We had the good fortune of connecting with Mike Baldwin and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mike, do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
Do not put all of your eggs in one basket.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I established Kitchen Professionals, Inc in 2001 based on 30 years of experience in various food service segments. The three main things that separate KPI from the majority of others are: (1) a foundation of 30 years of experience in operations, broad line food service sales (food, supplies, equipment, etc), focused E&S (equipment and supplies) sales and design and construction; (2) a passionate commitment to our our clients, our craft and the industry: (3) a belief that a commitment to the highest level of quality and integrity is the best form of marketing. I am very proud that these tenants have proven effective as we prepare for our 20th anniversary of success with virtually no typical marketing efforts. We got here by walking our talk. Our business is 100% referral and repeat clients. There is nothing in food service that is easy, and our business is no exception. Our belief that if you give all you have on every project’ whether or not it is appreciated or understood’ is the only way to overcome challenges. Never give up, keep looking for another way until the challenge is mitigated. Two main lessons as a result of the afore mentioned commitments. (1) While aptitude is important and necessary, attitude is the key to success. Successful attitude is based on listening and not making others wrong. (2) Monetary considerations are secondary. If you are successful in projecting a collaborative attitude the money will follow. My definition of success includes feeling good about my interactions with all involved, clients, staff, vendors, collaborators, etc., and to feel appropriately compensated. In other words, to be able to like who I see in the mirror in the morning and to be able to support myself and those around me in a safe and healthy manner. We would like to world to know that we care about others as much as we care about ourselves.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My favorite thing to do with visitors to SoCal is a trip I call “Pier Hopping”. This can be done in one day but is flexible enough to last as long as one wishes. The idea is to start with an overall time commitment. Then pick a pier, either south or north of your base, to be the farthest point from which to start. Then work your way back with no agenda other than to walk on every pier you encounter. Typically having a drink and/or a bite to eat on or at each. Proceed keeping an open mind. I prefer not to do extensive research ahead keeping it very flexible and casual. The intent is to just enjoy the trip as it unfolds and not have the stress of lists and schedules. I typically do this during the week (and not in the summer) to avoid the crowds. I usually do a one day trip by starting at Paradise Cove with breakfast. Then proceed south stopping every pier along the way. Staying open to stopping at other intriguing places encountered in the journey such as art galleries, tourist shops, the Getty-if no crowds!, community events, etc). If we are spending the night, we always want to enjoy the sight and sound of the ocean. We have enjoyed Shutters on the Beach, The Inn at Playa del Rey, Portofino Hotel, Huntington Beach Hyatt or Hilton, Surf and Sand, Crystal Cove, Blue Lantern Inn, Crystal Pier and several more. We are always on the look out for live music and will stop in to enjoy regardless of the type of music. Holding an open hand and open mind has led us to innumerable fun, exciting, interesting and unusual people, places, things and experiences that leave us very grateful, relaxed and wonderfully exhausted!!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
George Conley for teaching me how to build and operate a successful restaurant and Jim Webb for teaching me food service design and construction, and how to manage the cash flow in this type of business (much different than retail).