1149: Sysco Philly’s Ken Shulski DSR of the Month

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You must reinvent yourself sometimes, and that’s uncomfortable, but it’s what makes you better. No pain, no gain.

Ken Shulski of SYSCO, PHILLY earned top honors as AFDR’s December 2018 DSR of the Month placing him in the AFDR DSR Hall of Fame.

Ken’s territory is in the greater Atlantic City, New Jersey area which is just over one hour away from the Sysco DC that his trucks deliver from.

Shulski managed his first restaurant at 18 years old, as assistant manager. He had just completed his first year at Penn State and was looking for a summer job and ended up an assistant manager of a restaurant. Ken says, “the assistant manager does everything, they lovingly call them ‘the cook with keys’.” As an assistant manager, Ken had to do inventory, buy the food, and supervise the help, which is kind of a lousy job long term but a great first job in the industry to do everything which put him in touch with every single aspect of the business. It was hard, long hours, but he loved it! Ken was always a numbers guy so that got him started in the business of the importance of managing that.

He transferred to Florida State and received an opportunity to do the first internship ever offered at the Peachtree Plaza Hotel and worked in every department in the hotel in the 6 months he was there for the internship, making beds, working the front desk, everything. Those types of cross-training are what he proposes to his customers today because it really helps them understand the big picture. After graduating, Ken was offered a job back at the Peachtree Plaza Hotel managing a very high volume, high profile restaurant in the Peachtree which at the time was the largest hotel in the world, and in less than a year he was recruited by Club Corp.

Shulski ended up running a club down in Florida that had not made money in food and beverage in 7 years, so he got the team together and basically, through the definition of management, getting things done through other people, got all the departments to work together and turned things around so within a year the food and beverage department began making money.

For the first time, Ken saw the downside of that business after getting married and having kids, never home, work all nights and weekends, so he got out of the business.

That’s how he began working at a small food distributor called Sea Shore Foods. Ken began in sales and since it was a small company there was a lot less to learn. They gave him the book and he was straight on the street running two counties by himself, putting 250 miles on his car per day. Ken worked there for 3 ½ years when he was recruited by Sysco because he was taking business from some of their reps. Shulski started in Atlantic City and was a salesman for 2 years when he became a district manager. They then merged with Philadelphia and after about 3 years of Philly, he went back on the street as a salesman, which was home.

Ken’s sales tips:

  • Revisit-look at your last year, if what you did worked, do it again
  • But you may need to Reinvent yourself to get better, no pain no gain
  • Some customers are uncomfortable with technology & change too, concerns about losing relationship with rep
  • It’s your job to convince them you’re only replacing the repetitive parts, like the regular order
  • Always do what’s best for the customer, try working change in when things are a little slower, maybe in baby steps
  • Maintain the relationship that they value, use old order time to provide other services for them, menu analysis, website help, etc.
  • When things go wrong, have a conversation with them first

Look at providing these extra services as an opportunity as opposed to as a responsibility, it’s another tool in your belt. You are their fresh set of eyes and you are making deposits into their emotional bank account.

Overall, it is important to be motivated, set goals, have perseverance, pursue win-win relationships and enjoy the fruits of your labor and sharpen your saw to stay fresh and recharged!

DSRs, Be a Resource…and Sell Something!