#33: Andy Epstein – CEO of B&A Food Brokers
Andy Epstein Podcast Transcript
Neil Dudley: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Pederson’s Farms podcast. We are so excited you’re here. We appreciate you joining us. And we look forward to sharing these conversations with thought leaders from our industry. They’re going to paint a picture from every perspective – consumer, customer, vendor, employee, and peer – that I think is going to be super valuable, and we’re really excited to share. So, thanks for tuning in. Remember, don’t tune out, and grab life by the bacon.
Hey, everybody, thanks for listening. I wonder, do you use stockbrokers or insurance brokers or mortgage brokers? I would take a wild guess that I bet you do, but you may not know that Pederson’s uses food brokers, and today’s guest Andy Epstein is the founder of B&A Food Brokers, and I wanted to bring him on, talk about his family, the group of people he uses to help brands like Pederson’s get their product into those areas of the country these guys know so well. I’m Neil Dudley, in case you’ve not been here before. I’m a VP at Pederson’s and I began my career as a QA Technician at Pederson’s, worked myself up into the C-suite, so I was able to see the business all the way through as well as be a part of these conversations or the conversations had around where the company is going and meet the people that also sit with us to make those decisions. I’m so glad you’re here. I look forward to you learning more about B&A Food Brokers and what they do and that mission they carry really all over the east coast for brands that they represent. Here we go.
Hey, everybody. It’s Pederson’s Farms Podcast coming back at you from the great state of New Jersey. That’s right, isn’t it? Andy Epstein, the co-founder of B&A Brokers is here. And we’re going to talk about his story, how we work together, how his company plays a role in where your food comes from. So now there’s another way for everybody to know and understand the truth about that, and that’s the goal. That’s what we want to do is just make sure if you’re wondering, man, what do brokers do, you’re fixing to get to find out. This guy has been doing it since 1985.
Andy Epstein: I’m still trying to figure it out.
Neil Dudley: So real quick for everybody, just tell them a little bit about who you are, your company, and then I’ll start asking you some kind of maybe more pointed questions.
Andy Epstein: You got it. I think you pretty much nailed it. I own B&A Food Brokers. We’re a company that focuses its business model up and down the eastern seaboard. We are in about 18 different states. I started the company with my dad in 1986 on our kitchen table and Brooklyn, New York. And here we are today, 35 years later. My dad is 89 years old. He still likes to come into the office. And I’m still active in the company and I love what I do.
Neil Dudley: I tell you folks, go check out their website because there’s a lot more to that story Andy’s not telling you, and we only have a certain amount of time-
Andy Epstein: That’s the short version.
Neil Dudley: Yeah, that’s the very short version, but I think it’s just really cool because in the little bit I know, your dad was quite successful doing some other things.
Andy Epstein: It was interesting. I mean, my dad was- my dad came up the hard way. He was the son of a Russian immigrant. And his mom and dad were both from Belarus, Russia, which is no longer part of Russia or maybe it is. I’m not quite sure. It depends actually on what you see on the news these days. But my grandparents came at the turn of the century, and they moved to Brooklyn, New York. And my dad and his three brothers were all laborers. My grandfather additionally was a laborer. He was a painter. My dad and two of his brothers were wallpaper hangers, and the third brother was a plumber. And my dad worked with one of his brothers and they got into a bit of a brawl one fine day. And they were heading home, and his brother threw him out of the car on the Belt Parkway. And my dad had to walk home. And from that day on, he was done with working with my uncle, for my uncle, and got into the food industry actually as a milk truck driver. And my father was really a very good salesman. Interestingly enough, he was an introvert at the time, and he, as they say today, now we have an expression for everything, but he really did go out of his comfort zone to excel and be able to support his family. And for many years, he worked different jobs in addition to being a milk truck driver, until one day, he was working with Sealtest Foods, which was a part of Kraft Foods at the time, and they saw something in him and they decided to put him through their managerial trainee program. And he learned pretty much every facet of the business in the program. They put him in school as well. He finished up his undergrad degree over the course of 10 years at night. And he was in distribution. He was in sales. He was in all different types of things. And then over the years, he worked as a salesman for different organizations, ultimately landing at Palio