Eric Norman, FCSI, Vice President, MVP Services Group, Dubuque, Iowa
After starting at his family’s foodservice consulting firm at a young age, Eric Norman, FCSI, v. p. of MVP Services Group, has spent his 12-year career inspiring young professionals to get involved in the industry.
Norman joined MVP, his father Ed Norman’s foodservice facilities design consultancy, shortly after graduating high school. Ed Norman, FCSI, (and a recipient of one of this year’s FER Industry Service Awards) put Eric to work as a part-time office assistant. After earning his business management degree from nearby Loras College, the younger Norman joined the staff full time.
After attending his first few industry meetings and events, Norman noticed a lack of young professionals.
“That really was something that I grabbed a hold of and made my mission,” he says. “If we don’t have young people coming up, what happens to our companies and the consulting industry as a whole?”
Norman joined FCSI in 2000. (His dad was recently elected president of the society’s worldwide board of directors.) As a member, he has helped start several programs aimed at encouraging young professionals to get involved. In fact, his volunteer work earned him the 2012 FCSI Worldwide Service Award and it influenced his selection as FER’s first Young Lion—Consultant.
One program Norman helped co-found within FCSI is ICON: Inspiring Consultants through Opportunity and Networking. He partnered with Pamela Eaton of Cini-Little Int’l. on the project. Launched in 2008, the program serves as a forum for new and young members to get involved in the society.
“We were looking at how there are not a lot of young people in this business,” he says. “We started asking ‘how do we get people into the consulting world?’ and then ‘how do we get them involved in the society?’”
Norman also was an original member, serving as chair, of the FCSI Academy Task Force. The team developed an online resource library to help promote the free sharing of knowledge between society members.
“I believe that this sharing of knowledge within the society will help new or young consultants because it gives them a place to go to find information,” he says.
During his daily work life at MVP, Norman says he feels a sense of accomplishment when he visits one of his completed design projects.
“It’s such a good feeling, years after your design was actually completed, to go into a new facility that just opened and see the final, tangible result of everything that you worked on,” he says.
His responsibilities as company v.p. vary from day to day, marking one of his favorite aspects of the job. He attends project meetings, works on the CAD portion of designing a facility, follows up on projects under construction and handles management advisory services. He also loves to travel for work. He enjoys the exposure to a variety of foodservice operations and appreciates how traveling broadens his knowledge of the industry. He recently spent time in Russia working for two clients.
Another part of his job includes continuing education and furthering his knowledge of equipment and the industry as a whole. Now more than ever, he says, consultants need to embrace technology and know what questions to ask and what to present to clients.
“A lot of times clients might not see the new and best things coming out so, being able to show them what’s out there, what technology is new, how things have changed, is important,” he says. “It really floors them to see what can be done now compared with five years ago.”
Reflecting on his career, Norman says one of his biggest obstacles was getting people to take him seriously at a young age.
“When they first saw me, they would sometimes say, ‘What’s this guy doing here?’” he says. “But in conversation, they’d realize I had some knowledge and experience and that I had design skills.”
Norman adds that joining FCSI was a key element in developing his career.
“I found coming up through FCSI that I was able to build a great network at a young age, and it’s proven invaluable over the years,” he says. “I’ve learned so much from the people that have been doing this and have been in the business for a long time; you make a lot of great friends.”