How Kirk Halpern Pivoted his Business in Just 13 Hours During the Height of the Pandemic

Learning to pivot quickly is critical, especially during the unprecedented times we find ourselves in, and that is exactly what Kirk Halpern, Founder and CEO of Farmers and Fisherman Purveyors, has continued to do. He pivoted his business at the height of the pandemic but didn’t stop there. On today’s show, we’ll get an update on what business looks like today for Farmers and Fisherman Purveyors. We’re pleased to welcome Kirk to the show.

Transcription:

Jim Fitzpatrick: Thank you so much for joining us once again on the show, Kirk.

Kirk Halpern:
Jim, thank you so much for having me. I’m honored to be on your show again. I had so many folks, friends, family, and strangers, reach out to me and say they caught my interview with Jim. Jim, I want to thank you for making me look good, so I appreciate it very much.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Well, thanks for being on the show. We also got a lot of comments, because it was the height, when we talked the last time. We’ll say it this way, the height, but it was the beginning of this pandemic. You had employees, you’ve got companies, you’re serving the restaurant community at the time. You said, the hell with it, restaurants are closed, I’ve got mouths to feed. I’ve got a business to carry on with. So many entrepreneurs got a lot out of your message there. You did make the decision at the time, let’s pivot and let’s do more home based delivery. Now people are home, they can’t go out to restaurants, but that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t enjoy a great steak or a great piece of fish. Talk to us about that decision and the outcome and where you stand today?

Kirk Halpern:
I hate saying we’re doing exceptionally well, but we’re doing exceptionally well.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Why do you hate saying that? It’s in the midst of a pandemic?

Kirk Halpern:
Yes. Even though we’re coming out of the pandemic, I personally don’t feel that, on a national level or on a community level, we’re out of the straits of challenges. There’s a lot of adversity out there. There’s a lot of uncertainty out there. There’s a lot of this going on. To me, what I want to be is a common-ground guy. I want to be the guy that can build a consensus that, as we’ve grown through this, I’m growing through this with employees, customers, suppliers. As I’m having success, I don’t want to boast the success.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right. Right. There are those companies out there, and I would categorize your company as one of them, that actually was part of the solution during all of this. So many folks were locked in, couldn’t go to enjoy a great steak at a restaurant, although still wanted to have a quality steak or quality seafood, what have you, which is exactly what your company provides. You were able to deliver that right to the individual’s front door through very difficult times. Much like other delivery companies out there and other restaurants that did make the pivot, you guys … I don’t want to say you were front line or first responders or what have you, but you’re right behind them, because you kept things moving along and made it possible for all of us to be dug in our homes and stuck in our homes, and yet, still be able to enjoy good food.

Kirk Halpern:
Jim, thank you very much. What we really were, is we were also a connector.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Kirk Halpern:
We, as humans, are social beings. Us being hunkered down in our homes is an unnatural thing for us. The way we always, historically, connect with each other, a lot of times its food. It’s breaking bread together. I will tell you, I’ve had a lot of customers that the mom would send the steaks and the fresh fish to the daughter and by a Zoom call, they’ll have a family meal together. We actually had one company that historically would do a Christmas party. What they did was, they turned around and I had two of my chefs who are part of our team. What we ended up doing is we sent out 60 boxes that had all the ingredients in there. It was a joint Zoom call where our chefs lead them each to cooking a meal. This way, they ate and they drank together. We thought it was an innovation solution. Again, those solutions come from small companies. That was a small company that did it for all their employees. We’ve loved being a connector. We’ve connected our customers together and connected our suppliers, our farmers and fisherman, together, as well.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Although I do understand your feeling about that in the sense that here you are, having a great business through all of this. You feel like, wow, it’s very unfortunate that it took a pandemic for us to realize such great business out there. However, as I said, there’s a number of businesses out there that are in that same situation that are actually helping so many people, and yours was one of them. Let me ask you this, last time we spoke, your business was really focused on providing great seafood and steaks and what have you, to so many high-end restaurants. Of course, those were shut down early on, which was what caused you to pivot. Have those now started to come back, I would imagine?

