LFS Nostalgia

October 24, 2011

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Dick Gaglione manned the timber at a watering hole named Rob Roy’s. When his father Charlie sold the bar business, Dick was out of a job.  He had three kids and a wife to support.  He comes to me and asks if I knew of any sales jobs in the food business.  I hook him up with a friend of mine, Mike Hamman, and Dick starts with a fish company called Kotok-Heims.  He makes the transition from slingin’ drinks to selling seafood a smooth one.

Dick now has been at Kotok for a couple of years and is doing quite well.  He has established a nice customer base and is well regarded in the business.  Kotok-Heims, like every other distributor, is having a food show.  Naturally for Dick, this means a slew of his customers will be there and the show set-up is very important and labor-intensive.  There are displays to be built, equipment to be hauled in. Lots of work before the real work started.

Our Durkee booth is set up and I notice Dick’s son Gregory is working his tail off helping his father.  Now this is a hot Saturday in September and here is this teenager busting his butt.  I think, when I was his age, on a beautiful Saturday, I sure would not have wanted to do what he is doing.  I comment to Dick about how I noticed his son Greg doing a lot of lifting and hauling.  Dick says, “he knew, with my bad hip, how hard it would be for me to try and get everything done, so he volunteered to help.”  I asked what year is he in school.  He is a junior at Amherst, with hopes of going on to Canisius College.  I said, have him give me a call when he gets out of Canisius.  Five years later that call came.

I interview Greg and he is immediately hired to work the Western New York market with our Territory Manager, Don Marquardt.  Don is a seasoned vet, very well liked, and knows everybody in the market.  So how is Gregory going to carve out his own niche and not be overshadowed by his supervisor?   Greg had an uncanny ability to listen carefully.  Customers noticed and appreciated this manner. His low pressure  approach  of not looking just for a quick sale, but rather for the value of a long-term customer was evident.  Within months, Greg was building his own base of business to complement his Territory Manager’s base of business. It was a win-win situation.

Then, there was a National Sales Meeting held at some fancy resort in Florida.  Our company, Durkee Foodservice, had morphed into Van den Bergh Foods. We were introducing some product that was going to revolutionize the frozen dough business.  It was so revolutionary that I don’t remember what it was!  Anyway, our area had been picked to introduce the product, months prior to this National Meeting.  Now that we have the product in the market, we need to tell the rest of the troops from California to Maine what and how we did it.  Our Vice President in Chicago calls me and tells me that he wants one of my seasoned vets to make this important presentation at the meeting.  I agree.  He says who will do it?  I answer, Greg Gaglione.  VP: “Are you kidding?  He’s been with us less than a year!!”  Me: “I know he will do a terrific job and I’ll put my reputation on the line.”  VP: “OK, but don’t screw this up!”  For the next few days, I took some “heat” from my immediate manager and some folks in the marketing department in Chicago.  I just remembered back to where this young man came from and the commitments he made along the way and the challenges he conquered.

So the meeting begins and unfolds.  There are boring graphic presentations of a myriad of numbers, products and  inspirational speakers, that would put you asleep.  Then the climax is about to come and Greg Gaglione has center stage, with my reputation hanging on the line.  Greg takes the stage and does his 20 minutes of features and benefits and successes – he is applauded to the hilt.

I beamed with pride on making the right pick and Greg Gaglione stood tall, before his peers and superiors.


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