Former President and CEO, King Arthur Flour Co., Inc.
The world would be a better place if people baked for each other more often.
Whether baked goods are the definitive answer to global strife or not, one thing’s for sure: It has certainly done wonders to bolster the following of King Arthur lately. And some of the company’s most ardent fans are its employees—all of whom are regularly encouraged to learn about and practice baking as much as possible through classes, community outreach, and free baking supplies.
For Voigt, it’s as much a business strategy as a way of life. “King Arthur never considered itself just an SIC code,” says Voigt. “It’s as important to teach and promote the baking culture as it is to sell the most wonderful products.”
It wasn’t always thus. When Voigt came to the venerable institution in 1992 as the vice president of finance, he had his work cut out for him. Founded in Boston in 1790, King Arthur had been owned and operated by the same family for five generations, and it enjoyed a trusted, if staid, reputation. “Here I was at a company that wanted to get where it needed to be, but in a socially responsible way,” he says. Then, a few years after Voigt joined on, the company embarked on a plan to sell shares to an employee stock ownership plan. In the meantime, in 1999, Voigt took over as president and CEO. Today, he leads a company that is owned entirely by its 240 employees.
When Voigt, whose background is in finance, took up the mantle, the changes came fast and furious, including a brand new, state-of-the-art Baking Education Center, expanding room for classes and demonstrations for employees and community members. Courses with names like The Fundamentals of Bread Baking, Setting Up A Successful Bakery, and That Takes The Cake: Divine Decoration regularly sell out and have waiting lists.
They also offer classes online, and employees travel all over the country to teach in-person sessions and spread the gospel of good baking. Voigt has a team on the road constantly, talking to high schoolers about how to make pizza, explaining to crowds how yeast makes bread rise, and presenting at conferences about the benefits of baking with whole grains.
But that education and enthusiasm about baking always starts from inside the company before it moves outward, insists Voigt. “The more we empower our employees to love what they make, the easier it will be for them to share that with the larger community.” To that end, in addition to discounts on baking supplies at the company store, all employees get a free bag of flour every month—and a number of them act as instructors themselves. The results are nothing short of inspiring. “People are so interested in baking. They come to visit us here, to a class or to our store, to see our bakers bake here, and they’re so happy, it’s like they’ve arrived at mecca.”
Voigt credits his time at Tuck with providing him with the raw know-how. “There are so many things to keep on top of in a midsize company; you have to wear a lot of hats,” he says. “My professors at Tuck taught me to be nimble and how to be very good on your feet in a triage situation. You figure out how to get a lot going in a very small amount of time, and you have to learn to put certain things on ice but always be fired up about everything.”
Getting—and staying—fired up didn't seem to be much of a problem for Voigt and his crew, who, on top of their education programs, kept the community engaged with a popular blog called “Baking Banter,” a series of cookbooks, and a recipe-filled, colorful bimonthly newsletter, “The Baking Sheet.”
But for all of King Arthur Flour’s recent innovations, Voigt insists that it’s also fundamentally the company’s history that keeps folks coming back. “So much of what attracts people to the company,” he says, are “long-standing traditions.” And the fact that everyone is as involved in the mission as they are, he says, helps empower and keep driving the company forward. “All of its employee owners,” he adds, “know they have the help they need to overcome roadblocks.”
The Guru’s Wisdom
CarGurus founder Langley Steinert T’91 has plenty of good advice for budding entrepreneurs, but nothing is more important than loving what you do.Read More
With PK Coffee in Stowe, Vermont, Katrina Veerman T’01 turned a passion into a livelihood.Read More
Kristiana Helmick T’98 has had three very different jobs in the last decade. And all at a single company: Amazon.Read More
Very few people can say that the shoe business is in their blood. Tom Slosberg D’90, T’99 is one of them.Read More
Bill McLaughlin D'78, T’81 is leading America’s oldest mail-order company into the digital future, while mentoring its next generation of leaders.Read More
Fluent in four languages and passionate about entrepreneurship, Michelle Mooradian D’95, T’04 went from her post-Tuck consulting job at Opera Solutions to spend almost five years working for McKinsey’s Rio de Janeiro office.Read More
Digital marketing was practically in the stone ages when Carly Rosenberg T'05 graduated from Tuck and went to work as a marketing manager at Saks Fifth Avenue.Read More
T’87 Jeff Coleman’s quest for better nutrition led him to a new, whole-food fuel for athletes and a surprising second act.Read More
Vice president of store operations, Leslie Hampel T’07 is helping chart a bold future for the coffee retailer.Read More
CEO Jim Weber T’86 transformed Brooks Running Company from a dying shoe manufacturer into a premium running brand, and he’s not done yet.Read More
Joe Santos D'95, T'00 is the co-founder of the boutique, New York-based distillery Brooklyn Craft Works, and the creator of craft spirit Brooklyn Gin.Read More
Former Timberland CEO Jeff Swartz T’84 won people over—one eco-friendly piece of gear at a time—with a deeply held belief that doing good in the world is also good for the bottom line.Read More