With vending becoming more professional thanks to the adoption of cashless transaction capability, wireless remote machine monitoring and other tools, the next generation of vending operators will likely have a different skill set than their predecessors. For operators to succeed in a market where more technology investment and training are needed, where will the next generation of operators come from? What types of education and career background will harvest the next generation of vending industry leaders?
The question was recently put to a randomly selected group of vending industry veterans. Most are optimistic that today’s new tools are improving the public’s image of their industry, a trend they expect will continue.
Operators agree that technology will play a bigger role. Because of this, they need the financial skills to manage their capital, communication skills to educate employees and customers about the technology, and marketing skills to survive and prosper in a more competitive market.
Operators generally believe that future vending leaders will have more financial expertise, stronger marketing backgrounds and keener communication skills than previous generations.
Operators also agreed there is no single type of education or career background that will dominate the next generation of leading operators. In this regard, the operators of the future will mimic their predecessors, having varied business and education backgrounds.
The key characteristics for future leadership in some ways are similar to those of previous generations: good business sense, the ability to delegate responsibilities, knowing how to identify good talent, being willing to reward employees fairly, and a commitment to high quality service.
While many of these characteristics remain constant, operators also agree that the need to understand new technology is one of the biggest differences that future vending leaders will possess. New technology, in turn, creates the need for stronger financial acumen since the technology adds more cost to operating the business.
Rome Refreshments in Houston, Texas is a 33-year-old company that utilizes DEX handhelds and is investigating self checkout micro markets. Dominic Macerola, founder, hopes to pass the business to his 28-year-old son, G.P. Macerola, who is a lawyer by training. Dominic Macerola said operators must understand how to use new tools such as card readers and know when it makes sense to invest in them. “They (customers) want us to put it in the vending machines,” he said. “If you don’t know that (the use of the new tools), you’re going to be out of the game.”
Marc Whitener, owner of Refreshment Solutions in Norco, La., has been proactive in introducing wireless pre-kitting. The company has also witnessed strong growth in recent years. Asked what he would do today as a newcomer, Whitener said he would find ways to build a stronger financial structure, one that would allow him to invest more in technology, acquisitions and salaries. All three of these areas, he noted, are interrelated.
Financial skills critical
With technology playing a bigger role, Whitener said it’s necessary to not only have the funds to pay for it, but to have people who are trained in how to use it. He said a formal financial education would be helpful to him today. Whitener studied economics in college, which he noted is not the same as finance. Vending operators need to do more than manage day-to-day expenses, he noted; they need to be capitalized for long-term growth.
Steve Marx, another veteran operator who has invested in technology in recent years, echoes Whitener’s concerns about being financially educated in order to deploy technology successfully. Marx, who owns Royal Vending in Maple Grove, Minn., has invested in cashless readers, DEXing his machines and in automated warehouse tools to allow him to pre-kit his routes. “You’ve got to know when and where to spend your money,” Marx said.