Food magazine recently launched its Industry Map, where we ask food manufacturing professionals to shed light on the trials and tribulations of their work. Here, Harry Souris, national operations manager at M&J Chickens, discusses poultry and growing a family owned business.
What makes your job tick?
On behalf of myself and my family I’d have to say that M&J Chickens is like having another sibling in our family. It’s a great sense of pride that comes over us each and every time we see our brand around town whether it be our vehicles on the roads across Australia or an article in a magazine like this one or even our logo on TV at football games.
Mum & Dad started this business a few years before I was born and I have been heavily involved ever since. We still as a family spend endless hours in and on the business and are constantly brain storming together to find ways to revolutionise our products and remain leaders in the poultry industry whilst continuing to exceed our clients expectations.
What are your primary roles and responsibilities in your job? Give us a day in your working life.
I am responsible for the operational side of the business on a national level; I liaise with our teams across Australia on a daily basis to maintain stock control and to generally make sure that things are running smoothly, In doing so I’m also required to travel regularly and conduct meetings and training for our management teams to then pass onto their staff.
What training/education did you need for your job?
When I left school I studied Business Management at the University Of Western Sydney, this has assisted in helping me to manage people and also to gain understanding of interpreting financial documents; but to be honest being involved in this business since a child has meant that I have grown with the business and have had hands on experience to get to where both the business is today and where I am within the business.
It’s the upbringing and involvement that I’ve had with the growth of the business that has given me the knowledge to be able to succeed in my position.
How did you get to where you are today? Give us a bullet point career path.
This question is a little tricky for me because I was basically born into it.
Together with my siblings I have been actively involved with the business since we were old enough to walk and talk; I remember packing product into boxes at the tender age of eight years old. These days we all play an active part in the running of the business on a national level, being based and having worked in the Sydney head office we endeavour to maintain all of our warehouses at the level of quality and service that is synonymous with the M&J Chickens name which is ultimately our family’s reputation.
What tools and/or software do you use on a daily basis?
We operate using a software system called Clear Objective; this system processes all our sales orders and purchase orders, I refer to this system as the ‘brains’ behind our business because it allows us to maintain stock control and forecast stock moving forward to ensure we are not caught off guard.
It also provides the necessary financials required so that we can keep track of profitability. Being such a fast paced business dealing with fresh produce and operating 24 hours has meant that we also have a close relationship with our IT personnel and he is on call 24/7 which relieves a lot of pressure knowing that we have the support available when necessary.
What is the one thing that you are most proud of in your professional life?
I would have to say that personally I am most proud of the growth of our cook-house. I have seen the cook-house grow from a small oven in the back of one of our warehouses to an entire cook-house facility that occupies two industrial warehouses.
Our cooked range consists of 5 different lines in a wide range of different flavours. Cooked product now makes up for just over 30% of our business.
Biggest daily challenge?
The biggest challenge for me is motivating people day to day. I have been raised in a very positive and uplifting environment and that has resulted in me having a very positive mentality. I find it hard to sympathise with people that lack motivation and I try and encourage people to come to work every day and be happy and full of life. I believe that positivity and motivation is the key to keeping staff happy at work.
What is your biggest frustration in your job?
I must say it takes a fair bit to frustrate me and I have learned to have a high level of patience and tolerance in order to get through my day. I try not to let things get to me and lead by example by remaining calm, cool and collected at all times.
If I were to get frustrated it would be on the rare occasion when something goes wrong that it is out of my control, for example a supplier not being able to fulfil our product needs in order for us to produce product for a client is the ultimate frustration for me because letting down our clients is always the worst case scenario. I would exercise every possible option before letting down the client.
Is there anything else about your job you want Australia to know about?
To anyone in Australia that doesn’t know of our company and what we do I believe the most important and useful pieces of information I could provide is that M&J Chickens is a 100% Australian family owned business with the family still actively involved in the everyday running of the business. The business has gone from a local chicken shop in Wiley Park NSW to a national business with operations in every major state of Australia. We are now also export approved and have began the processes in order to export our products to Asia and the U.A.E.
We are committed to a high level of service and quality. Our goal is to make M&J Chickens a house hold name and have people all over the world enjoying our poultry products. We strive to innovate and broaden our product range to suit the needs of our clients.