2020 Industry Service Award Winner Joe Schmitt
- Joe Schmitt
- Rapids Wholesale
- Marion, Iowa
- Years in the Industry: 28
- Industry Affiliations: Foodservice Equipment Distributors Association; Channel Partners Group; XYZ Buying Group; Commercial Food Equipment Service Association
- Volunteer Endeavors: Rotary Int’l.; Habitat for Humanity; Kids Law Center; Tananger Place; Young Parents Network; Olivet Mission; Boys and Girls Club; Big Brothers Big Sisters
In his early 30s, Joe Schmitt came to the realization that he wasn’t happy with the career path he was on as a CPA and a banker. Looking around for a new challenge, he was presented with the opportunity to buy Rapids Wholesale.
Being new to the industry, Schmitt depended on others to share best practices and advice. As he gained more contacts, more people were telling him it was beneficial to join FEDA. Schmitt started out serving on panels at the association’s annual convention, and from there became a board member, chairman of the annual convention, and eventually accepted a role on the executive committee of the FEDA board.
As chairman of the annual convention, Schmitt worked with staff of FEDA to plan the programming, taking an active role in the educational offerings of the association. “Education has always been a priority for us as a company and for FEDA, and continues to be at the forefront of what we’re doing,” Schmitt says.
Schmitt also has joined other members of FEDA to go to Washington, D.C., to speak with members of Congress about the legislative priorities relevant to distributors. “I’m always impressed with Joe’s ability to learn about the issues and talk with congressional leaders,” says Tracy Mulqueen, CEO, FEDA. “He was able to expose the members of Congress to issues such as labor shortages and how tariffs affect our industry, and let them know the impact on jobs and profits.”
Most importantly, Schmitt has been instrumental in advocating for and creating a new governance structure for FEDA. “As an organization, we recognized that we were stuck in a rut and not doing enough to develop and plan for the future of the organization,” Schmitt says. “We saw that we needed more diversity and better oversight, but we weren’t structured appropriately to get change made.”
Working together with Mulqueen, Schmitt helped make changes such as eliminating the executive board, which was a 10-year time commitment, and instead having members of the board serve as officers for two-year terms. He also put a priority on getting a more diverse board when it comes to age, experience and gender. “Joe put into action a plan that expanded the board’s involvement for better oversight of the organization and broader representation of our members,” Mulqueen says. “He’s not afraid to take on challenges and he’s really good at dealing with complex issues and conflict, which are all things that you have to deal with in times of change.”
“He’s not afraid to take on challenges and he’s really good at dealing with complex issues and conflict, which are all things that you have to deal with in times of change.”
Schmitt is rotating off the executive team after serving his final term as past-chairman, but his commitment to giving back remains strong. “To me it’s all about trying to create a conversation with the right people in order to move a lever to change that will hopefully bring long-term benefits to the dealer community and improve the overall profitability of the industry,” Schmitt says.