October 2016


Go Out On Limb
by Jeff Couch, Preferred Marketing Group

Out on a limb:

1. In or into a dangerous or uncompromising position, where one is not joined or supported by anyone else; vulnerable.

Once in a while we all need to go out on a limb, and I think it’s high time the industry did just that.

Let’s collectively step outside of our comfort zones, and start looking big picture here.

This industry still operates in a 20th century way -- almost 17 years into the 21st century. We complain about the way things are done, but we don’t take great strides to improve them. We tend to continue with our old methods, while adopting the new, but we don't shed anything.

SpecPath® is certainly a GREAT start. Don’t get me wrong. It’s ability to triangulate specification, destination, and origination credits in 11-40-00 specs is nothing short of amazing. But, it doesn’t fully address all aspects of rep’d lines.

We continue to work in an old compensation model based on a bygone time. A time when hard and fast borders clearly defined a territory. Despite reps’ heavy investments in our local sales markets for manufacturers (the aspects we CAN control); borderless markets have taken certain aspects of sales visibility away from reps.

For example, reps aren’t always compensated for chains that start building internationally, and purchase outside the country. However, the chain’s headquarters are still based in a rep region, and the essential workload remains the same. Reps would never stop working, testing, or specifying with the chain. In truth, it’s not any different than our interaction with foodservice consultants that design for international projects.

In other words, reps should be compensated for the work they do.

Another antiquated concept? Line conflict. And sure, there are legitimate instances of line conflict. But, in my experience, these conflicts are usually created by a manufacturer, and not necessarily a rep.

Think about it. Reps build line packages that compliment all the manufacturers they represent. Just because an item fits into an industry product category, it doesn’t mean it works for all levels/types of foodservice establishments in our industry.

So – what can we do? The way I see it, a few things need to happen.

1. Reps and manufactures need to come together to develop a compensation platform that addresses today’s market.

To do so, we should form a task force through MAFSI, and develop new compensation guidelines that benefit both the rep and the manufacturer. We need to look at other industries, learn from them, and start offering real solutions. Solutions that benefit both reps AND manufacturers. If we don't take the lead, who will?

2. Individual cases/markets should allow reps to have overlapping product categories (i.e. so called soft conflict items).

Provided these items aren’t the same caliber of product, it ensures the rep is able to call on all of the industry’s channels. Some products may work for a specific type of foodservice establishment, and lets the rep get in front of a specific type of customer. In doing so, it allows other lines in the package to benefit. For example, how many levels of griddles are there? Do these griddles meet the needs of ALL types of restaurants? Manufacturers have core competencies, and don’t necessarily compete at all levels.

By giving reps the option to present a more robust product offering, the benefits quickly outweigh the risks. Couple that with a new compensation platform, and we’ll be unstoppable.

3. This is not to say all is lost, or all of us aren’t trying. Because we are.

Some of us are already out on that limb. Take the allied industry associations (CFESA, FCSI, FEDA, MAFSI, NAFEM.)

Working together, we continue to tease out more and more opportunities to move the industry forward. Beit through getting new talent, or developing what we have; it seems many of us are working to make the industry better. We’ve had three face to face planning meetings this year already, with more planned for the future.

Moreover, I had the pleasure of attending the FE&S – FED Summit last month, and it was a very insightful and thought provoking event. Just this week, our friends at CFESA wrapped up another fantastic fall conference, held in Charlotte, and even treated us to a tour of their state-of-the-art training facility.

All of us working from the inside out to make things better for everyone.

The same is true for MAFSI. We just wrapped up our annual Executive Committee meeting, and had so many great ideas come out of it. We’re continuing to develop educational opportunities for our members, source new and diversified members, all while doing everything we can to maintain the rep as the indispensable partner to foodservice manufacturers.

One might even say MAFSI has ventured out on to that limb.


altJeff Couch

Jeff is the 2016 MAFSI President and principal of the Preferred Marketing Group, an independent multi-line foodservice equipment and supplies rep firm. A former chef himself, and a prudent business man, Jeff prides himself in helping brands improve efficiencies through engineered solutions.

Prior to PMG, he held the positions of Corporate Chef, Product Manager and Vice President of Garland/US Range, a Manitowoc company. Jeff brings vast knowledge and practical experience to all facets of foodservice. Jeff can be reached at jcouch@pmgnow.com or (800)-292-4764.


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