The next morning at 6:00 am I find myself pouring a black cup of coffee in the hotel breakfast area. I sit down. 6:30…7:00…7:30. My shadow is a no show. I throw my Fage yogurt container away and head back to my room. My cell phone rings at 8:00 am. It is my shadow.
“Where the hell are you?” he snorts.
I was forced to spend a disproportionate amount of time with my shadow and unfortunately the bulk of that time involved being held in captivity inside an automobile. After leaving Asheville without seeing the Biltmore Estate at Christmas, we were heading to Charlotte. Desperate to make some conversation, I ask my shadow what products he saw of interest while doing store checks in the two days he had been in the Carolinas. Turns out, he didn’t even visit one store. Ok, dead silence once again. I ask if we can go through a restaurant drive thru so that I can get a cup of coffee. He tells me no, because he doesn’t want one at the moment. What a jackass, seriously. Who behaves like this?
I was given about a week’s notice that I would be attending one of the company’s group meetings in Jacksonville, Florida. I took advantage of this trip to schedule an appointment to meet with Winn-Dixie, because their headquarters is also located in Jacksonville. We would be going to the headquarters of one of the largest food brokerage companies. I was happy to participate as my experiences with this brokerage company had been pleasant and the opportunity to learn and digest some demographic data and consumer insights appealed to me.
I was invited to the company’s quarterly meeting and it turned out to be not worth a plugged nickel! I thought this would be a good opportunity to meet the sales team and get more insight into the business. We were still working on the documents to clarify the new company’s structure, that is meeting the Women’s Business Enterprise Council’s (WBENC) requirements, but I had formed a new entity, registered the with the GS1 US for our bar codes, created a logo, and set up a business checking account. I had secured placement with The Kroger Company for two flavors of the “heart healthy” frozen pizza. I had completed the new item forms locking in our price and pack size. This was a home run for the team. I thought there would be some type of excitement over the opportunity at hand. Instead, there was no mention of the new pizza product, or me for that matter. I was shunned from the morning Read more
After our visit to the local grocery stores, the president, the equity guy and I headed back to the plant. The three of us headed into the president’s office and sat down around a little round table. They mentioned that they wished to discuss the next steps in our relationship. Then they laid it on me. The private equity group wanted to form a new Read more
After a brief negotiation period, many renditions of a business plan and answering a plethora of mundane question, I reached a tentative agreement with the private equity group that wished to purchase the healthy lifestyle frozen pizza brand I had developed. The equity group had recently purchased a pizza manufacturing facility from a larger consumer packaged goods company and was looking to find an opening into the frozen pizza category. They currently only sold through the refrigerated meat and deli categories and wanted a piece of the much larger and lucrative frozen pizza category.
Unfortunately for me, the weekend passed by very quickly and it was time to pass through the Detroit airport on my way to the Carolinas. It was only a few weeks before Christmas but I wasn’t feeling the holiday spirit. My shadow had decided to go in two days prior to the appointments under the pretense of researching the market by doing store checks. I arrive in Asheville and take a cab from the airport to the hotel because he can’t be inconvenienced to pick me up in the rental car.
An uneventful flight found us in the Northwest Detroit terminal. We had missed our connections, damn it, so I was stuck with my shadow for a while longer. This was going to be the Detroit Metro Delay from hell. He wanted to eat continuously. I didn’t want to eat at all, never had an appetite when he was around for some reason. We had three freaking hours in Detroit. But as airport terminals go, this is a pretty nice one. My shadow wanted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. This food option, PB&J, was at the opposite end of the terminal so at least we could kill some time getting there. If my shadow were not with me, I would be relaxing in the World Club lounge. I could have taken him in with me, but why?
As often is the case in the northeast in winter, it began to snow. Please, no I begged the sky. Stop, please stop! Do not let my flight home be delayed.
We made it to the Bradley International airport, checked in and boarded. Of all the ill-fated wretched luck, my shadow’s random seat assignment was beside mine. As I watched the snowflakes getting bigger and falling faster, I thought, just go. Go anyway. I am a good swimmer and I have a decent layer of fat to insulate myself, I will take my chances with a water landing. Please, just go.
Me and my Shadow, were scheduled to meet up with Eric, the company’s northeast regional sales manager; a truly kind, smart, hardworking guy from Boston for some planning and several retail grocery appointments. The day before our retail meetings, my shadow thought it would be a good use of time for us to sit in the lobby of the hotel to work on sales projections for the new pizza instead of the prudent practice of conducting store checks. Store checks are the practice of visiting as many stores in a retail chain as possible to familiarize yourself with the product mix, merchandising and other specifics of the retailer that you are going to call on the next day. In other words, be prepared to have an intelligent conversation with the retailer.