Dairy Products as their VP of Sales. And they had offices out in Fort Washington, Long Island. I was going to Hofstra University at the time. I was a businessman, an entrepreneur at the ripe young age of 17. I was promoting parties over at Xenon and ultimately at Studio 54 I guess through my graduation and beyond. But in 1985, I went to my dad and I said I don’t see myself really sticking with the club business. It really kind of takes its toll on you having to be out every Thursday, Friday, Saturday night till the wee hours of the morning. And there’s a lot of partying that goes along with that. And I just didn’t feel that really had a significant shelf life, at least for me. And I looked him in the eye, and I said, “What do you think we start a business together?” And my dad and us as a family are extremely family oriented. Family has always come first, even before the expression became popular in my household. So, my dad thought about it for about two minutes and he looked up at me and he said, “Yeah, I’d like to do that. Let me think of something.” And a couple of days later, we didn’t have a lot of money, even though in that final four years of his career, he worked over at Palio for those years prior, he was a salesman and he had good positions, but he put me through college, he put my sister through law school and through college, and he just really didn’t have a great savings plan for his future in place. And he was kind of open; he didn’t have a lot of overheads at that point. We lived in Mitchell-Lama housing in Brooklyn. And I guess it was a turning point. So, he got up one fine morning after he gave notice to the people at Palio. They bought him out of his remaining year, and we sat up I guess at the edge of the bed. And he looked up at my mom and he said, “What do I do now?” And that’s where the company was born. And we started it on our kitchen table in Brooklyn. I joined him at the end of that year. And here we are. We’ve got a beautiful team. Again, we’re a very family-oriented company. We’ve got some great habits like when we first got into business and hired our first salesman and our first secretary, we would often cook on the barbecue outside of the apartment or at least once we moved into a two-family house, the office was in the basement, and I was up on the first floor and the barbecue was outside of my apartment. So, every Friday we would cook. And that’s become something that we’ve kept in place for our entire 35 years. And every Friday, we buy everyone in the company lunch. So, it’s been a great ride, and I love what I do. And frankly, I have surrounded myself with amazing people and it’s afforded me the opportunity to live a great life and really not to be a slave to my company. I really do it on my terms. I get up when I want to get up. I know you were gracious enough in the beginning to tell me how much you appreciate me joining in and that my time is valuable, but to a certain extent, it’s only valuable in that I value it because I don’t have a lot of time left. And my time has become valuable because the amount of time that I’ve lived has essentially surpassed the amount of time I’m probably going to have left unless I pull off some sort of miracle. So, aside from that, I’m living a great life. I come in when I want to come in, I work closely with my team, and it’s just been a great ride, man. I couldn’t be happier.
Neil Dudley: So, I don’t know, I didn’t even plan this question, but now I’ve got to ask it, how do you create and keep a culture within your organization that allows you- I think a lot of times as the owner or maybe the CEO, you have to be cognizant of that truth of how your team will feel when you’re not there. Because really, look, you’re charismatic. These are things I know about you because we’ve spent time together and everybody that works in a company wants to know that you’re there and around. But when you’re maybe not- I don’t know, I’m just curious. How do you think about that?
Andy Epstein: I am here. It’s just that I’m not here 8 to 7. I get up a little bit later. I get in a little bit later. I spend time. But look, I’ve empowered the guys. I’ve always shared in the equity. I’ve always been a firm believer that you can’t be the only one celebrating when there’s a victory. So, I’ve really given my team the opportunity to earn well beyond really what the norm is in the food industry, quite possibly any industry. Without getting into too much detail, my guys really have a significant top end. And quite frankly, the sky’s the limit because everybody is, for the most part, commission incentivized. So as long as they’re delivering and they’re growing the commissions, their earning. So, I think that I found the balance because everybody’s treated with respect. Also, I have- I don’t have turnover. So, like Kevin, who’s our president up here in the Northeast, he’s here for 22 or 23 years. I’m finding that I’m speaking with an accent when I’m talking to you.
Neil Dudley: Well, that was another thing we were going to talk about.
Andy Epstein: It is not a Brooklyn accent, but I’ll try to temper that.
