Company Name: Top O' The Table (the smallwares and tabletop division of the Zink Foodservice Group)
Title: Territory Manager, Central Ohio
Industry Involvement: MAFSI (national board member and member of Industry and Issues Committee), Mid America MAFSI – Treasurer, Finance committee, Golf committee chair
Years in Foodservice: Six
Educational Background: JD, Law from Cleveland State University's Cleveland-Marshall College of Law; BS in Political Science from Arizona State University
What excites you most about the foodservice industry? One of my favorite aspects of this industry is the ever-changing and evolving nature of technology and trends. I love to work with an end user to create a tabletop ambiance that far exceeds their expectations and creates the perfect dining experience for their customer. Tabletop is an art and I am fortunate to represent some of the industry's premier brands that allow me to express this creative side. Whether it's china or melamine, glass or plastic, I am armed with the ability to outfit an operation with the best product to promote their brand. Let's face it: tabletop is sexy.
If you could improve one thing about the industry, what would it be? The foodservice industry is a great place to be. If I could offer an area for improvement it would be to harness the power of social media (Facebook, Twitter etc.) for use in equipment and smallwares sales. We see these outlets pop up in foodservice but I think we are leaving a lot of untapped potential. I am currently working on projects with outside sources to understand how to best utilize social media for increased exposure and sales in the foodservice industry. Social media or bust!
What's the most important lesson you have learned? The most important lesson I have learned is that people's styles of doing business vary tremendously. I have been so fortunate to have learned from some of the best reps: Tom Greenwald, Jim Zink, Mike McGuire and Steve Castle. Each of whom has a distinctively different approach to managing business, but each of whom has taught me invaluable practices. I have been fortunate enough to pick-up on the variety and form my own style utilizing techniques and skills that each of them bring to the table. Listening to the needs and expectations of each customer has helped me to hone in on the most effective method for doing business with him/her. Having this "melting pot" of mentors has shown me that varied technique, attentiveness, and focus will yield success with the style of any customer or principle.
What attracted you to the industry? I am often asked why I joined TOTT and decided not to practice law. It boils down to a quality of life issue. Every career has elements of stress and potential for burnout. The legal industry happens to have a vastly higher level of these! I approached my father mid-way through law school, having seen that the alternative in foodservice might be a better fit. I am very much like my father and need to have challenges, goals and variety to succeed. I knew that he had found these in foodservice and I knew that I could too. Much to his surprise, I joined TOTT and have never looked back. I did finish law school and am licensed to practice law in Ohio, but I would much rather talk to someone about their tabletop needs than their Sarbanes-Oxley liability.
What has been your proudest accomplishment? I have been very blessed to have hit some major milestones in my career already. I have garnered the support of my peers as it comes to my involvement in MAFSI both locally and nationally. I am currently serving on a rep council for a major brand. I was awarded the Sales Rep of the Year from my company in 2010. I have helped raise money to grant scholarships to deserving students with ties to the foodservice industry, via Mid America MAFSI. I've even won first place in an FE&S tabletop award. Collectively, these milestones compose my proudest accomplishments.
What's the best career advice you have been given? Always do the right thing. This is not only a fundamental principle for how I practice my career; it is a fundamental principle for how I live my life. In business, it means all parties walk away feeling positive about the transaction. Every scenario is different, but you have to follow your instinct to guide you there. The key is to listen. Stop talking and listen. You will find the right answers by doing so.
Describe the biggest challenge you have overcome. I am a second generation rep and my father has big shoes to fill! He has been involved in foodservice and specifically, Top O' The Table, for more than 30 years. He set a very high standard for being a manufacturer's rep amongst our customers and our manufacturers. They expect no less from me and in fact, I suspect they expect more. Earning the respect of my coworkers, our manufacturers, our customers, and our competition has been my greatest challenge. Ultimately, time, energy, consistency, and results have allowed me to overcome this obstacle.
What makes you want to stay in the industry? I know it's cliché, but the people that I work with everyday keep me enthralled in the industry. We are fortunate to have folks from all walks of life. The demeanor of a foodservice professional is attractive to me: responsible, hard-working, dedicated, but also fun, energetic, and trend-setting. I have often used the term "work harder, play harder" to describe how I live my life and I see this mantra mirrored by foodservice professionals every day.