Why Mike Whiteley’s NAFEM Presidency Mattered
Full disclosure: I’m not unbiased when it comes to Mike Whiteley, V.P. of Sales and Marketing at Hatco. For the more than two-and-a-half decades we’ve hung out together in this business, we’ve had way too much fun, dammit! That’s been his tag line for the past two years as he, former past-president Tom Campion of Franke Foodservice, incoming President Kevin Fink of Ali Group and the entire board at the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers have made attracting more young people to the equipment and supplies business a key focus of the association.
But the emphasis on recruiting talent to the E&S industry is only one of his achievements during his two-year tenure as NAFEM president. Equally important has been his ability to help promote and cajole the key allied associations in the business, FEDA, MAFSI, FCSI and CFESA, into what many, including the leaders at the other associations, perceive as the best cooperative relationship we’ve seen in the 38 years I’ve covered foodservice and foodservice E&S.
Mike’s the perfect spokesman for attracting young folks into the business. He heads sales and marketing at Hatco, a company, as most of us know, with a very long tradition of fun and games going back to long-time president David Hatch. He’s whip smart and sarcastic, loves food, beverages and foodservice in all their forms, speaks French and a bit of Mandarin, and can josh anyone out of his or her socks.
Of course, Mike has done a lot more about talent recruitment than run around for two years telling people to “Have fun, dammit!” NAFEM has been very serious about its commitment to the New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute, its long-term commitment to an endowed professorship at the Culinary Institute of America and a new initiative to work with local community colleges to help train and attract young talent in a host of different disciplines beyond sales and marketing, including manufacturing, finance and human resources. These programs will continue under new President Fink and for years to come.
Mike’s dedication and ability to urge the different functions within this business to better understand each other, meet regularly and cooperate on a host of issues, such as talent recruitment and training, regulatory issues affecting the E&S business and the very real issues surrounding channel disruption, has been remarkable. All the key allied associations have met often during the past two years of his NAFEM presidency as the leaderships of all the associations seemed to re cognize they had a unique opportunity to overcome some of the distrust and dysfunction of the past. Mike will be the first to tell you it’s not just him but the leaders of all the key groups who have made this happen. One thing that was announced during the NAFEM meeting was that not only will the inter-association meetings continue, they will be expanded to include more incoming and outgoing officers of all the groups to help foster continuity as they together address issues facing the business.
So Mike’s done a lot in his two years leading NAFEM. We should all thank him and all hoist a glass—he prefers tequila—to his service and years more of fun, dammit!