The Inside Story of Neal Brothers Foods – as told by the brothers themselves!
Roles and Responsibilities by Peter Neal
When my brother and I launched Neal Brothers Foods we, like so many other businesses, started without any money. On the one hand, you have nothing to lose; on the other hand, you literally only have your own skill set to rely on for success. My brother, Chris, and I had a mix of his organizational abilities, my sales and marketing strengths, and our mutual hard work ethic and tenacity.
This served us well for the first number of years but eventually a business will plateau if it doesn’t keep evolving. Business owners need to understand their own strengths and realize at some point that they need new blood – new personnel to bring new skill sets into the mix in order to help take the business to the next stage.
Sadly, pride, micro-management and control issues prevent business owners from recognizing they cannot do everything themselves. Fortunately my brother and I have enough humility and common sense to realize we did not possess all of the skills and experience to take our company to greater heights. We were also honest and accepting of each other’s strengths, an insight that allowed us to delegate responsibilities between ourselves. I would say that a good part of our success can be attributed to imposing clearly defined roles and responsibilities within our organization – along with the fact that we trust each other and our staff to carry out those responsibilities.
Operations by Chris Neal
Over the years, the logical split of the business for Peter and me has been between sales and marketing, and operations – Peter looks after the former, while I take the latter. In the early years of Neal Brothers Foods, there was a lot of gray area between the two, but as the business has increased in scope and complexity the division has become much clearer. Peter and I still consult regularly on important issues that are under each other’s specific areas, but increasingly we come forward with recommendations for “rubber stamp” approval from each other.
Operations at Neal Brothers Foods consists of logistics, accounting (payables and receivables), purchasing, payroll and staffing issues, inventory management, warehouse and office staff management, and overseeing our fleet of trucks. I am also the primary contact for our accountants, financial institution, and on occasion any legal assistance that we may need.
As our business has grown over the years, there has been a delegation of some of these responsibilities to other members of our team. I am still quite actively involved at this point, but that involvement is slowly diminishing with the ultimate goal of having this side of the business running independently of either Peter or me.
Necessity is the mother of invention and Neal Brothers was desperate for marketing; as a result, I am purely self-taught.
Sales and Marketing by Peter Neal
I went to University and studied a broad range of subjects but not one of them even touched on marketing! My marketing skills are only slightly better than those of a young child who knows that by screaming, crying or smiling hard enough they can get what they are after – marketing 101! Sales and marketing go hand in hand and I am a natural-born salesman, so marketing became my domain.
I have handled sales and marketing somewhat exclusively since year 5 – up until then it was more of a collaborative effort between Chris and me. We were a little slow in realizing we would be much better served with a marketing department – yes, “Know Your Strengths” but also never underestimate the power of good marketing!
For the past 6 to 7 years we have had a marketing department – it consists of 2 employees in addition to myself, but they are a talented and hard-working team! I work closely with them and try to help provide guidance. In the last 2 years we have worked without a strict budget as we have been in a big growth period – it has paid off as the team has been allowed to dream creatively without fear of cost. Fortunately, they are sensible.
Our sales force is a group of 20+ people and consists of: 6 route sales drivers operating out of 20-24 ft delivery trucks, 5 sales reps in Ontario, 4 in Quebec and 1 in B.C. We also have 5 inside sales reps who call each of our accounts to take orders. We have a VP of Sales who oversees this group but they are also guided and supported by our GM for inventory issues, marketing for sales support, and our category manager for promotions.
Several years ago I was much more involved with the sales team but now realize my time is more effective searching for new products both for our Neal Brothers brand and new brands for distribution. I also have become very active on the marketing front (I love it the most!) as a spokesman, breathing more life into our eponymous brand. This brings me back again to “Know Your Strengths” – in the past year this adage has served us well: Neal Brothers is experiencing the largest growth in our history!
Have you ever worked with a family member - if so, how did that work out for you? Please share your experiences with the YouInc community below.
Also, please see the Ask an Expert response dealing with a question about a family member who is causing havoc in her brother's business.