David: Welcome to Manitoba Business Podcast featuring interviews with business leaders and entrepreneurs based right here in Manitoba. I’m David Noël-Romas. Before I get started introducing our guest, I’d like to introduce a new cohost. Josh McFadden is a great friend of mine and one of my partners at Black Chair. He’ll be joining me for a bunch of the interviews going forward. If you wanna hear more from Josh, you might also be interested in a brand-new show we’re starting up called the Black Chair Podcast. I’ve had a ton of fun doing the Manitoba Business Podcast and it’s not going anywhere but the Black Chair Podcast has a bit of a different focus. The majority of our guests on the Manitoba Business Show lead fairly established businesses and are in the later phases of their careers. In contrast to that, the Black Chair Show features up and coming creators and entrepreneurs who are just beginning to make a name for themselves or who might be in the midst of a significant transition. If you’re interested in the show, you should check it out on iTunes or at www.blackchair.net/podcast.
Now back to the Manitoba Business Podcast. This episode features a business leader that you’ve almost certainly heard of before. If you’re lucky, you’ve had the opportunity to try his product. He’s the definition of a self-made man but he is also the first to credit all the people that helped him get where he is today. Nevertheless, he had a starting point in business that was especially unique, and which came with a lot of challenges. We got to talk about how he made it through some of those challenges and what his advice would be for anyone who’s working their way up.
If you enjoy today’s episode, please tell your friends about the show. It’s available on all your favorite podcast platforms including iTunes and a transcript of every episode is also available on our website at www.manitobabusinesspodcast.com. Now, without further ado, here is Danny Kleinsasser. So yeah. Danny, thanks so much for taking the time.
Danny: Yeah. Thanks for having me.
David: Can we start by having you just kind of introduce yourself? Who are you and what do you do?
Danny: I’m Danny Kleinsasser, the owner of Danny’s Whole Hog Barbecue. Started it 17 years ago and I’m still here.
David: Right on. Right on. Seventeen years you’ve been up to this. About 2001 you started?
David: Wow, wow. So what was kind of that story there? How did you get into it?
Danny: I made a big step in my life that I’m leaving the Hutterite colony with two children. It was a…
David: So did you grow up in a Hutterite colony?
Danny: Yeah, I did. I have no negativity against them or not. I made a choice to leave and raise my kids on a different way of life and I wanted to be a business owner and I’ve been fooling around all my life with different recipes of barbecue sauce and at home cooking and barbecuing and I’ve always had this dream of starting my own business with whole hogs barbecue. That’s how I started, you know, so…
Danny: Here I am today.
Josh: I gotta…yeah, jump in with a question here because I’ve always been curious. Prior to starting Danny’s Whole Hog 17 years ago what was your first experience with either barbecued pork or pulled pork or whatever that was that inspired you to say, “Yeah.” Like you could’ve gone into steak catering, you could’ve gone into any types of food sort of business, right. So what was the pork about?
Danny: I grew up in a pork industry, [inaudible 00:03:26] back in the Colonies. My dad was the manager of a pork…feeding hogs and we always went to Iowa, Nebraska to the hog shows and when you go down south you go to some of those shows. You see barbecuing. They know how to barbecue. Southern [inaudible 00:03:43] and southern barbecue. And I was always intrigued about it and took some pictures of some barbecues, went back home and build a little barbecue back in the Colony days the school out picnic is big. You invite all your neighbors and you used to have all those big bonfires and we went to the…a week before, we went in the bush and got a willow. Willows were two-pronged, so you can put two wieners on there and we put them in the little [inaudible 00:04:12] there to soak so they wouldn’t burn when you put the wiener on. And so for me and my dad were…me and my dad were creative, like, “Let’s do a hog roast, dump wieners for hog roast.” We built a little barbecue from pictures from down south and we introduced the hog roast to a picnic on the Colony.
David: Oh, really? So the Colony hadn’t done it before? And you kind of brought it to the Colony and introduced them to that?
Danny: Absolutely. My dad. My dad would take more credit of that.
David: Okay. And I’m sure everybody liked it.
Danny: Everybody loved it. And then, when I decided to go on my own I’ve always…like I said, I’ve always…southern barbecues…I brought it into Manitoba and many years back still have a plaque on the wall, Manitoba [inaudible 00:05:00] gave me an award for the first guy to bring whole hog barbecuing into Manitoba.
David: Oh, wow.
Danny: I’ve got that plaque on the wall.
David: That is great. That’s in your office basically?
Danny: Yeah, absolutely.
David: Very cool.
Josh: Very cool, yeah. Neat. So you grew up your entire life on a Colony. What age were you when you left?
Danny: Well, now you’re gonna really try me here. I’m 54 years old. Do the math.
Josh: Okay. So 17 years. You were 37?
Danny: Yeah, yeah.
