Attending the keynote presentation at RestaurantPoint this spring, the speaker proposed that "a truly wise man is one who knows to seek out the advice of those who have gone before him."
It was a reference to sailing and a fairly insignificant comment in the grand scheme of the presenter's overall story, however, the comment literally came to life in front of me as I observed the interactions of the chain executives throughout the event. Whether they realized it they were doing exactly what the keynote speaker had talked about. They were actively seeking the knowledge of others so that they could skip the painful and risky trial and error process and move directly toward a successful outcome.
One of the things that I enjoy most about the restaurant community is that the chain executives are so open and willing to share their insights and experience. They clearly find great value in the process since the exchange and engagement was continuous from sun up until long after the sun had gone down and shaped every part of their day. They simply couldn't get enough!
That communal sharing of knowledge is a boon for the suppliers as well. For the innovators who deliver a better solution there is nothing better than being the topic of conversation among their peers. We saw spikes in one-on-one meeting requests from chain executives for suppliers following boardroom presentations where they introduced exciting innovation. It is interesting to note that not all of the requests came from chain executives who had actually seen the presentation...I mentioned that they talk, right?
During the peer roundtables, I noticed a lot of chain executives are dealing with the same challenges. This makes perfect sense because they are all peers. Savvy suppliers pay close attention to the problems and challenges they hear the chain executives discuss, even if they are not directly related to their product or service.
They recognize that staying connected with the needs of the community will position them to deliver value in ways that they may not have otherwise conceived on their own.
In talking to a supplier friend, he commented that his research and development pipeline is directly tied to conversations that he has had with chain executives over the last couple of years at events like RestaurantPoint. We consistently see that the suppliers who present themselves as problem solvers rather than as simply a vendor of a product or service tend to get a lot more interest from the chain executives. When suppliers and chain executives collaborate on solutions instead of products it is the foundation for a lasting relationship, rather than a transaction, and that creates a winning scenario for everyone.
Some chain executives continue to form strategic relationships with key suppliers where they share intimate details around their goals and objectives so that the supplier/partner can more effectively refine existing solutions or even develop brand new solutions. What a great strategy!
By working together to solve problems, the entire industry benefits because, as they say, a rising tide lifts all boats.