Carlson takes reins as NAFEM’s president

Joe Carlson, CFSP, Lakeside Manufacturing, Inc., Milwaukee, Wisc., officially took the reins as president at the NAFEM Annual Business Meeting, held during the historic E&S Industry Summit in Palm Springs. Below is his speech.

Thank you to everyone here this morning.

I am grateful for this privilege to serve you in this role with great people like Kevin, Rob, and Rich along with our outstanding board, Deirdre, and our very talented NAFEM staff. There are few people in our lives who impact us throughout our existence. Many of you here today have been there for me over my 23 years in this industry and will be there with me over the next two. Thank you!

There are many past presidents and board members with us today and many more not here, who we can thank for helping build the foundation that we enjoy today. From the strategic choice to go self op, to establishing our long term investment fund, providing us the security to invest in our future and protect the association in the event of a catastrophic loss to the show. The job of a NAFEM President is to continue the work inherited from past presidents while embracing the changes needed to pave the way for the future.

Thank you in advance to Diane, my best friend and spouse, for your support on everything we have done in our life together. Thank you to all spouses, for managing the home front and family, during the many nights of travel required of all of us. For those spouses joining us this week, enjoy this beautiful weather and property. Larry, we have had many, many discussions over the years about the importance of doing our part to ensure a healthy NAFEM and the rewarding experience of serving on the NAFEM board, as both you and Ray Donavan had done for so many years, in so many ways. Thank you for your support, partnership, and friendship!

When we come together here at NAFEM, we are one association made up of members from all parts of the industry. We bring our experience and our collective resources together for the good of the whole, without regard to self-interests. NAFEM is depended upon to provide strong leadership to the industry and play an important role doing what none of us can do on our own, but we can do together!

That role is even more important when old rules are changing and the future is not clear.

Peter Drucker once said, “The greatest danger in times of turbulence is not the turbulence; it is to act with yesterday’s logic.”

History helps us see further into the future, if just used as a reference, as it does not predict the future.

To see just how dramatic and unpredictable the future can be, look at the FES Industry Giants from 1983, 1999, and 2016 on the screen. (And thank you to Maureen, Joe, Kevin and Carol at FES for helping gather this information.) Some of these names no longer exist – a few have stood the test of time and navigated the turbulence in our business over the last 35 years.

There are just two dealers in the top 10 over the last 35 years, Edward Don and Wasserstrom, a commendable accomplishment! History did not define the future of distribution of our industry. What will the new list in April look like, and more importantly what names will be on and off of it 10 years from now? How will expanded digital capabilities, operator demands, and new entrants to our channel reshape this list? NAFEM’s role today and over the next 10 years is to provide support to help us navigate the future together.

NAFEM plays a huge role for us as a trusted resource in bringing our industry together, while gaining insight from others inside and outside of our industry who can help us see things from a different point of view. NAFEM connects with our operator and channel partner associations to forge strategic relationships, as well as develop programs and partnerships to provide the education and training programs the industry needs to support our teams and attract the next generation of leaders.

What will our customers – commercial and non-commercial operators – and their customers, demand of us to create the foodservice experiences in 2028? What do you need to know, or change in your business today, so you can navigate the future?

Like most years, we have turbulence, and this year we can list regulations from the EPA, new metal tariffs, unprecedented industry consolidation on all levels in the channel, The AMAZON Effect, unprecedented chain operator stress from declining traffic count, UBER Eats effect, aging baby boomers, and a millennial generation rewriting the book on just about every rule on how business is accomplished.

Focus; innovation; engagement; knowledge; foresight; embracing change; and transformation are some key words that describe the most successful enterprises. Those are the words I would use to describe NAFEM’s work over the last 10 years, and our focus for the future. Turbulence can create new opportunities if we embrace it, and take advantage of it.

Our focus to advance the mission of the association in serving you over the next two years will be on three things from our 5-3-1 strategic planning sessions:

1. Expand collaboration with channel and operator associations
2. Strengthen member engagement, outreach & advocacy
3. Develop new and enhanced existing member resources

For the past 15 years, many have contributed to our strategic objectives, and the strength of our association. Our strategic objectives were developed during Mike’s term, became reality under Kevin, and am proud to continue on this journey for the next two years. Our future is bright, and together, we’ll continue to make NAFEM strong and prosperous.

Have a great conference. Establish new friends and find new insights from all that is here for you!

Thank you everyone.