May 2003 Edition
We turn the Spotlight on..

Jim Richards, Senior Marketing Associate

Peterborough, Ontario - Sysco Ontario

ST How long have you been with Sysco?

I have been with Sysco for 15 years now. During college I started in the warehouse as an order selector, working the afternoon shift. In my third year of college I did a work placement with Sysco and by the time I graduated I had landed a job in sales with Sysco. My first territory was Port Perry/Uxbridge and I stayed with it for six years. Now I am pleased to serve customers in the Kitchener Waterloo area.

ST Tell us a little bit about your territory and your accounts.

My accounts vary, which has given me insight into the restaurant business, insight which I might not otherwise have enjoyed if I serviced only one type of account. From family style, to golf courses, fine dining, colleges, cafeterias, healthcare and roadhouses, I have had a window into all kinds of businesses. It's fun to sell new things, sorting and matching products to fit a number of customer needs.

ST What do you like best about Sysco Brand?

Sysco Brand is beneficial to our business. I have always recognized the specifications, consistency and quality assurance of the brands and just recently I had a customer who told me that he thinks Sysco Brand canned tomatoes are the best product in the marketplace. When I explained that their had been a manufacturer change and he could not tell the difference, it reinforced for me that the strict adherence to specifications and quality assurance does indeed make all the difference. I had the opportunity to visit the Sysco fields in California, and I shared that experience with my customers.

Sysco Brand allows us to bring many unique products to the marketplace and other distributors are always playing catch-up.

ST How have you solved a customer problem?

I think I've done some pretty crazy things to help out my customers. One morning I stopped into Mel's Diner, a successful restaurant that serves a lot of hungry breakfast patrons. There was a line up out the door, and the owner was flipping eggs and was going to be out of bread in less than half an hour at the rate he was going. The bakery had forgotten to ship his bread order and I decided to go to the local grocery store myself to get some bread. I bought 180 loaves of bread - boy did I get a lot of looks at the checkout.

On another occasion, I met a delivery truck at 4:00 a.m. to get an order of processed vegetables for a pita restaurant. I loaded up my car with an order that was so big I could barely see out the car windows. Five minutes down the road I was pulled over by the police, they thought I had stolen the boxes and I had to explain that it was diced onions, sliced peppers and shredded lettuce, but they still didn’t believe me so I had to open all the boxes.

I think that when it comes to solving customer problems, creative thinking - thinking outside the box is key - but sometimes thinking inside the box is important too because sometimes the most obvious answer is the right answer.

ST What is the most challenging aspect of your job?

Changing old habits. If you always put your shoes on before your pants, it does not make this the right way to do things. I see that the market is changing and the labour force is changing but not all customers are changing to keep up.

ST What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

I am able to sell with confidence, because I know that the job will be done right and that the right product at the right price and in the right condition will end up with the customer - right on time. When I hear the customer's thanks, and I know that they mean it, I get a tremendous sense of satisfaction.

ST What are your goals for the future?

I want to continue to build strong customer relationships and continue to have fun along the way.

ST What do you enjoy most about working for Sysco?

I take pride in the success of Sysco - our great products, competitive pricing, quality and delivery. I am successful because our team has done a great job in doing the fundamentals so well. I have truly enjoyed working for Sysco.