Josh Smith owes his career to being at the right place at the right time. After years of working odd jobs in restaurants, including dishwashing and bussing tables, Smith's buddy invited him to help move Bargreen Ellingson's warehouse.
"My friend knew I was looking for a career-type job and said this would be a good opportunity to get my foot in the door," Smith says.
When he showed up to help move boxes, Smith ended up working side by side with Bargreen Ellingson's director of operations, Tom Murphy, who soon realized that Smith was not a part of the high school football team that he had enlisted to help with the move.
Impressed with Smith's work ethic, Murphy hired him on the spot to pick orders with the night crew. After two years, Smith transitioned to shipping and receiving, then eight months later moved on to become a delivery driver for the company's downtown Seattle route.
The following year, Smith joined the inside sales staff at Bargreen Ellingson's Seattle branch. About a year and a half later, an outside sales position opened up in Seattle, and that's where he has worked since late 2006. His clients mainly consist of the city's high-end restaurants and hotels.
FE&S: How did working in a restaurant help prepare you for your current career?
JS: It definitely helped me understand the day-to-day workings of a commercial kitchen. I worked at various types of foodservice operations, including a buffet, Chinese restaurant and fast food chain, so I have a good idea about how the different types flow and operate. I also feel more comfortable walking through the back line of a kitchen.
FE&S: You are known for being very good with your follow up. Why is that important to your success?
JS: A sales rep doesn't always have to be the cheapest, smartest or fastest. If someone is lacking in other qualities, but provides answers and takes care of the customer, that's the most important quality. I know how frustrated I get dealing with unresponsive people, so I make it a point to follow through.
FE&S: What drives you to be successful?
JS: A lot of different things drive me. The folks at Bargreen Ellingson have stood behind me, supported me and been kind to me. This makes me want the company to succeed as well as to further my own career and reach my goals. I really enjoy this job, seeing customers and developing relationships. It's my dealings with customers that also is motivating, since the main objective is to please them.
FE&S: What elements go into a successful relationship with both your customers and supply chain partners?
JS: Face time is still really important. The most valuable and strongest relationships are developed face to face, even in this digital world. It's also important to have a healthy mix of e-mail, phone and in-person communication today. The same is true for supply chain partners. Most people want to deal with someone who understands what they need.
FE&S: What's the most important lesson you've learned working in the foodservice industry?
JS: The value of a good reputation. I have come to understand that if you develop a good reputation, it can help make inroads where there normally wouldn't be or help bail you out of an unfortunate situation. I now work very hard to maintain mine.