomorrow.
David Lockwood: 49:37
Yeah, I have well, Ari and Paul, the other founding partner at Zingerman's kind of they beat that one into they didn't beat it into me. They showed me how effective it is to not be afraid to share numbers. When people know what is expected. If you know the expectation Then if you understand what's going on around it, then you can make good choices. And I believe, maybe naively that most people can and do make good choices when presented with the right information. I'm not afraid to share the numbers. That's is true. We don't share salaries. We, we never have. Part of me is tempted to go down that road. But I know that I know that three of my partner, just see what the other three active partners are not tempted at all.
And probably, for now, it's wiser not to but, you know, it does make it clear to staff that the whole of this staff at the dairy, that, you know, we don't have yachts docked down on the south coast, you know, we're working hard we make a decent living. And, and that that's what there is. And it's also clear in terms of, you know, when either you want to buy, make a capital expenditure, buy something or if you're arguing for a salary raise for your department, and, you know, we could look at the numbers together and know, is this possible, is it not? It's very simple that way.
Michael Tingsager: 51:33
And that's, you know, very counterintuitive for the traditional business where you probably don't know what was going on besides top line and some parts of the P&L, which can then also be shadowed of how those numbers that have been put up. So I think that's a very interesting thing concept in itself. But then you've been through the pandemic as a business as well. And I think it's very interesting as we look back now we out of, you know, maybe out of the worst battlegrounds, I don't think we are on the other side. Yeah. But what have been your learnings, as you know, as an individual, a CEO that wants to do the right thing with the business? How was How was this? You know, is there anything that like you really, you knew you're left behind with like a reflection, something has changed in the way you see things?
David Lockwood: 52:24
I think that my takeaways there a couple. We thought about our staff first. And we continue to do that we continue to wear masks when we're working. Be because that's the way we're going to keep people safe. And it's really important. It's also the only way we'll be able to keep packing cheese if someone gets out. Yeah, but, or selling it from the shops. But the importance of making the decision that we believe is right, by doing the research because we were on masks Well, before we were we're told to it's vital. And I think I think that's just that thinking, you know, making sure to do the right thing for your staff. Really important. The second lesson, there's always an opportunity. And the thing that will kill you is when people are tired and worn out, and don't have the vision to see him through pollen, or you call this zone of blame and doubt. Do you know about this? Yeah. Okay. And, you know, there is the zone of blame and doubt, it's a big deal. And by showing people it's that sharing the numbers, it's showing them the cheese, it's letting them know how much what they're doing of what they're doing really means to that producer. All these things they're vital. So the vision for the zone of blame and blame and doubt.
Michael Tingsager: 54:21
And you as MD Managing Director, business partner in the business, been here for a long time, how do you keep on you know, you need to reinvent yourself almost call it sometimes when you're in the same business, how do you show up? I called Pro a strong every day and actually, you know, do what you do because it takes a lot of energy. I know that running a business what is your like your learnings around that, especially the time we went through with all the uncertainty keeping people safe, not just yourself, but the responsibility of the business and so on. How do you do it? What is your secret recipe?
David Lockwood: 55:02
I think my secret recipe, I think my secret recipe is not such a secret. I think I'm honest with people. So if I'm having a rough day I'll, I'll say it with a smile. You know, I'll say, it's not a great day, or I'm inclined to say no to things. You know, I, Jason and Randolph, who we worked together for a long time, have ideas everywhere. And I can do be like that, too. But I was the financial director at the time. And I got in the habit of saying no, too quickly. And so now I make sure people know everyone from actually when they start, like, when you approach me for an idea to give me an idea, understand that my initial reaction will, it'll say it might sound like nope, but I'll question it, I'll see the faults in it, it's really important that you understand that in anywhere from 20 minutes to 24 hours, I will have processed it enough to come through. And I make, I guess I make my weaknesses clear to people, hopefully, so that they understand where they are. But they also see my strengths.
And, and that honesty is what sees him to what the freshness is to come in. And eat cheese, right? This is I guess that's the reset button that's like, like, you know, turn it off, turn it on. With the power cycling, I go and taste cheese, right, and it focuses me on what we're trying to do. I'll taste cheese, I'll grab my buying book, and look at the batches that I selected at the farm and how they're maturing. Now. That's a reset for me, I'll go if, if I'm not positive enough, I have people who I trust. I have a lot of people look, I'm a very fortunate man, I have a lot of people that I trust, who I could lean on a little and I'll say, Hey, can we take a walk I need to work through chew through this problem is I say, but I think it's an honesty about who I am.
And what I'm like at the moment. And again, I'm really fortunate because I work with people who know, enough that as much as I might not want to hear something, I'm there, to hear it. And to get a little better for that. And so that that's that's my way. I'm very, it's funny, I'm quite an introvert in many ways, but I also like people a lot, and, and we'll learn from them, and I'm willing to work with them. I think people trust me. Because they understand that I'm on their side, um, I'm working for them. As a provider, you know, it's not a provider. It's not like a rub them out. But we're working toward the same end goal, you know, which is improved British cheese. And so yeah, I have bad days. But I have people to help me through them, which is good. Or sometimes I'll just, you know, I'll take it, you know, take an extra-martial arts class. And help centre me in all seriousness, yeah.
Michael Tingsager: 58:56
Yeah, I totally know what you're talking about, especially when it comes to you know because it takes you away from focusing on the problem and focusing on balance instead. Last question, David today, there are so many things we would probably continue for hours. But the last question, you can have the stage and maybe give a couple of advice to other business leaders out there because it is a time where we are rewriting the playbook for many things or that's definitely what we communicate and think probably not much has changed but we have an opportunity. Talking about opportunities to change things. What would you be your like top three advice to two leaders out there are two one.
David Lockwood: 59:46
Not in not necessarily in order. You often have a choice, an opportunity to do something thing. And you could do it in a way that's a little kinder, or a little less kind. He, I think people should choose to be just a little kinder if they have that opportunity. Number two, you can't be afraid. Don't be afraid. And it's not. You could be afraid to say yes, you could be afraid to say no, it doesn't matter. Just don't be afraid. Just look at things. Take the fear away, and make it make a decision or make it make those choices. And understand that emotion will play a role in it. But try and try and block out fear. If you're gonna pick on one. Fear, in the case of business fears, is a good one, a good one to have as a warning. But when you're coming to that choice, recognize you've been warned, but make a choice based on fear. And the third thing is, and this is personal, I don't know how it affects other businesses, because I've worked at the dairy for so long. But keep coming back to the mission. I know that whenever we move away from talking about the mission too much if it just gets kind of slumped off to the side, that's when we go wrong. And so take that time.
Michael Tingsager: 1:01:48
And especially in times when now there's time to revisit that and actually find out what that means you just yourself made your 10-year vision that's being rolled out now. Where can people find you and Neal's Yard Dairy if they do want to know more? If you want to reach out ask you anything?
David Lockwood: 1:02:10
Well, it's easy. Neal's Yard Dairy. I'm just firstname.lastname@example.org. And I am okay with people emailing with the question. Just make sure to say on the tagline, that it's out of the podcast. They heard about it. But I'm very happy to talk to people who are interested in thinking about how we could do things better, or have questions.
Michael Tingsager: 1:02:38
Great. Thank you so much, David, for saying yes to having us. And also like giving us the tour of the dairy was an absolutely incredible experience and tasting the cheese. But I think it's all about the pudding isn't it is in the pudding. And I send you and the team the power and energy you need to steer into the future to next the next decade as you're laid out.
David Lockwood: 1:03:02
Thank you very much, Michael. It's a pleasure talking to you, my dog is pretty happy you're here. He's just arrived.