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Meet Wayne Jones of The Hansen Group in Duluth

Today we’d like to introduce you to Wayne Jones.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Wayne. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I personally started back in 1984 and 1985, while in college I needed summer money. So I began working in the warehouse of a local dealer stocking shelves and receiving product from their many suppliers. I developed a knowledge of most everything made for the industry, and by whom, rather quickly. The owner recognized this and pulled me into the office to begin working in customer service. The following summer I began inside sales and quickly moved to outside sales upon my return back to Atlanta. I worked for that particular dealer for another couple of years and moved on to a broadline distributor to run their equipment division. This was very successful and fun traveling all over the state and meeting all kinds of foodservice owners and managers alike in every facet of the business from hotels to country clubs to family run restaurants. I eventually came to The Hansen Group to work in 2000. They were a group of about 7-8 people but with a well known reputation for top notch ethics and success. I was hooked instantly. They represented and still do today, the industry’s finest collection of manufacturers. I began in sales and love getting in front of people to use my knowledge that has grown over thirty years in the industry. Today I am Managing Partner with twenty eight people in the company. I still handle some major accounts in sales, but a much smaller number. The remainder of my time is working with the daily running of The Hansen Group.

Has it been a smooth road?
There are always struggles and stresses with the varying personalities you meet and most definitely selling products that you want to fulfill every customers satisfaction to its fullest.

We have had a steady employee base all along which helps calm the nerves, but sometimes external forces like shipping, damages, delays, all help to increase your stress level. Many years ago, I used to let it all eat me up. I changed my mind a few years ago when a personal friend, in a very like business, told me of his brush with death all due to stress and neglect of his mental health. From that point forward, I seldom allow things to really get me fired up. I would classify my ability to handle issues with a controlled calmness one of my biggest strengths today and it has definitely been a learned process.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the The Hansen Group story. Tell us more about the business.
We are a collective group of manufacturer’s representatives. I have three other active partners within the company, Dave Schwefler here in the Atlanta office, Phil Kenny in the Atlanta office and Dennis Elliott in our Franklin, TN office. Dave handles some high level end user accounts as well as many of our dealer partners. Dennis, a former VP with an industry manufacturing giant, runs the Tennessee facility and works with many high level outside accounts. Phil is the purest sales person in the industry and works with many top level chain restaurants and local school foodservice counties. We operate two branch locations, Duluth GA and Franklin TN. We have twenty outside sales reps working a geographic area of GA, AL, the Florida Panhandle and TN from the TN river eastward. We have eight internal people who are invaluable to success. We represent all the top manufacturers of the foodservice world, from equipment to smallwares to tabletop items.

We call upon the dealers that literally sell the products for us, but mainly concentrate on the actual end user marketplace by creating demand for the products. We literally made the decision years ago to start hiring young and outside of the industry. It has paid dividends for us, but getting used to the various generations within the company was a little “interesting.” Having a bunch of twenty something year olds trying to explain to the older generation of our group how to work smarter was always a bit trying! Eventually though it all worked out.

Today we have a perfect blend of youth and experience. I am most proud of each person. Literally, we hire people, not positions. I entrust the people to carry on our values daily and work to make great decisions and of course the sales will follow. We love to Backsell, as a well known industry Professional Consultant named John Haskell taught us. My business partners and I hired him years ago to help bridge us from a smaller organization of about 11-12 employees to today’s group. Backselling is our commonly used term to always be mindful of selling our company and core values to all that we meet and work with. It used to tell me “how many of your clients know your business name…. probably many…but how many know how many people work for you, how many know your test kitchen and offices, how many know the company history and longevity?” We use a company profile on all new calls to “introduce” our clients to our business and assure them that we ARE the industry experts. It works heavily. Although that is only a tiny portion of what we term Backselling, it is a term used by many successful organizations that I have met. I sit on a Board of Directors for the MAFSI (Manufacturer’s Agents for the Food Service Industry) trade association. It has afforded me the opportunity to meet many successful business owners similar to mine but maybe not as big, or in different segments of the industry’s sales. I am a big proponent of sharing successful business ideas with my friends of other organizations.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I see the trend of online sales and especially marketing continuing to explode. Many traditional forms of selling today will begin to erode without proper expansion and acceptance on online, real time information. The industry remains strong. The economy can affect the foodservice industry, but only in a step down method. By that I mean that people will always travel, use hospitality, and always eat out. In tough times people “step down” their eating out tendencies. The people eating fine dining may not be affected much at all. A segment of them will be hurt and therefore begin to support the mid level restaurants. Those affected that were always eating at the mid level restaurants begin to go to lower cost restaurants, etc. etc. People still want to be entertained eating out with their family and friends no matter what is going on within their lives.

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