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Industry Service Award: Mitch Reilly, CPMR, CFSP

KEYWORDS mafsi reilly
Mitch Reilly, CPMR, CFSP
HRI, Inc.

St. Clair Shores, Mich.

No. of Years in Industry: 25
Industry Affiliations:
Manufacturers’ Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry
MAFSI Pacesetter Award 2010
Volunteer Endeavors/Special Causes/Initiatives
: MAFSI Board of Directors, Communications/Reporting Sub-Committee of the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers /MAFSI Liaison Committee, Certified Professional Manufacturers’ Representative and Certified Foodservice Professional certifications, Manufacturers’ Rep Council member

Mitch Reilly, president of HRI, Inc., has contributed to the foodservice equipment industry in many ways, especially as a leading member of the Manufacturers’ Agents Association for the Foodservice Industry. He counts among his most notable accomplishments helping to develop the MAFSI Business Barometer Survey and the MAFSI Agency Demographic Survey. His substantial volunteer efforts have earned him the FER Industry Service Award in the manufacturers’ rep category. Winners are chosen with the assistance of MAFSI. 

Reilly co-founded HRI Inc., a manufacturers’ rep firm based in St. Clair Shores, Mich., in 1989. He started working out of his basement covering Michigan. The company has since grown into one of the largest volume rep groups in the Midwest, with three offices covering Michigan and Indiana. The group represents many industry premier brands and works with the nation’s top consultants, dealers and chains.

A few years after launching HRI, Reilly joined the MAFSI board of directors. He finished the remainder of one term and signed on again for another. He later began a run of officer positions culminating with that of MAFSI president in 2007.

Reilly remembers a particular MAFSI board meeting in 2001. “There were about 20 board members from across the country and Canada and FER publisher Robin Ashton joined as a guest speaker, he says.

Ashton recalls the meeting, “It was in late summer, just before The NAFEM Show in early September, which ended with Sept. 11.The E&S industry was already in recession and I was starting to think about our annual forecast. With the board right there, I just asked for some unofficial help, what direction were sales moving and could I get a rough idea of percentages. Mike Posternak [of New York-based rep firm PBAC, and winner of an FER Industry Service Award in ’07], asked everyone to write down real numbers on slips of paper.”

 “We compiled those results and thought it was pretty interesting information,” Reilly says, and the MAFSI Business Barometer was born.

The board appointed a committee to develop the idea. Posternak and Reilly led the team. In the second quarter ’02, the group formally launched the MAFSI Business Barometer. The quarterly survey has become a leading economic indicator in the foodservice industry with an inside look at regional and national sales trends and forecast for equipment, supplies, tabletop and furniture lines.

“We rolled questions out to the entire MAFSI membership and we found we could get some good data from them,” he says. “It’s proven to be pretty accurate over the years.”

In addition to the Business Barometer Survey, Reilly also led a committee that established the MAFSI Agency Demographic Survey. The survey boasts credible industry data to help members benchmark their companies and identify national industry trends. It has become an important tool for all channel partners. 

Currently, Reilly co-chairs the Communications/Reporting Sub-Committee of the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers /MAFSI Liaison Committee. He says the group will debut a few programs at The NAFEM Show in February geared toward improving reporting between manufacturers and reps. 

Between all of his leading roles at MAFSI, Reilly says serving as president was the most nerve-racking. 

“When I look back to some of the people who’ve served as MAFSI president in the past, I have a lot of respect for them. So, it was about really making sure I was able to lead our association and continue to move it forward,” he says.

Reilly notes that the role of president gave him the unique opportunity to visit with leaders and members of other industry associations. 

“It gave me a broader exposure to the industry as a whole and what challenges they face on a day-to-day basis,” he says. “We had a lot of chances to discuss areas where we could work together to provide better solutions to all of our members.”

Reilly says leaders at other rep agencies and, in particular, the late Ed Gregory of HGA Group, MAFSI’s longtime public relations chair (and winner of FER’s first rep Industry Service Award in’05), helped steer him toward volunteering.

“He was very encouraging and supportive and helpful,” Reilly says about Gregory. 

“When I first started out, we really knew very little about running a rep group,” he recalls. “Through MAFSI, we found experienced legends running rep businesses and they were more than willing to share ideas and thoughts on any area that we had questions.”

After 25 years in the business, Reilly says he now finds himself mentoring young industry professionals. 

“Through my exposure with MAFSI, I’ve had either fellow reps or manufacturers call me up looking for advice on how to implement something or deal with a challenge they face in the business,” he says. “I look forward to those opportunities.”

When asked why he volunteers, Reilly says everyone has a responsibility to give back either professionally or personally. 

Plus, he adds, “Over time I found that I get more out of these meetings and volunteer groups than I probably give at times. I learned a lot about our industry, learned a lot about how to run my business, and also met a lot of great people from across the country.”

For example, Reilly has turned to fellow MAFSI members for advice on how to run the administration side of his business. He says volunteering also led him to meet some great friends, including George LeCavalier, president at The Redstone Group in Englewood, Colo. 

“It’s been great for me,” Reilly says about serving the industry. “I wouldn’t trade the time that I’ve spent working with the industry associations for anything. It’s been a very valuable learning experience for me.”

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