Members of the board of directors for the Retailer Owned Food Distributors and Associates discussed the state of the industry and shared their thoughts on what may lie ahead during a panel discussion at the organization’s fall conference.
Board member Michael Violette, president and CEO of AG New England, praised the value of ROFDA’s share groups, which represent various departments from each wholesaler within the organization. Among them are finance, human resources, information technology, marketing/advertising/retail, services/business development, operations, perishables and procurement.
Fellow board member Ray Sprinkle, president and CEO of URM Stores in Spokane, Washington, was equally effusive of the groups.
“When I had the opportunity to visit with our senior management team and have the ability to attend these types of meetings, they come back charged up with a list of new items that somebody is doing somewhere in the country, or has triggered a thought maybe we ought to be doing something different,” he said.
Bob Obray, a ROFDA board member and CEO of Salt Lake City-based Associated Food Stores, spoke to the importance of relationships for continued success. “We have these peer relationships. We have relationships with all of you. And that’s really a significant part of the presence of ROFDA,” he said. “So how can we expand that?
“How can we take something that’s already good and make it better – whether it’s learning about our industry, learning about challenges that we face together, learning about how we can serve our retail customers better? That’s a great opportunity for us.”
ROFDA’s directors envision being more inclusive, which likely will mean getting independent retailers involved.
“The first word to who we are is retail. I’ve always felt that retailers should be part of what we do, should be part of this conference,” said board member Randy Arceneaux, president and CEO of Affiliated Foods Inc. and Amarillo, Texas. “Because at the end of the day, our whole focus is helping the retailer survive in this marketplace.”
Board member Amy Niemetscheck, president and CEO of Madison, Wisconsin-based CERTCO Inc., noted that ROFDA vets its sponsors, providing an exclusive feeling to members. “We want to try and not bring in your closest competitor once you’re in the circle, the ROFDA family,” she said.
Turning to supplier partners, Arceneux said the No. 1 expectation is opportunity, specifically having a seat at the table. “That’s what I’ve always felt at these conferences is that you want to be heard, you want an opportunity to be heard,” he said. “And I think at the same time, you do want to build relationships with everyone.
“We keep talking about relationships and family. Well, that’s the truth. That’s really who we are.”
Obray added that share groups plan to start meeting more frequently by phone and visiting each other’s facilities.
“But [it’s us] as the CEOs who really have to push that engagement and make sure that it doesn’t stop,” he said. “I can look at our team over there and I know they’re not going to stop. I know they’re going to be committed and engaged in the process.
Violette said leadership needs to know if “we’re not providing them with the resources. I think a big part of our jobs as CEOs is getting the right people together and giving them the resources that they need to make things happen.”
Sprinkle described ROFDA’s future as bright. “We need to advocate, we need to face ROFDA to make sure that we are meeting not only the needs of the independent retailers, our associates, but also our member warehouses,” he said.
For more information, visit rofda.com.