John Daniel has worked in the foodservice industry for close to three decades. Although he has never been employed by a restaurant, he knows the ins and outs of a commercial kitchen as well as many cooks.
In his first job out of college, John developed drawings and designs for a nationwide foodservice consulting firm. He then received a comprehensive education on the industry working at several Colorado equipment dealerships, a stainless steel fabrication shop as well as owning his own millwork shop. John relocated to Tampa, Fla., and joined Beltram about five years ago.
Despite today’s challenging economic conditions, his business continues to flourish. John specializes in contract bid work, including servicing restaurant chains. FE&S spoke with John to discuss his career and how he has adapted to these challenging times.
FE&S: What do you like best about your job?
JD: I work mostly with bids and contracts on new construction projects and occasionally I work with chains. I work on projects all over the country, so I get to travel, which can be nice. Mostly, I enjoy the bidding process, negotiating the price and winning the project.
FE&S: Aside from the economy, what are your biggest challenges, and how do you overcome these?
JD: With the current economy, there are twice as many dealers bidding on contracts, and everyone is lowering their margins to get the work. To compensate, we work with factories, freight companies and custom fabricators to get the best deal we can. Also, due to the economy, most projects are over budget. As a result, value engineering is more common.
FE&S: How do you keep your product knowledge current?
JD: Attending trade shows is the best way to keep current on equipment. It allows you to be hands on with the various items, and everything is in one place. When we go to a show, we have local reps walk us around the exhibit to show us their product lines. We also walk the show ourselves to see what other equipment is applicable to our projects. In addition to attending equipment shows, we try to participate in factory training seminars and read industry publications and manufacturer newsletters.
FE&S: What lessons have you learned from this economic downturn?
JD: In terms of bidding, there is still a lot of work out there. We haven’t slowed down. In this economy, we bid on more projects because it has become a more competitive environment. It’s vital for us to have a good backlog of projects.
FE&S: When managing big jobs, how do you coordinate all of the suppliers to ensure customer needs are being met?
JD: I have a great team. About three years ago I decided I wanted to do more than I could do alone, so I created the National Contracts Division. I brought on three people: Jennifer Vega, Marty Cox and Eric Johnson. The project managers, Marty and Eric, have several years of experience in the field as well as plumbing and electrical training. Jennifer, who has an operations and accounting background, keeps the work moving and the customers happy. Having the team in place allows me to focus on networking, bidding, the overall project performance for each job and all of the financials. We have weekly meetings so I can stay on top of what’s going on with each project.
FE&S: What tools are invaluable to you in your line of work?
JD: The internet, AQNet, my laptop and cell phones. It’s important to be accessible at all times.
FE&S: What are the most important attributes of a DSR in today’s business environment?
JD: Knowledge, education and persistence are important. DSRs must be able to solve problems 24/7.
FE&S: What are the unique challenges of working on projects nationwide?
JD: It can be a challenge to ensure that my installers and project managers get to jobs on time when they are traveling from state to state.
FE&S: Name one goal you hope to accomplish in the coming year.
JD: I would like to increase my business twofold this year.