Lenny Douglass, Bargreen Ellingson
Lenny Douglas thought he wanted to be an engineer. After enrolling at the University of Colorado to pursue a degree in his chosen field, Douglas quickly realized engineering was not for him. In need of a job, he connected with a friend’s father who ran a rep group on the food side of the restaurant industry. While there, Douglas learned about foodservice equipment and supplies dealers and eventually one invited him to interview for a job. That was more than 19 years ago, and he’s never looked back.
“I liked the idea of taking on my own destiny by selling to the customers myself. The idea of building up a local territory by getting to know those operators and those businesses appealed to me,” Douglas recalls.
Douglas started in street sales, where he spent roughly three years before getting into sales management. He then managed the sales team, sales support, the showroom, etc. Before long, Douglas had 25 people reporting to him. Then he had the chance to move into national accounts and did that for the last six years before eventually making a move to Bargreen Ellingson’s Denver office in 2018 where he continues to work mainly with chains, mostly in the fast-casual space.
Q: How has the role of the dealer evolved since you first started working in the industry?
A: When I started, if you wanted spec sheets to a particular model of equipment you had to go to the dealer’s catalog wall where you would grab the manufacturer’s catalog and look up what you needed. Then AutoQuotes came out and changed the way we gather that information. Now there’s tons of information on the internet, which helps, too. Yet it’s evolved to the point where the customer may have more information about what they are calling about than you have. So, you must have an idea of the customers’ needs to guide them to a solution. It’s too easy to write an order for what is not the right solution. As a dealer sales rep you are a resource to the customer in that you are a product expert. To provide solutions you needed access to information to solve problems more quickly, which the internet and AutoQuotes provides. The quicker you could solve their problems the quicker they would call you again.
Q: For a fast-growing client you handled 170 projects since the start of the pandemic and have another 250 projects on the books. What’s the key to managing all the details correctly to keep these projects moving forward?
A: It’s a balance between making sure the day gets done well and you are also carving out time to plan ahead. When a customer grows at that rate of speed, as a product and supply chain expert you have to be able to plan ahead because they are not experts in those areas. It’s also important to consolidate the supply chain. Evolving their needs into smaller subsets of partners will simplify the supply chain process. Fewer vendors allows us to build stronger vendor partnerships and forecast better. That way we can scale together.
Q: Supply chain issues have been a hot topic throughout the foodservice industry for roughly a year. Have they affected your projects? If so, how have you addressed them?
A: We’ve had to focus more on having plan Bs available and ready. This specifically applies to non-essential product categories where we need to have approved alternates in place. We have to work closer with the contractors and franchisees to make sure we can adapt what it is we are delivering or expected to provide while they continue to complete the project. That may mean bringing plumbing fixtures earlier and showing up with key pieces of equipment later because they were not ready prior to the end of the project.