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Lessons and Strategies for Recognizing Opportunities and Building Relationships

Tim Wade

Tony Caetano retired from the supply chain solution business in 2020 after 30-plus years in the industry. He has worked for several large companies in the third-party cold storage industry including AmeriCold Logistics, P&O Cold Logistics, and VersaCold. Tony entered the industry as a warehouse lift truck operator and grew to become the VP of regional operations, overseeing 400-plus employees at nine locations. He is now embarking on a new adventure — using his leadership and operational skills to help others in the logistics industry.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • How Tony Caetano entered the logistics industry

  • The mentor that had the most influence on Tony’s career

  • Tony talks about the work he did after leaving the military — and the lessons he learned working in a cold storage facility

  • Tony’s experience building a new facility from the ground up

  • Turning challenges into opportunities

  • How to build great relationships with vendors

  • Skills Tony learned in the military that he uses in his career

  • Tony's tool recommendations

In this episode…

Having spent many years in the warehouse and logistics industry, Tony Caetano knows the value of being adaptable and embracing change. He has made many mistakes in his career but his determination to succeed has kept him going and allowed him to see challenges as opportunities for growth.

Tony advises leaders and business owners to lead from the front, making a genuine effort to build great relationships with employees, clients, and business partners. Be willing to leave your comfort zone and take chances. Tony also advises people to take on more responsibilities and do what others find uncomfortable.

In this episode of The Tao of Pizza Podcast, Mark Hiddleson is joined by Tony Caetano, an army veteran and logistics expert, to talk about leadership lessons learned from over three decades in the logistics industry. They also discuss how to spot opportunities in challenges, how to build great relationships with business partners, and the value of learning from your mistakes.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode...

This episode is brought to you by Specialized Storage Solutions Inc.


I have been in the logistics and storage industry for several decades. I know I don’t look that old, but it's true.

We provide industry-leading warehouse storage solutions nationwide.

So basically, if you have a warehouse that needs Rack, Shelving, Carts, Conveyors, or Mezzanines, we help engineering, installations, inspections, and repairs to help clients optimize their logistics operations.

Sometimes people don’t even realize that we can actually help with permit acquisition services.

We take a holistic look at your entire business supply chain ecosystem to develop the resources for continually improving your operation.

To learn more, visit or give us a call at (707) 732-3892. One of the best ways to learn more about our products and services is to follow us on Instagram. And there’s a link on our website to do that.

I will even give you my personal email address for podcast listeners, so email me at if you’re ready to take your warehouse storage and retrieval systems to the next level.

Episode Transcript:

Intro 0:01

Welcome to The Tao of Pizza where we feature top logistics leaders, entrepreneurs, and supply chain innovators and share their inspiring stories with a holistic twist.

Mark Hiddleson 0:16

Mark Hiddleson here host of The Tao of Pizza Podcast where I talk with top industry innovators in the warehousing logistics and supply chain business with a holistic twist. Before I introduce Tony Caetano, this episode is brought to you by Specialized Storage Solutions, Inc. Listen, I've been in the logistics storages industry for several decades. I know I don't look that old, but it's true. We provide industry-leading warehouse storage solutions nationwide. So basically, if you have a warehouse that needs rack shelving cards, conveyors, and mezzanines, we help with the design engineering installation inspections and repairs to help clients optimize their logistics operation. What is funny, Tony sometimes, people don't even realize we can actually help with permit acquisition services. We take a holistic look at your entire business supply chain to develop the resources for continually improving your operation. To learn more, visit special Give us a call at 707-732-3892 or even give out my personal email address for podcast listeners. So email me at if you're ready to take your warehouse storage and retrieval systems to the next level.

Today's guest, Tony Caetano, is an Army veteran with 30-plus years of experience in the temperature-controlled supply chain solutions business. He's worked for several large companies and the third-party cold storage industry. He climbed the ranks starting as an entry-level warehouse lift truck operator to holding positions as division manager, General Manager, and eventually the regional vice president of operations with over 400 employees at nine locations. Tony is now bringing his natural leadership talent and operational excellence skills to individual clients in the logistics industry through his new venture CI. Tony, welcome to The Tao of Pizza.

Tony Caetano 2:08

Thank you so much. I appreciate it. And let me say that I'm honored to be considered part of this group that you would even want to interview me. So thank you so much for that.

Mark Hiddleson 2:18

You were definitely in the top 10 we have a we have a history. And I have to thank Michael Thomas only give Michael Thomas a huge shout out. I did an interview with him. He was actually one of the first interviews first guest. Anyone, this is gonna be an awesome episode. But if you liked this, you're gonna love to check that out too. Because Michael was an important mentor for both of us. Yes, sir. So, I wanted to ask you first. And because a lot of people ask me, like, how did you get into this business? So how did you get started in the logistics, and cold chain? Even cold chain is pretty, pretty specific business?

