As part of my duties as a volunteer leader for the Foodservice Equipment Distributors Association, I was appointed to serve as assistant program chair for the 2015 annual convention. In this position, I had the opportunity to speak on any industry issue that stirred my passions. But what would be of interest to such a diverse group of foodservice equipment dealers and manufacturers?

Jay-2By Jay Ringelheim, President, Globe Equipment Company, Bridgeport, Conn. 
The foodservice industry’s demographic, particularly in the equipment and supplies community, continues to change rapidly. I am approaching senior citizen status, and addressing those issues that stirred my passions 20, 30, or 40 years ago would not be relevant today. So I took a shot at the only thing I was passionate about: my position in my own business. Specifically, at 66 years old, how do I emotionally handle the changes coming at me?

I began to answer this question by looking at certain areas of my business. Historically, the relationships and loyalty between dealers and suppliers, and dealers and customers, served as the basis for many successful businesses. Today, customers rely on technology, which may eliminate the human connection in the industry. Whereas before, dealers strived to dominate their local markets; currently, zip codes are irrelevant. And thanks to the internet, I suspect we are on the verge of getting our first intergalactic order. (I want to be the first!)

My relationship with vendors has also evolved. With consolidation of vendors and public ownership of companies, the culture of the manufacturing industry has changed. No longer is top management controlled by one individual or family; rather, public ownership accelerates the demand for short-term performance. This leads to fewer people having lifetime careers with one company, and often, frequent changes in career paths. You need a scorecard to tell who the players are and what positions they play.

This shifting of people, positions and commitment is tough for me to understand. I firmly believe that an individual is the face of a business. However, it took a new generation to impress upon me that all of our values can remain intact while developing new relationships. With my history losing its relevance, our younger employees have become successful in handling today’s relationships in their own fashion.

This industry has been good to me and my family. I am thankful for that. However, change continues to provide challenges to the way I have always done business. When my son Brian decided to work in this industry 10 years ago I wondered how I could possibly transplant all the knowledge I had accumulated through my career to him. What I ultimately found out is that what I have learned is not what he needs to know to be successful. As a matter of fact, I now watch with envy how he handles problems, successes, and relationships and I ask myself how I can learn what he knows.