Food at Work Safety
Create a Plan for your Workplace
At the end of 2013 I was wrapping up a two-year tour as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay. A friend of mine – Alex Strand who was working in Sales at Fooda reached out and said, “when you get back to Chicago, I have the place for you.” Fooda was only a couple of years old at that point and I didn’t know much about it. But from what I could tell, it was moving in the right direction and from what my friend said, it sounded like I’d fit in with the team. I figured, if they’re willing to interview me – it wouldn’t hurt to have a conversation. Also, given the freedoms I had in the Peace Corps, I wasn’t looking forward to settling down in a boring corporate environment. Fooda seemed like the kind of place where I could jump in and spread my wings.
So I started out as a corporate inside sales rep. I’m not going to lie about entry level cold calling. It was brutal at first. Hammering the phones, trying to connect with people, getting hung up on, leaving a lot of voicemails. It’s that initiation phase most people in the sales world have to do in the beginning. But from that you end up learning to get across to people effectively and concisely. It’s a pretty important part of cutting your teeth in sales.
My manager started seeing that I was breaking my goals on the phones and thought he’d see what would happen if I went out into the field to meet in person with prospects representing more lucrative opportunities. I guess I passed that test and that’s why I’m a BDM now. The role is all about hunting for new opportunities, building relationships with the decision makers, closing deals, and then making sure the account is happy with our ongoing food service. The good news is that 90%+ of our accounts stick around for the long-term. That’s especially important not only to Fooda as a business, but also to BDMs. Our bonus structure rewards long-term account relationships and is based on account performance over time. As long as you keep your accounts happy, you continue to reap rewards. Once we put a restaurant popup into a building lobby, tenants and employees don’t want to see us go.
Fooda started out in Chicago, but we are now in ten cities (soon to be eleven!), growing at a responsibly fast rate. I was tapped to be the person who makes the deals happen that allow us to open up a new market. It’s been incredible. I feel a lot of positive pressures and responsibilities. I definitely know I’m lucky to have these kinds of responsibilities at my age. The company saw my commitment and performance and they invested in me. It’s an honor that they have the faith to send me out on my own to plant the seed for Fooda in a new city. I know that as long as I show results, they will continue to provide me with more of these kinds of responsibilities.
Find your niche. Don’t just do what everyone else does. You need to constantly be thinking outside the box – and you’re encouraged to do so. For example, when I started, Fooda was very focused on bringing our popup product inside company lunchrooms. We found an opportunity with popups in building lobbies, went out on a bit of a limb, and went after buildings pretty hard. I think we were able to demonstrate that buildings can be very lucrative. I feel like I helped crack the code on how to get into them.
Well, that’s true. I was on the team that signed Fooda’s first mall, our first 3 major cafeteria replacements, and our first hospital. Again, it was going out on a bit of a limb, which meant investing time in something that had yet to be proven. It was a learning process, but we had a ton of support all around.
Management treats each new hire as a serious investment. A lot of startups are all about churn and burn. That’s not at all the case here at Fooda. They want you to stick around to build your book and keep your clients happy. When you’re hired, the feeling is that it is up to you to figure out your own day-to-day work style, without micromanagement. But at the same time, there is an incredible support system. I’ve found that whenever I have room to grow, the leaders at this company provide a ton of positively structured feedback. A good example: especially at the very beginning of my tenure here, my manager would go on sales calls with me. He’d always let me do the talking, and afterwards he would give me feedback on other ways I could have answered a question or presented an idea. It’s like having your hand held at arm’s length, and in a positive way. There’s a healthy mixture of autonomy and support.
Another point worth mentioning is that there is no shortage of mentorship. Shane Jones and Dustin Lasky, a couple of the guys who first founded Fooda are BDMs today. They believe so strongly in the compensation structure and they have built such a strong book of business, they have stuck with the role. These folks and other leaders at Fooda love nothing more than coaching you to be successful.
Sales is a big reason why Fooda has seen major growth over the years. You can feel your accounts moving the needle. And that’s a powerful thing to hang your hat on. Growth can be scary, but it is good scary. The company’s leaders have been around the block – our CEO has taken companies public. They have their fingers on the pulse and they know how to manage growth in a healthy way that keeps people sticking around.