Danny: That’s a big move at that age. I was a go-getter and I’ve…
Josh: How old were your kids at that time?
Danny: Isaiah was only two and a half.
Josh: Oh, my goodness. So that’s a big, big leap of faith you were taking right there.
Danny: And at the end of the day that’s what it is. It’s a…I believe in God. I believe in…he takes care of you. I’m a man of faith.
Danny: And when I make a move like this it was done prayerfully, and God blessed me, and I just pray every day to God to give me wisdom.
Danny: And it was a big leap of faith and here I am today. That…it started out…
Josh: Looks like it worked out.
Danny: Yeah, it did. But it started, and I wanted to raise my kids on good Christian principles.
Danny: But if you look at where it’s gone from doing whole hog barbecues the first year having 25 cookers to where I’ve got over 80. But the trend has changed a little bit. We don’t do as many whole hog barbecues because people said to me, “Danny, can you cook it and deliver it? Can you add some salads to it?” And then, so I…
David: a lot easier…
Danny: Yeah, I know, it did. So I did. So I turned around and made a menu where we diversified. Not all people eat pork. We diversified with the same barbecues we can do, we can do turkeys, we can do lots of things but then…that’s where the catering then…basically my business grew by listening to my customers.
Josh: Right, right, right.
Danny: I remember when I started out I used to phone 100% of my customers after every event, “Hey, what can I improve? What can I do?” And they made suggestions
Danny: I did that. So as my business grew I just randomly did 20% for many years.
Danny: Right now I just do an odd one, because it grew, you know, and that time I realized pretty quick off the start I needed a logo.
Josh: Of course.
Danny: So the studio of Wendy Jay [SP] came up with different logo ideas and that’s where the pig and the logo came from.
Danny: I knew I needed a website. My friend Diane [SP] Miller built just a little sample website back in those days and we needed a logo, we needed a website and…
David: So people could find you?
Danny: Yeah. Advertising? I did what I could afford.
Josh: Sure, yep.
Danny: And here’s the interesting thing about that. I went to Home Hardware. I bought a pail of nails. I went to one of the sign companies and I think the first one…first thing I made 50 of the…what are they? Twelve inch by 24-inch signs? I had them printed with my logo and phone number on there. And I went on every gravel road and every road within a 50-mile [inaudible 00:08:22] from home and I just nailed signs to every fence post, every higher pole and so I figured out I’ll ask for forgiveness later.
Josh: That’s right. Good old marketing. There you go.
Danny: Yeah, that’s how it was.
Josh: Wow. Wow.
Danny: The second…after year two I was a little more aggressive. I had seven signs made. The big road signs. I think they’re six feet by eight or something, road signs made. And here was what my thinking behind it. Winnipeg’s unique in Manitoba. We’ve got I think as high as 70%, 80% of our population in city of Winnipeg.
Danny: Call it the hub. And you’ve got number 1 highway, number 6, number 7, number 8, 59, number 175 and the 200-side road.
Josh: Sure, yep, yep.
Danny: And I just had a sign made for all entrances leaving, you know. Everybody disappears and the city wins. So I had one shot. I went to a shop, “Build me those stands.” And one week and they were all up.
Danny: I just made the investment, I put and everybody’s leaving. Now you’ve got everybody leaving Winnipeg coming to…going to the Lakes and back. And that was my first initial aggressive advertising stand.
David: How many years in the business was that?
Danny: That was probably in year…I would say in year two or three.
Josh: Okay. So fairly early?
Danny: Yeah. Fairly early I did that. And yes, the signs are in places where they’re not supposed to be and all that. And then the owners [SP] phone you and some I’d say, “Hey, where can I put it?” They were very helpful with me.
David: Sure, yeah.
Danny: Some say to you, “We give you 24 hours to take them away.” And I asked them, “I’m a small business. Would you work with me?” “Leave them up two weeks,” you know. And I could work with that, you know.
David: Trade a pig, yeah.
Danny: So I worked with them. They were very easy to work with and I know there’s laws and regulations and I try to follow them, but I never try to fight anything. I was get ideas and I learned a lot too on those signs, you know, what to do but it was like, whew…and it worked. It worked 100%, at least on that, the phone rang off the hook.
Josh: Would you say that your initial customer base in that first year came from the small signs that you had put throughout the countryside or was there another…did you also kind of have a network of friends that were bringing you business and stuff like that?
Danny: Small papers.
Danny: I like the Argus, Winkler papers, the agriculture papers.
Danny: What’s those Harry Simmons, Les Murray [SP] you know, some of the editors that grew up on a farm like I did.
Josh: Sure, yep.
