John McCurdy started in the foodservice industry as a dishwasher before earning a degree from Purdue University’s School of Hospitality and Tourism Management in 1987. He also spent time in the hotel business holding positions such as front desk clerk, night auditor, executive steward, room service manager and dining room manager. McCurdy has worked for the HGA Group, an independent manufacturers’ rep firm based in Brighton, Mich., since 1990. McCurdy spent 10 years in the western Michigan market for HGA and now resides in Fishers, Ind. He is been married for 25 years to his wife Donna, and they have three children, Audrey, Jordan, and Brendan. He loves sports (Purdue, Pacers, Colts, Tigers) and also enjoys fishing.
FE&S: What keeps you working in the foodservice industry?
John McCurdy: I love this industry and I love being a rep. The industry is so dynamic, it changes every day. There is always someone gaining or losing power or a factory releases a new product that changes the game. As a result, every so often the sands shift in our industry and it keeps us on our toes. And you don’t always like it but our competition keeps us on our toes and forces us to look at what we do.
FE&S: Who was the person that influenced your career most?
John McCurdy: My former boss Ed Gregory. He was a larger-than-life character in this industry. He was devoted to the foodservice industry and was very energetic. That was very contagious. Ed always had a vision five or ten years down the road and that gets you to broaden your perspective. Yes, you have to focus on today, this week and next month but you also have to look five years down the road to have an idea of where you are going. This gives you something to steer toward and an understanding of how your business will function in the future.
FE&S: How has the foodservice industry changed for the better?
John McCurdy: If I had to pick one thing it would be communication. Thanks to email, the internet and now social media, communication is instantaneous. It used to move at such a slow pace and now it happens so fast. As a result, everyone is more in tune with one another.
FE&S: What aspect of your career gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment?
John McCurdy: I enjoy representing a manufacturer and helping that company grow its business and, in doing so, helping dealers and operators see the benefits of these products in meeting their needs. The second thing is: I love working with a customer that is really upset about something that has happened with our products or company and turning that into a complete positive so they will do business with us again. As you grow in this industry you get confidence in your abilities and that confidence leads you to develop a sense that you can make things happen. And when you finally make that happen it is worth it.
FE&S: If I were just starting out in the foodservice industry, what advice would you give me?
John McCurdy: Learn as much as you can and when an opportunity presents itself, grab it. Sometimes, that opportunity might not present itself again. That’s the difference in our business: being able to recognize an opportunity and having the courage to grab it. The good news is that there is so much opportunity in our business and that will only grow.
FE&S: What do you look for in a business partner?
John McCurdy: Honesty. Integrity. Work ethic. Loyalty. When you have a business there has to be trust and that is probably the first thing you need to establish and those attributes are the cornerstones for building trust. And you want someone to have the strengths that you don’t to help round out your skill set and company.