John Roche, Kittredge Equipment Company
After graduating from college in 1984, John Roche was looking for a job. His father in-law had just started his own foodservice equipment and supplies dealership and invited Roche to join the fledgling company. Roche has been in the dealer community ever since.
Roche joined Agawam, Mass.-based Kittredge Equipment Company six years ago. His diverse clientele as project manager and sales consultant includes schools, colleges and universities, corporate feeders, healthcare operators and assisted living facilities, among others. Through thoughtful hard work and attention to detail, Roche has developed a well-crafted reputation for providing valuable insight and expertise to the operators and general contractors that often are his customers. He does this while balancing the needs of his supply chain partners and company.
Q: You started in this business more than 30 years ago. What keeps you so connected and engaged?
A: It’s in my blood and l like what I do. And having the full support from Kittredge makes me want to do more. I played competitive sports my whole life and carried that never-wanting-to-lose philosophy into my work. I am usually managing five to six projects at a time and it’s never boring, which helps, too.
Q: What goes into specifying the proper piece of equipment for a typical application?
A: It’s all in the basics. When you meet with the customer, ask what they are looking for, what they are using it for, what their expectations are for the equipment, do they like any manufacturers and when do they need it. All that information is necessary to ensure they get the biggest bang for their buck. And as much information as I can throw back at them makes it easier on the customer to make a decision.
Q: You work on projects that span a variety of operator segments and have a reputation for managing the details and being very present at these jobs. What’s one key to making all of that happen?
A: I am a detailed person and that starts with communication. We are responsible for many aspects of a job, so we have to communicate with many people and that starts within our own company, including the estimators, purchasing, our CAD designer, accounts receivable/accounts payable, the warehouse department, the installers and management. They all play a critical role in successfully managing a job. I also talk with local manufacturers’ reps and the factories themselves. One way or another you have to talk to a lot of people to make sure a job is successful so being proactive is key in making things happen and resolving any issues that might arise.
Q: Over the course of your career you’ve done a good job of first earning an operator’s business and then growing that partnership. What’s the key to making it happen?
A: Whether it’s a sales customer or a private contractor, they will want to work with you again if they trust you. So, trust is the key. That means giving them the right product the first go around. This includes fair pricing, knowledge, and support when they need it and delivering on schedule.
Q: How has the pandemic affected the way you work with your customers and supply chain partners?
A: Regular sales slipped a bit, but we’ve never been busier with project work. In terms of product orders, we are seeing more in the form of food shields and crowd control devices. I had a very well-known local institution place a large order for crowd control barriers. I had to make a bunch of calls to source them because they were in such short supply.