Tony Caetano 2:58

Well, I gotta tell you, a lot of it has to do with luck. I would shortly I had just gotten out of the military less than a year and a half. And I knew that forklift drivers made better money than the guys working at the gas station. I knew that much. And I happened to be dating a girl who was now my wife, but we've been married almost 38 years. And but her dad worked at Christian solace, and used to be merchants. And she might have been thinking, hey, you know, this guy's halfway decent or whatever. But she goes, I think they're hiring over there. And I had just, you know, an opportunity to go over there. And I literally started as the assistant to the assistant janitor. They didn't even let me near the equipment at the beginning. So yeah, but it was an opportunity. And I swore I was gonna quit every day when I went to work because this was, you know, I was planning on doing something else. I didn't know what it was. And 28 years later, it was the best decision I ever made to get into this business. So

Mark Hiddleson 4:09

all luck. Yeah, look, and there was a there was a lady and the lady loved that part of the stories and congratulations how many years you've been married

Tony Caetano 4:20

28 years. Wow, that story gets a little more interesting because her where I worked where I started, which you're very familiar with the Modesto facility. He was a warehouseman there for over 35 years. So not only was like dating his daughter, but from time to time we were working together and eventually I left the union and became his support leader and so on and so forth. So that story's a little interesting. So even my extended family is very familiar with

Mark Hiddleson 4:50

my career. Awesome. Awesome. Well, I wanted to have always I have a ton of respect for veterans and And I knew you were a veteran when we worked together. And I was really like to work with you, your approach your attitude and all that. And you were actually in a time where you actually were in combat and in Desert Storm. So if you don't mind, I'd like to ask you, you know, after that experience, what was it like coming back? And what are some of the things you did, coming back to really, you know, get healthy and get, get back into working in a regular job out of the military?

Tony Caetano 5:36

Sure. And it's funny, you use the term healthy, I didn't even know what that meant, at that time, because I was a young kid, I went in when I was 18, I had just shy of four years, I was I wasn't even quite 22. So imagine what you were doing when you were 22, you have a lot of experiences, and I thought you could just come home and I was raised in the time where you just get a good job. And you know, two and a half kids white picket fence and all that stuff. And it wasn't quite like that. And there was even emotional. I just came from something that was kind of important. You know, the government gave me a lot of equipment, and they put a lot of trust in me as a young man and not, you know, I'm I'm going on 13 jobs and like 15 months, just some that I never even showed up to they gave me a uniform at a Mr. Video. I'm sorry, Mr. Video, that you guys are not around anymore. But yeah, they even gave me the shirt and the comfort bond. And I was, and I just couldn't take myself over there. This opportunity, when I say look, the opportunity to get into warehousing and get a good job, really stabilized everything. And within a year and a half, I was buying my first home and stuff through hard work, obviously create a lot of your own luck, but it was very rough. Dealing with that and just emphasize being so young coming out, and not really you think you're you're grown but you're not right, you're gonna learn a lot of life lessons. So that was the challenge for me. And this, this business gave me focus and a direction of something that I could do.

Mark Hiddleson 7:11

So So what So the cold storage, like you were saying you wanted to go home, or quit every day because that's a tough business. I mean, we'd say cold storage, we're talking zero degrees. One of the buildings you worked in, it's I'm pretty sure they call it's G Building in Modesto was like minus 20. And didn't you say ice cream?

Tony Caetano 7:31

So called the ice cream room?

Mark Hiddleson 7:34

So didn't you get this? Wasn't that one of your first breaks? Was it Nolan wanted to work? So first, I want to ask you first. What was it like if you didn't want to because I'm thinking cold storage or Mr. Video? If the governor button and everything I would have taken the government but you took the freezer suit in the lift truck? What What kept you hanging in there?

Tony Caetano 7:59

Really it was. So when you start in this business, you know, there's a lot of people Grocery Outlet was really taking off at the time. And they were hiring a lot of people and there was a lot of churn and burn. Unfortunately, the cold is not for everybody. And then there's a production standard to keep at a steady pace. So everybody's profitable. You know, this, and this is also a new development. They were in their infancy. So I had the stability of getting hours, I knew they were going to pay me every Friday. This is a good job. The cold was a challenge though, because it's not just the cold in these warehouses. Generally they don't have windows. So you may go to work when it's dark, and you leave when it's dark. And you're doing the same thing over and over. I think the ice cream room might have saved my career there because it took me off of graveyard which I didn't want to be I was a young man had a beautiful girlfriend. I wanted to see her more frequently. And they said the only thing we got is the one place nobody wants to work. So I I said okay, I'll come just swing shift. At least I got my normal weekend, I could sleep normal at night, I got to work in the ice cream room. But working in the ice room gave me a lot of solitude, which allowed me to make a lot of mistakes. And to Excel but to really learn the business because I had my own tiny warehouse. I was the only one working in there. I was picking all the orders I was doing the receiving and stuff. So that really set me well if you can handle this, every other temperature gets better. You know, so it really just took a life of itself but I liked putting the I didn't realize how much I liked playing Tetris with the warehouse if that makes sense. Bringing in pallets making them fit utilizing space. It really was a lot of fun. Still the 12 hour days and a minus whatever. It wasn't the end of the world and there was money to be made. It was also the first example that if you take a chance in this business, you're willing to move out of your conference, nobody wanted to go to this building, because it wasn't as comfortable. Maybe the work was a little whatever. But taking that chance benefited me there. And it really was the first example in this business that if you're willing to move and try something to take on some responsibility, and I learned that from a very smart man, it will pay off for you. And he did.

