By: Carol Abel, Vice President of Education, Food Marketing Institute
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Dave Jones, vice president of industry initiatives at the Kellogg Company, on the importance of engaging in collaborative business meetings each year. As a longtime participant in the Strategic Executive Exchange (SEE), Dave had great insights and tips to share on ways to make the most of the program. I thought it would benefit our members to hear the SEE perspective from the other side of the trading partner table. Steve Arnold, executive vice president of marketing with Associated Wholesale Grocers offers his perspective on how AWG lays the groundwork for business building opportunities during SEE and the Annual Business Conference (ABC) meetings.
With over eight years of involvement with the SEE and the ABC meetings, Steve has found great value in FMI’s intimate business forums. He also shared some guidance on ways to make the best use of the program.
As a longtime participant in the SEE program, why is it important to you to engage each year?
Steve: The SEE meetings provide opportunities to interact and collaborate with key executive leaders in many of the organizations we meet with. It helps spark discussions on key market forces and consumer trends impacting our industry and businesses early on in the business year.
What level staff do you bring for the SEE meetings?
Steve: We try to ensure that the individuals we bring are in leadership roles, including chief merchants, chief operations, chief marketing and sales, and lead business units. We feel bringing individuals within these levels is prudent for us to keep the conversations productive and effective.
What kind of ideas do you share with your trading partners?
Steve: We like to bring our partners up-to-date with our current activities and our business in its entirety. We share our immediate and long-term visions, and seek ways for joint collaboration to accomplish our overall objectives. The SEE program serves as a prime opportunity to start the new year with a full understanding of where our respective organizations are heading.
What kinds of things do you learn from your trading partners?
Steve: They want reciprocity and that’s how they approach it. You tell us what’s going on in your business and we’ll tell you what’s going on in ours, and we’ll identify ways for future success together.
What recommendations would you have for a new SEE retailer/wholesaler participant in terms of what to do or what to focus on?
Steve: I’d recommend focusing on successful interaction to develop strategies that will identify ways to improve your operating results, whether its discussions centered on opportunities to generate top-line growth, overall efficiencies or operations. We must ask ourselves: How can we have successful and positive growth jointly?
As a participant in both the Strategic Executive Exchange and the Annual Business Conference, how are the two activities different from your perspective?
Steve: To help harmonize and synchronize these collaboration event platforms, FMI has moved ABC to September to provide a more efficient and effective industry calendar of events, and I’m hopeful that we’ll see an extension of SEE in ABC with the new time gap. ABC will lead the operational dialogue and confirm and reiterate the tactical implementation of the vision established during our SEE meetings. How do we get back in-line with our mutual objectives and are there any additional goals or accomplishments for the upcoming Strategic Executive Exchange soon thereafter?Learn more about FMI’s Strategic Executive Exchange program and register today.