Foodservice Equipment Reports

Educating, Differentiating

A few days ago, a couple senior-level dealer friends in the sportcraft industry were commenting on how tough the market’s been lately. An almost snowless winter in this part of the country has dropped snowmobile sales to almost nothing. That, topping a couple years of economy-related slowdowns in a variety of categories, has made life especially difficult.

All of which is a harsh reminder that averages are just that—averages. You can’t always count on matching them, and you can’t count on things staying the same.  Fleeting conditions, not to mention the long-term evolutions of business and culture, change things. It’s important to understand your business history, but it’s also important to understand how the here-and-now might be different.

Ongoing education helps. It helps your people interpret the market, feel trends, and communicate. And it helps you differentiate yourself in a market where many of you are offering the same products. If the product isn’t your unique advantage, what is? It has to be your people.

Fortunately, that gives you plenty to work with. If you have more knowledgeable people, with better communications skills, what better advantage could you ask for?

In two weeks, the annual Foodservice Equipment Distributors Association meeting will be held in Tucson, Ariz. The educational agenda will cover business-management topics and industry-specific subjects, and it includes seminars on hiring and training. The content itself will be indispensible for dealer management, as will the networking. In addition, the sheer stimulation of an educational environment, the chance to focus for many minutes at a time, is hard to put a price on.

Education is important for your street force too. Your points of contact are the face of your business. They gain customer confidence, or they don’t. Encourage all your people to differentiate themselves from their competition. Set up programs to get them certified in the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe program. Put it on their business cards. Offer incentives to get them certified in the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers’ Certified Food Service Professional program. And then promote awareness among your customers. People who know what ServSafe and CFSP are will be impressed. The interactions with your customers will be deeper and more knowledgeable. With that comes trust and reliance. And closer relationships.

If you don’t differentiate your people, what do you differentiate?

Chief Editor

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