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Sunday, 12 May 2013 22:00

Q&A: Doug Hekman, Quincy Street Inc.

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Doug Hekman Doug Hekman COURTESY PHOTO

 

Quincy Street Inc., a Holland-based meat processor specializing in pork products, has had a solid track record of success since its founding in 1994. The company started with just 11 employees but now employs more than 100. In recognition of the company’s growth, the U.S. Small Business Administration named Quincy Street CEO Doug Hekman its Small Business Person of the Year, an award given out at the annual Michigan Celebrates Small Business event. Hekman spoke with MiBiz about his company and the food processing sector in West Michigan.

First of all, congratulations on the award. What do you make of it?

It’s a great honor, I appreciate that. It’s devoted to a lot of people’s hard work, not just mine. We’ve sustained several years of double-digit growth. We are creating jobs and putting dollars into the community, so yeah, it’s a very successful small business.

As you just mentioned, you’ve experienced significant growth. What do you see as being the main drivers for that?

First of all, people have to eat (laughs) so that’s a good start there. But it’s the service industry that we’re providing. The industry certainly seems to go in cycles and we’re in a cycle right now where people appreciate and are willing to pay for very nice, consistent quality and very high service.

Who are you mainly supplying to? Is it retail or mainly restaurants?

We’re about 50/50 between what we would call retail and food service. We sell all over the country. Locally, it would be the Meijers, and the Spartans, and the Aldis. Food service-wise, it would be the Gordons and the Syscos. We’re national in scope. Our third largest customer is in Seattle.

How have you maintained the culture that was put in place when the company started? What has changed over time?

We offer regular training courses that we’ve developed ourselves on just exactly how we want the business to run. We’re a very bottom-up management rather than top-down. It’s not someone barking out orders. We say, ‘How do we support (our workers) in doing their job and empower them?’

How does that management philosophy benefit employees and the services you provide?

In our mission statement, we talk about the team members as one of the corporation’s best assets. We have to treat them that way and empower them. They’re human beings just like everyone else. They may not be the president or CEO, but they know what they’re doing. Let them utilize their skills. And training is the main thing. People can’t do what they don’t know, so our main job is to train them and empower them.

What do you see as ways that you can stay innovative within the food processing industry?

There’s several trends that seem to come and go in the food business. We try and stay consistent on what we’re doing — again a nice, consistent product. We aren’t really the company that jumps on every little, new trend out there. We try and stay very consistent. These new trends come and go but only one in 10 work. We see what works.

Do you see Quincy Street as a manufacturer or as an agribusiness?

I would see us as a manufacturer. We’re not a slaughter facility so we’re buying our raw material from a slaughter plant and then doing what we would call “further processing” to it. We take a raw ham and then process it into a slow-cooked ham.

What is the food processing sector’s place within the West Michigan economy?

I don’t see other people’s numbers, but West Michigan in general is doing very well in my opinion. We’re part of some little, local groups and we talk to some of the other folks. Everyone is doing quite well.

What are some of the best practices that you’ve found in your industry, as well as Quincy Street Inc.?

If you’re going to be successful in this business, food safety has to be your number one concern. For a plant our size, there’s a government organization called Safe Quality Food (SQF). We’re a level three, which is the highest you can get. Plants our size don’t normally get that. It’s a real honor. (We’re) very methodical on doing the same thing every time. One slip up and you’ve got a problem because then you don’t have safe food.

What’s your favorite pork product?

I’m a ham lover. It’s what we do.

Interview conducted and condensed by Nick Manes.

Read 84183 times Last modified on Sunday, 12 May 2013 22:05

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