Mark Hiddleson 10:22

Yeah. Who's the you're gonna share who it is that taught you that?

Tony Caetano 10:28

Mike Thomas, Michael Thomas. Yeah, cuz he is he set it up. As far as I, you know, when I came on board, he was already running things, he became the general manager. When I crossed over and became management, he was the driving factor behind that I owe a lot to him. I have a few mentors that hopefully I can mention throughout this, but Mike Thomas, a real big one. He basically said, if you can do this, and you're willing to grab the reins, the world's going to be your oyster because they'll people will want you.

Mark Hiddleson 11:00

And here's the other thing, if you can earn Thomas's trust, you can earn anything. He's tough. I mean, he's a good man, he is give you an opportunity. And I really liked him over the years, you know, I've had clients. And he actually even hired somebody that worked for him, that I'm a Joe Fairless. So Joe Ferriss work for work for Michael Thomas. And Michael was putting a lot of pressure on him. And he kind of turned over the racking responsibility. And the Joe Ferriss interview was a great interview too. Because he actually fired me from Grocery Outlet as a vendor because you're not meeting the standards. And sure, and I was thinking, like, you know, he doesn't get it, what we're up against, and their operations. Because, you know, with client in our business, it's tough, because you've got to have your stuff out of the way. And what we do and building racks, isn't part of the day to day routine. And so I was thinking about it even before, you know, he decided to work with somebody else. I'm like, man, he needs us to work with another vendor, see how they do in here under these circumstances. And he did share one project, and I said, Look, I think it's a good idea. I go, but we're not breaking up. We're just seeing other people. I told him that Neela he's always laughed at that, because that vendor got in the middle of a project and they couldn't finish it, they really, they left and couldn't finish the job. He had to call me back in, they had the wrong materially at the wrong levels. That guys, you know, there was a lot of this that, you know, we were having problems with, with people not showing up to work or car trouble or some just like the, you know, the things that happen that really, you know, if you get a flat tire once a year, it's cool. If you did it once a week. There's a problem. There's a pattern. So so But Michael, that Michael Thomas was driving that because he was driving him, hey, these projects need to be done on time. We need to have the racking we need to have the. So he's a tough, and I've always liked that. And I even told Joe I said, You know what? Because he was complaining about the service. And he's like, I we might not be I'm like, You're my number one customer. Let's do like, this is the greatest we can do. This is the best, like you will gear the top. And he's like, man, yeah. But then, you know, we work things out. And then after that, you know, obviously, our relationship was a lot better. And we did. We've, you know, our company. So now we're giving way better service, we're better at the drawings, we're better at having stuff there ahead of time that guys are better communicating. I mean, we up leveled it. And it really comes from a leader like Michael Thomas. And he's got he's mentored a lot of people. So yeah, I've mentioned him twice. But but that's well,

Tony Caetano 13:38

a if I could indulge me on this, Mike, Michael Thomas. He also showed me that no matter where you're at, on the list, right, sometimes you just got to pick cases. So your business might not be picking cases, right? You could be making widgets. But sometimes the leaders have to lead from the front. You don't have to be proficient at it. Sometimes it's just the effort, a genuine effort. But if you're fluent in it, and you've seen him, he can pick cases even as you know is ready to retire. I will put him in the top 10 in his warehouse if you gave him a week I really so that I mean on top of his immense knowledge of the business. His his ability to collect connect with the people that he did connect with. This is a hard guy, you can't pull them. You're not going to tell him about you know, certain things that if he's good at it, I mean, you just you can't you know, he's just too smart man. He knows too much. And then to have the ability to do that kind of work. Huge impact on me.

Mark Hiddleson 14:49

Yeah, he's a he's a great, a great mentor, a great great example I've seen them case he's the the my team will call me and say the guy with the English accent is is working in the warehouse today pulling orders. And I don't think I've ever been with him and walked a facility where he didn't see something that was out an order or case or straighten something

Tony Caetano 15:08

out or pull wrap, right being a different warehouse, you know, just start pulling the wrap off of a PICC line or something like that. That's who he is. Yeah, that's, that's what makes them awesome.

Mark Hiddleson 15:22

So one of my favorite stories about when we, and then I was thinking about is it's only because we've been doing some work together, we've engaged your, your CI skill set. And I shared the story about I mean, this was 20 years ago, I think, or maybe more, you know, we were both in our 20s. And he said, I have an opportunity. And I knew, I knew that you were you were the type of leader that you use the word opportunity, when there's a challenge. Like we don't say, even I didn't like to say problems, I'd say we have a challenge, we said we have an opportunity. And I knew it's like, that means we screwed something up, and he's gonna give us an opportunity. But I can't

Tony Caetano 16:06

believe that you even remember that was so long ago,

Mark Hiddleson 16:09

because I remember it just clicked and I'm like, this is going to be a pain in the ass. But I like the way this guy's think. And we're gonna we're gonna work this out. And we did so, you know, share where that comes from, or, you know, some of the things that worked for you over the years, you know, because leading obviously, it's difficult situations, but really is opportunities, right?

