Todd Bernitt ascribes his success to a simple tenet: Be true to your word.
Bernitt, vice president of managed services for Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Robinson Fresh, says he has leaned on that philosophy throughout his 28 years at Robinson Fresh and its logistics-oriented corporate sibling, C.H. Robinson.
“A number of years ago we were challenged to define our ‘leadership philosophy and principles’ by one of our company’s senior leaders; I still have this up on my whiteboard in one of my offices almost 10 years later,” he said.
The rules, as follows, are just as important today as they ever have been, he said.
- Guide with morality, accountability, and communication;
- Relish the discovery and growth in people, business, customers, and all the relationships;
- Be passionate about building businesses, developing leaders, teams, and solutions;
- Enjoy the challenge — live for it! and
- Be humble.
Family also is important, and Bernitt pointed to his own as an example, including his wife, Jen.
“She set aside her teaching career early in our journey to be at home and raise our kids and has recently returned to full-time teaching,” Bernitt said.
“I’m both very proud of her and lucky to have her by my side for 27-plus years.”
They have four children, ages 9-24. Their oldest is a nurse in Colorado who will be getting married next year; two sons are currently in college working toward engineering degrees.
"Besides love, the greatest gift you can give anyone is time." — Todd Bernitt, Robinson Fresh
“There is a lot going on in my family life, and that’s one thing I’ve always mentored people on — to take care of the home life, so that you can take care of the professional life,” Bernitt said.
“There’s no job more important than being a mother and father, especially during these times that we are going through.”
Bernitt has been with Robinson long enough to see the company mature, as well.
“I started with the company when it was a private company and have been able to see it grow into a global multi-billion-dollar company with the greatest logistics and commerce platform on the planet,” he said, noting that he has worked in the firm’s transportation, intermodal and Robinson Fresh channels.
The business has evolved, too, and Bernitt noted that he has matured with it.
“There weren’t any smart phones when I first started in fresh produce business — trading (was) done through communication, hustle, relationships and honoring your commitments,” he said.
One thing that hasn’t changed in the business is its human element, Bernitt said.
“People are what drew me into the business, and they are what keep me going every day,” he said.
Within the supply chain, Robinson now can connect the small grower to a national distribution network made up of family-run companies that can execute on all types of “final mile solutions,” Bernitt noted.
“This solution is pretty cool when you think about the impact it has on those businesses and those families,” he said.
The evolution of technology — including Robinson’s proprietary Navisphere platform — has been particularly satisfying, Bernitt said.
“This technology takes friction out of supply chains, providing end-to-end visibility at greater and greater speed through the use of analytics and automation,” he said.
"His calm and consistent manner has provided a solid foundation of leadership and mentoring to individuals across the produce industry and C.H. Robinson." — Mitch Burrus, Robinson Fresh
Leaders share their expertise, and Bernitt says he is eager to be a mentor for others.
“Besides love, the greatest gift you can give anyone is time,” he said.
People skills are a Bernitt strength, said Mitch Burrus, vice president of managed procurement services at Robinson Fresh.
“His calm and consistent manner has provided a solid foundation of leadership and mentoring to individuals across the produce industry and C.H. Robinson,” Burrus said.
Bernitt has fulfilled all of the requirements of leadership, Burrus noted.
“His focus has been using technology to drive more transparent and safe supply chains for the produce industry, specifically in the foodservice vertical,” Burrus noted.
Burrus credited Bernitt as “a driving force” behind Robinson Fresh’s vendor management inventory, replenishment and inventory management services.
“His vision in this area is instrumental to ensuring that Robinson Fresh maintains an industry leading position by developing new tools and processes,” Burrus said.