"Promptness, efficiency and trust are the values that propel Heinrich Food in its second decade of operations"
When Cindy Hein first opened the doors of Heinrich Food for business in 2006, the prospects seemed uncertain. She was not sure if it was going to be sustainable, and to make matters worse, her resources were limited.
“I told myself that I would give it a year and do everything within my ability to make it work within the budget,” says Hein, who turns 53 this year. “Whether or not I could sustain the company, I would gladly accept it. At least I gave it a try.”
The first 12 months of business proved excruciatingly demanding — she had to run her company with a very lean team and there were not very many suppliers at her disposal. But her efforts were soon rewarded, owing in no small part to her 26 years of experience in the food service sector. The company was profitable from the second year, much to her own surprise.
Today, her customers include food and hospitality establishments such as hotels, clubs, restaurants, cafeterias, learning institutions and food courts.
“There is little meaning in competing with the much larger players in this industry,” says Hein. “I’m really targeting the small- to medium-sized food establishments. And my clients are happy to work with us because we understand their business and challenges.”
As the company strides into its 11th year of operation, Hein says her focus is on growing and developing sales and other strategies to drive the company into its next decade. Product differentiation and innovation are also in the pipeline — the company has begun importing its own seafood under the HF brand, and Hein reveals that the company is now able to put out items that are processed for convenience such as pre-cut meats and ready-to-use marinades. “In this line, speed and convenience are two very crucial factors that kitchen crews consider when they buy products. Our processing plant allows us to create products to cater to their needs, and also affords greater value-add to our customers.”
Hein adds that there are other benefits of being a food distributor and supplier on the scale of an SME. Without the bureaucracy typical of larger companies or MNCs, payment to its suppliers is very prompt. And if problems are encountered in the day-to-day operations of the business, finding and implementing solutions can be done speedily without having to wait for a long approval process. Clients also have assurance that products will be delivered on time.
“We never fail to deliver,” Hein asserts. “Supposing something crops up during delivery or there is a shortage of a certain item or product, we make it a point to source for a substitute elsewhere and have it sent to the customer. Our commitment to deliver lies at the heart of everything that we do.”
The same dedication and commitment extends to value-added items and services — Hein says the company is more than happy to make deliveries more than once a day to the same client if the situation calls for it. “Not only do we emphasise promptness and efficiency, we must also be sure that our customers get exactly what they ordered. I think that is one main contributing factor to Heinrich’s success in a highly competitive industry. We are able to earn the trust of our customers based on our track record and performance.”
Heinrich’s 10th year in business was a milestone for the company — last year, it won an award at the Singapore SME 1000 2016, which to Hein is an affirmation of the company’s reputation and status. “Looking back, I’m truly appreciative of the unwavering trust that our suppliers and customers placed in us,” says Hein. “And this is only possible with our very strong and reliable team of support staff. Some of my staff members have been with us for more than eight years and are still growing with us. Without them, we would not be where we are today.”
The same drive and passion that inspired Hein to start her own food distribution company keeps her going to this day. Undaunted by the challenges in a fiercely competitive industry, she says that she has no regrets and aspires to push the company to achieve loftier goals. “I enjoy taking calculated risks,” she shares. “A good entrepreneur should be able to deal with problems calmly and find suitable, timely solutions. Never say die — once you move ahead, you don’t go back.”
To Hein, her company and colleagues are her second family, and she treats them as such, lending support and encouragement when needed. “When you take care of your staff and give everyone an opportunity, the whole company benefits,” she offers. “You trust your colleagues to do the job, they earn the respect and trust of the customers, and they in turn trust you. It comes full circle.”