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DSR of the Month, September 2012: Herb Paige, Sales Manager B&G Restaurant Supply, Pittsfield, Mass.

When asked to help deliver foodservice items as a high school student in the late '60s, Herb Paige had no idea this part-time job would be the start of a successful career in the industry much less help form his work ethic. "The man who trained me was old school," Paige says. "If I didn't wrap the glassware the way he wanted, he would make me wrap it again."

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Herb-PaigeHerb PaigePaige vowed if he ever was in the position to fire this man, he wouldn't hesitate to do so. "I eventually became his boss and realized what a valuable worker he was," Paige says. "Working from the ground up in this industry is the best thing I could do."

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Paige's career path remained in restaurant supply. He worked in sales, then became a partner at another firm in 1981 and eventually opened his own restaurant supply firm that he owned and ran from 1993 to 1998. After closing up shop, he moved to Florida and worked as a sales manager for a dealership, until opening up another restaurant supply company in 2002. When Hurricane Charley hit the area, Paige and his family made the move back up the East Coast. He joined B&G in 2007 and now specializes in heavy equipment. Paige's work is diverse, consisting of both outside customers and showroom visitors.

FE&S: How does your diverse background help you serve your customers?

HP: I believe my background has given me the knowledge to go into any type of foodservice establishment and quickly pick out a piece of equipment the operator needs or solve a problem on the spot.

FE&S: Over the course of your career, what's the biggest change you have seen in the industry?

HP: When I first started in this business, there were no buying groups. Also, at that time, we took our list price, gave a discount and that amount would become the sell price. For the last 20 years, we would take the net and work up. Margins have shrunk drastically. AutoQuotes is probably the best thing that has ever happened to this industry. We used to walk into a meeting with 20 catalogs and had to write everything down. In those days, manufacturers wouldn't begin fabricating equipment without a contract in hand. Everything was done by mail because there were no fax machines back then.

FE&S: Describe the experience you want your customers to have when working with you.

HP: I would hope that it would be a great experience for them. I have a big repeat business based on my knowledge of the industry, and I try not to let it always be about price. Anyone can sell on price, but it's more about service and knowledge. I break down my clientele into corporate clients and those who put their hands in their own pockets to pay for an item. I give independent customers more options in terms of price and value, because they are more budget-conscious. With corporate accounts, it's more about perception than price.

FE&S: How do you make sure none of the details get overlooked when working on a project?

HP: I do everything myself from start to finish. I don't have any assistants. I also go to the job site. No one interacts with the client other than myself. I'm also hooked up to my office 24/7. I have an office out of my house and work a lot of weekends.

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