Simfresh Luke Cini Discusses The Family Business - Operations Manager

SimFresh is a citrus-packing shed that currently produces over a million boxes of fruit every year. It is based in Australia where the Simonetta family started it almost three decades ago. Although the management slowly shifted through the generations, the founders were Joe, Tony, and Mario. These three brothers came from Italy to Australia during the second half of the 20th century. After a while, they decided to start their business alongside their wives.

What initially began as a minor basement project is now a family-owned empire. In fact, the Simon Etta Group currently holds the vast majority of Australia’s citrus market. Their business is also known for packaging services and flawless delivery. Amongst the names that continue to build the company up is Luke Cini. Directly related to the founders, he currently works at SimFresh as one of the main executives.

As the Operations Manager of Simfresh and the Simon Etta Group, Luke Cini promotes many concepts that the founders created. Those include things like hand-packaging every single box, delivering on time, and welcoming feedback. After all, the company is known for very low turnover and great customer loyalty. Not to mention that their operations also reach international destinations. Courtesy of simplified shipping, the organization now delivers citrus products to some foreign countries. In the future, it is fair to say that the output will increase. Even though sending a million packages every year is impressive, the company will certainly achieve even more.

How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?

I was slowly brought into this business by the rest of my family. A lot of my cousins worked here before I did and that motivated me to start. The family appeal is also what continues to be the main source of inspiration for me.

How do you make money?

We are a product-based business that sometimes takes minor packaging projects. So, we make money by producing citrus packages and selling them to buyers.

How long did it take for you to become profitable?

In my case, it took about a year before my ideas started yielding profits. Although it was not much at first, it was enough to recognize my efforts. Nowadays, I mostly focus on improving our operations. Our earnings are not my direct concern as we have other people who work in that area.

When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?

I never doubted this company. I did, however, question my ability to meet the high standards. The founders of our enterprise did not make it easy to walk in their footsteps. They worked extremely hard and achieved something remarkable. So, my biggest concern was that I would disappoint.

How did you get your first customer?      

I mostly deal with the matters inside our organization. Thus, the customers that I interacted with were all our previous buyers.

What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works well to generate new business?

Online media is helping us minimize the barriers to entry in most markets. For those unfamiliar, joining a new market is difficult because of the existing competition. In our case, however, we have the goods to match the needs of many people. So, even when there is competition in the area, our online campaigns help us reach new buyers.

What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?

I recently decided to work on the management side of our business. That came with a noticeable decrease in client interactions that I have. Although it was tough at first, I got used to it by now.

What do you think it is that makes you successful?

We meet the expectations. People and small business that work with us are usually our long-term partners. As such, they demand a high-level performance. Fortunately, we found ways to streamline our business model and always stay on track.

What has been your most satisfying moment in business?

Closing large deals is always satisfying. Even though I was only able to complete a few thus far, I enjoyed bringing new customers to our company.

What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?

We are hoping to expand even more. Right now, we are one of the largest companies in this industry in Australia. In the future, however, we want to have operations all over the globe. Thus, I am very excited to see what we are going to do about meeting this goal.

What business books have inspired you?

“Nonsense: The Power of Not Knowing” and “H3 Leadership” by Jamie Holmes and Brad Lomenick, respectively.

What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?

I bought gift cards for some of the employees. It was a minor token of appreciation that went a long way.

Do you see yourself anywhere outside of your family’s company?

Although it is theoretically possible, I doubt that I will leave the business. I enjoy my job and love everyone that I work with. I could maybe have a similar role somewhere elsewhere, yet I have no reason to look. So, yes and no. Although I can see myself doing something else, I will probably never leave our company.

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