Neil Dudley: The listeners are going to find just by listening that we’re from a couple of different cultures. That’s another thing I want to explore, which makes this broker role and relationship so dynamic, valuable, cool, awesome. It’s why your food gets to New York City from Texas in some scenarios, because look, I can go into that marketplace and I won’t know exactly how to do business. It’s just the truth. It’s all similar ethics, etc., but-
Andy Epstein: It’s the most difficult, or at least one of the most difficult markets to navigate in the country. There’s no doubt about it. And on top of that, there’s a lot of competition. I mean, I’ve always done things a little bit differently, again, getting back to my team and just the sheer amount of years that each of them have spent here. I mean, Kenny over there in food service, he’s been with us this year for 30 years. I invest in great people. It’s very typical for a food broker to hire people, quite frankly, that are better than they are. And that’s because they’re concerned about having their people take the lines. I’m not concerned about that because they probably wouldn’t make as much money if they were running the company, taking the lines, running their company, taking the lines and trying to navigate through the market and have the type of coverage that we have. There just wouldn’t be an upside to doing it. So, to me, I kind of take a little bit more of an atypical route. I hire- when I hired my executive team, Florida, New York, the Carolinas, I really looked at people that I spent time working with that I admired from afar that I feel to a certain extent we’re playing below the rim, and I felt that their abilities far exceeded their salaries and what they were currently doing. And I made them all an offer that they couldn’t refuse, which was, hey, man, if you believe in yourself, then take a shot and have an opportunity to really make more than you ever dreamed of making. And I truly believe that if you sat with each and every one of them, they would all agree that that is in fact what had occurred and why they’re still with me. So that was the first step to succeeding in a difficult market, and then, really just investing in your team. I mean, providing the manufacturers with great in-store people. And even though I’m horrible as it relates to technology, I’ve surrounded myself with some people that are really good with it. So, my team, my in-store team have real good in-store technology; they’re equipped with iPad software and they have portable printers and scanners. And we do a lot of things that just are not common throughout our business because we invest in our people. So, I think that’s really the secret and just keeping an open mind and developing a great business model and supporting what it is that our principals do.
Neil Dudley: Now, this is a truth about our relationship-
Andy Epstein: Hey brother, you know what, I’m going to show you something great about out culture right now. I’m getting a delivery from my VP of Sales, Mark McPhillips, because every day at three o’clock- we are on a podcast by the way. You got to duck down a little bit, so they can see you. Every day at three o’clock, everybody meets in the kitchen, which I call our war room, and we do a little shot of espresso with some Sambuca. And obviously I’m late today. So, Mark was kind enough to bring it in here. So, we never miss. We never miss. Thank you.
Neil Dudley: See, man, that’s the family. That’s the family right there.
Andy Epstein: Get the hell outta here.
Neil Dudley: Good to see you, Mark. Okay so, that’s a huge piece of it, but also-
Andy Epstein: Listen, man, we’re really a family, and there’s no pressure relative to how people dress. There never was. Like I’m a big believer that you need to be together. I’m not a supporter of this work from home nonsense because I think a great part of business is interaction. And I love my people. This is a family. And I got to be honest with you that my greatest fear is when one day this isn’t going to be here. When I don’t come into the office, I don’t get to check in with my guys. I don’t get to have a great lunch that Kevin prepares or order in on a Friday with the entire team or just simply sit and chat and role play in the kitchen on any given day with the entire team and hear about what they’ve endured over the last few days, how we could help, how I could help. And that’s why I really think they don’t miss me by not being here the full amount of time. And the other thing is, quite frankly, Neil, this phone is in my hand 24/7. I think you know that. Like if somebody texts me or reaches out to me, I’m immediately, unless I’m doing something that I just cannot respond, I respond. So, I’m always there for my guys. I think that resonates with them.
Neil Dudley: That phone helps a lot, so you’re still present when you’re not. I agree with you. Cody and I’ve talked about this a lot, like the bullpen of the office, that conversation, that thing you hear somebody talking to somebody else about just as you walk by and now you’re informed, it’s a thing you can’t do remotely.