Tony Caetano 16:30

I couldn't agree more. Opportunities are really where you build those relationships, right? Somebody calls you and they say I got a problem, they will there's an opportunity for us to it could be simple, something as simple as a general manager saying, I need some space, but I don't even have more capacity. But I can't build a building. I can't afford new racks. We've done everything we can. It's something as simple as we'll have you fixed the racks that you have, how many racks do you have down? Oh, shoot, I have over 300 racks that are down. Those are those opportunities. And that's where I learned those, I wouldn't have learned it really, if it wasn't for what I was exposed to in warehousing. Because as I was moving up the ladder, and I was interacting with you, I was a little higher up on the list, I had more responsibility. So I was already getting training. And while you're doing it, you know, you're not sure is this something else? Is it the flavor of the week, but this bi stuff really took off. Because it lended to my common sense approach to things. And also some military background. Little did I know that we were using CI best practice, there's a reason why we all do this uniformly, because it works. That doesn't mean that you don't have variances. But a good standardization will usually help any kind of business and then those one offs that need a specific or let's bring in an expert, you can identify them easier. So that really resonated with me. And I figured if I'm staying the right stuff, then eventually I'll be doing the right stuff. And it made an impact on you. So I'd like to think that it worked.

Mark Hiddleson 18:08

It is because you know, back then I was young. And I was hustling. And I'm like, I'm still like to think that I'm hustling. But it's a there were people back then I don't know if it was because I was younger, maybe I just had a different mindset, but sometimes. And it still happens from time to time. I'm actually shocked now. But some people use their vendors or they look at a vendor chairs, like a lower.

Tony Caetano 18:36

And yeah, second priority. Yes. Second priority to that. Yeah. And I get my trucks out first.

Mark Hiddleson 18:45

It's like, well, there's a vendor, that's just a vendor, and I'll have to worry about it. But you impress me, because you were you valued us. You know, we weren't just a vendor, it wasn't like, hey, we can hire anybody else off the street. And, you know, he must have been like that with all your vendors. And so what was it about that, that made you, you know, want to want to work with the vendors, instead of having it be this like, a? What do you call it where they're, you know, it's a relationship that's adversarial, like you jerk when you lose type,

Tony Caetano 19:17

or doesn't run as smoothly as it as as it could have? I mean, let's put it like that. The reason that it really clicked with me is because I like efficiency. So as they started giving me responsibility and say, Hey, you got to cut the overtime here and stuff I'm looking at where's it at and stuff? And generally when we do a project with a vendor, you know, hey, let's keep two guys over. Let's throw everything into the aisle. You know, let them do their work and you guys did run into snags we're trying to pick it was a whole lot easier to turn you into a partner because one we were paying you to do a job. It behooves me to make sure that you guys can get in do your job safely, efficiently and get out how can I operate my know what my not Okay, we're, I didn't know what your knowns were. So I tried to work around, what can I do is that a matter of we'll do three days, that'll be ready for you, you guys do a little bit of work, then we'll start backfilling if we can, or whatever the case may be, or it could be as simple as can you have all of these cleared out, then we would arrange our schedule around because you guys weren't there all the time. And the sooner we can get you guys out, the better. We were all you as the company, you did a good job efficiently and us we were able to maximize the dollars that we did invest, to get back to business.

Mark Hiddleson 20:36

It was that sample. Yeah. Thanks for Thanks for sharing that. Because it does seem you know, the collaboration model is way better than the competition model where you're, and we did we get into situations still, where, you know, we're having to ask, and I never, and I've done this, and it was true with the with the Michael Thomas thing, when when Joe Ferris was giving me a hard time, I never go over somebody's head, like I could have called Thomas and said, Hey, your new guy, what's going on, but I'm not I'm not going to do that. And so it just works. It works better. And a lot of times I am working with people, or I might know the owner of the company, but the appropriate relationship for me is be at the warehouse manager, even the maintenance manager and things like that. And so even if I don't know the owner, I look at you know, the people and it's not just that job. I mean, now we're this is 20. That was 25 years ago, I think her baby, we must have started when we were kindergarten.

Tony Caetano 21:38

You You may be me not so much.

Mark Hiddleson 21:41

And we're the same age. I wanted to ask you another follow up question about the military. What what are some of the other skills that were that were transferable that you? And it sounds like you kind of figured out as you went along? Hey, this is something I learned? What are some others than yours?

Tony Caetano 21:58

I want to say that most everybody in the military is in the logistics business on some kind of level, most of it is hurry up and wait. From combat soldiers packing their gear as this efficiently as possible with weight and height restrictions to long supply chains with food, ammunition and fuel. That's really where I started learning how to put the puzzles together. How can you make sure that for lack of a better term, how do you make sure that the bullets that you need are going to be there when you're in the hotspot. And that could be food medicine or whatever the case may be. So when you're shooting when you're being deployed someplace far, you're loading almost all cities, vehicles, and you don't have the luxury of calling in as many tugboats as you need, you get x amount of transport and X amount of tonnage has to fit in it. And that's not really what they send you to school for, right this thing is cool for communications, you might be the liaison for whatever, you might have a security clearance. But at the end of the day, everybody has to pack their own gear or their units gear or their department's gear into their vehicles to move halfway around the world. And that will teach you even the people who weren't quite as bright. They shine a little bit brighter after a few years of doing that just because it just it helps you compartmentalize and your whole daily life becomes how do I make my garage more efficient, I can maximize it better, because I'm used to doing those things,

Mark Hiddleson 23:31

even to that level. That's a great, that's a great point. You're doing all of that. And it's logistics, and it's under the most extreme pressure that he could possibly imagine. That's a great, that's a great example. So moving into some of the, the milestones. So you at some point you open you build a whole new facility shared share a little bit about that experience, and how that came about. I mean, you actually built the cold storage, right he built the building from the ground up. He didn't actually build it Yeah.