Danny: Heard about me. They’ve seen the signs, you know, and they contacted me, “Can I do a story on you?” You know, the Western Producer that that goes across Canada, “Can I do a story with you?” Because coming off the farm, you know, venturing out, doing that…so there was articles written in those early two years that came out and my dad used to farm 7,000 acres. So he was very much always a go-getter connected in the agriculture farming industry, they knew him, so it was some guys, “Hey, you’re working for Danny here?” And all that. So yeah. News traveled. Word of mouth traveled pretty quick and mushroomed pretty quick.
Josh: Of course. Was a lot of your early business also in those rural communities? Like were you doing a lot more kind of hog roasts in those regions or a lot in the city too?
Danny: Oh, hog roasts have always been any place from people from coming from the city taking out to the cabin to little communities. It’s…hog roast has always been from Toulon [SP] to the town of Richard to Morden, Winkler. Hog roasts have always been all over the map so yeah.
Josh: Cool. Cool.
David: I wanna touch too on a story that you told me…I don’t know. A little while ago. About when you started doing the whole hog roasts and you needed some barbecues. Remember the story? So you went to somebody and they hooked you up with…or they built you some custom barbecues.
David: And there were some finances and stuff like that that maybe didn’t quite line up at the time for yourself and they extended a little bit of grace.
Danny: Yes. Yes. That’s a…yeah, I’ve had a lot of friends come forward that wanted to see me succeed and uncles that left Colonies many years ago.
Danny: I wouldn’t be here today if it wouldn’t have been for my uncle, Dave Walner who had Sun Valley Farms, a hog farm out Rose North. The man was a total blessing to me. His family is a total blessing. He passed on a couple of years ago, but he was my mentor. I remember one statement he made to me coming off the colony where he said…I said, “I have lots to learn.” He said to me, “You probably have more to unlearn.” To…fair statement. To where you grew up in this society, everything was taken care of you and I’m not saying anything negative. I’m blessed of my background. I want to learn. It’s a…it was…I wouldn’t want it any other way. But yeah. Along the way you make mistakes and you learn and that statement…because he left 35 years ago still rings very true, because there is some mistakes you made because you thought that’s the way it’s supposed to be done.
Danny: The real business world and all that.
David: Of course.
Danny: And he’s a man…when I told him I’m leaving, he’s a man that took $50,000 of his savings. We went to the Rosenort Credit Union. We signed a mortgage on the farm that we picked up for $185,000 with a house, 80 acres and an old shop on there. And he…I couldn’t have done it without him because really at the end of the day, I was a nothing, I had no credit rating or nothing.
Josh: Sure. Well, you had probably never been to a bank before, right?
Danny: Yeah, I never was. I never wrote a check before. And in the meantime now, with a blessing like him helping me out, it got me off my feet and I paid him back pretty quickly. Very successfully.
Danny: And I’ve dealt with the same bank ever since.
Josh: Pretty cool.
Danny: We did it with Credit Union. It was out at Rosenort and we switched the mortgage after three years back to the Stonewall Credit Union. Today it’s Sanova and I’ve dealt with that bank ever since. They’re really…when I walk in there…those guys were so helpful with me and all that and yeah.
Danny: First guy who wrote me a line of credit for $25,000.
Danny: One of the lenders and he says in my front room and my kitchen, he says to me…I said…he says, “What have you got?” I said, “I have a truck out there, $12,000 truck but it’s not mine. Somebody told me, “Pay me…pay when you can.” He said, “You didn’t tell me that. I’m gonna use it as credit anyways.”
Josh: Oh, we’re getting someone in trouble
Danny: I know. But I’m just… But he looked me in the eye and he says, “I really appreciate your honesty.” I could’ve said it’s my car, but I was honest right from the start. Here’s what I got. He used it for collateral. He walked out of there. He gave me a $25,000 line of credit. So the money means, yeah, they were rooting for me. I had family and friends come forward and put money forward and all that, they had more faith. So if you wanna talk about gambling this was all or nothing. This was a big gamble, they knew that. But even with some friends’ money, you know…but they made a decision to help me out and I honored it and they all got paid back.
Josh: Of course.
David: Did that motivate you, that assistance motivate you to work harder or did you have that hard-working drive regardless?
Danny: I’ve got that from my dad and my mom. We were [inaudible 00:16:30] people. We always loved…we always were go-getters growing up.
Danny: My uncles were go-getters. Look where Chris’s thing is today. Johnathan and the guys like that. We’ve always been go-getters and innovative and stuff like this. I think this runs in the family and this wasn’t…looking back, I’ve always looked at it, you know, I wanna have my own business, raise my own family and I…it motivated me to…I had lots of energies. When you’re young you…but I was still at the same time, I was a man of faith. I’ve always wanted to help less fortunate. My dad was that way, my mom. When I see somebody that needed a helping hand just like people were there for me when I needed…I need to hand that on. I wanna raise my kids to that, to hand it on. It’s a generational thing. But more than anything I never stopped giving. When I had owed the bank a lot of money, I still help out. I never…I was involved with, along with Salome [SP] Mission and Teen Challenge and some of those organizations. I still gave back then when I still had a lot of debt, I never stopped giving. And I…call it whatever you wanna call it. People call it karma. People call it that. I call it…it’s that God in heaven sees your heart and He blesses you tenfold, you don’t deserve that. That’s as simple as that, and I’ve never stopped giving even when I didn’t have it, then I got tenfold and I…and that’s what I wanna leave with my kids.