Andy Epstein: I hate to interrupt, but I got to tell you, and I’m not going to point fingers, but I had someone working here and a lot of stuff went unchecked because they were working from home and certain things just- things that, like you say, are picked up just in passing that you just can’t do. And maybe for some businesses, that works. Maybe if you’re in technology, you just don’t need to be on site. But damn, we’re in a people business. We’re in the selling business. We’re in the connecting business. If you don’t connect with your own people, how could you possibly connect with your customers? I don’t think it’s possible really.
Neil Dudley: I agree. I think that’s a valuable insight from really a business owner that’s been in business for a long time. I mean, this is not some just lucky thing Andy’s been doing for the last five years. Him and his dad built this thing to a great business. Now, okay. So, we got to get onto some of these other food related topics.
Andy Epstein: I hope I can answer them. I am sort of the figure head here. you didn’t give me the exact question. So okay, bring it.
Neil Dudley: It’s not going to be exact. But so philosophically, in your mind, what is a broker- what does a broker do?
Andy Epstein: Well, simply stated, I would say that we bring together buyers and sellers. I mean, that’s simply stated. We act as the selling- we basically act as the sales, marketing, and customer service arm of the manufacturer. We are the extension of the manufacturer. If we are used properly, we are the extension of the manufacturer.
Neil Dudley: Why do you say if we are used properly?
Andy Epstein: Well, because I think brokers get a bad rap, and I think that sometimes they look at us as a necessary evil instead of a real extension of how could I really make my company succeed? Like, let’s be honest, man, I don’t want to sound arrogant in any way, but I’m a proven commodity. I’m the constant. I’m in this market for 30 years. If somebody comes to me with a line and it doesn’t resonate, is it me or them? Is it because the line isn’t priced right? Or because there’s no demand for the product or because they just have a poor go to market strategy or is it because my guys suck? It’s not because my guys suck because we’re doing a ton of fricking business in this market. So, if we’re not able to pull the trigger, Texan, if we’re not able to pull the trigger, if we’re not able to make it work, I mean, I think that probably something’s being missed on behalf of the principal, and we’re willing to work that out. Like I could- we give great advice on packaging. We give great advice on pricing, on promotions, whether it’s retail or food service or category management. We have experienced salespeople and marketing people here. And if somebody is willing to open up their mind and really give us the opportunity to be their partner, to win with them, they’re going to probably win. Or at least they’re probably not going to be in a situation where they end up spending a lot of money for nothing. That’s another thing.
Neil Dudley: You are just preaching the truth. And this whole- look, everybody, you’ve got to understand Pederson’s falls into this trap too. Andy will tell you. Me and Andy have had tough conversations about retainers. One of my other questions is how do you make money? I’ll let you go into that. But I want everybody to hear as a principal, we don’t do some of the things he just mentioned, therefore we’re not as successful as we could be with our line within Andy’s team.
Andy Epstein: And I want to state also, I mean, we haven’t been successful for the most part, and that being said, we had an agreement, I could have stood by the agreement. But I always tell people, I am a principal guy. And in this case, you came to me, you said we’re just not getting the sales, the opportunities aren’t there, and I was in agreement. And rather than stand on principle and enforce the agreement, I let you off the hook. It wasn’t only because I think you’re a hell of a guy, because look, I’m running a business, letting people off the hook is not good business. Good business is letting people off the hook if you’ve exhausted every opportunity and you really don’t believe there’s an opportunity that exists. I take a different approach when I feel people are maybe not listening to what I have to say, or additionally, they want to keep moving forward and they’re not really making the recommendation of taking that step back. I’m going to enforce the agreement nine out of ten times. But if I truly sit down with the salespeople and they tell me, hey look, the pricing’s not right, the pack size isn’t right, this isn’t right, that isn’t right, I’m not looking to enforce the agreement because I can’t win for you. And I’ve always really walked that tight rope with my manufacturers. Look, sometimes I’ve said in meetings before we sign, hey, look, if I don’t think this is going in the right direction, I’ll let you out of it. And then they’ll say to me then why do we need an agreement? And there is a point to that, but I always follow it up with because it’s going to be my decision if I want to let you out of the agreement, not yours, because sometimes we work our asses off and we’re out there and we’re doing everything we need to do, and it’s just not making sense or for whatever the reason, the consumer, the customer isn’t buying in. At that point, I’m not in it for the short term, I’m in it for the five-year opportunity. I’m not in it to make a $60,000 one year minimum, I’m in it to make a quarter of a million a year for the next 10 years and have a beautiful relationship that’s mutually beneficial.
