In late November some members of our region had the good fortune of hearing Peter Kenyon, a regional community development guru, speak about ways to ‘Keep the Tills Rolling in Regional Australia’. For some three decades Peter has worked with and helped more than 2000 communities across Australia and in some 59 countries overseas with local community and economic renewal. He has a passion for creating caring, healthy, inclusive and enterprising communities and through his organisation, Bank of I.D.E.A.S (Initiatives for the Development of Enterprising Action and Strategies), he helps communities spark their own ideas and invest themselves in building sustainable futures.

Peter is a strong proponent of building communities from the inside out, not from the top down or the outside in. He quotes Ernesto Sirolli saying that “the future of every community lies in capturing the passion, imagination and resources of its people” and so firmly believes that local community development and economic renewal require community members to invest themselves, and their ideas, assets and resources in the process.

Although much of Peter’s work involves facilitating community leaders and groups to develop fresh and creative ways to stimulate their local community, many of his stories are about individuals who have been change makers through their entrepreneurial endeavours in regional communities. One such case example he related to us was the story of Tom O’Toole who following a major disruptive event in his personal life in the early 1980s, uprooted himself and his small children from their home in Augusta Western Australia and relocated to the small historic Victorian town of Beechworth where he founded and grew the Beechworth Bakery. According to Peter, Beechworth was one of those sleepy rural towns where “In the early 1980s if there was a car parked in the main street on Sunday morning, everybody was wondering who got locked up or who got laid! Today you’re lucky if you can get a parking spot.” What’s the big attraction?

Tom O’Toole – Founder and Owner  

Today the Beechworth Bakery employ some 76 people, turns over $86+ million a year, attracts over 800,000 customers a year, offers 200 products, seats 300 customers, has a record take of $30,000 over the counter in one day, and has won the most significant Regional Tourism Award in Victoria 3 times. Tom has replicated this bakery in 7 other towns employing a total of 300+ staff and turning over $17 million a year.
Here are my key takeaways from this amazing story as conveyed by Peter Kenyon. I call it Tips to Making ‘dough’ the Tom O’Toole way!


  1. Positively outrageous customer service – if you don’t take care of the customer someone else will. We are not in business to build products or services. We are in business to build relationships (Tom O’Toole)
    Tom knows that 68% of the time retailers lose customers due to staff indifference or attitude.
    Any business that doesn’t have a system for customer feedback is a solution looking for a problem. (Scott Gross)
    If you bend over backwards there is no way you can fall on your face. (Zig Ziglar)
  2. Innovative marketing– in every town or business there needs to be a WOW factor. WOW is the answer. (Tom O’Toole)
    Tom O’Toole uses humour, fun and experience.
  3. Staff pride, enthusiasm and involvement – I spend a lot of money training my staff. Some say to me I am investing too much money in my people – what if you train them and they leave? To which I say what if I don’t train them and they stay? (Tom O’Toole)
  4. Community connectedness – Be part of your community. Stick up your hand and be part of it. (Tom O’Toole)
  5. Collaboration and networking – None of us is as strong as all of us. When we all work together we all win together. (Tom O’Toole)
    If you want to go faster, go alone. If you want to go further, go together. (African Proverb)
    Pledge – “I will market my neighbour s well as I market myself!
  6. Passion – If your heart’s not in it, get out! The sky’s the limit if your heart’s in it. You’ve got to have enthusiasm. If you haven’t got enthusiasm you’re buggered. (Tom O’Toole)
    I think negative people should be taxed. They require an incredible amount of energy. They’re like corgis nibbling at your ankles and I’m sure they exist to show us the difference between heaven and hell (Vicki Buck, Former Mayor Christchurch City Council).
  7. Continuous learning – learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow (William Polland)