Tony Caetano 24:11

You built i got i did i got to I got to be involved with an unbelievable project for Grocery Outlet. They had been distributing their product out of Modesto for since the beginning. Almost. And they had a need to supply their stores in the Pacific Northwest. What they send similar but not quite as large footprint as the Modesto facility. It's a large Philip and a few years went by you know they had been asking for and I think and I wasn't privy to these conversations at the time but basically grocery alley said if you don't build us the building we're gonna have to have somebody else build us one just because our we can't afford to have all this transportation and just the businesses the bulk. So as good partners versus cold at the time, built The facility or went into agreement to service Grocery Outlet from up there and take the Pacific Northwest and some Oregon and let you know that made the most logistical sense out of that facility. And then they were going to subsidize it with fish coming in from Tacoma and Seattle, because that was a big market there. So I was able to piggyback and the reason ultimately I got the general manager's position is I as I as I was the number two guy in Modesto, I was given the privilege to set up how many supervisors we needed, what type of freight we were going to be moving through there, what type of manpower was going to be needed. And then an industrial engineer basically designed the building, we put the business model together Grocery Outlet agreed to it, we had some other business that we had secured that allowed us to do this, and it really came down to, you're going to spend half a year up there helping these guys get set up. Why don't you do it for yourself, you know, this customer, you know, the person running that. So it really did seem like an excuse me a match made in heaven. I did have another mentor rich cat Meyer, which you are very familiar with. He was you know, he was running all of this. He had the relationship with Mike Thomas through many years of, of that business development. And then also another gentleman, Dan Patrone, which you're very familiar with may rest in peace. But those three gentlemen, really, uh, I guess they recognize my hard work or the potential that might be there. And I was blessed to go up to Tacoma, and be part of the build and work with the engineers who were building it and getting the contractors. I'd never dreamed of something like that. Usually you go to new facility they've already built. I got to pick the colors and the furniture. And it was, it was an experience of a lifetime that I could never, I can't even put into words no matter how hard I tried. And I can talk. Yeah, but it was just a fabulous experience.

Mark Hiddleson 27:10

Yeah, and that was still so that was a continuation of that relationship. And yeah, rich, rich is somebody I definitely I haven't interviewed him. Yet. He's on the list. He's in the he's like, yeah, he's in the top 10 off, I need to reach out. He's, he's been retired, but he invited me to speak at a few engagements that were just career. It was a shift in the way I looked at myself. I mean, I knew I could do it. And I was a good public speaker and I really hadn't thought about but some of the opportunities he created for me and then just introducing me to other divisions within it was it had gone from versicle to a miracle. He was just a great and then another guy. He's a it's a tough, it's a tough, it's a tough love. It's like, you're gonna you're gonna earn it.

Tony Caetano 27:59

And yeah, yeah.

Mark Hiddleson 28:01

So I really like rich, I'm gonna invite him on. So I'll probably have to call him as soon as soon as we're done. I'll be picking up the phone because it's not a bad idea. Yeah, he created some opportunities for me. And even since he's retired, I've had to do other speaking engagements. And I went to him just for suggestions. You know, we're, you know, we're, you know, and he's just been a great resource for us. Yeah. So I want you to share a Level II said about the the ice cream room gave you an opportunity to make a bunch of mistakes. That was a great line because the My dad had a saying that and he picked it up somewhere. But life is the the hardest teacher because you always get the lesson after the test. Yeah, so but share some mistakes, and even not from ice cream room. But what are some of the mistakes you've made along the road that that you've learned from? You know, are there any any big pitfalls or mistakes that that kind of opened your eyes over the years?

Tony Caetano 29:09

Um, there's things about us as individuals, we're always working on the you spend a little bit of time with me and you know that one of my flaws is I'm kinda loud. No, I'm always right. I might. Sometimes I'm just thinking out loud, not even realizing it. But for me, continuing that development, and that's why CI is so important to what we're trying to do. Not only is that a way to develop your business opportunities, but it's also a way to develop yourself as a leader as a follower. If you believe in servant leadership to make your teams work at their best, where the brightest people get to feel empowered to put their voice out there and stuff. Um, So I would say, if the mistakes that and we make lots of mistakes, right ship the wrong thing, pick the wrong thing. You know, introduce yourself to the wrong person turned out, they were the janitor and the owner was somebody completely different because he just missed misread the room, no harm, no foul. But I would say on a leadership front having an opportunity to go to a very large operation in Tennessee, for a company. And it was very, very different than what we're doing the scale was was massive. But then you're another part of the country too. So in an effort to try to get the best from the group there so that way, I could win some ownership, there was a promotion shortly after I got that there was a promotion bail available for an operations manager, my internal stance that I have somebody that would be perfect for this, it's there already with the company just someplace else. It would be a plug and play and we grow together, we bounce our ideas, but in an effort to really win the trust and respect of that group. Ultimately, I promoted somebody who maybe wasn't quite ready or was a little bit lesser, but was one of their own. I didn't want to be perceived as coming in and cleaning house because I got that opportunity. Because there was a problem. Let's face it, you don't get people to come out there and make change. When everything's going great. There was an opportunity, an opportunity, yes, I can't believe I just said the problem was all right. So I had my heart in the right place. But my business sense that for the benefit of this large operation, we really should have. And I had somebody in mind. But there was we had a couple of internal candidates that were really knew our business knew our vision and stuff. So I would say that my time. That's probably the one biggest flaw that I made that I probably still beat myself up. And we all hire people that and he did an adequate job. But I think we could have been way different and evolved a lot faster with an infusion of a little bit different thinking.