Neil Dudley: I love that philosophy. I agree with it. I’m so glad we could have tough conversations and still do a podcast together. I mean, it’s such a true thing in business that seems like our political system, our culture can’t seem to let go of this. Look, we might be on opposite sides of the debate, but we can still respect each other, man. I so appreciate you. I
Andy Epstein: I got to tell you, man, civil discourse, for me, is so important. And I don’t want to get into the political arena as far as this conversation goes. But I am somebody- I have a sister who has a complete opposing view to what I have as it relates to politics. She’s a judge and an attorney. She loves to argue. Damn, she was arguing when she was in her crib and we have conversations, and after the conversation, we both agree to disagree, and we go our separate ways. And I mean, honestly, business, I’ve always felt that business is business and friends are friends. And I don’t have to agree with you on every topic as it relates to business, but it doesn’t mean I’m not psyched to have a beer with you, a sit down – I don’t drink beer, but maybe a vodka cran – sit down, have a drink with you and enjoy your company because I think you’re a great guy, but I don’t have to agree with everything. And I do feel that it’s important to be able to come to some kind of agreement as it relates to contract or some type of relationship. And sometimes when you do cross over, not you per se, but anyone, when you’re forced into a situation where you have to enforce it legally and start getting lawyers involved. I mean, look, that does do some damage because you’re now not capable of talking through the circumstance and you’re not acknowledging to one another that we need to find a middle ground. We’re both going to push. So that does do some damage, but generally speaking, man, I’m all about kissing and making up and moving on.
Neil Dudley: Right. Well, and then it keeps the upside abundant opportunity available to everybody if you can work it out. And maybe I would say neither side is perfectly happy or terribly sad. It’s just, uh-oh, we’re in a new situation.
Andy Epstein: If you walk away and both parties are not a hundred percent thrilled, you made a good deal. I mean, that’s the reality. Everybody’s got to make a sacrifice when you are negotiating out of the deal, and that’s the reality, man.
Neil Dudley: Totally. All right so, man, it’s been a fun conversation. I’m curious for the listeners, I don’t think they have access to this kind of just insight really with every conversation we have. So, what’s it been like running a business in this climate, in this pandemic, in the food business? Tell everybody a little bit how you navigated that.
Andy Epstein: You know, man, I’m not going to use the P word because I loathe it. I can’t stand it. I’m going to used the maneuver word. It’s life; it’s business. I maneuvered my whole freaking life. I mean, I grew up on the streets, I maneuvered. I worked in the club business, I maneuvered. I got into the food industry, I maneuvered. I maneuvered. I mean, we made some changes and we put our focuses where we needed to, and quite frankly, 2021 was flat with 2019. So, I was pretty happy. I mean, 2020, train wreck. There’s no doubt about it. I mean, food service hasn’t come back in this market as of yet. But we compensated. We focused on startups, bringing in brands that were looking for distribution. We just really changed our direction, and it just is what it is, man. I used to have to contend with office people that were frustrated or salespeople that were frustrated because things didn’t go perfectly. And I’ve always said to people you can’t have the good without the bad. The goal is to have more good than bad. It’s that simple. So, I don’t know, man, it didn’t really phase me in the least. I mean, I was sad and obviously over the fact that business was decimated, food service business was decimated. I was obviously heartbroken that people lost their lives. I never want to see that. But for me, it was just another day in the life of. We kept my team whole, the executive team took the hit at the inception when the world shut down, and we’re back. And that’s it.
Neil Dudley: Do you think those food service businesses are going to get back on their feet?
