When Don Klusendorf came to Bonipak Produce Inc. in 2008 as director of sales and marketing, it proved a natural transition from a floral industry career of 20-plus years.

He had to get up to speed on food safety, but the new experience was more alike than different.

“As far as the customer base, how financials and production planning work, it’s very similar,” he said. “If you like agriculture, whether it’s horticulture, whether it’s produce, it’s what we do.”

But for the Santa Maria, Calif.-based vegetable grower-shipper, Klusendorf, now 52, brought something new to the mix.

“Don has completely elevated our level of play,” said Mitch Ardantz, one of Bonipak’s owners. “He has been instrumental in bringing blue chip customers to the forefront and garnering retail business.”

He praised Klusendorf’s organization of staff responsibilities.

“He has put in place a product management team and sales team that provide a good check and balance system within our sales operation,” Ardantz said.

“We’ve restructured how we do sales and marketing, as far as having a product management team and account management team,” Klusendorf said.

The product management group focuses on inventory flow and stock keeping unit allocation through the supply chain.

“The account managers have no product responsibility,” he said. “Their focus is on understanding our customers. Everybody is looking for different things, so we want to focus on each customer instead of 500 at once.”

In 2012, Bonipak Produce implemented a warehouse management system with proprietary software. The system reduced cut-to-cool time and enabled compliance with the Produce Traceability Initiative. Klusendorf did not create it, but has exploited its capabilities.

“He’s been instrumental in utilizing it to the fullest,” Ardantz said. “That’s benefited the entire enterprise.”

“That really allowed us to manage our business better and put a focus back on our customers so we can understand their needs,” Klusendorf said. “How do we move product through the pipeline faster and do the best job? You need information to do that.”

“We’ve had very little staff turnover,” he said. “People are willing to adapt, change and move forward. You need great people around you. I have them.”