From a traditional model to collaborative working with Bettys & Taylors

Working with Oasis is not for the faint-hearted but the benefits are just incredible. It is a journey that you take together and we all get a huge amount out of it.

Lesley WildChairman, Bettys & Taylors Group


Oasis first worked with Bettys & Taylors Group helping them to address questions relating to succession, cultural change, development of leadership skills within the governing body and senior team, and helping to embed even deeper relationships with shareholders. That set the foundation for a whole organisation development process that was initiated in January 2010.

Bettys & Taylors Group is an independent family business based in Harrogate, specialising in craft baking and confectionery, teas and coffees, with catering and retail branches across Yorkshire. They are the business behind the Yorkshire Tea brand and the legendary Bettys Café Tea Rooms.

The business takes great pride in its ethical trading relationships; its commitment to being environmentally responsible and its approach to being a great place to work.

From a traditional model to collaborative working

When Oasis came on board the first and most challenging task was to create an approach to people and organisational development that reflected the deeply held values of the business, whilst creating a methodology that helped it to make some of the most substantial changes in ways of working and leadership that the company had faced in the 90 years since it was established.

Like many family businesses which start out small, BTG’s management structure was based on a paternalistic model, with one person overseeing the whole. Chief Executive Jonathan Wild knew everything about the business, and every one of the people within it, and was able to make decisions in an intuitive way. Under his 35 year leadership the business had become tremendously successful.

But with over 1,200 employees the company had grown to the point where it was no longer possible to operate in the ways that had worked so successfully. With a decision about his retirement looming, it was recognised that a plan for the future was needed. It is testament to the foresight within the business that the succession process was three years in preparation.

Chairman Lesley Wild said: “I knew that we needed a fundamental shift in culture and approach to really achieve anything. Oasis take that sort of approach and they are not afraid to tell you the truth.”

Together we have been working on changing BTG from a family-owned and run organisation to being family-owned and run by non-family executives.

The process has not been easy yet has been felt to be very worthwhile.

Lesley says: “There were obstacles, stumbling blocks, and it was an upheaval, but there is an energy to it now and the crucial people are properly engaged.”

An Organisational Development Holding Group is looking at the new ways of working that the business will need in the future. Longer term strategic thinking and practice now lives in far more people across the business, giving increasing numbers of those involved in the company a renewed direction and purpose. The development work has encompassed processes, purpose, values and resources across the Group of companies.

Unlearning, learning and growing up

Lesley said: “I knew we had to do something fundamental. Everybody waited to be told what to do; although we were still making money, if we carried on like that for any length of time it would have been the beginning of the end. There were leadership challenges and the early warning signs were there.”

The deep culture of service and loyalty had many benefits, but it also had a tendency to avoid proactive, autonomous decision-making. Developing a more self-initiating and accountable culture has been tackled as part of a process of “unlearning” old habits and behaviours and embracing ways of working that have been designed and shaped by those who are engaged in the business.

The business needed to provide opportunities for people to make a contribution, and they needed to learn to question, to think for themselves and use their initiative.

As part of this a bespoke programme to develop the leaders of the future was devised. The one year RASCAL (developing Responsibility, Action, Stewardship, Collaboration and Authentic Learning) programme started in 2010 and has been rolled out to senior managers across the business. Bespoke development programmes for Bettys branch managers and bakery managers also began in 2010.

Lesley says: “We struggled in our business to deal with conflict and to be open and honest. We were terribly nice to each other but in the end that can be a problem because we were not being as honest as we needed to be.”

People are enthusiastic about the changes and can see real potential and possibility for themselves having more autonomy and more control over their area and roles.

“There is the ability to have healthy challenge and to have grown-up conversations about behaviour which we could not do before. I do really recommend working with Oasis,” says Lesley.

Find out more

To find out more about collaborative working, leadership development and culture change in a family business, you can watch the following short films:

To have a conversation please contact us or call us on 01937 541700.