Karen Richardson, Innovative Foodservice Group
"I always want to stand out from the crowd. I don’t want to conform with everything else that’s out there. I want to differentiate myself,” says Karen Richardson, a national accounts sales associate for Innovative Foodservice Group in Miami.
To accomplish this, Richardson relies on a blend of her years of experience, product knowledge, and attention to detail in developing designs, equipment, specifications and more for her customers. Her book of business spans foodservice operators of all shapes and sizes, from chains to hospitals, colleges, hotels and some street business, including country clubs.
Richardson came to Louis Wohl and Sons, a Florida-based foodservice equipment and supplies dealer, 10 years ago, following stints with another dealer as well as a broadline distributor. And in 2018, Louis Wohl became part of Innovative Foodservice Group.
Q: Explain your connection to construction and how it helps you develop designs.
A: Working in construction made me comfortable going into different departments — engineering, for example — and talking to the people that work there. It gives you confidence that you can go in and work with anyone. I know how things should flow in a restaurant, as I’ve been in this business my entire life. So, I don’t question my answers and I don’t have to burden my customers with too many questions. Based on my experience and by listening intently to my customers, I can determine what they need. When you keep doing it, that’s where confidence comes from.
Q: You take pride in following your projects from start to finish, including past installation and startup of the equipment. How does being so involved benefit your customers and your company?
A: The customer does not have to worry if something goes wrong on a job. I work with the installers about what to install first, where it should go and more. The customer pays for the job to be done right, and I do it to make sure the job goes right.
We won’t leave until the job is complete. Every day I go out there, I represent my company as if I own it. If you are not honest with your customers, how can you expect them to trust you? I like to look at things in a preventative way early on to make sure there are no mistakes in the design or equipment specification. It’s not good for our company, nor is it good for our customers. If you don’t approach it this way, jobs can linger for weeks longer than necessary.
Q: Can you share one observation or lesson learned from the COVID-19 pandemic?
A: Our company stepped up to get in ancillary products, such as safety shields and masks, to help protect foodservice and other workers from COVID-19. It was great to see the company step up that way. Lots of other companies are doing this, too. You had to do this. The fabricators that worked for our company had to become safety shield fabricators overnight because other projects were put on hold for the time being.
I also realized a lot about myself. I don’t need as much stuff as I have. I am becoming a minimalist. What’s most important is that you have your health and a roof over your head. We all need to look at things differently.