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Brewing with purpose: how an Oxford Saïd Leadership Programme inspired Everards Brewery

Everards Brewery has started the development of a new 90 acre site in Leicestershire called Everards Meadows. Plans include a brewery, cycle centre, cafe roastery, pub restaurant and a community park that will connect directly to the National Cycling Network.

The inspiration for this £30m investment into Leicestershire’s countryside? According to Managing Director Stephen Gould, there were two influencing factors: the Oxford Advanced Management and Leadership Programme he studied at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford under the tutelage of Dr Lalit Johri and Professor Sue Dopson, and the brewery’s own history, which began in 1849.

‘When I enrolled on the programme I had been a Director of Everards for 11 years,’ said Stephen. ‘An MBA was not for me and neither did I want to feel like I was going back to school. I was looking for the opportunity to have great conversations with other leaders from countries and cultures different from my own and from businesses outside our field. I saw it as a tremendous opportunity to expand our thinking.’

The programme lived up to Stephen’s expectations, and one lesson in particular resonated with the brewing industry veteran. ‘The importance of having companywide clarity of purpose,’ he said. ‘Now that might sound obvious, but when I started out as a trainee at Bass Plc in 1989, the focus was very much “create a business strategy, get some KPI’s together and away you go.” Defining your purpose requires something much deeper, and we realised we had some thinking to do at Everards.’

Stephen, along with his leadership team and fifth generation family Chairman Richard Everard, began what he described as an ‘archaeological dig, to tease out what was already in the company and present it in a much clearer way.’ When they delved into the brewery’s history, a clear theme began to emerge.

‘We’re a people centric business, and a collaborative one. We realised that much of our success could be traced to our strength in building relationships and treating people decently,’ recalled Stephen. Everards had a recent example of this: an initiative named Project William, inspired by their founder, saw the company collaborate with new breweries by purchasing failing pubs and leasing them to the brewery owners.  The project was a resounding success, resulting in 19 Project William pubs operated by 12 brewer partners. ‘Rather than the emerging new brewer becoming a competitor, they became a collaborator instead,’ explained Stephen.

After a period of discussion and introspection, Everards of Leicestershire settled on their purpose: ‘building relationships with business owners and communities. Everards meadows will be a practical manifestation of this purpose a place for businesses to work with each other and have good quality conversations, which links right back to the experience I had at Oxford Saïd,’ said Stephen.


Lalit Johri

Lalit Johri View profile

Dr Lalit Johri is a Senior Fellow in International Business and the Director of the Oxford Advanced Management and Leadership Programme at Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.