Jim McCune is a classic learn as you go DSR. After McCune began his career in 1973 as a truck driver for Lansing Food Equipment, he worked his way up the ladder, becoming a sales rep and eventually owning the company.
"I didn't wake up one day and decide to make a career out of my job," McCune says. "It was an interesting start."
When Stafford-Smith purchased Lansing Food Equipment 12 years ago, McCune chose to continue his career in sales and design. Colleagues applaud McCune's professional appearance and demeanor and his deadline- and detail-oriented nature.
FE&S: How do you balance the needs of the company, your customers and the other partners to ensure everyone walks away from a project satisfied?
JM: Clients are the most important focus. For this reason, it is important to put together a team of people that are trustworthy and easy to work with. Picking channel partners that best fit the project also is essential. Follow these steps correctly and everything else tends to fall into place.
FE&S: What is the most important lesson you learned by working with a partner company?
JM: I've learned only to work with honest people. Once these individuals are identified, I can enjoy the process and the project. This can be a tough lesson to learn, but working with good, honest people always pays off.
FE&S: You are known for having a solid base of product knowledge. Why is this important to your success?
JM: If I didn't have product knowledge and wasn't willing to continually educate myself, then I'm just another person putting numbers on paper. Throughout my career, my goal has been to provide value for clients so they would seek me out, rather than pick up a catalog or go to the internet. The sales professionals I've worked with who are the most successful and who last in this business find products that fit the task. When the focus is finding the lowest priced equipment, the process becomes compromised.
FE&S: When working on a bigger project, what steps do you take to ensure proper communication between yourself, the client and your partners?
JM: I've tried to stay out in front so I am visible and accessible to clients and contractors. It is important to be available to answer questions and attend project meetings, especially if I am working on a big project with extensive amounts of equipment. The coordination and installation of equipment is vital. On projects with no general contractor, I will take on that role. Everyone needs to be involved in a successful project.
FE&S: It's been said that you not only act professionally but you also dress the part, often wearing a coat and tie to customer meetings. Why is this important to you?
JM: If I'm going to represent our company and vendor partners in a professional way, looking the part is important. I would send the wrong message to clients if I showed up disheveled. This doesn't mean that I don't wear more casual clothes to the office or put on blue jeans and a hard hat at job sites. There is different clothing that is appropriate for each occasion. Still, an important first step is to dress appropriately.
FE&S: You are a sales person with design skills, which is rare in today's era of specialization. How has the design process changed since you first started?
JM: The first kitchen design I did was on a back room table, drawn on a piece of 8 ½ x 11 paper and not to scale. We were counting kitchen tiles because we didn't have access to a tape measure. These days, we have better tools available. These are always changing and improving over time. It used to take 100 man hours to design a full-service restaurant. Now this can be done in less than half the time. Revision time also has been reduced thanks to technology.
FE&S: What is the most rewarding aspect of your job today?
JM: The goal is to have happy customers, and this should be everyone's goal. When a client tells me they are happy with my work, my company and the installers, I take great pride in that. Also, seeing a project through from start to finish, and knowing I had a part in it, is very rewarding.
FE&S: What advice would you give someone just starting in the foodservice business?
JM: Never stop searching for knowledge. Learn how to ask intelligent questions to better understand customer needs. Sales reps need to stop talking and just listen.