Kirk Halpern:
Yes, they’ve come back and they’ve come back strong.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Kirk Halpern:
Gerry Klaskala, who is the Aria, to me, he’s my E. F. Hutton. When Gerry speaks, I listen. About a month ago I said to Gerry, “Gerry, tell me what’s going out?” He said, “Kirk, last week I saw a lot of my customers who I haven’t seen for a year. They came and dined with me. And they dined with me twice.” In other words, people miss going out. People miss going to restaurants. We deliver and we’ll continue to deliver to people’s homes, but our restaurant business has come back extremely strong. Because I had no firing, no furlough, no reduction of pay, and I’ve had my employees back, I kept my team together. As the marketplace has opened, I’m able to give great deliveries to my restaurant customers, because my team’s in place. I have my driver partners, I have my warehouse partners, and we’re all working really hard. Restaurants have come back and our home delivery service is going on strong.

Kirk Halpern:
In addition to that, we’ve got some great national press and national recognition. I’m shipping our Farmers & Fishermen steak and fish that are produced here in Atlanta through UPS, another Atlanta-based company. We’re shipping it all throughout the United States.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s fantastic. I spoke to one business owner that said, out of respect of all of the people that lost their lives during this pandemic and so many families were negatively impacted, that is certainly a very terrible situation. However, that being said, for his particular business, he said we’re probably going to look back in 2020 and say, this might have been one of the best things that happened to our industry and specifically, our business, because of the fact that we’re able to reinvent ourselves and we’ve never looked back. Do you agree with that statement? Does that apply to your company?

Kirk Halpern:
I believe times of adversity reveal ability. I shifted my business in 13 hours. I rocked and rolled, my team rocked and rolled. We really did a Herculean effort and we’ve been able to continue that forward. I shared with you the last time I spoke, a lot of the purchase orders that I gave to my farmers and the small business’ who I’m doing business with, it was the only purchase order they got. They remember that. They’re thankful of that. Then, what we’ve done is we’ve strategized, how can we go forward? Now, my business is double what it was before. My strength in the marketplace is double. I am the industry leader and we’re going to keep on moving fast as we grow our business and as we provide services to the community.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. What were some of the lessons learned, having gone through this? Not just your company and what its capabilities were, but you, as a leader. What did you learn?

Kirk Halpern:
Keep on moving. Move fast. Pivot, pivot, pivot. You make a mistake, you keep on moving. My moment of self awareness was when I went inside my home, when this thing all went down on March 16th. I said, I’m going to embark on something I’ve never done before. Then, I also said there’s no one that I know of that’s more capable of doing it than me. I didn’t have anybody cheerleading me along, but you’ve got to turn around and you’ve got to make the tough moves, and you just keep on working. I learned that I can lead and I lead by example.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. Did you learn some things about your company that surprised you? It sounds like the team just all came together at the right moment and said, “Okay, let’s all row in the same direction and get through this.”

Kirk Halpern:
I don’t want to say I was surprised. What I believe, got revealed to be true.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Kirk Halpern:
If you hire committed and hardworking people, you treat them as partners … and all of my employees are employee partners, and you have transactional leadership where this individual, this lady may be the lead in this capacity at this time. People, when they have a stake in things, they will impress you. You will be in awe by what they do. I’ve been in awe in what our team has done.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s fantastic. Tell us, what’s on the horizon for Farmers & Fisherman Purveyors? Give us some exciting news about the balance of 2021 and beyond?

Kirk Halpern:
Right now my business has doubled from when you and I spoke in August. I believe I’ll double again within the next five months. My business will be doubled.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That is fantastic.

