Mark Mizer Featured

7:00pm EDT January 31, 2007

Sometimes when Mark Mizer encounters a difficult issue in his business, he thinks about how his father, his grandfather and other respected businesspeople would have handled the situation. Mizer, president of RDP Foodservice LLC, is the third generation in his family to operate this Columbus-based foodservice distribution company. The 65-employee business provides more than 2,500 food items to independent Italian restaurants and pizza shops, and last year had revenue of nearly $40 million. Smart Business spoke with Mizer about how he and his executive team create their company’s recipe for success.

Build a unique business model. We are a hybrid between the corporate giant and the mom-and-pop, and we don’t like to be compared to either one. We take the corporate mentality where need be — the efficiencies and how we operate — and yet we certainly have the face of an independent, family-owned business which focuses on that personal service aspect.

We can compete with the flexibility of an independent and the same buying power, or economies of scale, of a large corporation. It’s very hard to do, and there’s not a lot of room for error, but a lot of that comes with how well you manage your business and the people you have working for you.

Surround yourself with a good team. I like to hire people who are as smart as me or smarter, and I’m not afraid to go to those people to get their thoughts before I make a decision.

I certainly have confidence in myself to make decisions on my own — from my gut and from my experiences — but I’ve always tried to have a close group of confidantes around me that can give me their opinion. It benefits me because I can look at it from a different point of view or a different set of eyes and see something that I might have overlooked.

It’s like building a baseball team. Go out and get the best players you possibly can find. Help them get to where you want to go and lead them, and that’s really what I’ve tried to do.

Integrity needs to be a common thread throughout your sales department. You need to do your due diligence to find people that are good corporate citizens — trustworthy, honest and all those things that you’d look for in someone that you would want to represent yourself or your family.

Don’t be intimidated by the veto. I’m not afraid to be overridden. If we’re talking about a new product or a new item, and other people within the company think it might be a little bit risky, I certainly have confidence in their thoughts. I’m not afraid to go in a direction that they think would be the best for the company.

I trust all of the people within my management group, and it’s a positive if you’re able to do that. They are smart businesspeople in their own right. They all have the best interests of our company in mind.

Know your leadership role. Allow yourself as a leader to work on the business, and not get caught working in the business. There needs to be someone who is not only keeping an eye on current activities, but someone who’s looking down the road to the future of the company and making sure that path is somewhat paved. It’s very difficult to do.

It goes back to making sure you have those senior managers who are very capable of doing the job. Once you’re confident that your senior management group can get the job done, you have to allow yourself some time to have a vision for the future.

If you don’t keep your eyes down the road, life can pass you by, and things can happen around you that you’re not even aware are happening.

Understand your employees and their goals. You have to allow employees to flourish and grow individually within your organization. People like to come to work every day knowing that they can make a difference. Put yourself in their shoes; understand what they’re going through and how to make their lives more satisfying.

If they have an issue in their life that is causing them to react in one way or another, we’re there to support them as best we can. We have employee manuals, but in some cases, where a family may have something catastrophic happen or something that gets in the way, sometimes you have to take those into mind and throw that manual out the window. It shows that you care.

If someone would happen to have a death in the family, there are things that are more important at times than the almighty dollar.

Provide more value to your customers. No matter what you’re selling, you can constantly take a look at the value-added services that your company can provide. There are a lot of things that large corporate companies are able to do over a mom-and-pop, but there are some things they can’t do, and a lot of that is offering value-added services.

Establish solid relationships. Loyalty is somewhat of a dying breed within our industry. When I’m out talking to a client, I let him know what our business is all about and educate him on what we’re doing, and not what his business means to us, but what his business will do for us.

Once the customer feels like he is a part of your success — and he realizes that it will allow him to grow — that’s where the loyalty factor comes into play. We’re on the same team. Instead of, ‘You have to battle me to get the best price,’ it’s more like, ‘We can do this together. I can help you reach your goals, and you certainly are going to help me reach mine.’ It’s creating a win-win situation.

HOW TO REACH: RDP Foodservice LLC, (614) 261-5661 or www.rdpfoodservice.com