As a third generation operator, Bradlee Whitson, Jr. has big shoes to fill. K & R Vending Inc. in Bridgeton, N.J. was started by his maternal grandfather and grand uncle, Konrad and Richard Stutzmann.
From childhood, Whitson learned about the vending business under the watchful eye of his father. While he liked the business, he wasn't sure he wanted to join the family business as a young man. He graduated from Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J. two years ago with a degree in business management.
Following graduation, Whitson took a job selling software in New York City, hoping to gain a better understanding of business in general. He believes he gained a solid understanding of how companies handle growth and change.
When K& R Vending acquired a long-time competitor in Bridgeton several months ago, Whitson decided there was an opportunity for him to make his mark in the family business. He joined the company as operations manager.
Whitson believes the industry's future is in new technology. He believes there is a lot of consumer research needed about vending, and technology will provide the tools to provide this. He sees the biggest challenge as staying on top of what the vending consumer wants. Unlike other retail channels, there is very little known about vending customer behavior.
K&R Vending uses handhelds, but it has not yet converted to DEX handhelds. Whitson sees moving to DEX handhelds and expanding into cashless transactions as the biggest challenges facing the company.
He thrives on the daily challenges he faces. “It always keeps you on your toes,” he said. “There is always a challenge to meet each day.”
Alex Friedman, 24, manager and information analyst, Coffee Distributing Corp.,
Garden City Park, N.Y.
EDUCATION: Undergraduate degree in economics at Colgate University
ROLE MODEL: Father, Robert Friedman
LONG-TERM GOAL: To grow with the business
BIGGEST SURPRISE: How interesting he finds the vending side of refreshment services
OTHER CAREERS CONSIDERED: Equity research
ASPECTS OF THE BUSINESS MOST LIKED:Constant challenges and new technology
Alex Friedman, the heir to one of the largest OCS businesses in the country, could have pursued any career he wished. As a youngster, he wasn't certain what he was going to do with his life. He liked business and economics, so he majored in it at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y. When he graduated, he took a position doing equity research at an investment bank in New York City.
Today, at age 24, he is a manager and information analyst at the family business founded by his grandfather and operated by his father, Robert Friedman.
“I never expected to be in this position two years ago,” said Friedman.
He found that he didn't like his job at the investment banking firm. While he was contemplating other options, his father asked him to help out introducing a software system to the company's vending division. Friedman agreed to help, thinking it would be a short-term project.
What he found was that the software project fascinated him. “I saw a lot of room for improvement in the way things were done,” he said. The software, once implemented, made the vending routes more efficient. “The more I dug, the more I saw room for improvement,” he said.
That was two years ago. Friedman has since found a career path he likes. “It's challenging,” he said. “There are always new problems to be solved and more efficient ways to do things.”
The company's 8-route vending operation experienced approximately 36 percent sales growth and 39 percent gross profit growth in the past year without adding any additional trucks and just one additional employee.
Friedman has always looked up to his father as a role model. Robert Friedman works tirelessly to improve the business. The younger Friedman remembers from an early age how his father rose at 5 a.m. every day. He was impressed by the concern his father always demonstrated for his employees and the company.
If time permits, the younger Friedman hopes to return to school and pursue an MBA. He only hopes he can find the opportunity to do this without losing his pulse on the company.