As a 22-year veteran of the foodservice industry, Brian Van Skyock's background includes a variety of positions such as director of store development, facilities director, equipment specialist, CAD designer and project manager for a number of different companies.
Wearing two hats, salesman and designer, at Indianapolis-based C&T Design and Equipment Co. since 2001, Van Skyock is a customer consultant for institutional foodservice accounts. His responsibilities include designing and negotiating equipment packages for foodservice operators spanning an array of projects.
Van Skyock, who attended Ball State University College of Architecture and Planning and served in the U.S. Marine Corps, is known for adding value every step of the way for customers and supply chain partners alike.
FE&S: Describe your approach to working with supply chain partners.
BVS: I try to build loyal and trustworthy relationships with all of my suppliers. I treat them the same way that I want to be treated. I work with a lot of good suppliers and have strong relationships with them. I have them assist me in various ways, such as accompanying me on sales calls or having meetings so I become more knowledgeable about new items. I work with all of my reps and regularly utilize them to help me sell equipment. I use their expertise to help me determine which equipment items best fit my customers' needs.
FE&S: How do you keep your product knowledge current?
BVS: I meet often with many manufacturer reps and regularly attend lunch and learn meetings, which are training sessions in our test kitchen where the reps let us kick the tires of their equipment. As a result, when I go to market with these units, I'm more knowledgeable about how they operate and if the equipment will work for my customers.
FE&S: What's the key to making sure a customer gets the right piece of equipment to meet their needs?
BVS: I work with my customers to better understand what their expectations are for the equipment that they want to purchase. Many times, after listening to my customer, I can suggest the right piece of equipment to meet their needs based on a history of selling similar equipment to a different customer for a similar application. Today, it's about giving operators the most value for their money. That is true now more than ever before, because the economy has changed the dynamics of the industry.
FE&S: What part of the job excites you the most?
BVS: I enjoy being in the business of people. I like getting on the road, meeting customers face-to-face and becoming their problem-solver. As both an equipment salesman and designer, I get to sell customers what they actually want. When they have a problem, I'm out there getting the right piece of equipment to do the job they need. In my many years in this industry, I've discovered that I learn new things constantly. On almost every other sales call, I see something I haven't seen before, and this is intriguing. I have to constantly tap into my resources to come up with solutions.
FE&S: What's the most important lesson you have learned over the course of your career?
BVS: One of the most important lessons I've learned is to stay knowledgeable and up-to-date on all aspects of our industry. Having had the opportunity to be mentored by some very successful people, I understand the value of learning and also in teaching others and setting a good example. This is even more important with the increasing competition in the industry today.
FE&S: What's the biggest challenge facing institutional foodservice operators?
BVS: The cost of equipment has grown so much; it is that much harder to find quality equipment and equipment packages at a good price that fits within a project's budget. And it is difficult to obtain necessary financing. Today's operators need durable, long-lasting equipment at a budget price.