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Last Update: Thursday April 2, 2020

Key Idea: Grow Carefully

Growing too fast can cause systems and cash flow problems.

Key Question:


Paul teaches us that you must strengthen your processes.  He asked everyone to slow down.  He asked the cheese makers to document their procedures so they could codify the recipes.  He put together a training manual to insure consistency and to protect himself against employees who might  leave the company with the operation secrets in their heads.

Think about it

What keeps you from growing?  Do too few people know too much? Where is your bottleneck? 

Clip from: Specialty Cheese

Lowell, Wisconsin:  Visit the oldest continuously-running cheese factory in Wisconsin.  In this episode of the show we meet Vicki & Paul Scharfman of Specialty Cheese. This story is about marketing. It may look like magic, it's not.  It is all about testing, trial and error, and focus groups.

Prepped with their Harvard MBAs and seasoned with big business experience, these two bought a marginal business and turned it around.  They learned how to put diversity into the land of cheddar and attracted a whole new customer base.  This is America!

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Specialty Cheese, Inc.

Paul Scharfman, Owner

430 North Main Street
Reeseville, WI 53579

Visit our web site:

Toll Free: 800.367.1711

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1839

Grow Carefully

HATTIE: Paul says you can grow too fast.

PAUL: We had seven cheese-makers originally, licensed Wisconsin cheese-makers, making one product differently. Here we are, we've been in business for a little less than a year. We're just introducing our new pride and joy, the new La Baca Rica brand of Hispanic cheeses, and I pick up a piece of cheese from vat one and a piece of cheese from vat two and they taste different. I can tell. That's not good.

What happened? We call back to the office, and they say, `Well, the first vat was made by such and such a cheese-maker and the second vat was made on a different shift or at a different plant.' How could this be? I get the seven licensed cheese-makers in a room and I say, `Guys, I thought we were all making the same cheese.' And they say, `We are.' `How do you make it?' Seven different answers. You can't do that and grow.

Slow down. Get one procedure for that product. Make a training manual for your employees. If sanitation is so important in your business, which it is, you better find out what the procedures are for sanitation, how to train people, how to test, how to be sure that you have the quality all the time. Fast growth jeopardizes product quality, and that's what happened to us. So over the course of the second and third years we've evolved into a pattern of weekly core group meetings. Paul would visit the plants every so often; there'd be team meetings. And we had to set up a new notion, and the new notion was team meetings, plant meetings, listening to what the employees said.

Now you're growing new products, so now you gotta ask, `So, Leandro, what's it like when we ask you to put paprika on the outside of the cheese?' I can't ask the management; they've never done this before. I gotta ask the person who's doing it. And he'll say, `Well, I really need a dry table or it gets all gummy.' I wouldn't have figured that out. The management wouldn't have figure it out. So you need to develop a culture of bottom up.

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