SeaFood Business

AUG 2013

SeaFood Business is the global trusted authority for seafood buyers and sellers. We are the seafood industry's leading trade magazine with more than 30 years of experience. Our coverage is based on the "business" of buying and selling seafood.

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Top Story Photo by Karen Ducey The crew at Pike Place Fish Market put on a show like no other in the business. Goal-oriented Seafood veterans John Yokoyama and John Yates keep the fsh moving at Pike Place Fish Market, Buckhead Beef (Sysco) BY JAMES WRIGHT S eafood buyers who not only want to learn more about the U.S. marketplace but also the diverse folks in the trade read SeaFood Business. In our annual Buyer's Turn feature, which celebrates our readers, we'd like you to meet two of the best in the business. They're both named John Y., but the similarities don't stop there. These men — John Yokoyama, owner of Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, and John Yates, director of seafood for Sysco subsidiary Buckhead Beef — have built their careers on a foundation of pride and commitment. JOHN YOKOYAMA — Pike Place Fish Market S everal sights spring to mind when you think of Seattle: Te Space Needle anchoring the skyline; fshing boats crowding the waterfront; Mt. Rainier dominating 20 SeaFood Business August 2013 the horizon (on a clear day); and smiling fshmongers in orange slickers tossing salmon back and forth. Tat last iconic image can be traced to one guy: John Yokoyama, longtime owner of Seattle's legendary Pike Place Fish Market. Te story about how fsh came to be fung like rugby balls at the market is indeed interesting; even more so is the "World Famous" phenomenon that Pike Place Fish Market has become, against all odds. But what might be most fascinating about Yokoyama's story is how he ultimately found success. It wasn't with salmon, or even throwing it, really. "Te diference, I think, is the person that I changed into," he says. Tat happened in the mid1980s. Yokoyama had reluctantly accepted outside help from business consultant Jim Bergquist, who gave him some difcult news to digest — his business needed goals, values and commitment. Not only that, his attitude needed a serious adjustment. "I was what you'd call a screaming maniac. I'd yell and scream at my employees," he says. "With [Jim's] philosophy, I had to alter who I was being — from this tyrant boss to someone who loves, supports and empowers his employees." It was a life-changing turnaround, not just a new business strategy. "It was a 180-degree turn from my personality, so it was pretty tough but I was committed to doing that," Yokoyama says, adding that it wasn't always easy because the business he had owned since 1965 (he bought the company for $3,500; $300 down and $300 a month) wasn't either. For instance, a wholesale operation he had started years earlier went $300,000 in the hole in its frst six months before it was abandoned. He was "practically broke," and prone to negativity. Similarly challenging for Yokoyama was creating goals, both for himself and for the company. For years, moving fsh in and moving fsh out was really the only concern. Never was the future top-priority, until Bergquist got everybody to focus on tomorrow, and to think big when doing so. Visit us online at

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