About a year later, the economic downturn forced Steve Ruck to rethink his career options again. He joined Chefs' Toys, starting out in inside sales and inventory management, before eventually becoming an outside sales rep. He's now been at the company for about seven years.
"I started by developing smallwares contracts for the dealership, then transitioned into heavy equipment sales," says Ruck.
Drawing on his background as a contractor and rep, Ruck created a book of business that consists of regional chain accounts and larger project work, such as hotel-related foodservice projects.
FE&S: Your stepfather works in the foodservice industry, too. What advice has he given you? What lessons have you learned from him?
SR: My stepfather, John Muller, has enjoyed a lot of success in his career. We've fortunately had the pleasure of working together on several projects in recent years. The most important thing I gleaned from working with him is his confidence and morality in his business practice. Also, he has provided me with advice on what a contract should look like and how to help customers value engineer projects without sacrificing quality.
FE&S: What goes into developing a good equipment spec?
SR: Clients are diverse, and everyone comes from a different angle and is looking for something unique. For those who are price-driven, my job is to help them understand the first cost is not always the final cost. It starts with recognizing customers' needs, knowing the application and having
expansive product knowledge.
FE&S: You earned your CFSP designation. Why was this important to you?
SR: I want to be excellent at what I do, so when I found out about CFSP, I thought it was a unique way to grow professionally. The designation gives me more credibility as well as added confidence in what I'm selling.
FE&S: You're known for having equally good working relationships with your customers and suppliers. What's your secret or approach to creating such harmony throughout a project team?
SR: Across the board, it's knowing the people I'm working with have needs and are trying to accomplish something as much as I am. When I approach reps and customers, I'm not looking to take advantage of anyone, but instead play a part in their success.
FE&S: You have a diverse background. How did your experiences from your previous roles help you better serve customers today?
SR: My background in contracting allowed me to seek out and obtain my own contracting license this past year. Then, with a licensed employee, Chefs' Toys was able to acquire its own prefab contracting license. We can now provide full installations to complement our equipment supply and, in turn, this provides me with the opportunity to seek out larger projects with confidence.