It's amazing what can happen when you combine a positive attitude with determination and gratitude. For Josh Smith, Territory Sales Representative in Seattle, that combination opened doors for him that may have otherwise been unimagined. Starting his career with Bargreen Ellingson in the distribution center, Smith worked his way into territory sales and now manages a territory that is one of the most densely-populated and growing cities in the Pacific Northwest. Read Smith's interview below to get a sense of his journey (and sense of humor) as well as the challenges that serve as motivation for him every day.
What interested you in becoming a salesperson for Bargreen Ellingson?
What sparked my interest was a day spent with Jeff Thomas, Representative for RHI Solutions. Years ago, I had the great pleasure of spending time with Jeff while he was out in the territory and it was eye-opening. The pace at which he worked along with the ebb and flow of the day was exhilarating for me. I knew after that day with him that I wanted to do what he did and I was determined to get there.
What has your journey been like up to this point?
Almost 16 years ago, I wandered into the original Fife Distribution Center as it was being set up. I worked alongside Tom Murphy, Vice President of Operations, and Craig Welborn, Web Department Manager, for a couple days before they realized I wasn’t a volunteer or an employee. I was quickly offered a job and started on Monday with Duane Jones, Operations, and the night crew. I spent a few years working with and learning from Duane before I moved into the shipping department. I was there for short time and then a spot opened up for a delivery driver. After moving to the truck and doing various different delivery routes, I was eventually moved to one of the Seattle routes where I met Jeff Gentling. Jeff recognized something in me that I did not even recognize in myself and offered me a job in front counter sales. I never saw myself in a sales role before Jeff talked me into it, but I am very thankful that he did! I spent two years there before Jeff Thomas decided to move roles and let someone else take the reins. I have been in the territory for 10 years now and have loved every crazy minute of it!
Josh Smith and coworkers setting up for a trade show.
What is it about the foodservice industry that motivates you every day?
It is definitely the people that motivate me the most; both inside the company and out. I really do love coming to work and interacting with everyone in this industry. I have made solid friendships with some really great people and continue to meet new faces every day.
What is a typical day like for you?
I wake up at around noon and after a few Bloody Mary's, if I decide not to go back to bed, I make my way to the golf course…
Every now and then, I get up early and start checking emails, make factory calls, draw up quotes and exercise, then rush out the door to make actual sales calls. I send and receive phone calls and emails in between stops and do my best to keep up with the barrage. Usually around noon, I can stop for a short time to knock out quotes, calls, and emails that require more in-depth responses, then I head straight back into the territory. I usually wrap in sales calls around 5 PM and then the day slows at this point, but only enough to let me get caught up on anything that I drummed up during the day.
I do my best every day to have dinner with my wife and dogs, and that keeps me sane. All that said, I really love the fast-paced day and always say, “I’m not happy unless I am pulling my hair out busy.”
Seattle is constantly growing and changing. What kind of challenges do you face in your territory and how do you overcome these?
I face a lot of growing pressure from national competitors. Nothing beats a person-to-person relationship, though, so I am able to win the business from the other national giants just based on that reason. The internet has obviously had a huge impact as well but it is growing easier and easier to deal with due to strengthened factory relationships and MAP pricing. If you know your customer shops online, then you can easily see what your competitor is selling it for and find out how much value you bring to the table.
From a more general perspective, I think being adaptive and embracing change is most important. Spending time to learn and understand the changes and using them to your advantage is key!
David Ellingson, left, with Josh Smith.
What is the most exciting part about having downtown Seattle as your territory?
Definitely the number of diverse restaurants, hotels and all sorts of foodservice customers I get to see in such a densely-populated area. People from all walks of life and every concept you can think of. It means that every day is a little different and that keeps me on my toes.
What is a common problem that your customers face? How do you resolve this?
Honestly, the biggest recurring issue my customers face that I can help with is follow-through. Often times they want a product or service and struggle to get it because other brick and mortar or web based dealers don’t follow up. It’s shocking how much business I can get just by showing up and doing what I say I am going to do… That is it. I learned early on not to over promise and under deliver, and it has served me quite well.
In your opinion, what item or equipment is often overlooked but should be in every kitchen?
Definitely a left-handed bacon stretcher! You never know when you are going to get that surprise southpaw prep cook that can’t use a right-handed one… That, or a good food processor that can also dice. I am amazed at how many kitchens don’t have one. Hundreds or even thousands of dollars are spent on wasted labor when it could be chopped or sliced in just minutes. I know cooks and chefs like to show off their knife skills, but these things really do make sense.
What is the most rewarding customer story you've recently experienced?
I shipped a bunch of tiered display risers to a customer for a specific event. They lost them temporarily only to find them the night before a big breakfast that they were to be used for and discovered that they needed to be assembled. The only person left at the hotel was the purchasing agent, so I went down to the hotel and helped him assemble all of the risers. It was really nice to catch up with him on a more personal level as we worked. It really didn’t take that long and wasn’t difficult to do, but he and the chef were incredibly grateful!
Show up and follow up! These two very simple things can make up for a lot of other shortcomings on any sale. It makes things easier for the customer to swallow if things go sideways and they will feel that much more special when things go smoothly.
Contact Josh at j.smith