Mike Edwards, 2013 Route Driver of the Year overall winner
Mike Edwards loves his job as a route driver for the opportunity to meet new people and try new products. Edwards, who began his vending career nearly two decades ago, has worked for Greensboro Vending & Coffee for fourteen years. As a large vending company, Greensboro Vending needed a route driver who could easily manage accounts with professionalism, responsibility and timeliness. Mike Edwards is that route driver.
Edwards, the 2013 Route Driver of the Year fourth quarter winner, will be crowned the 2013 yearly winner in Chicago, Ill., at the 2014 NAMA OneShow.
Where it all began
When Mike Edwards was twenty-one years old, a friend from high school offered to get him a job at J&H Vendors Supply in North Carolina, working in the warehouse. Years later the company was bought out by Vend South and Edwards found himself in an unfamiliar place: as manager of a vending company. After about one year, Vend South was acquired by Vendors Supply, located in Salisbury, N.C.
For Edwards, the constant acquisitions weren’t a problem, but when it came to commuting, he decided he couldn’t travel the distance to work for Vendors Supply, so he gave up the managerial position in hopes of finding work closer to home. Edwards’ supervisor at the time made one phone call to Greensboro Vending and the company hired Edwards within the week.
Like most route drivers, Edwards didn’t know at the age of twenty-one that he wanted to stay in the vending industry. “After I was in the industry for a few years and after I’d worked in multiple positions, I began to think that this is what I wanted to do,” said Edwards. Edwards has worked multiple positions in this industry, including in the warehouse as a shipping and loading coordinator, as a machine repairer, as a manager and as a route driver. Of all those positions, he prefers the one he is in now: servicing locations as a route driver. “I like being responsible for myself. The managerial position was not easy, and I found out it was not for me,” said Edwards. “I like my job, I really do. I get to be my own boss. If you do what you’re supposed to, and do it right, there aren’t many issues.”
The best and the worst
When asked what he likes most about his position as a route driver, Edwards responded that he likes being out and around town. “I love running into different people. This job is great because I’m not confined to one place,” said Edwards. “The routes have a pattern, but the scenery is different most days and I love that.”
One of the hardest things for Edwards as a route driver is dealing with traffic on a daily basis. “It’s easy to take care of customers,” said Edwards. “I want customers to be happy and to keep coming back to that machine. The biggest headache is dealing with drivers on the road.” Edwards drives about 70 miles each day, 6 days a week. Although weather is never an issue, the majority of his commute is on Highway 29 from Greensboro, N.C. to Reidsville, N.C. “It gets congested and a lot of people travel that road, so that’s the hardest thing I deal with all day.”
Nothing but the good stuff
On Saturdays, Edwards can be found working his route. This 6-day-per-week route driver services two large accounts, Equity Meats and Procter & Gamble, two companies that run 24/7. “Between both of those companies, there are about 1,500 people,” he said. Edwards has to constantly maintain stocked machines at both locations while simultaneously providing products customers request.
“If I can get it, I’ll put it in the machines,” said Edwards of trying new products. “I always tell people that if they don’t see me, they can put a sticky-note on the machine to let me know what product they want.” Edwards will request one helix of a product in order to test how well that product sells, before ordering more. “There are some instances when someone requests a product and they end up being the only person that buys the item.”
Although he is receptive to new product requests, Edwards believes customers will always have their favorites. When it comes to healthy foods, however, Edwards admits that in his experience, it hasn’t been all the rage. “I hear more complaints than requests,” he said. “People want the good stuff.”
All work and some play
Like most employees, Edwards says he can’t let work consume his life. He became an avid disc golf player in 1994 and played heavily for fifteen years. Tendonitis in the elbow has slowed Edwards down from his professional disc golfing days, and although he still plays on occasion, he prefers to spend time with his kids. “My son and I are always shooting baskets, playing football or playing disc golf in the yard,” said Edwards of his son, Matthew. Even though Edwards spends most Saturdays stocking machines several towns away, he still has enthusiasm for the weekend when he can spend time with his family. “I love Saturdays,” exclaimed Edwards. He enjoys spending time with his son, two step children and wife, Jennifer.
Edwards is glad that his family understands that he has to work on the weekends. And he is thankful to the company’s owner, president and manager for nominating him for the award. “I want to thank Monty and Dennis and Brian for giving me the chance and the opportunity to win this award. Greensboro Vending has taken care of me and treated me well over the years and I’m grateful to work for them.”