Brian Heider – President at Culinary Consultants

Don’t ever get complacent. Always think outside the box, and continue to expand and grow on your ideas — even if things are working for the time being.

Brian Heider is the president at Culinary Consultants , a purchasing solutions organization that’s devoted to helping fraternity, sorority, and food service management companies throughout the country that operate within the college and university market. Culinary Consultants aims to help increase purchasing power while providing additional service benefits that help each client’s food program flourish.

Brian is also the managing partner at UNA Purchasing Solutions, a leading supply chain improvement company dedicated to helping members in the healthcare, education, hospitality, corporate, leisure, and nonprofit markets improve their financial and operational performance.

Through Novation, UNA’s supply contracting company, it provides members with the most competitive and extensive portfolio available, with nearly $43 billion in combined annual purchasing power.

Where did the idea for Culinary Consultants come from?

Over a decade ago, I was a restaurant chef and transferred jobs before leaving Colorado and heading back to Chicago. When I took a job cooking for sorority and fraternity chapters, I realized that the pricing these chapters were receiving was much higher than the restaurants I had been cooking in.

I was using the same food distributor and ordering the same amount and type of food. I spoke to my sales rep, and he said it was because they could get away with hiking up pricing with these types of customers. I hated that answer!

I decided I wanted to change that and make sure my current customers weren’t being taken advantage of and that all fraternities and sororities throughout the country could receive the best possible pricing.

I learned that if I started a national buying group, I could single-handedly change the way this entire industry was being priced and serviced by the food distributors. I found out just how much “the power of together” could do for everyone, which is why I made it our slogan years later.

What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?

Our days are dedicated to making sure chapters understand how simple and economical this program is and making sure that the service the food distributor provides is as good as — if not better than — what our members currently expect.

We consider ourselves a free consultant to each one of our 500 members that order food through our distribution program. We want to be their primary contact so that whenever they need anything, we’re the first to know and can take care of it for them.

How do you bring ideas to life?

By making sure that we’re a “yes company.” There are no bad questions. There are no bad requests. We are here to help with whatever our clients need.

Because of the relationships we have with our food distributor, a phone call from us is so much more effective than one of our members trying to work with a food distributor rep. Most of the time, this rep’s hands are tied, and there’s only so much he or she can accomplish in a short amount of time. We can go straight up the ladder to the president of the division for any needs our members have.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Technology. I love being able to bring new and convenient options to our customers that will simplify the way they place their food orders and how they resolve their problems.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I’m always available! I’m always saying “yes”! I always strive to do what’s in the best interest of our members. I’m also passionate about making things simple, cost-efficient, and convenient.

What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?

I can say every job I had before starting my company was the worst job I’ve ever had because if you don’t have passion for what you do, you won’t be successful. Being happy with what you do creates success. Success does not create happiness for me.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would go to market differently to help spread the word more effectively about this program so more chapters could benefit from it.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Don’t ever get complacent. Always think outside the box, and continue to expand and grow on your ideas — even if things are working for the time being.

Also, learn to be a great talent scout so you can hire the right people. Get up in the morning and go to work each day as if this dream could disappear tomorrow.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Always have passion and love for what you do! When you love what you do, you’ll find ways to persevere through the hard times, and more successful times will inevitably follow.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

There were customers who would discontinue our services if they didn’t like their chef. I tweaked the company model so that members could use our help in finding chefs, but ultimately, chefs are employed by the chapter, which is how it’s always been.

Every chapter has different personalities, and it’s my philosophy that the chapter itself should be the one to decide who the right chef is for them. In our program, we collect résumés and share them with members that are looking for a new chef. If they want more options, we’ll send them more options.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

If I were focusing on other business ideas, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Ask me that question when I retire!

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I speak fluent Double Talk. It’s a language my sister and I made up when we were children.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

Some of the standbys include Excel, Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Google products. I love their simplicity and how effective they are for helping me organize, create, and share documents.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

It may not be a book, but I listened to one of Steve Jobs’ last interviews on success. I love what he referenced when he spoke about passion and love for what you do.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

My dad and other family members, my business partners, and my employees. When you surround yourself with people who have your best interests in mind, it’s so much easier to figure out who you are and what you want to do.