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From InTouch Magazine Summer 2018 Issue

THAD DRUM

Vice President of Operations, G&J Marketing and Sales

BS in Computer Science, Master of Business Administration
Member since 2010, Attendee of NAMA show and CTW each year, DC Fly-In participant since 2017, Attendee of Executive Forum in 2017, ELN Member since 2016, EDP Graduate 2016


How did you begin your career?
I’ve always been a bit of a geek, so my career started in a fitting way. In 1999, Claremont Restaurant Group, the owners of Sagebrush Steakhouse, Western Steer, and Prime Sirloin, needed someone to manage their information technology, following a divesture. I’d managed my high school’s computer systems and was working on my computer science degree, so it felt like the right place to get my resume started.

What are the skills you use most in your career?
Interpersonal skills rank first and foremost. Every day I work with either manufacturer/suppliers, distributors, operators/retailers, and the staff of G&J, and being able to recognize what motivates and drives each person allows me to help facilitate the construction of a roadmap where everyone wins.

How did you get into the convenience services industry?
As I mentioned, I got my start in food service where I built a network of friends and colleagues that helped lead me on a journey through the hospitality industry, then to manufacturing, and eventually into consumer-packaged goods. Along the way I held to a belief that the need for technology within every department of an organization allowed me to use it as an eyepiece/lens through which I could understand the innerworkings and processes of that organization; this belief led me to becoming a consultant. In 2010, G&J had decided to expand nationally, and again my network of friends stepped in to help me make a connection with Greg Sidwell, CEO of G&J Marketing and Sales. It was at G&J that I immersed myself in the convenience services industry, and I love every bit of it.

Give us an overview of your role and key responsibilities.
What a great question, and one of these days, I’ll dedicate an entire novel to just this topic. As VP of Operations for a sales and marketing focused organization, I’m chiefly responsible for anything that supports our sales efforts, which generally includes: our customers service, marketing, IT, finance, and manufacturer relations departments. As a huge advocate of servant-based leadership, my number one responsibility is to ensure that my management team has all of the resources to do their job efficiently and effectively.

What does an average day for you involve?
The easy answer, a lot of emails and phone conversations. On any given day I’m blessed to interact with brilliant minds from all over, some from the largest brand name manufacturers in the world, some from progressive operators/retailers transforming our industry, some from distributors routing products in new and innovative ways, and some sitting in G&J’s office in Palm Harbor, FL. Dealing with many different people, means dealing with potentially many differing expectations. Like working a puzzle, where these expectations are the puzzle pieces, I get to find the ways that fit together to produce the best outcome for all.

What do you believe are the biggest challenges you face in your business?
Staying ahead of the game. I don’t think this challenge is so much a personal challenge but one each of us faces. With Amazon delivering in under two hours, 3D printers now cranking out food, and Uber Eats delivering meals from local restaurants with the tap of a button, convenience is seemingly commoditizing. The challenge (and a lot of the fun) is taking these threats and finding out how we can incorporate what works for them to create our new competitive advantage.

What are the greatest opportunities?
I think this goes hand and hand with our greatest challenges. Once we crack the code of what’s working for the disruptors that surround us (Amazon, Uber, Facebook, etc.), then the quicker we can apply these concepts to add further value for our consumers.

What are you looking forward to at the DC Fly-In? 
I always enjoy getting together with industry leaders to make a difference. I’m going to try something different this year that I’m really excited about. My daughter turns 10 in June, and she spent her 4th grade year learning about the legislative branch of our government, so I’ve decided to bring her with me to speak with the senators and representatives. I see this as an opportunity to both show my daughter that she has a voice in our nation, and to remind lawmakers that it isn’t just faceless companies impacted by their decisions.

Moving forward, what are your personal/professional goals?
I’ll preface my answer with, I don’t think we ever stop learning. Right now, I’m working to achieve NAMA’s Certified Coffee Specialist designation, so I can better serve those that I partner with on the OCS front. My longer-term aspirations are to eventually complete my doctorate degree in business administration. I’ve made a real home at G&J, and see myself continuing in G&J’s vision to promote, with PRIDE, the success everyone I touch. If I ever decide to settle down and retire one of these days, I see myself teaching throughout retirement.

Tell us about the most memorable work experience you’ve had.
My most memorable work experience took place just a little over a year ago, when I was honored to represent NAMA at the Chicago Vend Show in Shanghai, China. While quite literally on the other side of the world, I was able to interact with vending leaders from both China and Japan and to share with them some of the emerging trends we were seeing in the United States. The experience as a whole will stay with me for the rest of my life.

What advice would you offer young people starting their careers in this industry?
Be a pioneer; it’s a fun time to get started. I would remind them that this is an industry that was born out of hard work and determination, and that should never change. I would also encourage them to not shy away from new ideas that they may have for this industry. We’re seeing more technology, new disruptive influencers, and rapidly blurring lines between channels. This might be a little scary, but it’s definitely exciting.

What’s a favorite piece of advice you’ve received that has helped you in your professional career?
“Remember the People.” This might sound strange, but I think most people can relate to some experience where a technician from IT swoops in and shoves the user out of the way to begin working on a computer issue. With my roots deeply laid within information technology, I saw this all too often, and the advice that I’ve received numerous times in my career from various coaches and mentors has been to remember the people. We’re all emotional beings and once this sunk in for me, I started building sustainable relationships rather than simply solving transactional issues.

As an ELN member, in your own words, what is the value of participating in the group?
ELN’s value in my opinion is without measure. My entire career has been built from networking, and ELN brings to its members that same level of connectivity. I look at the relationships that I’ve built with fellow members, knowing that I can count on them as I seek to better understand this changing industry, and they can count on me for the same.