Mark Hiddleson 32:17

Yeah, new talent, higher level of execution, more on the sound stage. Yeah, that's a that's a great segue into some of the things that you and I are working on. Because some of the things we've done with those, those larger companies are what I see with our clients. You have big cold storage company like you know versus cold or it used to be p&l. It's funny that one. This is when I first started doing business in Modesto. It wasn't Christian solvents in ink. But what was CSI was CSI. But I didn't even realize till a check came in one time and it was capital security integrated.

Tony Caetano 32:53

They kept telling us it was a different company, we didn't believe it was too convenient.

Mark Hiddleson 32:59

It was CSI. And then it was p&l. And then for big companies like that a miracle verse cold us cold storage, the big players, they have departments and capabilities for like one of the things we created was Iraqi safety inspection protocol. And they had trained everybody in the company and there was a three ring binder. And so that's a service that we started offering. And it can't really, because a lot of clients, they don't have an internal engineer and engineering. And they're not trained on it, so they can't do it. So we are kind of a plug and play, we can be that department for somebody and they don't have to hire you know, an engineering for 100. I don't even know what they're making anymore. They could just do individual projects. And we can do things like you know, create a standard operating procedure for doing your rack damage assessment, getting things replaced, getting stuff that's unloaded, that's safe. And then I know you worked on some of the things you were telling me about, you know, one of the challenges with cold storage is you need engineers, and they're hard, good refrigeration guys, you know, almost every I get a new Cold Storage client. Before I leave the meeting, they'll ask me, Hey, do you know anybody who is

Tony Caetano 34:14

what goes around audio engineers have mostly been here.

Mark Hiddleson 34:17

So share a little bit about you, you created a solution within your company. And I think I mean, just the approach. How did you you had some ways of solving that problem that I think are kind of creative or innovative strategy.

Tony Caetano 34:33

Now we all we all generally know that it doesn't have to be ammonia, but we generally know that our maintenance team are usually good at doing maintenance. They're not necessarily the best at doing paperwork, right? And as we develop them or as our processes develop requirements from the state or whatever the case regulatory issues, were asking more and more of our wrench terms for lack of a better term, and they get nervous You know, and they're not quite as productive, hey, don't forget to fill this out. And we really got to watch our work orders. And you got to cut a Pio for this. And that count, that contractor can't be on site because he hasn't passed our basic requirements to be to operate on site safely. And that throws our most valuable commodity. And they really were they were there, they were our highest paid skilled labor at the facility, and they're very rare. And we were either burning them out, or they were going to find jobs that, you know, paid less with less paid about same but less headaches. So as we were trying to evolve, we were losing our true assets. So how can we bridge this gap? Well, we created a position for our process safety management, that basically, for lack of a better term, it's the it's a clerk, somebody who watches the calendar can maintain when repairs have to be done, the next month, services, one month services, one year services, a five year inspection, this would blow our engineers away, because their stuff that's all stuffed in a binder and they're like, you know, so we were able to streamline that with a lower paid employee that we could give some training to very cost efficient, cost efficient training, that allowed them to familiarize themselves with the closed loop system and ammonia program without having to be an engineer, but you are now qualified to help those people with POS and stuff. So for example, that person would come to work, they take a look at what has to be done today. It's already organized, it's handed out to the engineers, you're working on this compressor rebuild today, it's about a six hour deal. And then you'll be doing a two hour, you know, whatever the case may be. Now the engineer is getting it in a nice piece of paper that he can read, he knows exactly what he has to do, he does what he does best, he turns the ranch, he's super happy. When it's all done, he brings that paperwork in, that clerk enters then all the information it deduct from inventory, if you have a flow system like that in automatically deduct the compressor seal or whatever, so your inventory is being done. And then not only have you bridge that gap where that person can do more wrench turning and less repetitive stuff that can be done by somebody else, probably even more efficient. But you now have a point of contact for that department for safety meetings, because the head engineer can't always get there. What if you're the only, you know, rounds have to be made, you now have somebody who can participate in the safety program, the maintenance department and best case scenario, that person takes that skill set and becomes your engineer. So it's a self fulfilling program. Not everybody is going to jump over it. Not everybody wants to be ammonia engineer. But there's a lot of people that do and there really isn't school for him. So it was a way for us to create a couple of win wins, and it worked really well.

