Maribeth Angelo did not expect her summer job at Hotel and Restaurant Supply would be the start of a successful career. She credits her father, Bill Wolfe, who serves as the company's executive vice president, for both the suggestion of the summer job and the post-college suggestion of accepting a counter sales position there.
"I thought it was temporary, but underestimated how competitive I am and how exciting this business is," says Angelo.
After a challenging first year as the low person on the totem pole, Angelo found she enjoyed the relationship-building and competitiveness of the industry. That was 23 years ago.
Her role evolved over the years and her client base now includes contract feeders and multiconcept operators.
FE&S: How has the industry evolved since you first started 23 years ago?
MA: One of the things I've learned is that this business is relationship dependent. Today, companies have to be jacks of all trades and also be able to change and adapt. We do things differently now due to the internet. We need to give people a reason to come to us. It's about knowledge, relationships and customer service. It's also important to be flexible and willing to get out of your comfort zone.
FE&S: What keeps you in the industry?
MA: I like that each day is different. I never know who will call or email or what will come across my desk. I like the challenge of learning new things and dealing with customers' different personalities. I have no opportunity to be bored.
FE&S: You have a self-proclaimed love for remodeling projects. What do you love about them?
MA: Many of these operations are very old, dated and worn out. We get to participate in the rehabilitation and help wipe the slate clean, which excites people. I love the design aspect, such as picking out colors and materials. I can be creative, which is fun. I do a lot of cafeteria work in schools and colleges so seeing people get excited and sales go up is gratifying.
FE&S: What is your biggest strength?
MA: I'm not scared of trying anything, and I try not to be intimidated. I'm also very flexible. Being able to work with different types of people throughout a project and developing good relationships are definite strengths of mine. It helps having a public relations background.
FE&S: You maintain a diverse client base. How do you ensure each project gets the right items to meet the operation's unique needs?
MA: A lot of preliminary work needs to be done, so finding out what's needed day in and day out is key. In this industry, there so many people who know more than me, it helps that I can pick up the phone and call those with more expertise in different areas to get answers. Being in the industry for 23 years, I've developed relationships with manufacturers and reps, so have a pretty good idea who to turn to.
FE&S: What is your approach when things go wrong?
MA: I keep going back to communication — that's the key. If something goes wrong, I first address it immediately. I also have a very good support team with installers and management. There have been situations where we've used stock equipment until a replacement piece comes in. It may not be ideal, but it keeps them functioning in the meantime.