Career Story: Director Of National Account Sales For A Big Food Company

Director Of National Account Sales For A Big Food Company

Job Title: Director National Account Sales - Sara Lee Foods

Type of Company: A large distributor of desserts and packaged foods.

Education: BA, Economics, Harvard University

Previous Experience: I have spent 25+ years in the food service industry selling to commercial accounts as well as to the gaming and lodging segments. My first job was selling to chains in the New England area and as my experience grew, I moved into a role at our corporate offices. I have experience with several commodities, protein, bakery, coffee and tea and shortening and oils.

Job Tasks: I work from my home and am responsible for selling meat, baked goods and coffee and tea to restaurants such as McDonald's, Denny's and Subway. We also sell our products to casinos and hotel chains. The way we get a customer interested is by visiting their restaurants and looking to see if their menu is missing anything ...such as a great tasting chocolate cake! Once our marketing team has an idea what we want to present to the customer, we set up a meeting (most of my contacts are people I have met over the past 25 years) to exhibit and sample our products.

The keys to our success are: Knowing the customer, having a product or menu idea that fits their customer and price targets and having products that taste good. Because our customers have locations across the country, I get to travel to a lot of interesting (and not so interesting) places, and I have now been to all fifty states.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is the opportunity it provides me with to work from home where I can see my kids off to school, help coach sports teams and be a part of a family, while permitting me also to travel and see some interesting parts of the country.

The worst part of the job can be not being able to go to a local office. At times it can take longer to get things done from a home office.

Job Tips: I would recommend the following:

1. Looking for internships at larger companies can be a great way of gaining exposure and experience. It is a way of "trying on" a company before committing to a career.

2. If you want to get into the "hospitality / restaurant" business, look for a job at a restaurant, casino or hotel to see how it works.

3. Don't be afraid to reach out to friends and family who may have experience in the restaurant industry. Networking can be a help.

Additional Thoughts: The food business can be a lot of fun, but it's a lot of work too. If you work in restaurants, casino's, hotels, convenience stores or any other location that sells food the hours can be long.

The manufacturing side of the business (at companies like Coke, Kellogg's and Sara Lee) will also be hard work, but usually you do not have to work weekends and holidays ...which will allow you to have a family!

A college education is usually a must if you want to work for a major manufacturer ...however you could get a restaurant level job with less. If you desire to earn more money and have more responsibility, a college education and an MBA will be necessary.

While you may not make a ton of money (unless you own the business or are a president) you can make a good, steady living. Remember ...everyone needs to eat!

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