After three years of playing football in the NFL, Mike Perrino was on a mission to find a fulfilling career. He first considered banking but, after an internship, determined it was not for him. Perrino's uncle, who runs Home Run Inn Pizza, suggested his nephew interview for a sales position with the chain's dealer, North Riverside, Ill.-based Edward Don & Co.
This was the start of Perrino's 22-year career as a DSR. "I started as a street sale rep, but now work as a key accounts/multi unit guy," Perrino says.
FE&S: Are there skills you learned as a football player that helped you become successful as a DSR?
MP: Football does not directly relate to my current career. It did provide me with a good work ethic, which serves a person well no matter what their career choice. No one works harder than me. Preparation is a part of working hard.
FE&S: How did working with independents prepare you for working with chains?
MP: If you work with independents long enough, eventually someone will ask you to help expand their business. The restaurant industry will pull you along in this way if you're willing to work at it. It's about learning as you go, because there is no DSR university. Every lesson I learned was either taught to me by a customer or uncovered from a mistake of mine.
FE&S: What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
MP: Right now, collections is the most difficult aspect of my job. People don't have the traditional financing sources that they had two or three years ago. There also is a very small margin of error in terms of cash flow. Operators can't tap home equity or credit card lines to keep cash flow moving. I have always had to work with customers on this, but it is more prevalent now.
FE&S: How do you leverage today's technology, like cell phones, e-mail, laptops, etc., to your advantage?
MP: Edward Don operates off of one business platform all over the country. For example, today I talked with a Massachusetts client and was able to walk them through an issue on our web site. Even though I only see two-thirds of my client base once or twice a year, it's like I'm always there. This wasn't the case 20 years ago. Now e-mails, faxes and web sites help support a better way of doing business. Technology has made me much more efficient.
FE&S: What goes into a good kitchen design?
MP: The menu helps build the kitchen and is the first thing that needs to be addressed. The problem is, operators are under pressure for financing, permits, etc. and haven't given thought to the menu. The way you design a kitchen is by menu items. We need to know what percentage of the sales will be meat and poultry. If the main menu items are charbroiled steaks and chops, we need to include a line of equipment for these items.
FE&S: How do you keep your product knowledge current?
MP: I read magazines, like Foodservice Equipment & Supplies, and go to trade shows. Trade shows can seem redundant after 20 years, but 20 percent of the items there are new. It's important to find these products.
FE&S: What are the most important attributes of a successful DSR?
MP: DSRs need the support of their family, because much of the work is done on the off hours, including nights and weekends. Reps also need the support of their company and management. I'm fortunate to have support from both ends.
FE&S: How do you effectively utilize your in-house staff at the company?
MP: I just came from a site meeting regarding a new dish room. During the meeting, I was able to e-mail my staff to revise the drawing and quote and request a ship date. A good support staff is invaluable. I also use a partnership approach to selling. My partner, Jim Pope, has been a great asset to me. After 40 years in the business, he is retiring. I will be partnering with Curtis Schatz, who is new to the industry. We have different strengths, which works out well.
FE&S: What is your business philosophy?
MP: The title listed on my cards and e-mail says, "EverythingButTheFoodGuy". My point is if you're not happy with the way your imprinted napkins turned out; you won't come back to me with your bigger business. It's a customer satisfaction issue. Loyalty and support is important. If I'm not providing equipment, then I won't provide smallwares and vice versa. I want to be all things to my customers.
FE&S: What are your career goals for this year?
MP: When you're a commission sales person, the goal is to make more money than the year before. Despite the economy, I'm meeting my adjusted income goals for this year.