After serving in operations at California Pizza Kitchen, Pei Wei Asian Diner and Cheesecake Factory, Nikki Roughley wanted a change of pace. “I started a family and wanted to get out of operations, so I moved over to the facilities side at Pei Wei Asian Diner,” she says.
Five years later, Roughley realized she missed interacting with a lot of people and juggling myriad everyday challenges. She joined Wasserstrom Co. four years ago as regional account manager, then was promoted to assistant sales manager last July and quickly developed a successful track record. Beyond sales, she’s also known for taking the time to mentor younger salespeople.
FE&S spoke with Roughley about her operations experience and unique approach with clients.
FE&S: How does your operational background help in your current role?
NR: I understand what the managers and chefs are going through, because I’ve been there. When I walk in to make a sales call, I can typically read their temperament, determine if they’re having a stressful day and gauge how much time they have for me. My background also helps me anticipate the client’s needs, since I know about the busy times, slow times and holidays that impact the restaurant industry.
FE&S: Your book of business is pretty diverse, working with some chains, independents and even hotel operators. How do you keep it all straight?
NR: It’s important to stay organized. I have lots of lists, track information on the computer and use Outlook to set appointments. I also keep task lists and still have a good old-fashioned notebook and Day-Timer planner — the latter of which is my bible. There’s something fulfilling about physically writing everything down and keeping it at the forefront, then the feeling of accomplishment in crossing tasks off the list at the end of the day.
FE&S: What about the dealer sales rep side of the business do you like the most?
NR: I don’t know if I can pinpoint one. At the top of the list is building relationships and helping to create successful businesses alongside clients. I enjoy becoming partners in helping them get to where they want to be.
FE&S: When mentoring younger sales associates, what’s the one key lesson you want them to learn?
NR: It’s important to stop and listen to the needs of the account. For example, you may be excited about a new plate, but a customer may not have the budget for it.
FE&S: How do you keep your product knowledge current?
NR: It can be a lot to keep track of, especially around the NAFEM and NRA shows, but there are several ways I keep my product knowledge current. Many manufacturers send PDFs of new items. We also hold sales meetings and rely on local reps, who I talk to on a weekly basis, to keep abreast of what’s new and exciting.
FE&S: What do you consider your biggest success on the job?
NR: I had one account that wasn’t in the happiest place when I took them on. I made sure I was at the top of my game, followed up with them often and now we’re their go-to dealer. At times, it was really challenging, especially in the beginning, but I stuck with it and was determined. Now the tables have turned and we have a great partnership.