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ROFDA Board Chair Looking Forward To Future

Ray Sprinkle

Ray Sprinkle, chairman of the board of directors for the Retailer Owned Food Distributors & Associates, is excited about the organization’s future.

“ROFDA’s undergone some change. We really are excited to have Jeff [Pedersen, president] on board with his leadership and his experience, bringing some new ideas to the organization,” said Sprinkle, who also is CEO of Spokane, Washington-based URM.

“I think for a long time ROFDA just maintained status quo. Under Jeff’s leadership, we are changing for the better. We have to; our industry has changed. He’s done a great job putting the conferences and speakers together to get us to rethink the way we’ve always done it. That’s been extremely encouraging and beneficial to us.”

ROFDA, which is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, consists of eight cooperative-owned wholesalers – along with several associate members – but the organization is eyeing growth.

“We’re looking to expand out from the co-op warehouses that ROFDA has been founded on to potentially some other parties that are in the wholesaling business, because they face the same issues we do,” Sprinkle said. “And if we can learn from each other, why not?”

He went on to note that wholesalers face the same issues, “whether that’s finding drivers or fuel costs that keep rising. How do we become more efficient? How do we do a better job moving freight and do a better job increasing productivity in the distribution centers?”

When Sprinkle was named CEO of URM in 2012, “it was trial by fire.” Having the ability to reach out to the CEOs of other co-ops and be able to share ideas, thoughts or what he was facing as a new CEO was “invaluable to me.”

“Their words of encouragement…and advice, best practices of what they’re doing, has meant a lot. We’ve come away from ROFDA – every conference and everybody that’s gone from URM – with several ideas to improve our operation, whether that’s increased productivity, how do we get better cost of goods or services – it has been invaluable to us.”

Sprinkle said the addition of retailers at the spring ROFDA conference was well received.

“We will continue to be inclusive of our retailers – our member owners,” he said. “We’re excited about that and building that program out, whether that’s with share groups or their interaction with all of us at the conferences.”

According to Sprinkle, ROFDA is made up of co-ops, and the ownership of those co-ops is the independent retailer. “I always wondered, how do we have these meetings without the independent retailer that we service – the customer and also an owner – and not gain their input?”

At the spring conference, the group of retailers was asked to share their voices.

“To hear firsthand from them, what their concerns are – what kept them up at night – it was kind of eye opening, especially as it didn’t matter what region of the country they were from or who serviced them,” Sprinkle said. “There were some common threads throughout their concerns.

“It gives us an opportunity as an organization to find solutions that meet their needs, lets them go to sleep at night, and we don’t have to reinvent the wheel seven or eight times over.”

Sprinkle added that one of the strengths of ROFDA has been its share groups, which the organization is looking to expand. A new retail technology share group will meet at the fall conference in November. The organization also is encouraging share groups to increase their activity, meeting more often throughout the year.

“They report back to the CEOs on what topics they are working on and find common ground that they can work on projects together,” he said. “Then, they meet monthly and quarterly to build those action plans out, and it just enhances everybody’s operation by best practices and sharing of ideas.”

Turning back to the fall conference, Sprinkle said ROFDA will “try to stay true to our vision, which is to continue to expand the involvement of the retailers, making sure that they get value out of the conference, as well. And make sure that we continue to provide more structure for the share groups so that they can continue to exchange info, best practices and learn from each other.”

For more information about the organization, visit rofda.com.

To view the full anniversary section presented by The Shelby Report, click here.

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