Travis Lusky is a foodservice industry lifer. He started washing dishes in restaurants at only 14 years of age, then tackled just about every kitchen job while a student in high school and college.
After graduating from Central Michigan University in 2007, Lusky briefly took a sales job in another industry before joining Burkett Restaurant Equipment as an inside salesperson. "A friend helped me get a foot in the door," Lusky says. "I knew it was what I wanted to do."
As his career progressed, Lusky and the management at Burkett saw an opportunity to grow the business via contract sales. In 2008, he began leading the dealership's efforts to bid on a variety of projects ranging from new restaurants to school projects to prisons.
FE&S: How did your time as an inside sales person prepare you for your current role?
TL: It was crucial because you can use the equipment all you want, but it doesn't mean you know about the manufacturers. The most important thing about being in inside sales was getting to know my reps and developing close relationships with them. We help each other out when we need to. I also learned a lot about customer needs and customer service.
FE&S: How do you make sure to balance the needs of your client, company and supply chain partners?
TL: At the end of the day, the customer is the one that's buying. I have to keep them happy, whether I sacrifice my time or money, the customer is Number One. With contract bids, I'm working with architects, consultants and contractors. If I make customers mad, word of mouth spreads fast.
FE&S: What's the most important lesson you have learned over the years?
TL: Relationships are Number One, whether they be with customers, other companies, fellow employees, reps or factories. The people you work with have to trust your decision, because it may be a decision that changes people's jobs that day. My boss has to trust that I'm making a decision for a good reason. I help the reps who help me. If something breaks and I need a replacement unit that will take six weeks, reps I have a relationship with will get it out sooner. I am the face between our company and customers and manufacturers. It's important to make it a positive experience. Customers have to trust me as well as the equipment.
FE&S: The foodservice projects you manage tend to have a lot of moving parts. How do you stay on top of everything to ensure nothing gets lost?
TL: I'm very good at multitasking, which is important with bidding. Right now, I have seven to eight open school projects worth more than $2 million. It's important to prioritize and decide what needs to be done right away.
FE&S: How do you handle situations when things don't go as planned?
TL: First, I sit down and figure out the best solution, which is the one that is best for the customer. Then I figure out the best way to tackle the problem.
FE&S: If you weren't in your current career, what would you be doing?
TL: I would be a teacher. It's what people who know me say I would be good at. I like sharing what I know. The most rewarding thing is sharing my knowledge with someone and seeing that person implement it.