A foodservice lifer, Danny Collis is principal of the Collis Group, a Richmond Hill, Ontario-based manufacturers’ rep firm. Danny got his start in the foodservice industry at 15 years old working as a bus boy and progressed from there. After spending several years working for Garland Canada, Danny became an independent manufacturer’s rep in the 1990s before eventually starting his own firm. Today the Collis Group is nine foodservice professionals strong and represents a variety of foodservice equipment and supplies manufacturers in Canada. In addition, Danny is president of the Manufacturers’ Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry and in 2011 he received FE&S’ Top Achiever-Rep Award.
FE&S: You are very active in MAFSI, serving as its president. What have you learned being involved with MAFSI as a volunteer?
Danny Collis: I have learned that there are so many challenges in so many markets. What may be a problem for someone in New York may not be the same issues faced by someone in a market as nearby as Ohio. That is why we at MAFSI have a great board. We get to discuss all of these issues and present them to our members, making this a very rewarding experience for sure.
FE&S: What do you look for in a business partner?
Danny Collis: The term business partner seems to be thrown around pretty easily these days. Finding the right business partner is hard. Anyone with a business partner knows that. As a rep we have many partners and I look for ones with like thinking. Manufacturers have to fit for you. I am an honest guy and actually dumped a line because the factory flat out lied to an end user. That’s not the way I work. If I don’t know something I don’t make it up.
FE&S: What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you?
Danny Collis: When I was at Garland I applied to become an outside rep and the job was between myself and another guy. We went to lunch and the senior reps ordered a beer so I followed their lead. The other guy who I was competing with said, “if the company’s paying then I’ll have a Singapore Sling,” which was considerably more expensive. The more experienced guys at the table told me don’t ever take advantage of the company! I still will never order anything that I am not prepared to pay for myself.
FE&S: What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in the foodservice industry?
Danny Collis: Never lie. I don’t like liars. Make a sale based on knowledge.
FE&S: Finish this sentence: Nobody knows I...
Danny Collis: ...have numerous tattoos.
FE&S: Knowing what you now know, would you still pursue a career in foodservice?
Danny Collis: For sure I would. This industry is based on hospitality and I like meeting people especially over good wine and good food.
FE&S: If I were just starting out in the foodservice industry, what advice would you give me?
Danny Collis: Become really good at what you do. Be a professional at what you do. Our industry has issues keeping younger people, especially DSRs. It takes years to get really good but if price is your only value proposition then you will become a commodity like a six burner range. Be able to tell someone why to buy that six burner range and you will be unchallengeable.
Click here to read part one of the interview with Danny Collis.