Bill Sarris manages growth at Sarris Candies with a dollop of old-fashioned values

For example, by making caramel batch by batch at Sarris Candies, employees pour 20 or 30 tables a day.

“I could get an automated machine that would go in there, but I can’t use fresh cream. I can’t use the fresh butter; I have to use powder stuff,” he says. “It lowers the quality of the product, but I could make 150 tables in a day. We don’t do that.”

Sarris says you need to watch costs but don’t change the product to save a few pennies.

“In the long run, I don’t agree with that at all. I just don’t. I don’t think I ever will,” he says. “I don’t want automation to jeopardize your product, especially the quality of the product and the ingredients that go in there.”

 

Takeaways

  • Constantly monitor your inventory to ensure the right production levels.
  • A diverse business and manufacturing mix controls growth.
  • Maintain the values that allowed the company to grow in the first place.

 

The Sarris File:

Name: Bill Sarris
Title: President
Company: Sarris Candies

Born: Canonsburg, Pennsylvania
Education: Washington & Jefferson College with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.

What was your first job and what did you learn from it? In high school, I worked construction at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh, and then I moved over and worked at Allegheny General’s warehousing. I learned that I never wanted to do that again.

I never really left Sarris. When I was 10 years old, I had to make 12 bunnies a day before I could go out and play. And that was one at a time, and they took about 20 minutes each, so I never got to go out and play. It got dark. I wasn’t allowed out after dark.

You never wanted to do anything else? I had intentions of going to medical school because every parent wants his kid to be a doctor or a lawyer. But once I was in the business, I stayed.

I grew up every day with it — smelling chocolate. The candy was in our basement. I helped every day because my dad sat there and hand dipped candy. I learned how to do that when I was 12, 13 years old.

What is the best business advice you ever received? My dad was always saying: Don’t be the smartest guy in the room. If you are, you’re in the wrong room.

You need smart people around you, and that’s what we think we do. We get people in here that we trust.

You need to learn from people, and listen. You can’t hear if your mouth is moving.

Do you have a favorite type of candy? If I eat a piece of candy, I’ll go get a peanut butter cup — anything peanut butter.

If I’m going to sneak something that’s what I sneak; I don’t sneak it, but I don’t want my wife to know. She’s a candy nut, too. Everybody eats candy that’s in here.