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Lessons Learned in 2020 – Thoughts & Insights from the View of a Service Business

Business owner hanging open sign at her restaurant / café, open again after lock down due to outbreak of coronavirus covid-19

By Joe Johnson – Director of Manufacturer Relations

2020 has been amazing! Not much more needs to be said… other than we seem to be getting through it together.

It reminds me of when I initially joined the foodservice industry in 2006. After joining 3Wire as Operations Director, the mortgage bubble burst and we witnessed a severe economic downturn in 2007. If memory serves that challenging time lasted through 2009.

During that 2007-2009 period, like most, I went through a challenging time to just maintain and manage the business. As the days and weeks passed it became clear that my desire to execute on my plans had to be set aside. Instead, I had to become responsive, reactive, and nimble to successfully weather the storm.

Initially in 2007, I saw commercial kitchen service call volume fall off precipitously and foodservice parts sales plummeted. As time progressed into 2008 service call volume started to increase (non-warranty calls increased while warranty calls decreased) and parts sales was on the uptick. As I saw 2007 close and 2008 begin, I realized that it was necessary to do three things, 1. Change my mindset from previous norms, 2. Look for new baselines and trends in my business and the foodservice industry, 3. Understand what I had learned and apply that to find new and improved ways to perform.

In 2019 I joined General Parts Group as Director of Manufacturer Relations. The future was certain and wrought with opportunity. Come to find out I was half right… not so certain; but, full of opportunity.

In 2020, aside from improving revenue, margin and profit, I had planned on focusing on optimizing inventory, shepherding our dedicated foodservice technician program to drive high first-time-fix (FTF) levels and strengthen relationships with business partners. Instead, a pandemic occurred and there was yet another severe economic downturn.

Sound familiar?

Like 2007, I initially saw call volume fall off and parts sales deteriorate. As I have made my way to late 2020, I have seen some increase and stability in service call volume. I have also seen parts sales start to recover. Unlike the mortgage bubble burst recovery in 2009, it is unclear when the economy will fully rebound this time.

While those 2020 focus points of inventory, FTF program, and relationship building were part of my plan it became clear that it would be imperative to maintain that focus. Consistently, the lessons of the past to be responsive, reactive, and nimble came back in play. Thankfully, we were able to optimize inventory. We used our FTF dedicated tech program to engage our service leadership to stayed focus on delivering a high-quality service product… what we at General Parts call Service Excellence. Working closely with our partners was more important than it had ever been. One of the great things about the foodservice industry is the comradery and the willingness to share. Communication has been fantastic amongst our manufacturing partners, vendors, and other service providers. That said, I believe the true achievements in 2020 were to survive this ordeal, to learn from it, all while feeling a true sense of humility.

2021 looks to be the year where, like 2008, I will need to, yet again, change my mindset and look for new trends. Most importantly, identifying key improvement areas will need to remain a large focus.

Based on all I have read, heard, and experienced it seems likely that 2022 may be like 2009 in terms of rebound and recovery. Some things that I will seriously consider through 2021 and planning for 2022 are:

    1. 1. Keep sight of 2020 objectives and consider weaving them into the plan.


    1. 2. Create a disaster recovery plan.


    3. Formulate ways to address those key performance areas with large opportunities for improvement that were identified in 2021.

Aside from the bubble burst or the pandemic, it seems like the basics of creating success are to build a plan then execute that plan. George S. Patton said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed at some indefinite time in the future.” In my own words, use all available information to create your plan then spend all your energy executing that plan. One last quote that means a great deal to me… William Shakespeare wrote, “the resolve is all.”