Josh: Of course.
Danny: And sometimes it’s just a drink of water. Sometimes it’s just an encouraging word. Sometimes it’s just giving somebody a pat on the shoulder. Goes a long way.
Danny: So you don’t know what they’re going through. A pat on the shoulder could be enough to make them [crosstalk 00:18:26]
David: Elevate someone’s day.
Danny: Make somebody’s day or putting a smile on their face. That’s who I am as a character and I’ll be that way till I die. And I want to hand that over to my kids. My mom and dad were that way. They planted that. My uncle Dave was that way. So people handed it forward to me and I wanna forward it to my kids, forward it to others. And that’s who I am.
Josh: It’s a really cool sort of practice I think in building character and being kind of true to that…I don’t know. Discipline, right? Like making sure that you’re always doing that and no matter what, it’s something that you’re repetitively doing, and it is just ingrained in who you are, right, so…
David: And it helps you keep some perspective too, right? Like it’s like you said if you were in debt or whatever situation you were in personally you still maintain that perspective that you had the opportunity to help some other people no matter what.
Danny: And am I perfect? No. Have I made mistakes along the way? Yes. Will my kids probably make mistakes? Yes.
Josh: They’re probably listening to this right now saying, “Oh, dad. Come on.”
Danny: No, I’m not a perfect guy but I learned to smile and try to be happy. Have people hurt me? Yes. I try to forgive. You know, sometimes it’s hard to forget, you know, and I’m just a normal guy out there that’s working hard for what I’ve got and is there are days where you’re burned out? Yes, I’ve had my burnout days and times you know, and you just reenergize. I know I’ve…one thing I decided is…in the first couple of years I couldn’t afford to do it. But February I’m going someplace with my wife.
Danny: Every February we take a week trip to the beach.
Danny: Now I started two years ago…well, I guess this winter I took the whole family to Saint Lucia because right now my family’s at the stage of Isaiah going to university at 19, my youngest is 7. They’re all in school.
Danny: You know, and I’ve…and I used to sit on a lot of committees. A lot of helping out entrepreneurs, food and beverage, you know, Manitoba Pork. I decided a year ago, less than a year ago I’m gonna sit on no more committees for the next five, six years. I’m giving all my time to my kids, my family. They need me right now, and I said to the food and beverage…I was on the executive there. I told them one day and they gracious…they accepted it, actually gave me a big award there and I said to them, “That’s why I do it. I don’t wanna give less of my time, but my family needs it right now. I’m gonna sign on there and I wish you well…guys well. I’m gonna support you. I’m there with the programs you’ve got. I’m just leaving that for family reasons.”
Josh: Yeah. I mean, it’s a special season for your family, right. I mean, your kids are still all in school and you’ve got to have those times together.
Danny: And then they gave you the presidential award, you know. And then I was…I had tears in my eyes when they gave that to me. I didn’t expect it, you know.
David: For sure.
Danny: But people understand that you wanna give your time now to family…
Josh: Yep. No, I think everybody can understand that, right. At the end of the day that’s why we all do this stuff, right. Like why would you run your own business if it wasn’t to care for the people that are closest to you, right?
Danny: And I remember one thing when I started out. I was on the phone till 12 o’clock every night. The kids were small. I said to my wife, “You’ll have less of me with the kids when they’re small, but I promise you once it gets established the office is in your house, the office is in my vehicle today, the office is…” And I’m talking to every customer, you know, every night late and phoning back after one o’clock or [inaudible 00:22:14] my time but I always said, “When that time comes, when the business is established enough, then I’m not gonna work on the weekends. I haven’t worked on weekends for a couple of years now.
Josh: Amazing. Amazing. Especially when you consider that I’m sure weekends are a big part of your business, right, in terms of orders.
Danny: Yeah. It’s 90% of my business is on weekends, you know. And I just decided I’m gonna hire people to do it. Then my family has my time.
Josh: Absolutely. Yeah.
Danny: We bought a cottage. I go up there a lot. I hang out with my kids. I do stuff with my kids and my business is established, I hired good people and I’m blessed to have a good staff. That’s very, very important. And but more important is your customer, how you treat your customer.
Josh: Of course.
Danny: We’re not perfect.
