Foodservice Equipment Reports


How often have you heard people talk about “leading from the front”? The idea pops up all the time, a popular platitude among consultants and seminar lecturers and self-help gurus of all kinds. It’s a thing we can all agree on, in theory, but how many leaders really do it?

Not enough. Most higher-echelon executives, across most industries, don’t get out often. Dealing with the customers, somewhat ironically, gets delegated down-ladder. Holding a title that’s higher up the ladder seems to mean consolidating data streams and making “big” decisions. Of course, that’s a generalization, but digest it for a minute: When’s the last time your CFO went out on the street to find out what your customers are contending with?

If, as experts say, 90% of communication is nonverbal, then what are your senior managers doing staring at data? When’s the last time your upper management spent a day on the delivery truck? When’s the last time you rode shotgun on a day’s worth of sales calls—a full day of them?

Things are happening out there, and if you get the picture in mosaic pieces, sifted and interpreted through a couple levels of company hierarchy, you might miss a lot. In your market, how do your customers feel about non-brick and mortar operations? Mobile outlets, such as taco trucks, are on the rise. What does that mean to your customers, and what does it mean to you?

Next time you’re touring a customer’s operation, strike up a conversation about legislative issues. Find out which topics are scaring your customers, and which ones aren’t. Get a feel for their pressure points. Utility efficiency? Fats-oils-grease regulations? Americans with Disabilities Act interpretations?

And don’t just listen to the words. Watch the body language, the eye contact. Listen to the vocal inflections and how they add meaning to the words.

Getting more of that first-hand contact is valuable on so many levels. It makes you smarter about your business, and it shows your customers that you actually care about them and their businesses. Make time for getting out and rubbing elbows. The payback will be there.

Chief Editor

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