Embracing Change-Makers

Achievement comes in many guises. There is lifetime achievement, individual records or accomplishments and the fulfillment of the needs of another, just to name a few relevant to foodservice E&S. We focus on achievement in both of this month's features, chronicling the life and career of Hall of Fame inductee Bob Don ("An Architect Of An Enduring Design," page 28) and profiling this year's Top Achiever Dealer, Consultant, Manufacturers' Rep and Service Agent (beginning on page 34). Nonetheless, I think that we in this industry need to recognize achievement more regularly and make that acknowledgement a part of our management cultures.

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As has been pointed out in this column previously, we are an industry with structural weaknesses and disfunctions that are going to hamstring profitable new sales growth for many firms till inevitable market corrections take hold. However, we are also an industry far more aware of our problems than even a year ago, and one embarked on a multi-part transition towards new business models, more selective selling alliances and more efficient and innovative ways of conducting daily operations. It seems logical that what we need to be sure to do next is to encourage the sort of initiative-seizing, ownership-taking and precedent-setting behavior that creates new and better practices: that is, achievement.

As you read over the histories of the outstanding E&S professionals in this issue, it might be useful to note how many types of achievement have defined their careers and helped them stand out among their peers. Examples include continuing professional education and skill-building, the ability to anticipate the needs of customers to keep sales growing and the vision to build market-responsive business structures that provide the maximum number of profitable products and services. And then there is one more: The wisdom to hire and learn from the most talented people they could recruit into or retain in their organizations.

What we need to do next is to encourage the sort of initiative-seizing, ownership-taking and precedent-setting behavior that creates new and better practices.

No one, no matter how adroit their skills or all-encompassing their understanding of the market, can individually guarantee the success of any business enterprise. That's why it seems so important that, regardless of how large or small your personal responsibilities in your organization may be, we do all we can to encourage and acclaim the productive accomplishments of our colleagues. That quiet individual in your IT department may be the most qualified person in the firm to extend your brand onto the internet. That salesperson who best balances the need to provide customers with E&S most appropriate for their programs with the ability to sell your highest-margin lines may be your most logical new training leader. And what about the Accounting department employee who has been studying up on software that could take your office paperless, the new warehouse manager with ideas on how to improve slot allocations and order staging or the member of your design team who can create 3-D layouts and elevations to help clients finally understand their kitchen plans - are any of these individuals not worthy of your support, encouragement and recognition?

Given current economic and political conditions, it seems unlikely that any general upturn in foodservice E&S is on the horizon. It therefore follows that members of our industry will have to think and plan their way to improving performance and profits. This will require contributions from everyone in our organizations and a preparedness to initiate new programs and unfamiliar practices.

If we carry on the status quo, opportunities for a stronger business future will be lost for many firms. If, however, we embrace change - and our change-makers - we all have a better chance to increase profits, recruit qualified next-generation employees and give every one of our current colleagues the best opportunity to contribute their own Top Achievements.

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