Andy Epstein: I think everything is cyclical. I do believe that in time it will happen, but there have been a lot of small restaurants that have gone out of business. I think the more popular restaurants, may be the higher end restaurants at this time are pretty packed. It’s hard to get a reservation, and I’m somebody that loves to go out. I go out to dinner probably four nights a week. It’s really tough to get a reservation unless you know the people that are running the show. So, the better restaurants are doing well. But I think that right now with all the price increases that are occurring, I don’t think they could even stay ahead. I don’t think they are capable of staying ahead of the price increases that they’re receiving from the distributers and maybe even realizing exactly what everything’s costing them at this point. So, I think it’s going to take a while. But I’ll continue to support because I love it. I love going out to good restaurants and I always- I’m an over tipper. I love going out there and I do what I can.
Neil Dudley: Well, good. Thanks for doing that. We need to keep everybody- and I think that’s good for all people to think about, like try to get out there, try to support them, try to help them. Yeah, and it’s tough for everybody. But so how are you dealing with that? I know as a manufacturer in this time, early 2022, first quarter 2022, we can’t keep up with what you just mentioned. The price increases coming into our business are so fast, we can’t keep up with it. How does that work for a broker?
Andy Epstein: Multiply it by 40 whatever, however many lines. It is very challenging. I mean, I’m not going to lie. I’m grateful that my team handles this. I’m super grateful that I don’t. But I mean, it is non-stop, the frustration on behalf of the principals, and I mean, there are times they come in and they’re like, oh, we’ve got to raise the price on the next order. And then, you get push back from all the customers – we need 30 days, we need 90 days, we need 120 days. Look, it’s the wild west, man. I mean, I just think that it’s rough. I think that customers are kind of used to taking price increases. But in some instances, they’re requesting that we support the increase with what the increase is all about. I mean, we have certain customers that require us to fill out paperwork to justify the increase. It’s a bear; there’s no other way to describe it. It’s just not a good situation. But if you want to keep everyone in business, there can’t be push back because I think that it’s justified in most cases. Have there been predatory increases, for lack of a better term? Probably. I don’t know who they are because I don’t try to figure out a formula for every damn increase that comes across here, but I’m sure people are sneaking increases in there to bolster their profit because it’s harming everyone. I mean the cost of having people come work for you, the cost of trucking, gasoline. I mean, everything’s going up literally by the day.
Neil Dudley: I mean, these lights, all of this stuff costs more now. It just does. And there is predatory price increases coming. I want listeners to know if Andy and I know about that, we are not taking part in it. Like we actually are behind the curve with the price increases, which hurts our- but luckily, we’re privately held, so we’re not held to some stock price or anything. So, and that’s another thing, just real quick. I’ve already got you over time, but this is too important.
Andy Epstein: I was just getting warmed up.
Neil Dudley: Anyway, I just don’t want to- I think it was-
Andy Epstein: We are going to have to do a second- what do they call that? I keep looking up at you because you’re over there, but a second episode.
Neil Dudley: You do a good job of looking at the camera because if I was you, I’d be looking at me, like whoever’s on- So good job looking at the camera. Anyways, I digress. What I really want to talk about is for those consumers who are listening, even businesspeople, who think, oh, now there’s just more hands in the cookie jar so that makes my product cost more. What is the reality from your perspective to that thought?
Andy Epstein: I mean, it depends what a hand in the cookie jar means. I mean, there are more hands in the cookie jar relative to costs. Are there incremental people earning on what it is that they’re purchasing? I don’t think so. I don’t even- No. I think again, predatory, meaning they’re sneaking a few points because they’ve got their teeth kicked in over the last few years, it’s happening. Is it happening to the extent that it’s driving the market? No, I don’t think so. I think there’s a- I mean, look man, it’s as simple as looking no further than your household expenses. If you were charging people to live in your house, you were hitting your kids up, God forbid, to pay their fair share in the house, their costs would be rising because if you rent, your rent is probably going up, your electric is going up, your gas is going up, taking them to soccer practice on Sundays is costing more. And if you own or are buying a house, your interest rate is going up. So, it’s just the real world right now.
Neil Dudley: And everybody’s taken a pay cut. I mean, everybody everywhere.