Danny: We get phone calls where [inaudible 00:22:59] guy had a wrong salad, or the guys forgot to bring the beef. They had pork or different things. We make mistakes. It’s what you do with those mistakes. And when you come back I personally phone those customers. “Hey,” I say, “This shouldn’t have happened.” I don’t wanna be too hard on my employees but at the end of the day we appreciate, what can we do to make it right?
Josh: Yeah, absolutely.
Danny: And that’s the approach I take with customers. We’re not perfect, you know. We make mistakes. When you do 20, 30 meals on a weekend or on a Saturday, you think…first think, did everything go perfect on Monday morning?
David: Yeah, tensions are high.
Danny: We…our success rate is 98%, 99%, right, on feeding so many people but it’s that one percent or sometimes, where a foul up is or stuff like this you have to deal with it properly.
Josh: It’s your opportunity to make it right.
Danny: And I take this very seriously.
David: Of course, one of the things I realized when you were kind enough to give us that tour of your facility the other day was your whole smoking setup is really cool. And you had in there a smokehouse that you and your dad put together, you know, presumably many years ago. Is that something that you guys kind of…because you said you sort of had the idea of bringing up the hog roast and stuff like that. Did you guys figure out your smoking setup just kind of by yourselves or…
Danny: We’re European background, Austrian. That’s…in Illinois.
Danny: We grew up on the Colonies always making sausage and food around…
David: Okay. Okay, so that part was always there.
Josh: And the curing process is a huge part of the European culture. [inaudible 00:24:41]
Danny: Absolutely, absolutely. So I…when I started my…when I started going into it I did it for my dad. He was getting older and I built…he loves sausage and making it, right, and this year I invested a little bit on that end. We can make sausage and we shared our Hotterite recipes with…we had some good European friends. The guy that started out, he was a good friend of ours. I think he’s still around. Country Meat and Sausage, that German guy that had it before, him and my dad were good friends. So we took some ideas and recipes, put them together and started out the ideas. But the smokehouse is really…the principle of the smokehouse is very simple.
Danny: You know, and…but when you come, and you do more mass production then the smokehouses are more automated, you know, where you can smoke a…you can dry your sausage a percentage of time because a sausage when it’s wet, smoke can’t penetrate, right. So you gotta dry it. You don’t wanna over dry it. Then you have a couple of hours’ smoke cycle and then you don’t wanna have too much smoke, right. Then you…and then you cook it…your internal till about 130 and then you…if you keep on cooking at that with a dry heat, it’s gonna shrivel. So then you put that…so the steam generators come in. Then you finish enough the next 20 minutes until you hit your internal 160, 170. You do it with steam so that your sausage is nicer. So the technology has come a long way. There’s a science behind making sausage correctly, you know and the fooling around with different recipes and stuff. So it’s always been a pet thing that we love doing and we’re still doing it and, you know, I’ve learned pretty quick on it, you’ve gotta diversify. I can’t make a living just doing hog roast. People…not everybody eats pork.
Danny: So all of a sudden we did the turkey. Today I had this slogan. I used it for a while was…I’m much more in pork, you know, and the sausage income. And then how do you keep your workers around for 12 months, right? We’re in a busy time where 80%, 90% of my income is in the five, six months but how do I do the rest of the months is what’s called repping. I grew up…I’m a bush guy.
Danny: When I wanna get away from everything I go on tree stands. It’s not about the kill for me. It’s getting out watching nature and and the cell phone doesn’t work or and just enjoying nature.
Josh: Even if it does work you manage to lose [inaudible 00:27:13]
Danny: Yeah, I do [inaudible 00:27:13] I know. I do 200 hours everything on tree stands. I’ll bring a deer home, butcher it and we’ll eat it at home but then customer, “Hey, can you cut and wrap a deer for me?” So we’ve done some winters over 150 to 200 deer.
Danny: And we learned to put it…give it to the customer in a vacupack bags so they have to [inaudible 00:27:35] live and the deer…we mix it with pork, you know.
Josh: It’s better than what they’d be able to do at home, right? Because you have different equipment.
Danny: Yeah, so it’s so, but the principle behind us…it gets me cash flow in those months [inaudible 00:27:47]
Danny: And then when…now you see we’re going into the retail stores or retail [inaudible 00:27:54] This is another thing. Now we have got more cash flow. So you’re trying to get your business where you have cash flow more…12 months, you know, and keep your employees around so…
David: Are you comfortable identifying what your split is between your catering service versus all of the sauces and products that you sell to the grocery stores, your frozen products, your sausages, all that?
Danny: Still what pays my bills is, at the end of the day, the whole hog, doing the whole hog. If we can do…last year I think we did probably on average of 40, 50 pigs a week.
Josh: Wow. That’s a lot of pigs.
Danny: We’ll do 2,000 in the summer.
Josh: Two thousand pigs?
