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: How has the role of the rep changed over the years?
John McCurdy: The biggest challenge is that there is a lot more responsibility for the rep before and after the sale. There is a lot more technical information and application information that is now required before the sale, and then after the sale we need to address more operational and service issues that come up once the operator has the product.
FE&S: Is that good or bad?
John McCurdy: For our company, that’s part of our core competency. We are involved with the customer throughout the product’s entire life cycle. But this is also challenging due to the nature of shrinking commissions, which makes it harder to offer more service. But that’s not unique to us. Everyone in the industry faces that challenge.
FE&S: If you were not working in foodservice, what would you likely be doing?
John McCurdy: (Laughing) I would be playing professional basketball. Of course I would have to grow to 6’5” and learn to make a jump shot... But I enjoy teaching and coaching so I would pursue something in those fields. In college, I was a biology major and thought I was going to work in forestry. While in college I also worked in the operations side of the business and did not like it. But I found that I did enjoy the sales and marketing side. So my personality attributes really fit with being a manufacturers’ rep.
FE&S: Would you encourage your children to work in this business?
John McCurdy: Yes, if they were interested. I would not force them to be involved or even try to convince them. My daughter is looking at art education and that seems to be her passion. And I would encourage all of my children to pursue their passion.
FE&S: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in the foodservice industry?
John McCurdy: Don’t underestimate anyone. This industry is full of people that started as dishwashers and cooks who are now CEOs. So you have to take everyone seriously and give them respect because you don’t know where the next purchasing agent or executive will come from.
Click here to read part one of the interview with John McCurdy.