Glen Philbrook of TriMark United East personifies the notion that this is a people business.
“It's all about attitude,” said Philbrook, 45. “I come across as, I think, somebody who is honest and sincere. I don't consider myself a salesman. I consider myself an OPIG — Order Processing Information Gatherer. That's what I do, I process orders. Perhaps I process more orders than some others, but I can't imagine that.”
Attitude is the most important thing in this line of work, Philbrook said, “because I think it helps with the communication with the customer. This is absolutely a people business. People still buy from people — no matter how good your prices are, no matter how well the company represents itself.”
Philbrook came to TriMark 17 years ago when it was United Restaurant Equipment. Before that, he'd worked with his father, Robert, at Philbrook's in Portsmouth, N.H., a family business dealing small equipment and supplies.
The majority of his clients today are independent restaurants, where the “people business” side of the restaurant industry is more clearly in evidence. As he put it, “You have to be a chameleon when you're on the road. You're dealing with everybody from the more laid-back operators who allow me to do my thing without questioning it down to the most hard-driven managers.”
Philbrook meets with about 70 of his 150 active accounts each week, and communicates with still more on the phone and via e-mail. All told, he estimated that he puts about 35,000 miles on his car each year visiting clients along the sea coast of New Hampshire and Maine.
The list of mentors throughout his career has been long, and begins, naturally, with his father. “He really taught me how to enjoy life,” Philbrook said.
While he claimed to question as to whether he serves as a mentor to his colleagues, Philbrook added, “I would say I bring a breath of fresh air sometimes to the organization because of my sense of humor. I take my job seriously, don't get me wrong. But it's my attitude that, ˜Damn it, we will get by.'”
Thus far in 2005, he has done more than just get by. “My numbers are up. I'm going to make quota, and I've had a lot of support from the company.” By year's end, he expects to account for close to $2 million in sales.
A plus on the home front, he said, has been that his wife, Marcye, has been “tolerant of my behavior, and my two boys are now very responsible young adults.” Son Benjamin is 19, and Iain is 16.
And the year to come? “I'm an optimist,” Philbrook declared. “I'd say it's going to be just as good as '05.
I just hope my customers stay with me, that's all. It's very competitive.”
Philbrook said he doesn't let the maneuverings of competing dealers weigh on him, or affect how he does what he does. “First and foremost, my biggest competitor is me. I really can't focus on my competitor in each individual account. All I can do is to do my best to get the information to my customers and to close the sales deal.”
Looking at how his role as DSR has evolved over the years, Philbrook pointed to the fact that he has adopted the role more of a guide or teacher than simply an order-taker with many of his clients. “I would say it's more on a consulting basis today,” he noted. “You've got to have the knowledge of the product that you're selling, as opposed to just having the right price.”
Experience hath its privileges, Philbrook pointed out. “I'm getting a lot of referrals at this stage of my career, and referrals are much better than cold calls any day. The customer has already got a sense that you're worth speaking to if somebody else has referred you to them.”