Danny: Yeah. Just [inaudible 00:28:35]
Josh: Two thousand pigs in the summer?
Danny: Just in the barbecues. To me that’s a clean dollar.
Josh: I’m just picturing a bunch of little pigs on [inaudible 00:28:42] field.
Danny: Yeah, [inaudible 00:28:43] Yeah. To me that’s a clean dollar. It’s cheap for the customer. For me that’s a nice clean dollar.
Danny: The catering is still my cleanest dollar. You know, a high percentage of what pays my bills. The retail are smaller margins and I got into retails and you have to operate more on volume and smaller margins.
Josh: Sure, sure.
Danny: But that’s why we’re working on it to grow it. Barbecue sauce.
Danny: I…we got invited down south.
Josh: Your barbecue sauce is amazing.
David: So good.
Danny: We got invited to a wedding. We got invited to a wedding. Flew into Dallas, Washington to our airport. We drove and rented a car, and a friend of ours had barbecue sauce…had a barbecue sauce given to all the brides and grooms.
Danny: Everybody helping out. They gave us one to take home and I got home and I said to my wife, “That’s what we…I need to do that.” And took some of my old recipes, shared it with this company down south, you know, and we went back and forth, and we developed some sauce. And today I got 12…10 different kinds, you know. Some of them are their ideas. Some are my ideas and I went to Jamaica a couple of years ago. That’s how things come. We were in location and I give the taxi driver $20. He said he wanted $20 to take us out shopping for the day. And I said, “Take me to the best jerk…chicken, jerk, pork place out in the country off the beaten trail.” I gave him $100 and it make his day and I said, “I wanna leave here talking to those guys, what they do.” Understand the principle behind the jerk sauce.
Josh: Of course. Show me the biggest jerk in town.
Danny: Yeah, I know. But understand, every culture and everything has different things to put into something. I wanted to know what is Jamaica doing to that. So by doing that you have to dig in and show an interest and they gave me a tour of the place there. By the time I left I gave the guy a big tip. He gave me a piece of paper with the main ingredients on there that they use, what they… I went back, back to the drawing board with my people down south. We then…I…after that trip, within two months, that’s how my jerk sauce got developed, on that trip.
David: And I have to say that your jerk is probably my favorite sauce.
Josh: Well, it’s very, very good.
David: That you make.
Danny: The other one, Mexico, four years ago. Private label. We usually go out at a resort to a little town and for supper and we’re sitting there, and this guy snaps a picture of me and my wife, comes back with a little gift of tequila on the table with me and my wife on the thing. I [inaudible 00:31:21] and I go like…my wife looked at me, “You’re thinking?” I said, “You bet I think. I don’t know why the heck I never thought of that before.” And I says, “I can’t wait to get home to actually try this idea.” “What are you talking about?” I says, “Well, this idea of…for weddings.” We offer private labeling. We offer take a photo of a couple. We get them [inaudible 00:31:44] we put a sticker on there and they can hand it out to their guests. Share our company with their logo and now today, it’s big. We got companies, literally hundreds of them, you know, and it’s come off a Mexico trip. I guess I should take more vacations but that’s how the [crosstalk 00:32:00]
David: Well, there’s so many of those little gifts and things that, you know…in the corporate world that you can purchase and give to your customers and they might be a mug or a whatever it is, a fancy pen. But everybody likes barbecue sauce.
Josh: Oh, yeah.
Danny: But that’s who I am. Like I never think I got it all together. I’ve learned to always be open-minded for new ideas. This…when we were in Saint Lucia with a bunch of family and friends, with the family there, everybody commented there on that. They had a smoker there. It was unbelievable. Good tasting.
Danny: Smoky. And I…everybody’s coming. I says, “Well, I’ll find out.” And I get to know the chef. I get to know them. I says, “Where’s this smoker from?” And the guy came…I had him…brought me an empty box where the smoky came from. Came from the U.S. I go, “Well, that’s even better. Now it’s successful. Came from a pretty well-known brand down there. But at least I knew now to start doing my research on the taste and on the smoker, and now I’m working on something, you know. That’s how it is. I’m never too shy to dig in if I see something that I like and find out what is it about that product, you know, and…
Josh: That’s kind of one of the big differences that we notice, you know, in the business world. Some people who have it and some people who don’t. Sometimes it’s just being able to ask the right question.
Josh: And ask the right person, of course.
David: Just not being so shy that you can put yourself out there. You’re not afraid to kind of make a fool of yourself a little bit, right. But if it gets you the next step forward, who cares?
Danny: I say to my children all the time, “It doesn’t…you don’t have to be shy about asking. If they say no, you respect that.
Josh: Of course.
Danny: If they say yes it might be helpful, you know. It’s just, why? Why not ask?
Josh: And it’s a more fun way to live, right? You get to make friends, all sorts of different characters along to help you out and off you go.