Mark Hiddleson 38:09

So if I understand we're still able to you could offer that to somebody right now. But if somebody had a cold storage, and they wanted to create something like that, you have the ability to get people certified.

Tony Caetano 38:24

Yeah. So ideally, you want, you want an entry level person that at least have a read a one, maybe a read a two certificate, and most of this stuff can be done online, there is a purchase of the materials. But if you buy it as a facility, you're investing in the future development of a commodity that is very, very rare in our business. So if you already have the book, and if you're interested, the other person is at least they read a one that just basically says you can work in our shop, that person is generally going to be told, Hey, go grab the broom, help us with this roll up door, you're being exposed, you're now going to eventually become a journey person, when you have the requisite amount of hours, they'll get you in the nuts and bolts. They didn't in our business today because of liability. We really farm out most of that. Now, if it's something serious, let's farm it out, they'll do it faster. And they'll accept the liability because they have the training, which makes me come back to what you do and that rack inspection program and how beneficial that could be. Because it works the same way. Right? You are now outsourcing it to a professional who's going to do it right. Do it efficiently. You get to keep building your widgets. But you also have that benefit in your back pocket that a professional did this. And let's hope nothing ever happens. But if it ever does, I have the ability to work with them and we can make sure that we are dialed in so yeah, that was it. One of the small things that we can do, and I really want to emphasize this, these are all low cost things. These are all don't buy a new program, let's get an Excel spreadsheet out, what do we want to work on? Let's set a timeline on it. Let's give it an owner. And let's follow up, follow up with it. And if we're all engaged with that, that's all low cost stuff. What we're trying to introduce is thinking, because all the solutions are already at your place, they're already at the biggest cold storage, all the solutions are there, and the people are probably already there. It's just how do you get them all talking? So they're doing it the right way. But not being in meetings all the time? Because then the first thing you're going to do at your CIO meeting is how do we have less meetings? Right, that's the first thing we're going to work on. How do we have shorter meetings are less meetings, so just want to emphasize this is all low cost stuff, this is individual team members working together, in whatever forum is necessary to do work for your business. And, and you can always add on, it's all plug and play. But it really is the ideas and good people talking to each other.

Mark Hiddleson 41:13

Yeah, and we've engaged you is we're kind of in the initial stages, but that rack inspection program, we do it for our best clients, and it is it's one of the highest value things we can offer somebody and and then when it's hard to execute, we should be able to do it, I haven't really advertised it because we don't have enough of the resources share with you shouldn't be doing it for everybody, but that's what you're going to help us with we're gonna get people trained and then we train their ship managers that when they you know, they're walking the facility every night looking for other things. Anyways, you know, damaged pallets, damaged products that this order ship or not, you know, these important things, they can just add, you know how to take a look at racking and know if it's not safe and sharp, unloaded at the end of the shift every day. Because the other thing about rack damage. It's amazing. It happens all the time. Never gets reported and nobody ever did it. Nope.

Tony Caetano 42:09

Nope, wasn't mean, first time you hit a rack. First thing you do if you didn't get hurt, you start looking around. Alright, do I have plausible deniability? I'm out of here.

Mark Hiddleson 42:20

Right? So we're working on that. And that's just part of the culture training 20s If you have a rack inspection program, and then it's better to turn it in, right? I mean, you don't want to not turn it in and then have a rack failure and have something catastrophic. The other thing, that the racking is so strong that some systems you look at some systems, you wonder why it's even still standing. They do rarely collapse. But when it does, you know, when they do, it's really, it's catastrophic.

Tony Caetano 42:48

So Mark, if I could add being aware of rack safety, to include reducing the damage, don't forget, there's also a downstream costs too, there's less damage to your equipment. Those forklifts are going to last longer, those wheels are gonna last longer. There's not this doesn't have to push on one side to get into this rack who shouldn't be driving in anyway. So in this case, red is good, right? Red is opportunity. It's more capacity, we can get that back safely. It's a lot of things we can cover our behind by having somebody so I think there's great opportunity who doesn't like the rack guy, everybody loves to see the rack guy.

Mark Hiddleson 43:26

But that's what I've been telling my guys and you came in and he go, You know what? It's true. It's true.

Tony Caetano 43:33

All right, we got a new project, we might get the rest of the racks back. All

Mark Hiddleson 43:36

right. Yeah, I love it. Everybody loves a rock guy that does a call to get a t shirt made that says you should get something here. So I liked as we're getting, we're getting towards the end, I like to ask. At the end, are there any apps or technology or something new that that you're using? That you like or something you want to mention a new tool? Or you know, anything? I know use a lot of spreadsheets? Well, yeah.

