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Industry Service Award: Ed Norman, FCSI

Ed Norman, FCSI
MVP Services Group
Dubuque, Iowa

Years in Industry: 49
: 2012 NAFEM Award of Merit; 2012 MAFSI Award of Merit; FE&S Project of the Month-Kendall College, April, 2011; 2011 NAFEM Honorary Doctorate of Foodservice; 2001 FCSI Service Award
Charitable Causes:
Member, Knights of Columbus; Chicago Food Pantry; United Neighborhood Organization-Chicago

Ed Norman got his first job at age 13 (back when child labor laws weren’t quite so strict) as a busboy at a Holiday Inn. In fact, except for a brief 18-month stint in the computer industry, he’s made his living in foodservice ever since that first job. He worked his way through school in restaurants and obtained an associate degree in foodservice management from Iowa State University. After graduating, he held a variety of restaurant management and distribution sales jobs.

But it wasn’t until he became a foodservice consultant at age 45 that he realized his true passion in life.

 “I knew at age 25 that I wanted to do this,” he says, “and I even did some management advisory consulting in the late 1970s. But a professor friend of mine said the only way to make it work for me was to combine the consulting with design.”

Norman had always had an interest in and facility for mechanical drawing and design, and his time in the computer industry had given him an education in CAD software. So, 20 years after being bitten by the consulting bug, and with kids either in or about to go to college, Norman started his own business. 

He joined the Foodservice Consultants Society Int’l. (FCSI) almost immediately, and attended his first conference in 1998 with the goal of meeting as many well-known players in the business as he could in just a few days.

“I wanted to get involved and become active in the group to get an education,” he says. “So many members join so they can hang a certificate on their wall. They don’t get involved, but there’s so much they can learn that will elevate their business and help them excel. As a rookie, I joined to learn as much as I could from old-timers, but also to give back to an industry that had supported me all these years.” 

Norman had yet another reason to volunteer. Soon after joining the organization, he heard a manufacturers’ rep say that the FCSI consultant was a dying breed. “It motivated me to get involved and find out why,” he says.

He served on FCSI’s membership committee in his first year, which helped him gain a better understanding of both FCSI and the role of a consultant. He’s been an active member of FCSI since, and last year served as chair of The Americas Division. Starting Jan. 1, he took over the reins of FCSI Worldwide as president. (FER’s Industry Service Award winner in the consultant category is chosen with the help of FCSI-The Americas.) 

As a consultant, Norman appreciates the ability and opportunity to work with all sorts of people on a wide variety of projects and facilities. He particularly enjoys creating the initial layout for clients, and incorporating technology that enables them to improve their efficiency and sustainability. Most rewarding, he says, is working with people and providing them the best possible solutions within their budgets.

As an FCSI member, Norman says he’s gotten as much from the organization as he’s given back. “Personally, I’ve met many wonderful people around the world. It’s helped me build a professional network of friends and peers that I otherwise would never have met. Professionally, it’s helped me see the world differently, from many different perspectives that most people don’t have the chance to see or experience.” 

Norman has personally mentored a number of people, including a student intern a few years ago, his son Eric.

“Eric approached me when he was in high school,” Norman says. “He decided early on that he wanted to follow in my footsteps and enter the consulting profession. He’s become a real professional over the past 12 years.” (Eric Norman will receive the 2013 FER Young Lion Award in the consultant category in February.)

But the bulk of Norman’s focus and time has been on FCSI, how to improve the organization and what its members can bring to the industry. 

“My goal now is to fashion FCSI for the future,” he says. “The organization took its eye off the ball for a few years, but we’ve changed all that. The Americas is now very strong and is starting to really create interest and value in the FCSI brand. As a global member, and in my new role, I hope to kick off a few projects that I see need to be done and educate people who will carry the torch for future generations. We truly can be leaders in the industry.”

Norman is well prepared for his new role within FCSI. Not only has he spent the last decade learning the organization inside and out, this past year he’s been part of a number of meetings to find out what FCSI members really want from their association. And speaking engagements at the French Consulate in Chicago and lectures in Moscow have expanded his international knowledge and experience.

Norman is modest about his accomplishments, and says if he’s remembered for anything he hopes it’s for being a promoter of positive change.

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