Danny: Yeah. That’s…like you said we are working on…with you guys I guess. We wanna work on the website and the online buying and with the future on that. So I’m creatively moving forward in new ideas, you know, and…
Josh: Yep. What do you kinda see as the future of Danny’s in general? We’ve obviously talked about a bunch of different things. There’s the retail going on, there’s the catering and the whole hog side of the business and there’s, you know, a bit of a move into eCom and you’ve got the sauces and the sausages and the smoke stuff. Where do you…what’s your vision for it? Where would you love it to be in 10 years?
Danny: Where I see the future…there is a lot more catering companies out there. A lot more restaurants are catering out the back door we’ll call it, right. I have established myself a name that’s always gonna be a sort of a front runner in some of the whole hog [inaudible 00:34:57] and all that.
Josh: Absolutely, yep. Yep.
Danny: So I put a lot of effort into keeping that name to what got me here is customer service.
Josh: Of course.
Danny: And quality and I know when I put…I came out with my barbecue sauce. You see barbecue sauce that’s two for five bucks. You go like, “Well, people…” Negative people will say to me, “Danny, you can’t compete.” I says, “I can’t compete with that but yes, I can compete on quality.” And the bottom line is building a relationship with your customer and put a higher end barbecue…if I put a low-end barbecue sauce out that’s junk and you wanna sell it for $8, $9, yeah, that’s wrong. You gotta have a good quality and be honest with people and that barbecue sauce, now, places send e order, it’s [inaudible 00:35:45] you know, send me what do they have on there. Fifteen skids or 17 skids? Like that’s how many I order at a time. You know, that’s a $50,000, $60,000 order now. When I started out [crosstalk 00:35:59], So that theory that I can’t compete is wrong.
David: Of course.
Danny: Stick with quality. So I can see in the future I gotta stick to those principles on quality and the same things with catering. You can only go up at so and so much a plate. We had to increase, you know, but if you keep giving the service, you keep doing that people will understand when proteins are higher that they have to pay a little bit more. And don’t try to skimp. Don’t try to skimp a lower quality on something just because you need to get that plate cost down. Tell people. Tell people. You know what? Proteins are up. You might be able to go get the catering a meal for $2, $3 cheaper. Go for it, you know. If that’s all you can afford, go for it. But I can’t afford to do it.
Danny: And I cannot afford to skimp on that. I need to keep my quality, my service at that and that’s where I need to be and that’s certain principles that I don’t wanna change, you know, and then your business will grow. Things sometimes are a little bit harder when the economy goes through. Last couple of years, you can see it. Budgets are less. People don’t have the big barbecues and all of this. So you’ve got to work within those budgets where we now like…we just introduced the new one yesterday where we’re now catering. We arrive on a job let’s say around $70 a plate. People…maybe some people are smaller crowds don’t have that $70 a plate, when they could pick it up for $12. Well, they don’t wanna drive out to the city, so we put one right in between. We’ll drop it off, we’ll set it up. It’s not gonna cost you. I’ll set up on your table. We’ll leave.
Danny: All throwaway stuff.
David: So you’re not spending your time serving?
Danny: Absolutely. Just the drop off. And then you could do more drop off. Like, I had to choose that because I respect budgets within companies, you know. They’ve got their…they can’t afford the $17 full catering service. Maybe they can next year.
Danny: Right, and the pickup is a little inconvenient. I try to have that gap, but we noticed pretty quick and Sharon brought it to my attention last week. He says, “Danny, we’re losing out. They don’t have anybody to send out to pick it up. We need to deliver it to them.” And they will. They will pay you a lot for that. So we started [inaudible 00:38:21], I did a first on it yesterday, you know.
David: Great, great.
Josh: That’s the perfect balance. If they can save a bit of money on the servers but still get the delivery…
Danny: And that’s where I see the business going. You ask me that question, is being connected with your customer and always know what your competition is up.
David: Always know but be connected with your customer where…and the trends change. Not be afraid to change that trend. That trend, we could be sitting here in two years and that drink will be totally different, you know. Of course, you know, it’s just trends change. I think you…I see the trend, PU gotta go to the people. Skip the dishes.
Josh: Oh, yeah. They’re doing it.
Danny: They’re killing it and people don’t mind paying it because people actually sometimes don’t even wanna talk to a customer. They just wanna be on their phone and just arriving at your door.
Josh: That’s right.
Danny: And they’ll actually pay extra money for it right.
Josh: That’s right. For better or worse people have this, you know, aversion to picking up the phone and they also just, you know…it’s also a question of convenience, right. Everybody’s in such a rush nowadays and if you can get stuff to you that’s so much easier than picking it up.
