George Hernandez has been around butchers all his life — over five decades. His penchant for poultry, pork and others meats began at his father’s knee when he was just 3 years old in Havana, Cuba, in 1964.
“For as long as I could remember, my dad had been in the meat business, distributing products wholesale and running his butcher shop,” Hernandez said. “As a young kid, I remember watching him run the business in Cuba, and then we moved to New York and he had another shop. When I got old enough, I was always there helping him out. Watching him is what really sparked my interest. I wanted to be like him.”
Hernandez’s father, Carlos, owned Mutual Meat Market in Hunts Point in the South Bronx. Later, he expanded and opened Latin American Wholesale.
“Working with my dad in the Bronx helped me see just how much work goes into running a small business,” Hernandez said. “It takes grit, determination and smarts, and I think by watching my dad, that’s where I got the confidence to start my own business.”
In 1981, Hernandez married his high school sweetheart, Julia. The pair have been married for 35 years and have two daughters, both of whom are involved in his current business, Nital Trading. Hernandez continued to work in meat distribution after getting married, and in 1997, he sold Latin American Wholesale and moved to Miami.
“I wanted to continue the family business when we moved to Florida,” Hernandez said. “I had spent a lot of time over the years learning the ins and outs of it, and I knew I could start something on my own. So when we got here, I founded Nital Trading.”
Nital Trading is located in Medley at a facility that Hernandez rents. The company’s client is business-to-business and focuses primarily on selling Angus beef, poultry, pork, lamb, seafood, sausages, deli items and fresh vegetables wholesale to restaurants, cruise lines and the global food-service industry. The company has 18 employees and an annual revenue in 2015 of $22 million. But rapid growth over the past few years has hampered the company’s ability to expand operations. A year ago, Hernandez purchased a new, larger facility in Hialeah Gardens, but permitting woes have held up his expansion plans. At the new facility, Hernandez plans to hire 25 new employees in addition to the 18 he currently has.
“We’ve outgrown our current facility in Medley,” Hernandez said. “We saw this coming on the horizon a few years ago and were able to find the perfect facility to purchase in Hialeah Gardens and expand the business. But it’s been difficult to get permits through DERM [the Miami-Dade County Department of Environmental Resources Management]. So we have a facility where we have been paying the mortgage, but we can’t use it because we don’t have the permits in place to do the retrofitting that we need to do become operational there.”
Hernandez also planned to streamline his operations, revamp his company website and work on other ideas to make his business better. But hasn’t been able to focus on that because he’s been busy trying to get the new facility up and running.
Hernandez also owns El Tinajón, a brand that his family owned many years ago in Costa Rica. El Tinajón imports frozen yucca throughout the Americas, but according to Hernandez, he hasn’t been able to develop that brand to its full potential, either.
To get help, Hernandez turned to the counselors at SCORE, a national nonprofit organization composed of retired volunteers who have been successful entrepreneurs and built thriving businesses.
“When we came to SCORE, we really wanted to get advice on what to do in our situation,” Hernandez said. “The expansion has taken up so much of my time and we needed help to figure out what to do next.”
At SCORE, counselor Orlando Espinosa worked with the Miami Herald to facilitate a Small Business Makeover for the company.
“George and his family have a thriving business on their hands,” Espinosa said. “It’s an incredible accomplishment that they have achieved, but like many entrepreneurs, George discovered that expanding a business is often more difficult that it seems sometimes.”
SCORE identified three counselors to help Nital Trading streamline operations, create a new website and work through ways to bring their expansion plans to fruition. SCORE volunteers use their entrepreneurial skills and offer mentoring services to small business owners free of charge.
