I have had the honor of working with Pete Luckett as his agent and manager for over 20 years. And in that time, I have never witnessed a more charismatic, committed and creative entrepreneur. The recent sale of Pete’s Fine Foods to Sobeys was big news, and yes, to some a disappointment. But there are some great business lessons here we shouldn’t overlook.
As many people know, Pete hails from Nottingham, England and a huge part of his success is because he found a way to differentiate himself by reverting to his skills learned as a young greengrocer. Cajoling customers as they walked by and ‘showing them the love’ was an everyday experience at Pete’s. This later blossomed from showing us the love, to showing us the world. He opened up our eyes and our pallets to exotic produce and gourmet food items. And he built a loyal following. He created a brand that is fiercely loved by many.
While there was overwhelming congratulations on social media about the sale, there were also statements from customers who felt so strongly about the brand that they acted as if they owned it, almost as if Pete didn’t have a right to sell it. I can tell you that my conversations with Pete that week weren’t easy. It was hard for him to read some of the comments on social media feeds. As someone who has personally witnessed the demanding hours required to keep a fresh produce business alive and thriving, it seemed unfair to me. But it’s also remarkable. Because that’s what branding is all about. A brand is what you are in the eyes of your customer, and when a brand is really strong, there is a powerful connection.
I also feel that there is a very exciting legacy opportunity here for Pete (personally) and for Pete’s customers as well. Sobeys has every intention of staying true, and learning from the magic of Pete’s. Why wouldn’t they? And imagine the possibilities. The gem Pete created has the potential to grow, to blossom once again… maybe national? Expansion of this type of specialty operation was impossible for Pete to undertake. So in fact, he has gifted loyal customers with a chance for Pete’s Fine Foods to prosper and grow far beyond what he could achieve as an independent.
There’s also a lesson here about succession planning. Ideally, many entrepreneurs would love to have family members take over the business. Pete absolutely explored that route with his children. And in the end, selling the business was his path. This is important for other entrepreneurs to see the potential for this as well.
Pete is a friend, a colleague, and a mentor of mine. And I am so happy he now has the time and energy to devote to his next baby: Luckett Vineyards. It is fast becoming another best loved brand. And this is where his new passion lies. The way I see it, Pete just took his own advice that he has shared with thousands of businesses and organizations over the past two decades: “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” True that Pete!
…and if you want more of the story, have Pete speak at your next meeting or event. : )