Barry Frankel has never accepted the status quo. He has always been a visionary, and a stubborn one at that. He has always been serious about changing things for the better.
This is why Frankel, owner of Family Vending Co., Sunrise, Fla., is suceessfully overcoming some of the challenges vending operators currently face: rising regulation, the need to use new technology, pressures on profits, and the need to develop new growth areas.
As the owner of one of the fastest growing vending companies in south Florida, he has pioneered vending in public schools at a time when school officials are scrutinizing the role vending plays in contributing to child obesity. Where most of Frankel's colleagues shun the school market, schools represent 40 percent of his sales.
He also played a key role in bringing milk vending to south Florida, and has offered several products not currently available through traditional vend product distributors.
An unwillingness to accept things as they are is one cornerstone of Frankel's character. Another is his excellent interpersonal communication skill, which he honed in his youth as a high school actor. These skills have not only helped his salesmanship; they have enabled him to assemble a top team of committed vending professionals.
Frankel is the president of the Automatic Merchandising Association of Florida, and his company is expanding at a rate of 15 percent per year.
Beginning at age 14
Frankel, 49, has spent his entire working life preparing himself for his role as a vending industry leader, even if it wasn't by design.
He can trace his vending roots to junior high school, when he went to work at 14 as a driver's helper for a Coca Cola bottler in Brooklyn, N.Y. He worked there during his vacations through high school.
After high school, he moved to south Florida and applied for a driver's position with a local Coke bottler. From there, he moved into sales. He learned the importance of making point-of-purchase displays colorful, and of keeping the retail shelves clean at all times. "That's where I learned the competitiveness of the beverage business," he said. "Every step was a learning experience that I use in some way today."
Frankel excelled in sales. His creativity in developing retail displays helped earn him the Fort Lauderdale Coca-Cola Excellence Award in 1976. "I switched Miami Beach from Pepsi to Coke," he recalled. "I worked 16-hour days."
Some of his early experiences were amusing. One motel manager said he would consider switching from Pepsi to Coke, but didn't know what to do with his existing inventory. Frankel told him he'd take care of it, not realizing he'd have 300 cases of product to unload. He ended up selling his competitors' inventory to a local discount house.
By the time he was 21, Frankel was named special events manager, putting
him in charge of full-
service vending. He quickly became frustrated having to deal with a corporate hierarchy. He particularly took issue with management's policy of providing machines to accounts, but not to third-party vending operators. He saw this as highly inefficient; the company was spending a lot of time and energy answering service calls.
"They loaned machines out like lollipops (to locations)," Frankel
"I disagreed with that policy. Why not give the machines to the professionals? Why would you give a machine to a guy who doesn't know anything about vending?"
As he took on more responsibility, Frankel's frustration grew. Shortly after he was promoted to cold drink manager of the company's West Palm Beach office, management cut three of his service people. He soon left the company.
"I knew I had to go into business for myself," he said.
Going it alone, starting in OCS
The only problem was start-up capital; he had none. He owned a three-bedroom home in suburban Sunrise (near Ft. Lauderdale), was married with a child on the way, and had no funds to put himself in business.