Your company’s social location: what is it —why does it matter?

If you took Sociology 101, you will remember that social location is a collection of an individual’s characteristics that place him or her in a particular group within society. The defining characteristics include gender, race, social class, age, religion, education and geographic location, among others.

Ideally, there is no judgment attached to social location. Unfortunately, this is not always true in present-day American society. Your social location may well be the difference between success and failure in your life and career.

Social location is a key to understanding what an individual brings to a relationship, whether it is work, leisure pursuits or personal. But the concept can be applied to your company, as well. What does your company bring to customer and supplier relationships? Do you help customers and other partners to understand your social location characteristics, or do they just have to guess?

Social location indicators for a company can include history, culture, values, service – both to customers and to the industry — business philosophy and trustworthiness. It’s all those things that a company brings to every business relationship.

We use social location every day

An individual can make a mark and be noticed positively in society by cultivating and emphasizing elements of his or her social location that are meaningful to peers. Politicians do this all the time, letting us know where they stand so we can judge their ability to fulfill the obligations of the job. Individuals do this in job interviews and, increasingly, on social media.

Tabloids make their money detailing the social location elements of celebrities and sports idols. This all changes when one of these icons breaks the code of his or her particular social location. Think Tiger Woods or Harvey Weinstein.

The same social downfall can happen to companies that betray their social location. Enron comes to mind.

Your company’s social location is important to your brand strategy. If you don’t have a good handle on your culture, values, philosophy, and so forth, how can you communicate your value to your supply-chain partners? It’s important to let them know exactly what you bring to the relationship table. Your social location counts! Capture it in writing and spread the word.

iFD PEOPLE: Ron Boyd, Ben E. Keith Foods (Retired)

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Ron Boyd recently retired after 36 years with Ben E. Keith Foods in Fort Worth, Texas. Ron was well-known and respected by all throughout his career in the industry.

“For nearly four decades, Ron has exemplified the ‘Special Spirit’ we have at Ben E. Keith,” says Mike Sweet, president of Ben E. Keith Foods“Through his inspiring leadership, he has fueled much of our expansion and enabled our evolution from a produce company to a broadline distributor. Ron will be missed, but his legacy will be felt every day. We wish him and his wife, Debbie, a happy and fruitful retirement.”

Here is Ron’s story:

My first job was as the ‘ice boy’ at a sporting goods outlet in Arkansas making 50 cents an hour. I had to be at work at 5 a.m. to get ice for the fishermen. That made me understand how important it was for me to go to college! I graduated from college in 1969 and immediately reported to active duty in the United States Army as a Quartermaster officer. I was stationed in Fort Lee, Va., to attend Quartermaster officer basic training then on to the food advisor/technician school. I spent time in Zweibrucken, Germany, and Da Nang, Vietnam.

Upon returning to the U.S., I got a job running a commissary and federal meat processing operation in Little Rock, Ark. I was fortunate to move on to work for Ben E. Keith Foods the next 36 years, serving as assistant general manager in Dallas, then GM in both Dallas and Fort Worth, then director of groceries , VP regional manager and, finally, completing my career as senior vice president of sales and marketing. I now plan to do more fishing, hunting, traveling with my wonderful wife and spoiling all seven of our grandchildren.

What are you most proud of in your career?
Being involved in the evolution of foodservice at Ben E. Keith Foods and watching our people and company thrive.

Who are your role models?
Alfredo Duarte, owner of Taxco Produce Dallas, Texas. Most thoughtful, considerate and generous person I know. Chef Charles Carroll, executive chef at River Oaks Country Club in Houston, for his leadership in mentoring young people. Developing people is a job for everybody at home and in business.

What books or other reading matter are on your bedside table right now?
Safari Times…I love Mother Nature at her finest.

How would you describe your leadership style?
Open to join in. I knew I was never the smartest guy in the room. The more input I could get, the more creative we became together.

What book has had the greatest impact on your leadership style?
“Leadership Lesson from the Chef— Taking Time to be Great,” by Chef Charles Carroll. Also, Brian Dodge’s “Becoming the Obvious Choice.”

What characteristic(s) do you admire most in others? Least?
Most — relentless energy and sense of urgency. Least — laziness or lack of enthusiasm.

What three people, living or dead, would you like to be marooned on a desert island with?
My wife Debbie, FDR and Robert Ruark

How would you describe yourself in one word?

What’s one dramatic change that you predict we’ll see in within the next 10 years?
Technology taking the dining-out experience to dramatically new levels in both food offerings and service. How and where spectacular food is made available.

What keeps you up at night?
Government regulations that make it hard for us to do business with and lawyers in general. At some point, common sense and doing the right thing need a bigger seat at the table.

Any thoughts on where the industry is headed?
I absolutely think the best is yet to come in foodservice. With technology at the fingertips of our DSRs, their opportunity to deepen their relationship with each customer can grow to exceptional heights. Remaining committed to exceptional, and I do mean exceptional, customer service remains paramount. Nothing will replace the value of a knowledgeable, committed, easy-to-do-business-with sales person who has an efficient, reliable, easy-to-do-business-with company supporting them.