Tony Caetano 44:17

And that's a really good question mark. Because not everything is spreadsheets. And I don't want to you know, I'm definitely I'm a hands on. I'm a forklift driver. You know, this where I come from, but I did learn how to use tools. And we all use Excel, right? We plan labor through it, we all so that's always going to be in play. It's always nice to snap something but something that I've been turned on to recently and this is no plug for this app in any way. But slack turned out to be pretty good. It allows people to work interactively at the same time. I don't have to be behind my computer to look at your file. You may think oh, well, we've been able to look at Excel for a long time on our smartphones. This was a little bit different. I could be on the phone own a three way, as a matter of fact, we did it today, three of three team members were on the phone, we were trying to figure out what exactly we were. What was ours what we were working on what we could load first. And we were sending pictures at the same time. So somebody who was stationary, you know, 300 miles away, was getting real time information and telling us no, that wasn't the stuff that's not ours. It's it's that one over here, that second picture. And so not only are you looking at photos, it's almost like, I don't want to say Facebook for business because I don't want to it's not a connotation, you know, I'm not. But people use apps and things to communicate, they send photos, this was on a business side. And it really emphasize a lot of things about you don't always have to send me back a long soliloquy, it could be just as simple emojis says that I accepted that I understand that in in delving deeper into it. And this is a pretty basic app. But things as simple as I'm gonna send you this Excel spreadsheet that you've never seen before, because I just created it. But I'm gonna send you a quick video 13 seconds just basically explaining to you why I'm sending it to you what it could do for us and stuff. And you don't have to stop what you're doing. You know, you got a message in your, if you're using slack, you're periodically checking it. But it really is a streamline, you can have private calls, you can have calls as the team. So like I said, I'm not trying to carry water for slack. But it's a very efficient. Like I said, my theme is low cost. And this seems to work really well. You can always add I'm sure, you know premium channels, but for what they give you I was very impressed. So that's what I'm using right now.

Mark Hiddleson 46:42

So we're Where did you learn about that? I want to give a plug to the company. We learned it? I actually. So Spencer who runs our main Tika yard Spencer, Ben rice. He brought that up a few months ago, because we were doing a lot of community. I like text because it's real time, you know, you can answer a quick question. You can. It's clear it's in writing. But we have a lot of things where we're looking for stuff that had happened a few months ago, we wanted to get the resources. And he Spencer brought it up that he had a previous job, he had suggested that the owner that they use it for maintaining different pieces of equipment that way, if you wanted to go back and look at the maintenance record, each piece of equipment would have its own channel, you didn't have to look through everything. And he said, Hey, maybe it'll work here. And it's he said other worry work before the guy didn't want to learn a new thing. And I was like, Well, I don't really want to learn a new thing, either. But in the name of being supportive of new ideas. Yes, I said, we're going to try this out. And it's actually worked really well. And the other thing I will give Spencer because I like this as a leadership who's like you want to do something new, that's awesome. You're in charge of this project. And it was mostly benefiting him and benefiting us getting information for him. So he really took ownership of it. And and when it started working right away, I really took ownership of it. Because it's like, Hey, he's right. Yeah, pretty cool. And he did drive that innovation. So thank you for for mentioning that slack. Yeah, and I, you know, I, I do a lot of reading and obviously something with Slack. It's like, oh, yeah, I'm not gonna do that, that that's dumb. Just like, five years ago, I didn't listen to podcasts. And now I'm hosting once you have to be willing to learn. And you absolutely. Thank you for sharing that example. What is the best way if somebody wants to get a hold of you to do a project, you know, the small project that has to do with refrigeration or continuous improvement, and we say CI stands for a lot of things, but stands for continuous improvement? What's the best way for people to get in touch with you? Well, um,

Tony Caetano 48:59

I want to be very transparent on this. This is a project that it's a big driver is my wanting to be in connected to this business on some level, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to step away from the business for a little bit. And I didn't realize how much I missed it, not just missed it, but how much I equated satisfaction and accomplishment with projects, not necessarily what my paycheck looked like, but what I was building with people. There's nothing like having an employer or co worker come up to you and say, I can't believe I just put a down payment on a house. I want to thank you so much. And you're thinking thank me, you've done all the work. All right. I'm probably sitting in an office, you know, coming up with ideas or whatever, but to impact people like that. So if you don't mind, Mark, if they can reach out to you initially and maybe you can share that information. I'm sure nobody will be calling but Okay, yes. in case somebody does.

Mark Hiddleson 50:02

Yeah, they will. So yeah, right. Yeah. You know, we have it, we'll put in the show notes. Yeah. And definitely, because there are there are going to be some opportunities. I mean, we already have, and I've got clients in mind that they're gonna want to, they're gonna want to see this episode because of the background. And, and I just want to thank you, Tony Caetano, 30 year veteran in the cold storage, industry, Army Veteran, I really, genuinely thank you for your service. I can't say it enough. It means a lot to me. And I loved having you on. I mean, this has been fun. This is awesome. I've been looking forward to it. But this has been great. Thank you for joining us.

Tony Caetano 50:47

I can't thank you. Enough. And like I said, I'm so honored that you would even put me in the top 30 You keep saying top 10 And I got it on video.

Mark Hiddleson 50:57

Yeah, you are. You're one of those Well, ever since the opportunity moment, you know, where our team screwed something up and you're like, look at this is an opportunity. We're gonna fix it. We fixed it in the right way. And we've just watched each other, you know, kind of go through our career. So it's, it's really cool to have relationships with people the only held us to a higher standard, but still was, you know, collaboration, and we appreciate it. Yeah. Appreciate your friendship.

Tony Caetano 51:23

And I appreciate everything. Mark, you're fantastic and your friendship especially. Yeah. Awesome.

Outro 51:30

Thanks for listening to The Tao of Pizza Podcast. We'll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.


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