Danny: So I realized I have to go towards that almost…it’ll be hard to go… Our business is a little unique. We have to talk. Every meal’s different. We sort of have to talk to customers, but I see that I have to change that trend in my own business, my own thinking too where there’s people that don’t wanna talk to Sharon or me or anybody in the office. They will otherwise not order. They’ll order whatever’s going to go with the new trend, right.
Danny: So we realize you gotta change with the times, you know, and listen to your customer.
Josh: Yeah. Cool. Very cool. Danny, I wanna be respectful of your time so we’re gonna kind of start wrapping it up here. The one question that I always ask everybody…you’ve mentioned sort of some parts of the answer to this already today but who would you kind of say are the people that have influenced your approach to business the most whether they’re people that you knew personally as mentors or maybe even people that you’ve kind of observed from far away and thought that you could learn from the way they were doing things?
David: The…my best mentors all my life was my mom and dad.
Danny: I saw back in the Colony life, I saw them and how they were with people, how they treated people, how my dad and mom were always…always had the heart for the down and out, for people that were in the background, that were down and out. They’ve always…they’ve been my mentors. Just stay honest in business and never play politics with nobody. Always say it the way it is. Sometimes saying stuff the way it is will not make you friends.
Danny: Plus, people will misunderstand you and all that. But say it anyway, say the way it is even if at times of your life you go through, you have less friends, it doesn’t matter. If you stay, eventually that thing will [inaudible 00:41:13]. That’s…they were my mentors.
Danny: My uncle Dave, like I said when it comes to finances and all that coming off the Colony he was…he left 35 years before that. I did listen to him and he put money up front to help me and mentored me. So those are my…mom and dad…he…I always call him my second dad. Those were people in my life that I look up to.
David: Very cool.
Danny: And by the end of the day, I know that I have to live a humble life. I will have a tattoo on here pretty shortly, to remind me and it will be very simple. “Stay humble.”
Danny: I wanna stay humble because it goes a long way if you can stay humble, you know. And I wanna leave that with my kids and my family and, you know, I wanna enjoy life. I wanna enjoy my family. I wanna enjoy people. I wanna enjoy what I do, and I am enjoying what I do and that’s where I think lots of time businesses forget to have fun. They get jealous because you came up with little slogans we bring the flavor, the thumbs up, you know, you’re having fun with what you do.
Danny: That’s what it’s about at the end of the day, right, so…
Josh: Of course.
David: That’s right. I think it speaks a lot to your character too and just being I think a leader in that…obviously in your business but even, you know, people around you obviously look up to you and the culture that you’ve created. We’ve had the opportunity to work with you and your business and your employees and the culture that you create there…you can tell that it’s appreciated that you are not only a humble guy, but you’ve got energy, you’re talkative, you’re…you complement people, you let people know when they’re doing something wrong in a positive way, right. And I think that that speaks volumes to the person that you are and the story that you just told as to where that came from, right. So…
Danny: You know, look at your workers. Look at your workers. I appreciate every worker I’ve got. There’s different characters that can sometimes rub you the wrong way. When I look at all my workers and I have to tell my employees because you could see…it doesn’t matter which business it is. Sometimes within the business you’ll see characters who are, they rub themselves the wrong way and I had to sit them down, “Hey, guy. You’ve got a strong point there. You have the strong point there. You need to still be respectful to one another. You still need to treat one another with respect and I as the owner and the boss will not let you guys get by with that when I see you guys live like this.”
Danny: “You need to look in the mirror and be nice to one another and try to make this work. It’s all about teamwork. If you get along and you have little cliques within a business and you saw that a lot in the restaurant business when I was in restaurant business.
Danny: You get those little cliques in there and those little cliques usually are not good for production in a restaurant.
Danny: And the quicker you can put the fire out and say, “Guys. Look in the mirror. Have fun. Smile. Customers see that, you know. And look in the mirror and nobody’s perfect. Accept the man and the guy where he is.”
Danny: And if you can speak that openly with your employees and I do that, you know, and I says, “Look in the mirror, guys.” I said…once I remember telling my guys, “I might have to buy 20 mirrors and give you all a mirror for Christmas, you know. And look in the mirror.” You know, it’s just as simple as that.
Josh: That’s a great teambuilding exercise. Cool. Cool.
Danny: It’s about teamwork. I say, “You are not…” I look at…I don’t look at one person less than this person.
Danny: Even if you have more talent there, more talent there, it’s teamwork. We gotta work together.
Josh: Sure, of course.
David: And you can see that. I love that.
Josh: Yep. Very cool. Well, Danny, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today. It’s really been a pleasure.
Danny: Yeah. Thanks for having me.
David: It’s been fantastic.
That’s it. Thank you for listening to the Manitoba Business Podcast. Once again this episode was brought to you by Black Chair Consulting. We use social media to help businesses sell more. If you wanna find out about Black Chair Consulting, go to www.blackchair.net. Thanks so much. Have a great day.