Leaders Skilled in Educating Themselves are Better Prepared for Disruption

Mason Greene
Chairman, FEDA
President, Hotel & Restaurant Supply

I recently attended a conference where the main themes were leadership and innovation. Within that, there was a lot of talk around the idea of learning agility: the ability and willingness to continually learn, unlearn, and relearn models from people and other sources – and then apply that learning and the strategies that arise from it to new contexts.

As a member of an industry going through a period of disruption, I instantly recognized the importance of this concept. Today’s leaders must be in a constant state of learning and possess the courage to shift gears to keep their business relevant. One of the event’s speakers highlighted this challenge when they noted that 50 percent of the skills that business leaders have today will be irrelevant in five years. It’s a scary thought, but one our industry should be cognizant of as we develop plans for managing disruption.

The realities of the foodservice equipment and supplies market are changing so rapidly today that it’s easy to feel like we’re always catching up to the newest new thing. I find it helps to be on the lookout for ways to educate myself about innovative tools, solutions, and thinking. Webinars, executive workshops, conferences, the University of Innovative Distribution, and FEDA’s upcoming Learn Institute are all invaluable resources for leaders that want to stay on top of a changing industry.

One of the areas where FEDA’s Learn Institute will make the largest impact is its product education. As explained in this issue, the association is working with several manufacturers to provide training and resources on their latest equipment. This kind of information is vital to the health of all foodservice equipment distributors because product knowledge is the core of what we do. Being able to communicate that knowledge to our customers – and to use that expertise to solve their problems with the products we sell – is what separates dealers and distributors from the non-specialty equipment sellers online. It’s what makes us an indispensable and trusted source rather than just a transaction line on an accounting summary.

As we all have encountered, our customers are only getting younger and more tech-savvy. Positioning our business in front of them to initiate those relationships requires us to meet operators on their level. This is where understanding new technologies, such as digital marketing, can be invaluable. At Hotel & Restaurant Supply, our business is largely relational, so we’ve only dabbled in digital marketing and have yet to develop a comprehensive strategy around it. Resources like FEDA News & Views, however, can help me better understand where to start – so our business can begin introducing itself to those customers we have yet to discover