iFD People: John Tracy, Dot Foods

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John Tracy is executive chairman of Dot Foods, the industry’s largest redistributor, based in Mount Sterling, Ill. Founded in 1960 by John’s parents, Robert and Dorothy Tracy, Dot Foods today serves distributors across the U.S. and in 25 countries. The company was listed as 65th on the 2016 Forbes list of America’s Largest Private Companies with 2015 sales of more than $6 billion. One of 12 children, John became president in 1997, CEO in 2006 and recently moved to his role as executive chairman. He continues to be involved in industry initiatives and has been a strong leader on the IFDA (International Foodservice Distributors Association) board of directors.

What are you most proud of in your career?
I am most proud of what our family and our employees have been able to build from the ground up and, while doing that, being responsible for supporting more than 5,000 families with jobs and benefits.

Who are your role models?
My mom is easily my favorite role model for a multitude of reasons, although the list of people I admire is long and diverse.

What books or other reading matter are on your bedside table right now?
I love to read and always try to have a fun book and an educational book going, depending on my mood. Currently, they’re “House of Spies” by Daniel Silva and “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek.

How would you describe your leadership style?
I usually leave that question for others to answer, as I am not sure any of us is the best judge of our own personal style and how that style affects others.

What book has had the greatest impact on your leadership style?
Not one single book and too many to list, although books about leaders that are not autobiographies are generally always impactful. They portray the strengths and imperfections of great leaders and always make me think, as well as being fun to read.

What characteristic(s) do you admire most in others?
Humility, sense of humor, ongoing appetite to learn, curiosity, listening and communication

Which three people, living or dead, would you like to be marooned with on a desert island?
It would always start with my wife and kids, but after that it would include Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill. They’d be a fascinating group to listen to and learn from.

How would you describe yourself in one word?
Fortunate (or lucky)

What’s one dramatic change that you predict we’ll see in within the next 10 years?
Distribution companies’ biggest competitors in almost all industries will all be technology companies, and that may happen sooner rather than later.

What keeps you up at night?
Concerns about making the wrong decision and hurting our family, company and employees’ future is always first. Specific to a part of the business, it’s concerns about having the right quality and quantity of talent needed to be prepared for the opportunities available so that we remain relevant long-term.


About iFD People: We designed iFD People as a series of blog posts to introduce foodservice distribution leaders, sales stars and others who have made or are making history in the industry and to share their personal insights. It’s part of our commitment to highlighting heritage, people and progress through iFD’s corporate history writing services.

Amazon in Talks to Buy Sysco?

Now that would be an attention-getting headline! Trouble is, it would also be fake news (at least as far as we know).

Our point is how easy it is to spread “alternative facts.” All it takes is a post on social media, particularly if it has information about famous people or, in this case, an industry leader.

Can this happen to your company? Yes, very easily. Unfortunately, there are people who use social media to spread fake news either as an underhanded competitive tactic or just because they feel like doing it.

How can you preempt being a victim of fake news? Tell the real news first and often. You know the real story of your company: what it stands for, how it has grown, the values on which it was founded, where it is headed. Your brand’s story should play an integral role in how you go to market, how you build relationships with customers, suppliers and the community. It should also be part of your consistent messaging to employees, who can be effective and credible advocates in the event that a fake news story breaks and gains traction.

Developing and communicating your company’s story is not just a feel-good exercise, it’s a critical business strategy. Your story is your promise and your biggest point of difference. Let’s face it: All broadline distributors today have essentially the same products, pricing and services. But you have something no other company has — your own unique, very real story. Don’t wait to start telling it.

 

iFD People: Bob Goldin – Pentallect, Chicago

We highlight heritage, people and progress through our corporate history writing services. We’ve designed iFD People as a series to introduce foodservice distribution leaders, sales stars and others who have made or are making history in the industry. We offer insights into what makes iFD People tick. Who are their role models? What books are they reading? How would they describe themselves in one word? Here is our third profile in the series.

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Bob Goldin has a new gig as co-founder and partner at Pentallect Inc.  The Chicago-based consulting firm specializes in emerging and specialty food industry segments and channels, including club stores/cash-and-carry, consumer- and business-direct, specialty distribution, nontraditional retail and ethnic markets.

For many years, Bob was vice chairman at Technomic Inc. He headed the firm’s research and consulting practice and created and directed major programs including Volumix, iLAB, Long-Term Forecasting, Distributor Intelligence Report and the Foodservice Category Management Institute.

He created the Foodservice Essentials training program in cooperation with the International Foodservice Distributors Association, which has been responsible for onboarding many people new to the industry. He cut his teeth in distribution at CFS Continental.

People may not know that Bob is also a certified public accountant. He has a BA and an MBA from the University of Chicago.

What are you most proud of in your career?
BG:
To have had a platform and support system at Technomic and Pentallect that enable me to provide my perspectives and analysis of the industry and to interact with industry leaders.

When you think of icons in the industry, who comes to mind first?
BG: John Woodhouse and John Baugh. I’d also include Howard Schultz on the list. And, as did everyone who knew him, I adored Sam Bailin.