The SCORE team included Elizabeth Manso, owner of Brigade Bookkeeping, a Miami-based firm specializing in providing accounting services to small businesses. Manso has over 13 years of experience in accounting. Reginald Andre is the owner of ARK Solvers, a local IT firm specializing in network security, cloud computing and data-recovery services. Andre built his career in IT and founded ARK Solvers six years ago. Ken Fordik is a human-resource expert with over 20 years of experience helping companies streamline HR functions. To assist Nital Trading with advice on branding and how to properly revamp their website to drive future sales, SCORE brought in Chris Corey, a principal at Trimention Global Creative, based in Miami Beach, whose clients include Eastern Airlines, Hilton and Sony.
After working with Nital Trading for just under three weeks, the counselors and Corey agreed that the company needed to focus on streamlining operations and getting ready to move into their new facility while simultaneously revamping the brand and the website.
To accomplish these goals, the counselors recommended the following:
Streamline operations by incorporating digital solutions: “In working with Nital Trading, I discovered some great ways in which the company can integrate digital solutions to their operations cost-effectively” Andre said. “The company will be moving to a new location within a six-month time frame, so now is good time to start preparing for what they will need.”
Andre recommended transitioning to a paperless system and ensuring that wi-fi is available throughout the new facility so that tablets and smart devices can be used by employees to get work done faster and more efficiently. He also suggested that the company install GPS tracking software on their delivery trucks.
“We discussed how they have to read long reports to see the activity on their trucks out in the field,” Andre said. “New GPS tracking software will give them the ability to set alerts if a truck goes past a certain speed or goes to areas outside their delivery routes. This makes the delivery process faster and affords more accountability for drivers.”
Andre also encouraged Nital Trading to invest in an inventory tracking system for their tolls and equipment.
“This will allow them to keep track of when maintenance needs to be done on machines, track inventory and the end of life of a product,” Andre said.
In addition to inventory-tracking software, Andre also recommended that Nital Trading look at purchasing file-syncing software.
“Right now, employees do not have a way to easily share files with each other,” Andre said. “They have to email each other everything. We discussed investing in file-sync software that will allow files to be cloud-based and accessible anywhere in the world on a table, laptop or mobile device.”
Last, Andre suggested the company transition to a new Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phone system: “By going to a new VOIP phone service, this will allow them to have the ability to do things like have audio voicemails forwarded to their email addresses, which will increase productivity and save time.”
To further streamline operations, Manso recommended that the company look into hiring a full-time chief operating officer so Hernandez can free up his time to concentrate more on sales, distribution and customer retention. She also suggesting hiring a full-time accounting professional to take care of the bookkeeping functions of the business.
“With a dedicated person in the accounting department, the company will able to produce financial reports on a weekly basis,” Manso said. “This will give them an accurate picture of where they are financially at all times. This will allow them to make decisions quickly and be nimbler.”
Manso encouraged the company to work on reducing their accounts-payable aging. “The goal is to reduce the aging to no more than 30 days out by following up with clients that have outstanding balances at least once a week,” Manso said. “This will improve cash flow overall and make it easier to run the business.”
Revamp current website to drive sales: The counselors all agreed that revamping their current website is a must for the business going forward. Corey recommended that the company place Google Analytics tracking code on their site immediately, which is standard for metrics tracking on the web. “The sooner this is implemented, the more data they will have to work with in determining key metrics like monthly traffic and performance,” Corey said.
Corey suggested they use Google Analytics data to determine things like what pages are most frequented by users and how long someone stays on a site engaging with its content. Corey encouraged Nital Trading to rework their meta-information to improve search engine results. “For example, on their site now, they are targeting words like Welcome, About Us and Contact Us, when they should be targeting Wholesale Meat Provider and other key search terms.”
By doing this, Corey believes Nital could drive 50 percent more organic search traffic from search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. Corey also recommended moving to responsive design, which makes the site easy to view on laptops, mobile phones and other smart devices.
Last, Corey recommended a strong call-to-action for the site. A call-to-action is text or an image that prompts visitors or potential customers to take action. On a website, for example, instructing visitors to sign up for a monthly e-newsletter when they log on to a website is a call-to-action.
