At the Helm: Chris Flocchini

By Patricia Olsen

A few minutes with the president and CEO of Sierra Meat & Seafood (and Flocchini Family Provisions), Reno, Nev.

Generation of family ownership: Third.

Company revenues: $115 million.

Number of employees: 130.

First job at this company: Making boxes, sweeping the warehouse and helping with the laundry, at age 12 or 13. (Our employees in the production room, who cut steaks and chops, wore gowns and cotton gloves and changed several times a day.) Afterward my cousin and I would look for places to hide.

Most memorable thing I learned from my father: Material things do not make you happy. Also, listen more than you talk, which I have not perfected yet.

Most memorable thing I learned from my mother: Have empathy, compassion and forgiveness.

Best thing about this job: Every day is different. We’re in a unique industry where each day is challenging and exciting. We’ve seen progress as we move toward goals we set five years ago. We wanted to see our Durham Ranch brand of specialty meats grow and generate more of our sales from retail. In addition, we wanted to increase business in our backyard, the Reno/Tahoe area, where we sell direct to hotels and restaurants.

Our greatest success: Our comeback after what I call the 2008 depression. We suffered, like a lot of businesses tied to people’s disposable income. Our strategy was to realign and sell off the Bay Area part of the business, which was hard to do but necessary. After recalibrating and growing our revenue more than 80%, we’ve been able to pay employees a profit-sharing bonus for the last five years. So we hit bottom, got healthy, created a vision for the future and shared our financial success with employees.

Best advice I ever got: Not to take myself too seriously and to treat everyone with respect.

Quote from our company’s mission statement: “Our mission is to source and offer premium meat and seafood to chefs, restaurateurs and distributors while exceeding their expectations by providing exceptional value and impassioned service. By achieving our mission we will earn loyal customers today, tomorrow and in the future.”

On my wall: Awards from Certified Angus Beef, pictures from our bison ranch and a frame containing my grandfather’s certificate of citizenship. He emigrated from Italy as a small boy.

One of my greatest accomplishments: Having family members understand that the things I do and personnel moves I make are necessary for the success of the business and that I have their interests at heart. When I came back to the business 17 years ago, we were a little dysfunctional. I had some hard conversations and moved people into positions I thought they could succeed in.

Best thing about working in a family business: The pride that comes from continuing a business my grandfather started with a loan from his mother-in-law over 80 years ago.

Advice for other family business leaders: Have a plan, decide as a family what you want your business to be, and stick with that. Don’t allow people in the family to create a sense of entitlement so that non-family managers can’t manage.

Philanthropic causes our family supports: Our main effort is to help feed the hungry. We’re involved in several local charities, and we also support agriculture education, veterans and a local charity that helps pregnant teens. In addition, we support our customers’ charities, through them.

Book I think every family business leader should read: Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson.

I realized I had emerged from the previous generation’s shadow when … I was 5. I’ve always traveled to the beat of my own drum. I was the youngest of seven kids and difficult, so I’ve been doing my own thing for quite awhile.

Future succession plans: I turn 50 on Jan. 16, so I have a long road ahead. Members from our fourth generation are involved in the business, but not in a management role. We’re looking for them to step up; it’s a work in progress.

Words I live by: I heard a quote recently by Jimmy Iovine, co-founder of Interscope Records and Beats headphones. He said “Fear is a powerful thing. It can be a headwind or it can be a tailwind.” I try every day to choose to make fear a tailwind, not a headwind.

Copyright 2018 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permission from the publisher. For reprint information, contact bwenger@familybusinessmagazine.com.

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January/February 2018

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