Andy Epstein: And listen, even in business, conversely in business, I mean, obviously you’re not paying additional rent per se because you probably have a lease, but if you want to add people to your staff, they’re not even talking to you for the price that you added people for two years ago. And guess what, as soon as you bring somebody in and they are making a little bit more and the rest of your team gets wind of it, I don’t have to tell you what happens. All of a sudden, you’ve got people come into your office saying how come they are getting paid this and I’m getting paid this? And you have to accommodate them if you want to hold their hearts. I mean, so it just continues to go up. Everything continues to go up. Until somebody figures out how to get a handle on what’s going on, it’s just going to continue down this path, and it’s sad for the people that are really being crushed by this because I don’t know how they are going to make it. I mean, honestly, I think it’s really going to be challenging. There’s already no real middle class out there. And I got to tell you that people that are just getting by, I mean, having these kind of incremental costs piled onto their monthly expenses is just going to be debilitating for them.
Neil Dudley: So that’s all great. I want to kind of go back to that same question in a little different light. So now, if I’m listening, I’m like, okay cool, I buy bacon, Neil bakes bacon, Andy plays a broker role. If Neil didn’t have Andy-
Andy Epstein: Why do we need Andy?
Neil Dudley: Right, yes. Well, you got to have Andy-
Andy Epstein: I’ll tell you. It’s a very simple equation. You would need a salesman calling on the market. So, if you didn’t have a salesman calling on the market, you wouldn’t be selling- I mean, we’re not doing a great job selling your bacon, but let’s say we were, you would need a sales team if you were to be selling your bacon in the marketplace. So, you would need to have merchandisers, you would need to have salespeople, you would need to have a presence in the marketplace. And that would mean you would have to pay somebody wages to do that. Instead, you’re paying a broker commission and I’m able to give you an army of people to sell your product line in the marketplace because I’m dividing their costs up between 60 principals. So even though they are not maybe as focused per se on just your line, we’ve got a system figured out how to give each product line its fair attention, and how to go out there and service the brand and get distribution and do all those great things. I think at the end of the day, it’s much more efficient for you to have a broker that has relationships, that has the knowledge of the marketplace, that has all the things in place that you would have to do and pay for any way, quite frankly, you’d be building all that stuff into the cost, but instead we’re kind of only being paid based on what we deliver on. And it’s really much more efficient in that regard.
Neil Dudley: I want the listeners to hear that because that was the perfect- I don’t think they know that. I mean, unless they’re in business, in the food business, they’re not going to understand that.
Andy Epstein: If you have listeners that are straight up consumers, I don’t think they even know that a broker exists. I’m not quite sure they understand the whole process.
Neil Dudley: That’s why I want to tell that story.
Andy Epstein: But the same listener that may be like what do we need the broker for just came back from his State Farm broker’s office. Because quite frankly, it’s a model that’s- it’s just a very real model – real estate broker, insurance broker, broker, broker, broker. Quite frankly, it’s the most efficient way to get a product out there and ensure that you’re getting the attention that you need, because if you were paying people and they weren’t being paid on commission, but instead were being paid strictly on the fact that you have to give them a salary because they’re your employee, that’s a really tough place to be in, particularly in this type of environment. And look, let’s be real, it is a big world out there, man. It’s not just New York. I mean, if you want presence in all the major markets, if you want presence across the United States, that would mean you would have to have a significant group of people working for you that are able to call on thousands and thousands of retailers. I mean in store and food service, and by the way, good luck getting an appointment at a distributor or a retailer. They’re not even entertaining seeing some guy that isn’t doing business at the account currently. So, there’s a lot of merit to it, man. But thankfully, there are enough people out there that we continue to grow. And generally speaking, we do a great job for our principals. There are exceptions. Again, we never profess to be all things for all people, but we do consider ourselves the constant. And we, generally speaking, are able to develop a brand.
Neil Dudley: Totally. Andy, man, I’m so glad we got this done. For anybody listening, this is the last thing, capitalism is great. This is the thing that makes sure even if I’ve got a broker in the mix, like I have to take a little less margin, somewhere somehow, I’ve got to stay within the parameters of the capitalist defined price structure. And that is how you can feel comfortable as a consumer. You’re getting quality products at a fair price without anybody taking free money. Everybody works for what they get. That is just a fact.
