Jim Patterson’s family had been in the vending and OCS industry his entire life, yet he wasn’t always sure that working in the industry was what he wanted to do for a career. His grandfather started Patterson Co., Inc. (PCI) in 1939 and his father joined the company in 1956. “I did not know this was what I wanted to do,” Patterson said. “I had no idea. I was intrigued by it because we worked with not just one company but a lot of different companies.” Not long after his graduation from the University of Tulsa in Tulsa, Okla., in 1980, Patterson joined the family business. Today, as the president of Patterson Co., he enjoys working with multiple companies because he gets to learn about diverse topics and see how different companies go to market.
Patterson, the 2013 Readers’ Choice Broker of the Year, has grown Patterson Co., Inc. with the help of his brothers, Michael and Patrick. They serve the Midwest territory, north central region with Premier Broker Partners.
30 years of experience
One of Patterson’s first real exposures to the industry came in October of 1980 when he attended his first National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) show. The experience solidified his desire to work in the industry and he has attended every NAMA show since then.
During his three decades of experience in the vending industry, Patterson has seen a number of changes. Two significant changes were cup soda disappearing and snack machines going from 10 to 40 columns. “The industry dynamics have changed. I remember the four Cs in the industry: coffee, cup soda, candy and cigarettes. Now, candy has turned into snacks and cold food has come along. Cup soda has diminished and cigarettes have gone away,” said Patterson. When he started working for Patterson Co., Patterson said purchases were directly from manufacturers, but now in his business they come from distributors, too. That hasn’t stopped the way he does business.
Successful staff means successful business
Patterson believes that his staff members are one of the most important aspects of his business and that they set his company apart from others. “Our success is a function of the quality and effort of our sales staff and sales support staff. I am proud to say they are the best in the business,” said Patterson. “They have a great attitude and a great sense of what is the right thing to do.”
Even though the industry has undergone some changes, his responsibilities have remained unchanged. “Our role is to champion the brands and suppliers we represent. We help guide the customers to solutions that give them the fastest-selling, best mix of products available that are applicable to their specific needs,” he said. Patterson and his staff are constantly looking forward, toward the newest trends and consumer preferences in order to predict customer wants and sell products based on those preferences. Patterson recalls that the traditional mindset in the vending channel has been for brokers and distributors to sell general items they purchased from manufacturers. In other channels, Patterson believes there is a greater effort made to buy what consumers want and to figure out what sells the fastest. “The biggest challenge is offering a solution that is foreign to the traditional mindset and requires a new paradigm,” he said.
Excitement for growth
Patterson believes that vendors in micro markets are going to need an array of SKUs that they are not accustomed to stocking, and that brings excitement about the future. “The most exciting opportunity for growth in the near future in this industry is the micro market or unattended retail,” he said. With more operators turning to micro markets, Patterson will continue to expand his business and promote the brands he represents.