How has your education from Mizzou helped you in your career?
The University of Missouri is a place of academic excellence, a campus full of tradition, and for me personally, a place of great memories. I chose the University partly of my family tradition of attending (I’m a 3rd generation Tiger), memories associated with that family history, and partly because of the opportunities the University provides. One of my passions in life is providing great food to people. The Hotel and Restaurant Management (now Hospitality Management) program within CAFNR placed a strong foundation of business, finance, management and communication skills that one would need to manage a hotel and/or restaurant. Exposure through a combination of class work, hands-on experience, and field work with industry support, allowed for a well-rounded career decision in Foodservice Distribution.
Those skills acquired at the University of Missouri positioned me perfectly to become a Territory Manager/Sales Professional at USFoods. Restaurateurs prefer a sales relationship that is engaging and challenging. Suggesting cost controls, menu and labor management tools, marketing ideas, or just a cool, hip new menu trend idea, aids operators in a meaningful way. Those same management skills gained while at the University were essential as I progressed into Sales Management, and continue to be the foundation of my career. Today, managing a Distribution Facility for USFoods in Iowa, with a Sales Team of 60, and an employee roster of 200+ employees can be challenging. Those learning experiences while at Mizzou help keep me in check.
USFoods is driven to be a great American food company. We strive to keep kitchens cooking. We do that through our products developed for USFoods and their customers only, our technology specifically built to be easy for our customers to use and to support their business, and through our sales team being great food sellers. The education from Mizzou gave me a foundation to do just that.
What advice would you give a student who wants to prepare for a career in your side of the industry?
I continually hear people say that “sales jobs” are easy. I’d like to know where those are! If you are ready for a great challenge and an extremely rewarding career, then take a look at this side of the industry. Communication, marketing, costing and sound time management skills are essential. Think of the job this way…Your job is to put your customer into a position to be successful every day. So when you show your customer a new menu idea, how do you plan on them marketing it? How does it help them stay fresh on trends and relevant to their customer base? Does it make them more money than items on their menu today? How are you going to sell this to them? Could you train their staff on how to execute from preparation through table service? You have to be the expert in it all, and be able to communicate why a customer can’t live without it. It’s a tremendously rewarding career, and fun!
What course work do I feel the most important and/or relevant for a graduate to know and be able to do upon graduation?
Food Preparation: Do you know food and can you cook it in a restaurant-style application?
Finance/Accounting/Restaurant Management/Food Costing: Can you show your customers why it’s financially important to them?
Communication/Professional Presentation: Can you present yourself, your brand, and your product in such a way that your customer believes they need you?
If you can’t do the above, customers won’t see a need to change their existing relationships. If you can, you’ve put yourself in a position to be successful.