Andy Epstein: No, there’s no doubt about it. And it trickles down to everybody because I employ a significant amount of people throughout all my markets, and they wouldn’t be working for me and I wouldn’t be feeding all their families if I wasn’t working for you. So, it’s like you said, man, it’s just a matter of capitalism. As far as I’m concerned, I consider myself an investor these days. I like to invest in established, small established companies and they all run on the same concept, which is essentially having great people, taking care of them, and making sure that you run a profitable enterprise so that you could live to speak about it for the next 20, 30, 40, 50 years, and maybe pass it on to your kids and their kids. I mean, that’s the real beauty of it. I love it. And I love this country because going back, and my final statement, it all started because of my grandparents who made the ultimate sacrifice and fled Russia, both sides of my family that fled Russia because of religious persecution, so a day doesn’t go by that I’m not grateful to Louis, Silvia, Rose, and my other grandfather – damn, I’m drawing a blank on his name. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not grateful for all of them, for that sacrifice, because I realize nothing is for free. And I think this new generation has really, and I would love to get back on and have this conversation because I’ve got a 27-year-old, a 22-year-old, an 8-year-old, and a 2-year-old. And man, I hope that we could somehow get back to instilling what this great country is all about because I think that there’s been a serious miss with regard to an entire generation of really not understanding just how great we have it and why people flock here from all over the world. Honestly, man.
Neil Dudley: Mic drop. We do have to get back on that because that’s a great topic. Just one guy said something to me the other day, his name is Jay Sammit, he said that is the American spirit. It is why these immigrants are who and why this country is great. They come and they aren’t happy with what has been given to them in life, so they go make it. One of all three fortune 500 companies is founded by an immigrant or a first generation of an immigrant- first-generation child of an immigrant. So you’re telling the real story right there. Everybody, thanks for listening, Andy, thanks for your time.
Andy Epstein: You’re the best. I love you. I do want to say one thing, man, your skin looks awfully smooth. Is there any makeup on there? Because I’m raw here, man. All right. I’m just saying.
Neil Dudley: No makeup, man. There’s lots of lights though.
Andy Epstein: I want to show you a little Northeast love right here, baby. I got all my not dreadlocks, but my braids going strong here. So not bad for 59, baby. I got all my hair.
Neil Dudley: And we will have to touch on your fitness routine and those things, why that’s important to you. You’re so dynamic. Everybody really, go check out Broker of the Year, by the way, coolest website name out there, and learn more about them. If you’re in the business and you need somebody to represent you, hit them up. I can’t promise you they’ll take on your line, but they’ll consider it.
Andy Epstein: I’m going to plug me. New York Metro, all of Florida, the Carolinas, Georgia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia, DC. Damn, I know I’m missing places. There’s like 18 of them. We are growing like weeds and we’d love you to join.
Neil Dudley: Yeah, I would highly advise it. I’ve not had anything but great experiences, even when we had tough decisions to make, it’s always been done with good business sense and good open conversation. So, hats off to you, Andy, and your team, Kevin, everybody up there that we’re so happy to work with.
Andy Epstein: Cheers, brother.
Neil Dudley: Tell everybody they got to listen to the podcast.
Andy Epstein: You have to tell me how to do that.
Neil Dudley: Okay. I’ll send you an email.
Hey, everybody. Thank you so much for listening to this episode of the Pederson’s Farms Podcast. It’s been a blast bringing this to you, and I sure hope you enjoyed it and found value. If you did, tell a friend, share it out on social media, hit that subscribe button, or go check us out at pedersonsfarms.com. We sure hope you do. And thanks for being here.
Visit us online at www.PedersonsFarms.com
(2:31) – Andy’s family background and company
(9:43) – How do you create and keep a culture that allows the lifestyle you have?
(11:34) – Doing business between Texas and the Tri-state area
(15:11) – More on culture and the importance of face-to-face interaction in business
(18:50) – What is a broker?
(21:02) – Why we need to be able to disagree on things
(26:50) – What’s it been like running your business in this climate?
(36:50) – The broker’s role in the food business
(41:00) – Thoughts on Capitalism
The Pederson’s Farms Podcast is produced by Johnny Podcasts & Root and Roam.