Kirk Halpern:
I think we are going to continue to grow. I’m so excited, right before you and I went on the air, I got a call from Adam Cox. He’s my little farmer in Florence, Alabama. When I started with Adam, it was five hogs a week. Then, the pandemic hit, we were doing ten hogs. Now we’re doing 25. I’ve already shared with him we’re going to go up to 50. The business is going to keep getting stronger. We have to, as we continue to grow, grow with excellence. I’m able to bring on some new farmers. I brought on a fellow by the name of Craig Border from Border Land. I’m bringing in some new products, some new stuff. Before, during the pandemic, people in their home had to buy from me, in their mind, because they weren’t going to the store. Now they can go to the store. They want to go out. I’ve got to give them a reason to buy from me, so I’ve got to give them the most beautiful, coolest things at a value.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Delivered right to their front door. This isn’t something you’ve got to go out and get. I think that’s the other thing that will stay with us far beyond the pandemic. That is the home delivery. It changed the way that we shop online and shop in the grocery store. Many people now are like, I haven’t been to Publix or Kroger for a year. I never will go back again, because you pick up your phone, you order your groceries, and lo and behold, they show up at your front door. Now that you’re in that type of business and they can get such quality food right at their doorstep, why go down to the butcher? Why wait in line in Publix, right?

Kirk Halpern:
Right. Right. I’m bringing the butcher and the fish cutter to them. Here’s the thing, all they’ve got to do is go onto our website, www.farmersandfisherman.com. I had to give a plug in there, okay? Our website’s gotten better and it’s going to continue to get better. It’s going to continue to be easy to place the order. We’re going to have our delivery people drive it right to your door. You tell them if we’re going to leave it at the front door, if you want us to ring the doorbell, whatever works for you. It’s going to be the best steak, it’s going to be the best fish filet. I’ll take every-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I can attest to that, for viewers that know me. Kirk was nice enough to send me a carton of steaks. I will tell you, my wife looked at me while we were eating them and said, why do we go to steakhouses again and spend $250 for dinner? This is incredible. Thank you, first and foremost for that. For people watching, they can relate, because during Covid, a lot of people said, “Well, wait a minute, let’s just enjoy our beautiful backyard or let’s enjoy our beautiful dining room or our home and have great food brought in that we can make ourselves.” Again, I think that’s one of those things that will stay with us. People would shake their heads and say, “Why are we spending $200 a weekend to go out and have a dinner.” We’re rushed through it. We have to wait in line, we miss our reservation we’re in trouble. What’s that all about? For a fraction of the cost, you could have that quality steak that you get at Bones or Chops or wherever else, right on your table in front of you without the wait and without the high cost.

Kirk Halpern:
I would share with you, I still believe there are tremendous dining experiences by going to the restaurants. Let’s say you go to the restaurant two days a week. Why should you eat not as good the other five? One of the things that I think Covid taught us is life is short, life is precious, enjoy life. If you like wine, when you go to the store, buy a better bottle of wine. Enjoy a better bottle of wine. Similarly, enjoy a better steak, enjoy a better grouper filet. Especially when you know that the actual producer is some small farmer, whether he’s in Alabama, he’s in North Carolina-

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Well, in this case, it’s an Atlanta based company. You’re right here, in Atlanta with employees and trucks and rent and everything else. It’s a great way of giving back, to enjoy an incredible steak, right?

Kirk Halpern:
Yes, thank you. We take great pride in every order. We love it, we appreciate the business, and we hope to be servicing the community well. On the horizon, we’re going to be utilizing the Atlanta airport more and more. We’re going to be flying product very heavily into the Caribbean and in some of the other international markets. Again, everything I try to do is somehow local based, UPS, Delta, you name it, my Mercedes Sprinter vans. Support the community and build the business, that’s what we’re doing.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That is fantastic. Well, Kirk Halpern, founder and CEO of a company called Farmers & Fishermen Purveyors. We’ll show all the information on the screen now that we’ve got your curiosity up and certainly your taste buds moving here. Everybody’s wondering how great are these steaks. They’re incredible. You’ve got to try one. You owe it to yourself and your family. Kirk, much continued success to you and your staff and thank you so much for all the time you’ve given us here at CBT news. Your message is very inspiring.

Kirk Halpern:
Jim, thank you so much. I appreciate the opportunity. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing and we appreciate what you do.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s great. Thanks so much.

Kirk Halpern:
Yep. 


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