Who are your role models?
BG: Ron Paul, who was a great mentor and boss at Technomic in addition to being a true industry guru.

What books or other reading matter are on your bedside table right now?
BG: I have a fully loaded Kindle to accommodate my eclectic reading tastes. Right now I am plowing through “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates, “Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow and “Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance. I also recently discovered George Saunders, whose short stories amaze me.

If you could time travel to another point in history, when would it be?
BG: I’d love to relive my formative years, knowing then what I know now.

If you could come back as a particular person or thing, who/what would that be?
BG: It probably sounds a bit crass, but I sure wouldn’t mind coming back as Frank Sinatra.

What three people, living or dead, would you like to have dinner with?
BG: Jeff Bezos, John F. Kennedy, Louis Armstrong

How would you describe yourself in one word?
BG: Candid

What’s one dramatic change that you predict we’ll see in within the next 10 years?
BG: Massive improvements in health care, with Big Data and technology having a huge positive impact on prevention, treatment and overall outcomes.

Birth of a Giant: Sysco Nears 50 Years

Half a century ago, John Baugh, who had been a president of the National Frozen Food Distributors Association, was mulling over the direction of foodservice. He started meeting several times a year with a few of his distributor friends to discuss the future. Where was the industry going? What role would distribution play? How could they take advantage of changes that could occur? What might those changes be?

Baugh was not unfamiliar with managing change. In 1946, he left his position as manager of a flagship A&P supermarket in Houston and started Zero Foods, a retail frozen food distribution company. The concept of frozen foods was exploding, strangely enough as an unexpected consequence of World War II. Canned food required precious metals, which had been rationed, so another process was needed. Enter frozen foods. Frozen French fries and fish portions were flying off grocery store shelves.

Retail frozen food distributors, who had responded to the demand, owned the market and provided good customer service. Their salesmen arranged merchandise in display cases and kept them stocked. But their success was to be short-lived: Grocery chains quickly recognized the emerging profit center and soon decided to take frozen food distribution in-house. Eventually, those pioneering retail distributors turned to foodservice. It was the 1950s, the halcyon days of convenience foods. Frozen was in and foodservice demand was growing fast.

Baugh and his cohorts identified multiunit restaurant chains as a new growth opportunity and realized it would take a different type of distributor to service their geographic needs. They decided the best approach would be to band together to obtain financing for product line and facilities expansions and to increase their geographic reach.

Ultimately, 10 companies joined forces. They had a public offering in 1969 and, by March 1970, Sysco – short for Systems and Service Co. – was launched. John Baugh, the visionary behind the effort, was the conglomerate’s first chairman.

The rest, as they say, is history. The idea proved to be a brilliant one and as the foodservice industry grew, so did Sysco. By the end of its first decade, Sysco had 35 operating companies and sales of more than $1 billion. Today, Sysco continues to lead the foodservice distribution industry with 198 distribution facilities serving 425,000 customers. With more than $50 billion in sales, it is focused on growing in U.S. markets as well as globally.

By joining forces, understanding change and having a vision for the future – essentially serving as the ‘disruptors’ of their time – those companies, led by Baugh, gave birth to the giant that is still No. 1 in the industry. Soon, Sysco will turn 50, with decades of growth to celebrate. All because of 10 founders who had a vision for the future.

iFD People: Jim Cremins, Y. Hata & Co., Honolulu

 

In line with our goal of highlighting heritage, people and progress through our corporate history writing services, we’ve designed iFD People as a series of quick-read, Q&A-style blog posts periodically introducing foodservice distribution leaders, sales stars and others who have made or are making history in the industry. We’re bypassing the usual work-related questions, however. Instead, we’re offering insights into what makes iFD People tick. Who are their role models? What books are they reading? How would they describe themselves in one word? Here is our second profile.

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Jim has been in Hawaii since 2012, following a long career in foodservice distribution stateside. Many people will remember him from his position as VP of sales for Performance Food Group but he has also had a number of roles with both specialty and broadline companies.

He is currently in an active role with Y. Hata & Company, in Honolulu, working with the team of department directors, division managers and senior leadership on implementing business strategy and protocols and developing people for the future success of the company. He had been a consultant to the company since 2004.

Jim says, “I also represent the company in several organizations focused on culinary education and food security for the State of Hawaii, a very important part of the values of the company.”

His expertise is primarily in business strategy, people development and organizational structure, as well as personal profiling, acquisition integration and executive coaching.

What are you most proud of in your career?
JC:
The people I have helped develop.

When you think of icons in the industry, who comes to mind first?
JC: Sam Balin

Who are your role models?
JC:
Sam Balin, Isadore Feldman, Paul Gordon

What books or other reading matter are on your bedside table right now?
JC:
“Out of Line” by Barbara Lynch

If you could time travel to another point in history, when would it be?
JC:
2030

If you could come back as a particular person or thing, who/what would that be?
JC: A younger me

What three people, living or dead, would you like to have dinner with?
JC:
Paul Prudhomme, Ella Brennan, Nelson Mandela

How would you describe yourself in one word?
JC: Curious

What’s one dramatic change that you predict we’ll see in within the next 10 years?
JC: Self-driving cars will become mainstream.

