Tom Cummings, field sales executive, Upnorth Group, shares his business secrets
Use your experience
Being a chef by trade, I worked for many years within kitchens and, along with a catering management background, I find that my experience in all areas of the industry means I am best placed to offer solid advice when talking to head chefs and catering specialists. Any equipment I supply or advise on I would happily use myself and I am well equipped to demonstrate it effectively.
It is so important to stay ahead of the competition. We strive to design with the latest products and equipment as well as ensuring that it is energy efficient. We have everything covered from top-of-the-range extraction and fire suppression to the most energy-saving ideas or products.
Never be afraid to employ people that may know more than you do
I believe the only way that a business can grow and move forward is to embrace the knowledge of others and learn from them. I have over 45 years' industry experience but I would never be too scared to ask anyone for their opinion or advice if it was an area in which they had more experience. We are very fortunate to work in this business. There is no other industry that looks after its own like catering does - and that means a lot to me.
Always choose quality over cost
Like anything, you get what you pay for. Therefore, quality is always so important, especially to us as suppliers. If you invest in quality equipment it is built to last, whereas cheaper products can often be a waste of money. At Upnorth, we pride ourselves in being suppliers of brands that we respect and would use ourselves. Our preferred brands are tried and tested as we always visit the manufacturer to ensure we have hands-on experience of their equipment.
Don't be frightened of the competition
Just because they are working in the same industry as you does not mean that you cannot talk to them and remain friendly. I am now doing exactly what I want to be doing within my career by joining a business that was previously a competitor. Not only had I always admired the directors Richard Toye and Tim Whitfield, but now I have the privilege of working with them, combining our experience and contacts.
I am a big believer in the power of social media for real-time information and product news. I am known by many of my peers as the LinkedIn King as I am always trying to build contacts and keep updated on what is happening within the industry. Social media can benefit your business by getting your name out to a wider audience and building strong relationships.
The person I most admire
Gordon Sheppard, who owned Viscount Catering, which is now part of the Manitowoc brand. He has an unbeatable reputation for having the Midas touch, turning around businesses to being a huge success.
1986-90 Contract sales, HC Trodahl
â- 1990-03 Sales director, Viscount Catering Equipment
â- 2003-11 Joint managing director and owner, Howell-Cummings
â- 2011-present Field sales executive, Upnorth Group
No matter what happens, you have to be able to say you tried. It is always better to try than wonder "what if?"