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Publisher's Viewpoint - Robin Ashton

Publisher's Viewpoint - Robin AshtonFounding partner Robin Ashton, president and publisher, is a true industry veteran in spite of is boyish appearance, he's covered foodservice since 1978, and E&S exclusively since 1982, as an editor and publisher at several magazines.

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A Push To Bring Fresh Talent To E&S

February 26, 2014

Mike Whiteley, the new president of the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers, has goals and a vision. The Hatco executive was installed as president in New Orleans on Feb. 8 during the group’s Annual Meeting & Management Workshop. He takes over from Tom Campion of Franke, who, among other achievements, was the first NAFEM president to front a rock band. Tom did a great job moving the association and the industry forward during his tenure. We all should drop him a note of thanks. 

Now it’s Mike’s turn. During his inauguration speech, he outlined the goals for his term, which he based on conversations with the board and other industry leaders. Some of them are what you would expect of a NAFEM president: grow The NAFEM Show, which funds not only the association but much of the education and activities of the E&S industry; serve the membership; and remain faithful to NAFEM’s foundation as an association created to benefit E&S manufacturers in North America.

Additionally, he wants us all to work on channel efficiency and relations. “Our industry has not maximized the potential benefit of a focused and healthy distribution channel,” he said. “We must reach out to our partners and propose a unified agenda, one that we all benefit from and one that we all believe in.” 

But Mike and NAFEM as an organization also want to focus on a very important goal that is critical to all of our futures: recruiting talent to our industry. I’ll let him explain the issue and the initiative.

“Just look around this room; our industry is aging. We all know what a struggle it is to attract young people to work in our industry. We must compete with high-tech industries that young professionals perceive to be more interesting. Most young professionals want to work for Apple, Google, Yahoo, eBay or the like…. 

“In the years ahead, we must find new ways to promote our industry as a viable and enjoyable career path. We all know this is a great industry to work in—and one with many rewarding relationships and experiences. Food is fun. Our challenge is to share our treasured secret with future generations…. I think many of you will be pleasantly surprised by the ideas and initiatives that will flow out of NAFEM over the next two years. I credit Tom Campion with getting this ball rolling during his term. I know we can do even more….”

Anyone who knows Mike, and many of you do, will note the emphasis on fun. Later in his speech he brought it up again. 

“If this industry really wants to attract new talent, we need to break a few molds. We need to motivate change. We must make it fun, and we must keep it fresh. I ask that all of you promise to help me with that. For goodness sake, try something new. Tell a joke today; make someone smile. Have fun with what you are doing. Life is too short. This is a fun industry—so dammit, start having more fun!”

Amen, brother! Food, foodservice and the E&S business are indeed fun. Bringing new, bright, young talent into our businesses and industry is a goal all of us must pursue. We’re looking forward to helping Mike, NAFEM and all of you with this goal. After all, the motto of FER is “Bless our fun and games.”

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