40 Under Forty: Bryan Layton, owner, Great Harvest Bread Co.

2014-02-02T00:15:00Z 2014-02-10T16:40:17Z 40 Under Forty: Bryan Layton, owner, Great Harvest Bread Co. The Billings Gazette
February 02, 2014 12:15 am

When you bake bread for a living, it means waking up before the chickens in order to get fresh products on the shelf in time for the morning breakfast crowd.

Bryan Layton, owner of Great Harvest Bread Co., has put in countless early-morning shifts during eight years of running the made-from-scratch bakery at 907 Poly Drive. Even though Layton’s time at the oven has dwindled as his management responsibilities have grown, he still takes enjoyment from the hands-on aspects of running a bakery.

Like many new college graduates, Layton landed a corporate job after graduating from Weber State University. “I did that for about 3-1/2 years, and it was OK, but it was just a big corporation telling me what to do in my area, so I started looking for something else to do,” Layton said.

He began asking a friend, a business owner, for advice on what it would take for him to start his own business. Among other things, the capital requirements for running a business seemed daunting at the time. A few months later, the friend called back to say he was looking for a partner to run a Great Harvest Bakery in Pocatello, Idaho.

The Laytons operated the Idaho bakery for two years, then moved to Billings when that Great Harvest franchise became available. The business, a franchise of Dillon-based Great Harvest Bread Co., has been on a roll ever since. Layton said the store, located on a busy street in an established residential neighborhood, is a local neighborhood hangout. Lots of kids stop by for a free bread sample after school. It’s also a destination for people who are planning to buy bread or sit down for lunch.

Describe how you got where you are in your work today: Just a determination to make things work. I actually care about the experience and products our business provides. It takes a lot of hard work, blessings from above and sometimes dumb luck.

What’s the toughest challenge that you have faced in your business? Rapid growth. With continuous growth, we have to constantly change. We have to employ and train more people, change shifts, change responsibilities, keep up with inventory, stay consistent with customer service and product quality and in the end make sure we have a bottom line.

What have you learned from that challenge? I’ve learned to adapt, to appreciate good employees and give them more responsibilities, to adjust our systems and new employee training to be more efficient and contain better detailed information.

What’s the best business advice you have received? To look forward to new employees. I still struggle with it, but really, what choice do I have? You either embrace it and enjoy the process and new personalities or you don’t enjoy work every day.

Who gave you that advice? The owner of the Great Harvest in Idaho Falls during our first year as owners.

Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I think overall we have a good community. We have the same problems as many other places have and struggle with. It can be overwhelming when thought of such a large scale, but I heard a good theory from Stephen R. Covey, who says that our circle of worries is much larger than our circle of influence. We should concentrate on our circle of influence to make a difference.

For me that isn’t a very big circle, but maybe one of these days I’ll get my kids to listen to me.

Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? When I first moved here and was out running errands around town wearing my Great Harvest T-shirts, people would often stop me and say “Oh, you’re the place on Grand,” or something similar, referring to another business in town. Now when I’m out and about I am constantly stopped by people who see my shirt and say things such as “I love your cinnamon swirl bread” or “Your employees are so nice.” To me, these are the best measures of success.

Which living person do you most admire? My father.

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Supporting a family by way of a business that we starting without any financial help. My wife and I followed through and paid for our educations, scrounged up anything we could sell to get a start and worked hard to accomplish our goals to get to where we are today.

I’m happiest when I’m … Busy improving something.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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