“This is vital for sales conversions,” Corey said. “It needs to be immediately apparent what you want users to do once they are on your site. This site should also have prominent contact information in the header of the site, which isn’t there now.”
Prepare for new hires ahead of time: Because Nital Trading will be hiring an additional 25 employees in six months when they move to their new facility, Fordik encouraged the company to start preparing. Fordik recommended that recruiting begin now.
“Hiring 25 qualified people in new positions takes time,” Fordik said. “Nital needs to start the recruiting process right away.”
Fordik also suggested reviewing the company’s compliance with federal and state employment laws. “OSHA’s updated regulations changed in 2016,” Fordik said. “And there are potential changes in 2016 to the Fair Labor Standards Act that the company needs to keep on top of. They also need to make sure their employee handbook is up to date.”
Fordik recommended that the company create a formal on-boarding program for new hires and consider developing an incentive and bonus program for current employees. “It’s important to create a company culture that encourages and rewards employees to do their best,” Fordik said. “It’s a great way to reduce turnover and increase profitability.”
Develop other lines of business: The counselors advised the company to invest time to build the El Tinajón brand that Nital Trading owns.
“The brand is active, and there is interest in the product throughout the Americas,” Hernandez said. “But with everything else going on, finding the time to dedicate has been hard.”
Espinosa recommended continuing to work with SCORE to develop a plan to take the brand to the next level. “They have a presence already,” he said. “It’s a matter of finding the right ways to increase the brand’s position in the global marketplace, and we at SCORE are happy to help Nital Trading do that.”
For his part, Hernandez agreed and wants to continue working with the SCORE counselors to see that their recommendations become reality.
“I’ve learned so many things through the process of working with SCORE,” Hernandez said. “The counselors are great, and they are able to bring in outside experts to provide even more assistance. I don’t think we would have been able to do all of this on our own, and I’m so grateful.”
An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Elizabeth Manso, owner of Brigade Bookkeeping, a Miami-based firm specializing in providing accounting services to small businesses.
The business: Nital Trading has been in business since 1997 and is at 7281 NW 78th Terrace, Medley. The company sells a variety of meats wholesale to the food-service industry. The company is in the midst of expanding to a new, larger facility in Hialeah Gardens. The company also owns a brand of frozen yucca called El Tinajón that they would like to develop further to increase sales. Website: nitaltrading.com.
The challenge: Finding ways to streamline company’s operations, prepare for the upcoming expansion, revamp their website to drive sales and develop the El Tinajón brand.
The experts: Elizabeth Manso is an accountant at Brigade Bookkeeping in Miami. Reginald Andre is an IT expert with ARK Solvers. Ken Fordik is an HR expert who specializes in helping businesses streamline their HR functions. Chris Corey is a principal at Trimention Global Creative based in Miami Beach.
The makeover: In just over three weeks, the SCORE team identified several ways to help the company streamline its operations, improve the El Tinajón brand, prepare to expand to a new facility and improve their website. They worked with the owners to develop a road map for the expansion and provided tips on how to make the time necessary to focus on creating a more prominent digital presence in an effort to drive sales.
Based in Washington, D.C., SCORE is a nonprofit organization with more than 12,000 volunteers working out of about 400 chapters around the country offering free counseling to small businesses. There are seven chapters on Florida’s east coast, including SCORE Miami-Dade, with more than 90 volunteer counselors. Counselors from SCORE Miami-Dade meet with small business owners and offer free one-on-one counseling as well as dozens of low-cost workshops. SCORE Miami-Dade also offers a Season Pass, which includes the opportunity to attend an unlimited number of workshops during the year. To register or learn more, click on “Local Workshops” on miamidade.score.org. To volunteer or learn more about SCORE, go to score.org or miamidade.score.org.
How to apply for a makeover
Business Monday’s Small Business Makeovers focus on a particular aspect of a business that needs help. Experts in the community will provide the advice. The makeover is open to full-time businesses in Miami-Dade or Broward counties open at least two years. Email your request to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Makeover” in the subject line.