While each foodservice distribution company has unique features and operations, most face similar business challenges and opportunities in the current operating environment. More than two dozen distributors gathered in Philadelphia last month for the annual IFDA Share Groups
to tackle issues like recruiting employees and implementing cybersecurity, to exploring new technology solutions and managing rising fuel costs.
“As someone who is new to the foodservice industry, I found IFDA Share Group incredibly beneficial,” said Brenda Schwickerath, controller at Martin Bros. Distributing Co., Inc., in Cedar Falls, IA. “In my day-to-day, I don’t see the issues faced by Operations and IT. I was able to learn what challenges are present in that area and learn how other companies are addressing them. It was also great to meet other Finance individuals to begin to build a network of individuals who face some of the same challenges that we do.”
IFDA Share Groups are forums that are exclusive to foodservice distribution professionals in four disciplines: operations, IT/technology, human resources, and finance. The meetings explore new ideas and solutions through 100% peer-driven roundtable discussions. The goals are for participants to refresh their thinking on issues, refine company processes by learning from peers, and give and receive feedback on new systems, technologies, and operational challenges.
“I have to say, that my owners didn’t mention that the size of the share groups would be as comfortably small as they were, but it was a refreshing surprise to be able to be heard ‘by’ my peers, as well as ‘from’ my peers in such a direct way,” said Chris Murray, Director of Human Resources at Schiff's Food Service, Inc., in Scranton/Taylor, PA, and first-time IFDA Share Group participant. “We were able to share best practices and procedures on many of the topics that were affecting us all on a day-to-day basis. Things from like, finding the right employees for the job, keeping our staffs motivated and engaged; to using the right computer system to fit our needs and its operational fit. Whether we have 70 employees or 700, we all had the same recurring issues and concerns for our businesses and that was encouraging to know we are not alone with these issues in Food Distribution and Operations.”
Participants submit topics in advance to guide the conversations, but are encouraged to let the onsite discussions flow to delve deeper into issues of common interest and related questions. Participants also exchange ideas and experiences with solving individual issues they’ve encountered, for example software solutions with specific capabilities, channels for recruiting quality warehouse employees, non-traditional employee benefits like pet insurance, the most meaningful financial KPIs, cloud-based vs. onsite data storage, onboarding/offboarding checklists, etc.
In addition to discovering take-home solutions in the meetings, the Share Groups provide unparalleled networking and relationship-building opportunities. Participants are encouraged to draw on each other’s expertise and experiences outside of the IFDA forum throughout the year.
The 2022 IFDA Share Groups were sponsored by ProCat Distribution Technologies
IFDA’s Share Groups gather for day-long meetings once per year, as well as for consolidated meetings in conjunction with IFDA’s Distribution Solutions Conference
. Details on the 2023 IFDA Share Group Program will be announced on the IFDA website.