National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA) - InTouch Magazine, Summer 2022

32 NAMA InTouch • Summer 2022 How did you get into the convenience services industry? My father, Keith, spent most of his career in the vending and foodservice channel for PepsiCo and Five Hour Energy. Because of this, I grew up attending trade shows and hearing about all the wonderful experiences he had, which certainly planted a seed of interest. In 2015, I left the grocery/retail channel to join the Vendors Supply team and never looked back. Give us an overview of your role and key responsibilities. As general manager, I oversee all aspects of our operations in our Georgia distribution center, from sales to route management. My key responsibilities are to ensure we fulfill the needs of our operator partners, our pricing is competitive, deliveries are accurate and they receive the best experience possible. At Vendors Supply, our customers are our life force, so we have made it our mission to provide the best customer service possible. Service is our number-one product. What skills do you use most in your career? Relationship management skills are used the most, especially in an environment where trust and service are a priority. Many of our loyal customers continue to do business with us due to the personal relationships they have built with our customer service representatives, sales team and route drivers. If it were not for these positive relationships, we would not have the success we see today. What do you believe are the biggest challenges you face in your business? I think the elephant in the room is obvious: COVID-19. With COVID-19 comes manufacturer cuts, labor shortages, as well as health and wellness concerns causing lockdowns which directly affect our business. The good news is that it has gotten better. The bad news is that we are not finished with it yet, so we continue to do the best we can in an unusual time. What are the greatest opportunities? We have seen many changes over the years in vending. I believe one of the greatest opportunities is continuing to prioritize the growth of the micro market segment. Also, understanding and learning from one of the biggest threats in our industry, Amazon, and expanding on what has worked for them is a way to ensure these large organizations do not penetrate our channel. What they have done is incredible, so we can learn from their successes in unmanned retail and make it work even better for us. How has COVID-19 impacted your life and business? The biggest impact to us, as a supplier, has been the reduced availability of product from manufacturers, but we have learned to adapt to this challenge. Working directly with operators and having very clear communication regarding alternative product options to help supplement the shorts has been a win for us. I know the difficulty it can present to an operator when they must change out a spiral on a regular basis to accommodate alternative products. However, the good news is that the Up Close HELLO I’m James Kolodziej General Manager, Vendors Supply Inc. Appalachian State University; Georgia Automatic Merchandising Council (Nonvoting Board Member); Southeastern Vending Association (SEVA) Planning Committee