Keeping on top of one’s business and striving to provide new things to customers are critical to success for Jeff Williams, president of Wm. P. Hearne Produce Co. LLC.
Williams has worked for the Wimauma, Fla., company which use to be under different ownership in Salisbury, Md., since he was in high school.
A family friend of the Hearne’s, Williams worked in the packinghouse evenings and weekends during high school, even those five years he worked professionally installing security cameras.
In 1988, he joined Hearne full-time and worked in a variety of positions, including “bird-dogging” produce as well as in quality control.
In 2007, Williams and fellow salesman Tony Piedimonte purchased the company.
They expanded acreage and transformed the company into a year-round grower-shipper supplying cabbage from throughout the East Coast.
In 2011, Hearne introduced a display-ready bin for promoting St. Patrick’s Day cabbage.
The bin improved produce aisle placement and is an example of how Williams helps move cabbage.
He says successful grower-shippers must be partners with their growers and customers.
“Today, as a regional company, you have to be in the game and have product 12 months a year,” Williams said. “We have to work more closely with our customers. A grower can’t just sit on a tractor all day. He has to be in the loop with what the sales force is doing.”
Douglas Williams, produce procurement manager for Ahold USA Inc., first met Jeff Williams in the mid-1990s when Jeff Williams and his father-in-law Wm. Hearne visited Ahold’s buying office.
Douglas Williams said he could see how the younger was the more aggressive of the two.
Douglas Williams characterizes the other Williams as highly innovative and likes to try things including introducing half-size cartons to help stores sell red cabbage, which usually doesn’t sell as well as the green variety.
“Jeff is very bright and he knows the business,” Douglas Williams said. “He’s always been at the forefront of the industry. He’s such a large grower, he pretty much sets the pricing for the industry.”