Donnie Burris became the CEO of Burris Logistics in 2010, after serving in a variety of management and operations roles at the company. With 25-plus years of experience at the organization, he is part of the fifth generation to work in the family business. Based in Milford, Delaware, Burris Logistics provides customized supply chain solutions with an emphasis on frozen and refrigerated products. The company has 2,000 team members, 16 distribution centers, and a fleet of 200 trucks and 450 trailers. It brokers 350,000 truckloads per year and has annual sales of $4 billion.
Donnie Burris is also a board member of Delmarva Christian High School and a former member of the finance committee of Delaware’s Bayhealth Medical Center. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, and has completed additional study in strategy and finance through Wharton’s Executive Education Center and industrial refrigeration courses through the Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association (RETA). He is also a graduate of the WFLO Institute, the educational arm of the Global Cold Chain Alliance.
Q: You are very strong in food distribution, which has been a critical need during the Covid-19 pandemic. How do you view the current state of the industry?
A: The government told the whole world what we have always known, and that is that our team members are essential workers. As a result of Covid-19, the frozen and refrigerated food industry has experienced an incredible increase in demand. Our team members—from our warehouse personnel to our drivers—are fatigued. We have had to focus on our partner demand and the well-being of our team to make sure the supply chain remains intact.
We have experienced increased demand at both the retail grocery and club-store level, while food-service has taken a hit. For Burris Logistics companies, our diverse brands enable us to be successful while experiencing vendor shortages and industry decline. The current state of the supply chain saw our different brands working together, as well as forming temporary partnerships with food-service distributors, to ensure their workforce was supported and our customers remained well-served.
During this pandemic, we worked equally hard to mitigate the risk of Covid-19. We needed additional team members, extra hours, different cleaning tactics, and catered food.
Q: Does your diversification help in weathering a down economy?
A: The diversification of our brands allows us to operate successfully even when specific industries become impacted. We see a countercyclical impact during tough financial times. During the lockdowns, Honor Foods, our food-service redistributor, saw sharp decreases as a result of restaurant closures. Traditional retail and direct-to-consumer fulfillment experienced record volume due to increased consumer demand. Our PRW Plus and Custom brands were able to meet this demand.
Our business has strived to build resiliency no matter the storm. We consistently turn our focus to our customer needs and the well-being of our team members, and it always leads us to an outcome that we are proud of.
Q: What are the advantages to offering customers both warehousing and transportation services?
A: Having a dedicated fleet is a value-added service for our partners, who can depend on Burris Logistics for real-time visibility, on-time deliveries, and consistent customer service. Additionally, our Trinity Logistics brand offers freight brokerage services that allow us to solve transportation needs anywhere in the country. By bundling these services together into one solution, we are able to offer more value and higher-quality service to our customers.
Q: What are the differences in managing a family-run company compared with a publicly held company?
A: Our focus is always on the far horizon. We strive to be the best at what we do ... not the biggest. Our focus is on building great solutions for our customers, taking great care of our team members, and positively impacting the world around us. As a family business, we manage the business professionally with a board of directors, while also being able to move very quickly and efficiently whenever there is a need to do so.
Q: Burris has been recognized for being a great place to work. How do you develop and maintain your culture?
A: It starts in the heart. We are a work-in-progress, but we know what we want Burris Logistics to be. We have taken the time to articulate those values that are important to us. We try to make these a part of our everyday life, and we look for leaders who possess a servant-leadership mentality.
Our business is about people; they make all the difference in the world. If we can create an atmosphere where people know they are cared about, know that their talents are being utilized and their work is making a difference, and know that we are pursuing excellence, then we are well on our way to the type of culture that we want Burris to achieve.