Harry Frisch intends to retire July 5, 2023, the day he turns 100.
“I’m taking the day off,” states the chairman of Beaver Street Fisheries Inc., who turns 95 in four weeks and comes to work every weekday.
He aims to return the day after his “retirement” and thereafter.
Born in Vienna, Austria, Hans “Harry” Frisch came to Jacksonville in 1953 and worked as an auto mechanic. He and his brother took over a fish market that his mother and stepfather bought in 1950.
With just seven grades of education before he had to leave Austria when Hitler invaded, Frisch and his brother, Alfred, built the fish business.
Today, the enterprise imports, manufactures and distributes seafood products worldwide to wholesale distributors and retail stores.
It employs about 400 people and counts annual sales of more than $500 million.
Based 2 miles west of Downtown at 1741 W. Beaver St., the company owns more than 300,000 square feet of office, manufacturing and storage space and also stores products at off-site public warehouses.
Its brands include the flagship Sea Best, which sells frozen fish fillets, breaded seafood, shellfish and specialty items; Island Queen and Island Prince, a lobster tail and seafood processor in the Bahamas; and HF’s Outstanding Brand, a premium line of custom cut beef, pork, poultry and lamb products.
It annually imports more than 100 million pounds of seafood.
Frisch’s two sons — Ben and Karl — followed him into the business as did Ben’s three sons.
Customers include Walmart Inc. “We supply the world’s biggest retailer,” Frisch notes.
Frisch values the realization that hard work — and successful business practices — led him to the seat he holds today. “You sit in a nice business that’s respected all over the world,” he said.
He gives credit as well to his beliefs. “It’s God looking out for us,” adding that his stamina also is part of that plan.
“I’ve hardly had any sickness. God gave me good health.”
His demonstrable leadership drew requests for his knowledge.
On Nov. 6, 2012, Frisch spoke to a Jacksonville University class of entrepreneurs. The evening before, sitting at his kitchen table, he crafted notes about what he wanted to share.
A week later, those bullet points were collected into his “Points of Good Business Practices.”
“In our company, there is no room for second best,” he explains on a printed list of those 32 points. “This sheet shows some ways to help us continue to always aim for this goal every day … since 1953.”
They will be included in Frisch’s upcoming biography. “Use Your Head — Lessons of a Lifetime,” by Susan D. Brandenburg.
Ask, and he’ll share the points.
2 nights’ sleep
“With any business decision of any consequence, I need two nights’ sleep to eliminate emotion or impulse,” he said. “Making a decision by your heart is the worst thing you could do.”
That includes supporting a political candidate — which he often is asked to do — or making a purchase.
“If you sleep on it two nights, it makes all the difference in the world,” he said.
Impulse and emotions
Like the two nights’ sleep rule, “you cannot react on impulse and emotions. You have to use your head and make decisions that will be beneficial and not cost you more than you were willing to pay because you shot off the hip,” he said.
Let them leave
Frisch wishes employees well when they leave to take another job. They come to him: “I’ve got an opportunity. I can make more money.” His response: “I’m not going to lose you as a friend. I’ll help you.”
Frisch said he has many employees who left – and came back. “Those are some of the best people I’ve got,” he said.
Frisch’s theory is that employees who believe they should explore another opportunity might always wonder what they missed. By taking it and returning, they realize what they have.
Keep old people
The average tenure at Beaver Street is 20-30 years, he said, with some employees on staff for more than four decades. He values their extensive knowledge, wisdom “and loyalty to this company.”
2 people on everything
The rule is important for accuracy, especially with critically sensitive actions such as signing and co-signing checks. “Somebody does it, somebody else checks behind. The second person is more important,” he said.
He doesn’t necessarily fault those who inadvertently err.
“People make mistakes. The only people who never make a mistake are those who never do anything,” Frisch said.
Every customer is your sweetheart
He said every customer should know that you care about them and the product they need. “You have to treat them like your sweetheart.”
Learn to like what you have to do.
“In life, things that we have to do are not always a pleasure, but it will benefit you to ‘be the guy’ that is always willing to do what no one else wants to do,” Frisch says. “Then when an opportunity arises, you will ‘be the guy’ that gets consideration because you are a team player and willing to do the work.”
Privileges and obligation
He said it does no good to give a person privileges without obligations. “This deprives the person of a huge life lesson of working for what you have and being good to others, and subjects others to a person who doesn’t understand what it takes in life to be kind and give back.”
Truth is the best lie
In other words, be honest. “People try to find excuses. I don’t like to make excuses. I don’t like to lie,” he said. “It is what it is.”
He shares a German saying: “Long lies have short legs. Someone is going to catch it.”
He insists: “Just tell the truth, whatever it is. Don’t lie.”
Count pennies and dollars
Frisch lived a good life in Austria with a large family in a big house until he was 15. Then, “Hitler came in and took everything.” Frisch said he lost most of his family in the Holocaust. He and his brother escaped to Czechoslovakia and then to Palestine.
At the age of 16, he became an automobile mechanic and did well, but he recalls entering “a strange country, not knowing anybody or the language.” A penny could mean life.
“Don’t throw a penny away. It multiplies,” he said. “If you have a dime to buy a piece of bread, it means everything.”
Israel became an independent state in Palestine in 1948. That year, Frisch married Lilo and they had their sons there. Lilo Frisch died two years ago at the age of 92. While religion isn’t on Frisch’s list of business practices, he shares an important decision.
Frisch said he did not grow up in a religious environment but joined an Orthodox synagogue when he came to the United States. “I wanted my children to have a choice to live a religious life,” he said.
Another implied practice comes from another belief.
“In order to be successful, you’ve got to like what you’re doing,” Frisch said.