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    Workstream | 6 min read

    Jerry Baldwin | Owner at Baldwin Consulting

    Jerry grew up standing on a milk crate running a Hobart Dishwasher when needed for his mom who was a Holiday Innkeeper. When short of help it was a family affair for Jerry and his mom, a single parent. Remaining in the business until he was engaged. He decided married life would be much simpler not running a hotel. He then moved over to sales for a very large broad line food service supply company. 

    He quickly built his reputation as a specialist with restaurant chains. He had an innate understanding of their needs, especially in Supply Chain. 

    Needing to expand and further his career by design he made strategic moves with in his industry. He became a turnaround specialist for food industry companies losing money and is still known as the person who loves turn arounds today. 

    Chances are high, if you eat in a chain restaurant today, Jerry has worked on the supply chain or been on an industry panel advising supply chain professionals that manage the supply chain there. He is a frequent guest speaker on chain restaurant supply chain at industry functions. He spent the past several years working for equity fund owned chain restaurant concepts. Most having no supply chain departments when he started the first day. McCormick & Schmick's, Craftwork's, and Quiznos to name a few. 

    His deep experience with equity funds, once serving as an equity fund Interim CPO, guided Jerry to a successful Supply Chain consulting career for their ever growing chain restaurant portfolio. While he primarily works with equity funds, some owning as many as 12 concepts, he also does work for small independent start up chains. 

    He takes all the supply chain data from multiple chains and seeks leverage and synergies in both direct and indirect spend. Starting at the global level and ending with the line item detail to find savings.

    Q: What is the biggest challenge you have met in your career?

    Jerry: Overcoming the thought purchasing was not an important function within a restaurant chain. For many years chains simply took someone from operations, or other department, and said you are now in charge of purchasing. 

    They had no experience and no understanding of the position. The term Supply Chain was unknown. Educating the Executive Team to understand purchasing is simply a small part of the overall Supply Chain. Further, that the Supply Chain Head needed to be on the Executive Team for a successful concept. 

    Q: How you would describe your company culture, and what are the superpowers of your team?

    Jerry: I set my company up as simply one person, me. I provide the expertise while being very hands on. My culture has been one of no contracts, if you want to retain me we have a handshake deal and I go to work. If you decide you no longer need me, give me a 30 day notice. 

    I am available 24 hours a day seven days a week for emergency supply chain direction on issues. I am fully transparent in that I charge a set fee and I do not take vendor rebates for any item. My goal is to pass all savings to the end user. The restaurant concept on the street to lower their food costs. 

    While I work alone, I have a superior supply chain team of experts behind me. Many, if not most, having been a VP or Director of Supply Chain at restaurant concepts. They are all independent contractors. This allows us to manage any project of any size. This team lives and breathes chain restaurant supply chain every day. They can make things happen fast and with vast experience. 

    Q: What are some challenges or trends you see in supply chain today? 

    Jerry: We are on a long cycle, over three years, of flat to low commodity pricing. Many chains have enjoyed this but, are making no forward plans as to how to manage when this changes. It will change, it is very cyclical. If not prepared the impact will be huge if food costs rise by a few points on a low margin business like restaurant chains. 

    Distribution is as challenging as any time in the past. A short few years ago, two of the largest distributors attempted to merge. This took well over 18 months and did not occur at the end. Few realize what this meant for the future. For a period of over 18 months the two largest distributors did not spend funds on adding on to the existing structures. More freezer space, dry warehouse space or needed improvements as they were unsure of the final plan if they merged and would have multiple warehouses in the same cities. It was the correct thinking but, has resulted in a "slot" shortage in our industry. It takes a "slot" for each pallet to hold each individual item needed to run a restaurant in the warehouse. 

    It is not unusual today to send out an RFP (Request For Proposal) for distribution services for a chain and not receive one single bid. They simply don't have the space for a chains proprietary item. Notice that straws used to have a printed wrapper and most don't now. That item took up a "slot" and had to go away. 

    Q: How would you describe your leadership style? 

    Jerry: Being a leader is something each has to decide in their own way but, I believe it is driven by how you want the end result to be seen. I have always felt each person in my department should be cross trained to completely understand the others job function. In that way, they make better decisions in every way. Without a full understanding of the logistics a category manager cannot make appropriate purchasing decisions. 

    This means I led the entire department into a cohesive group who would have cross conversations about any and all issues so that each department could make informed decisions. My style has always been don't tell me no without another way to solve the issue. If you allow your staff to make decisions, they grow. Even if the decision is wrong that is a learning experience for them to understand why they could have made another decision with a different outcome. 

    Q: Who inspires you and why?

    Jerry: I always go back to two people, Norman Brinker and Herb Kelleher. 

    They were each true entrepreneurs who overcame all obstacles. Herb being an outrageous personality who stripped costs out of the airline much like a good team of supply chain and operations would do and created the first low cost airline. Norman was a true gentleman entrepreneur who left behind some of the greatest restaurant management quotes. He also trained a team who went on to lead some of the largest restaurant chains in America. He was maybe the last of the true restauranteur breed. His book On The Brink is a great read of a true story. The book about Herb is correctly entitled The Art of Business: In the Footsteps of Giants

    Q: Have you ever had an hourly job? If yes, please share with us your experience.

    Jerry: Hourly jobs put me through both high school and college. My first job, at 12, was pumping gas on Saturdays at a local small station. The owner paid me $12 for the day in cash. 

    Being very mechanical, I found I could earn the most per hour be working as an auto mechanic. While I was covered in grease at the end of the day, I made more than most of my friends! It was just my mom and I so every penny counted. I look back on those days and smile. 

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