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The anti dot com path to success: A different way of living and working

October 8th, 2009 · 2 Comments

I have read Bread and Butter: What a Bunch of Bakers Taught Me About Business and Happiness three times. It has fundamentally changed how I look at work and life.

A few years ago, when I was living in Chicago, I visited the Great Harvest Bread store in Evanston, IL. I loved their bread. I enjoyed the music. I just felt something special about the store. Bread and Butter was the story behind Great Harvest Bread chain of stores.

But, it’s much more than an entrepreneur success story. It’s about a totally different way of approaching life and work. Let me share with you what I learned from the book.

Pick a place and a life style first, then figure out how to make enough money to support.

Pete and Laura Wakeman, husband and wife, co-founders of Great Harvest, were classmates at Cornell. After college, they didn’t want to work for anyone. They both loved Montana and outdoors. So, they moved to Montana. For them, their work is a way to support the life style they had chosen for themselves.

They created "handrails" to make sure they work to live, not live to work.

  • Although they owned a highly successful store and later ran an entire franchise system of 100+ stores, they had a limit of working 2,000 hours a year. They filled out time card every day to track how many hours they work. They later reduced the 2,000 hours limit to 1,000 hours.
  • They never worked in the weekend.
  • Every summer, they took 1-3 months off to take their daughters to travel. They were completely gone. To support the summer trips, they built a system so that employee could self-manage.

A unique franchise model built on a knowledge sharing community and freedom to innovate

Before the term such as "social network, community building, etc." became buzz words, Pete and Laura created a community for Great Harvest franchise owners to share best practices. They reimbursed half of the travel expense for franchise owners to travel to other stores to learn and share. They created newsletters and other mechanisms for knowledge sharing.

Unlike typical franchises such as McDonald, which requires franchisees to follow the exact standards to operate their stores, Great Harvest had only a few rules. Franchisees were given a lot of freedoms to try things on their own.

To work on your business, work on yourself.

Every day, Pete and Laura did 45-minute of meditation, and 45-minute of Yoga. They ate very health. Absolutely no coffee, no simple sugar.

In a newsletter Pete wrote to the entire Great Harvest community, he shared the story of how one store owner in Utah achieved extraordinary sales. The owner was a former social worker without any prior business experience. He was 39 years old when he bought the store with help from his parents. He only worked 4 days a week. He never set any goals for himself. But, he started to meditate a year before he bought the store. He decided to use his job as a meditative experience. Whenever he had any problem at work, he told himself that he accepted problem as it’s. And he would go home that night and work on himself.

His store was one of the most successful stores in the Great Harvest system.


A few years ago, after running Great Harvest Bread for 20+ years, Pete and Laura sold the company to a group of investors for $25 million dollars. But, I think what’s even more impressive is that they enjoyed the journey every step of the way. They didn’t sacrifice their own well being, health, and family for the financial reward.

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Tags: Learning and Growing · Work/Life Balance

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Fabian Kruse // Nov 17, 2009 at 7:59 pm

    Thanks for this inspiring story! Sound like a good read and I absolutely agree with your conclusion.

  • 2 Fabian Kruse // Nov 18, 2009 at 12:59 am

    Thanks for this inspiring story! Sound like a good read and I absolutely agree with your conclusion.

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