Milessa Jannik, Ace Mart Restaurant Supply
In the foodservice industry, and in most any other business segment for that matter, there remains a place for someone with a strong work ethic, a desire to learn and an ability to put their customers’ needs first. Such is the case with Milessa Jannik, a senior key account sales consultant for San Antonio-based Ace Mart Restaurant Supply. Jannik was so confident in her sales ability and willingness to learn that she transitioned from a career in the investment business to one in the foodservice industry. And the rest is history. Jannik talks about what prompted such a transition, how she keeps her product knowledge current and more.
Q: What’s one lesson you learned when you worked on the showroom floor that still guides your approach today?
A: One of the best things my boss ever told me is that we are all business people, and we are all making business decisions. We should come to them with ideas on how to fix things and make things better.
Q: Projects are notorious for coming to the table either with severe budget challenges or unrealistic timelines. How do you handle these types of circumstances?
A: There’s never a perfect world situation. You have to look ahead for potential challenges and be prepared for them. Once you have an understanding of the potential challenges, start developing potential solutions. Remember, everything is fixable. By being prepared, you can make your customer happy and advocate for your customer.
Q: With some customers, you used to walk in through the back door of a restaurant and talk to everyone before finally sitting down with the owner or manager. How did that approach help you better serve your customers?
A: Restaurant general managers want to take care of their teams because when they do, their restaurants operate more smoothly. Approaching a client visit this way really showed the decision-maker that I understand and care about their team, too. The team likes to see you and when you show them you understand what they do, they realize not only that you can help them but that you care about their business and not just making a sale.
Q: You are known for having quite the thirst for product information and more. How do you go about fortifying your product knowledge?
A: At the beginning, it was just diving in. When I first started, I took a call from a big customer. I was just learning about the industry, so I asked him lots of questions. He ended up calling our headquarters and said: “Hey, there’s someone new over there and I want her to take care of my company because she seems dedicated and detail oriented.” When you sell your first refrigerator, you start learning about that product. When you sell your first tilt skillet, the same happens. And with every project you get a chance to learn more and more about those pieces of equipment. With tabletop, it becomes an exercise of who makes what, how the finishes work and then learning how to piece it all together. Product knowledge is really ongoing and a matter of experience.
Q: As the restaurant industry starts to distance itself from the pandemic, what’s one development that you find exciting?
A: I have one customer who completely shut down due to COVID for one year. They are trying to bring their restaurant back and make it better than ever. They are bringing in new equipment, redesigning their tabletop and more. So it’s fun to see someone who was successful really focusing on their future. And of those that stayed open, it was great to see all they did to keep their businesses open and operational so we could all keep working.