The change from the third to the fourth generation took place like clockwork. “We did not have to put our energy into fighting and being churlish but were always able to work for the good of the company and invest our energy in the future. We are still benefiting today from the experience and corporate networking of our father,” explain Matthias and Raphael.
The two brothers’ secret recipe:
“We get on like a house on fire!”
Matthias and Raphael grew up together in their parents’ district bakery between sacks of flour and baking shapes. Both learned the profession from scratch.
They spent years apart during their training and during spells abroad gathering experience. The great culmination of this time apart was the year they spent together in Japan before they both started in their parents’ company in 1997.
“When dealing with food, the best recipe is only average if the goods are not fresh.”
Matthias and Raphael Bachmann, taking over a parental business is simply not an option for many people. But since we are talking about a confiserie here, you probably never hesitated …
Matthias Bachmann: It’s true that we fell in love with this wonderful profession at a very early age. We grew up in the district bakery on the Wesemlin amongst sacks of flour, baking shapes and whisks. The bakery was our home. We lived upstairs from where the baking was done. That is why we have such a close connection to the company and the profession itself. We also always felt that our parents being self-employed was a very positive thing. We would like to mention at this point that our parents too were extremely successful in their career and are still seen as pioneers in the branch today. Our parents exemplified entrepreneurship to us perfectly. We found out at an early stage what it meant to work successfully, about the respect you should have for your employees and about the obligations that success brings with it. But our parents never tried to influence us in a choice of career. Even today, our parents are still our greatest role models. To succeed, they had to take professional risks the likes of which we haven’t yet had to take. And we respect them incredibly for that.
What was the most important thing that your parents passed on to you?
Raphael Bachmann: As Matthias already mentioned, our parents and their life mission are very much still major role models for us today. Both as entrepreneurs and quite simply as people. During our training, we met countless bosses and company owners all over the world. But in terms of how to put your visions into practice and, in particular, how to treat people, appreciate them and lead them, these are all things we learned from our parents. They generously invested in our training and financed our time abroad. We never had to depend on a salary and were therefore able to work in the best companies where we could also further our training. We learned foreign languages and had the opportunity to become acquainted with and come to terms with various cultures. And that is something that makes us what we are today. In the Swiss service industry, you automatically give jobs to people from other cultures. To be able to understand them, you, as the boss, have to have had similar feelings yourself. And we learned that during our years of travel.
Matthias: Just like today, the profession was the focus at the district bakery where we grew up. It’s a great help that we not only trained as bakers but as patissiers/chocolatiers, and that we learned the job from scratch. Of course you can lead a company today simply as a manager. But we are patissiers. And that is why we like being seen in our professional clothing. The products are the heart of our company. What we have achieved today would not have been possible without the dedication of four generations. And it’s all the nicer when you can continue on a basis that has already been established and not actually have to start from the beginning.
“After all, we grew up in a district bakery amongst sacks of flour, baking shapes and whisks.”
A lot of companies in the food industry keep their recipes secret, almost worshipping them. What is the situation here? What are your secrets?
Raphael: Recipes are without doubt the basis of a good product. We have outstanding and very traditional recipes. But still you shouldn’t overemphasise the importance of them. Besides, a “hidden” recipe does make everyone want to have it. Particularly when dealing with food, the best recipe can only ever hope to be average if the goods are not fresh. So I suppose the most important secret is therefore our uncompromising freshness concept. We deliver goods to our specialist stores several times a day. In fact, anywhere up to six times. In our trade, deliveries are normally only made to shops once or possibly twice a day. And then of course there is also the fact that we make things by hand: Until there is a machine with ten fingers that is capable of having the “feel” a qualified baker/patissier has, we will stick to doing things by hand. And the greatest difference for a long time now: our employees. For years we have been a well-rehearsed team showing great passion and commitment. Without our employees, the development of the company would never have been possible. We make no compromises when it comes to raw materials. In this point, and only in this point, there is a basic hierarchical principle. What my brother and I don’t eat ourselves is not processed, never mind sold.
We define our values in aspects such as customer satisfaction, employee satisfaction and quality, and in future we will do only what we can do better than the rest. We bake with passion. You cannot just mix ingredients. The recipes are important but they are not decisive: You have to like the customers and respect them to be able to bake exceptional quality for them day in, day out. We see our greatest challenge as keeping one step ahead of industry and the competition and ensuring our premium quality keeps its value and tastes noticeably better to the consumer. As we will continue to make things by hand, you cannot have anything better than qualified employees, whose encouragement, training and satisfaction are of great importance to us. We will have to make further investments in terms of energy transition and also sustainability.
Bachmann is now well established on the market. Have there been any sticky patches?
Matthias: The company has grown considerably and has been shaped by many changes. Today there is no such thing as absolute security, but neither of us has ever bothered about being responsible for corporate risks since we were always both totally convinced of what we were doing. This gave us the necessary security and underlined our conviction that we were doing the right thing. A lot of people we went to college with ask us how we managed to transform the district bakery into one of the three largest commercial confiseries/bakeries in Switzerland. Today we can say that the development is unique in our sector. But there are no free lunches. You don’t get anything for nothing. We work a lot and we work hard for our success.
“Of course you can lead a company today simply as a manager. But we are patissiers.”
What are your next steps? Where is your journey likely to take you?
Matthias: The magic word is innovations. They have guaranteed the success of our development and will remain our lifeblood and means of survival. It is thanks to them that we have been able to grow fourfold in recent years in a market that is actually saturated. When we started working for the company in 1996, revenue with ice-cream was virtually zero, apart from a few meringue/ice-cream gateaux. Today we produce more than 70 tonnes of ice-cream a year. The ice-cream market was and will be dominated and determined by industry. With our natural recipes and a maturing process in manufacture, we were quickly able to win over lots of ice-cream lovers because they obviously notice the difference. This is an example of what is possible in an industry-dominated and saturated market.
Raphael: Extending the specialist stores is also a matter of great personal importance to us. In 1998, we created the first feng-shui bakery in Switzerland. It’s usually a subconscious decision as to whether a customer decides to enter your premises or not. Your products can be as good as they like: if they are not illuminated and cooled correctly, or if they can hardly be seen, they are not bought.
Matthias: Innovation promotes corporate development and customer loyalty. And it is with innovation that we can practice our wonderful profession. Innovation development is secured with customer requirements, the passion of the employees and good, targeted marketing. The promotion lies in direct and uncomplicated management and decision-making within the company as well as an exhaustion of the possibilities. It is only when everything fits together that we can offer our customers the desired value added. That is what makes us unique.
“We bake with passion. You cannot just mix ingredients.”
We are proud to say that we can count on lots of very experienced employees over and above the members of our family. They invest just as much passion in our company as we do, we trust them one-hundred per cent, and they all work independently in their own particular area of responsibility and continue their development. At managerial level, these people are Daniel Weber, production manager (in the company since 1997), and Jacqueline Di Marco, head of Sales (since 1998 in the company).
“We all have a common goal.”
As a management team, we have all travelled on the same path of expansion together over the last 18 years. Together we have sweated, toiled, planned, fought, made up, laughed and celebrated, and had to cope with setbacks. But one thing has not changed to this very day: We all have a common goal. This goal unites us and is the basis of a successful shared future.