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FE&SEditorial Archives2005April — Editor's Perspective

Innovating a Successful Future

In this issue, we take our annual look at the foodservice industry’s Giants of Distribution. Beginning on page 20, our research profiles the 100 biggest kids on the foodservice distribution block based on sales volume.

Of course, the dollar amount associated with the products they sell and services they provide is only part of their story. These companies did not earn and maintain their positions as market leaders by simply selling a product for a price.

Rather, these Giants of Distribution understand that value is defined at the customer level and continue to take the steps that demonstrate this on a daily basis. Regardless of their past success, our Distribution Giants remain focused on increasing client value because they know it will spur growth.

So how businesses go about creating and increasing customer value must continue to evolve to meet the changing demands of the day. During last month’s NAFEM Management Workshop, John Brandt, founder and CEO of the Manufacturing Performance Institute, offered his take on how successful companies, regardless of their position in the distribution chain, can do just that.

Each customer has a fundamentally different perception of themselves and their role, Brandt said. They expect the products and services you provide to reflect their interpretation of their reality and reduce their “to do list” instead of adding to it. “The products you include may be a small part of the overall equation,” Brandt said.

It used to be that the promise of a higher-quality product could get a client to open the door for you. That is no longer the case. Today’s customers assume that your products are great, Brandt said.

This places an increased emphasis on your client relationships, which can serve as a differentiating factor. Successful organizations understand what metrics their customers use to calculate value and tailor their products and services to deliver them. That is why continually evaluating the quality of customer relationships is key.

Along those lines, it is important to realize that the competition at the service level is without boundaries, Brandt pointed out. So as service continues to speed up in their personal lives, they expect the same with their business transactions. In the distribution channel, relationships exist on a more business-to-business level but that does not mean they are immune to this trend. Clients and other members of the channel will still evaluate a trading partner based on every other service experience they have — both personal and professional.

In many instances, today’s customers expect their suppliers to offer advice and assistance in running their businesses, Brandt said. They see their suppliers as experts who can help them meet the changing needs of their customers.

Which takes me back to our industry’s Distribution Giants. This year’s article provides a quick look at each of these companies by offering up several key data points. Of course, I know that some of our more detail-oriented readers feel the more data they can access the better. That is why later this month on our new web site,, you can take a more in-depth look at each of these Giants thanks to the additional data available there.

Making this data accessible on our new web site represents one way we are trying to add value to our relationship with you, our reader. Please feel free to letting me know what you think of our new web site.

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