1520: Joel Edwards DSR of the Month, Merchants Foodservice, Jackson, MS, Part 1

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Joel Edwards of Merchants Foodservice – Jackson, Mississippi division is AFDR’s June DSR of the Month for 2022, earning him a permanent place in the AFDR DSR Hall of Fame. Joel’s territory is in Columbia, Hattiesburg, and the Southern Mississippi area which is about 100 miles from the Jackson, MS warehouse.

How did you get into business in the first place?

Joel: I had spent some time in finance, but I spent most of my life in the restaurant business. I was an art major in junior College and found out I couldn’t make any money doing acrylic paintings and charcoals. During college, I washed dishes at a Ruby Tuesdays, and during the summers I also worked during the day over at my mother’s Mexican restaurant. I worked in restaurants off and on from fast food to white tablecloth, working under some sous chefs and head chefs. Once you get a job in the restaurant business, you got a job for life. I’m happiest in the back of the house, in the kitchen.

I got out of it for a few years, and I headed up a branch for a finance company in the car and grew that big time. I didn’t realize I was in sales doing that, but I was and looking back, it was kind of a precursor for what I’m doing now.

After a few years in finance, I tried playing professional golf. That wasn’t working out so when my buddy asked if I wanted to get back in the food business, I considered it even though I had said I would never go back into it because of the long hours and weekends which are very tough on the family. But I really had a passion for food because of my artistic and creative nature, that’s what I loved about food, I could be as creative as I wanted. My friend’s plan was to open five restaurants in six or seven years, and he said he really needed help. I worked that for seven years.

After leaving that, I needed a job, so I made a few phone calls and one of those calls was to Ken Moore at Merchants who I had met through various connections. Ken directed me to the sales manager for an interview and the rest is history. I have to say it changed my life forever.

Other topics discussed on this podcast:

  • Hurdles the first two years and how Joel overcame them
  • Prospecting and quoting prices – the difficulty due to the large quantity of products to choose from.
  • Learning new products took a lot of time which meant sacrificing family time
  • Overcoming the obstacle of knowing how to help a customer from his experience, but delivering the message in a way that the customer will be willing to listen – whether he was being too excited and overwhelming them, or knowing how to save or make them more money, but offending them by telling them they were doing it wrong

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