 

 

 

Heritage Matters at Dot Foods

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Dot Foods has mastered the art of redistribution, a unique segment of the foodservice industry that its founders, Robert and Dorothy Tracy, pioneered when they launched the company in 1960. With eight kids to feed, a house to pay for and little more than a station wagon and a dream with which to build a business, they started delivering powdered milk and other food products to dairies in the Midwest.

Fast forward to today: The Mount Sterling, Ill.-based redistributor was No. 65 on Forbes’ 2016 list of America’s Largest Private Companies with annual sales hitting $6.6 billion. Dot Foods operates 10 distribution centers across the U.S. and two in Canada. It carries nearly 120,000 products from 835 manufacturers and operates Dot Transportation, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary. Dot delivers products to distributors in all 50 states and more than 25 countries.

As family business success stories go, it’s one for the ages. Now helmed by second-generation leaders John (executive chairman), Joe (CEO) and Dick (president) Tracy, the company is doubling in size every five years. Over the years, the Tracy children have helped to shepherd Dot Foods through massive organizational change and growth, but every step they’ve taken forward has been guided by the past.

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If the Tracys are undisputed masters of redistribution, they’re also adept at leveraging and honoring Dot Foods’ heritage to shape its brand story and its future. The ethics and values on which “RT” and Dorothy Tracy built the company guide and inspire every major decision its current leaders make. The promise the couple made in 1960 to provide every customer with individualized service continues to frame the company’s go-to-market strategy and its corporate culture. And the innovation that they brought to the industry – introducing the very concept of redistribution to help customers and vendors alike grow more profitably – drives Dot’s current leaders to continue its legacy of outside-the-box thinking. The company lives and breathes its motto: “Trusted values. Innovative solutions. Shared growth.”

Visit “dotfoods.com” to get a taste of how past, present and future come together to create a compelling, heritage-rich brand story. Whether you’re a customer, employee, vendor or other stakeholder, you’ll quickly get the message that heritage really matters at Dot Foods. (Photos courtesy of Dot Foods)

 

iFD People: Caroline Perkins, iFD Co-Founder

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In line with our goal of highlighting heritage, people and progress through our corporate history writing services, we’ve designed iFD People as a series of quick-read, Q&A-style blog posts periodically introducing foodservice distribution leaders, sales stars and others who have made or are making history in the industry. We’re bypassing the usual work-related questions, however. Instead, we’re offering insights into what makes iFD People tick. Who are their role models? What books are they reading? How would they describe themselves in one word?

To start the ball rolling and as a preview of what’s to come, here’s a sample Q&A with iFD co-founder Caroline Perkins. Stay tuned for more in the weeks ahead.

iFD People: Caroline Perkins, co-founder and chronicler, inside foodservice distribution
What are you most proud of in your career?
CP: Being able to tell the stories of so many wonderful companies and people in our industry. Foodservice distribution is one of the few remaining industries that is primarily made up of family-owned businesses. It has been my privilege to learn about and share their stories.

When you think of icons in the industry, who comes to mind first?
CP: Bob Civin, former editor of ID magazine; John Martin of Martin Bros. Distributing; Mike Roach, former president of Ben E. Keith Foods; John Woodhouse, former chairman and CEO of Sysco Corp.; the Tracy family of Dot Foods; and the Gordon family of Gordon Food Service

Who are your role models?
CP: 
John Martin, Martin Bros. Distributing; Carla Cooper, former CEO of Daymon Worldwide and former president of the Women’s Foodservice Forum; Alice in Wonderland

What books or other reading matter are on your bedside table right now?
CP: 
“The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations and Its Prospects” by Lewis Mumford; “Four Quartets” by T.S. Eliot; autobiography of Christian Dior; “The Obsidian Chamber” by Preston & Child; “The Art of Fielding” by Chad Harbach; and poems by Emily Dickinson

If you could time travel to another point in history, when would it be?
CP: 
The 1830s and 40s in Concord and Amherst, Mass., when there was such a fabulous group of brilliant writers and thinkers, including Emerson, Thoreau, Channing, Dickinson, the Alcotts and Hawthorne, to mention a few.

If you could come back as a particular person or thing, who/what would that be?
CP: 
The person who finds a cure for cystic fibrosis.

What three people, living or dead, would you like to have dinner with?
CP: 
Marcel Proust, Emily Dickinson, T.S. Eliot

How would you describe yourself in one word?
CP: 
Seeking

What dramatic industry changes do you predict we’ll see in within the next 10 years?
CP: 
There will be a significant increase in mergers and acquisitions. Successful distribution companies will be solutions providers for their customers in terms of their having to keep up with changes in technology, food safety, food origin and creative ways for operators to deliver food to consumers. In other words, taking consultative selling to the max and into the future.