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A Year of Change for the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) 2017 ASAP Conference [Day One Recap]

The Food Marketing Institute (FMI) 2017 Conference teed off on March 20 with a golf tournament and welcome reception. Retailers and solution providers reconnected in the nice cool evening outside the Rosen Shingle Creek hotel in Orlando, FL. Day one of the conference had a recurring theme of change and flexibility. The day started with a short video recapping all the changes and developments in the food industry since the inception of FMI 40 years ago: a great way to remind us of where things started for FMI as we look to the future to predict change in our business and the industry.

The high-energy opening keynote session from Dan Thurmon, author and peak performance expert, freed attendees from the guilt of trying to live a balanced life. Thurmon challenged us to stretch into uncertainty, knowing that uncertainty will stretch you. Thurmon urged his audience to avoid striving for a “balanced life” and instead “always be balancing.” Thurmon illustrated his point with acrobatics, juggling, and even a unicycle.

Dan Thurmon, Opening Keynote Speaker

Thurmon’s message centered on the human tendency is to form methods and patterns that work to achieve a goal. That’s when we get comfortable (“balanced”). However, it’s only when things are off-balance that we learn and change. By limiting yourself or your organization to what’s comfortable, you shut down the opportunity to grow. When things change, it’s important to learn new patterns to get to the same end goal. Some amount of struggle is key to the learning process. The main difference between people who can perform a skill and those who can’t is that those who can have picked up more “drops” (juggling reference) know what to do. Many times, we DROP the ball for just that reason: Distraction, Rushing, Overload, Panic (DROP). To keep from dropping the ball, it’s important to keep looking up–which helps give visibility to the whole process and allows you to plan ahead and adjust if needed.

- Digital Partner -

In the first breakout session, which had a theme of turning your crisis plan inside out, Mike Gulli of Golub and Steve Hoptay of Wakefern focused on getting objective eyes (from both inside your company and outside) to assess and identify potential threats. Knowing that typical crisis plans are written in the ideal world, it’s important to use the experience of your internal teams in addition to your trusted relationships in the community with federal and local agencies. You can get a more real-world view to ensure the plan will work and is based on existing principles and procedures. However, that’s where we return to our theme of change: ensure the plan is still flexible since each incident is different every time.

In the next set of roundtables, Rod Wheeler of the Global Food Defense Institute spoke on the supply-chain vulnerabilities and threats to your products. From complying with the Food Safety Modernization Act to training your individuals, the first step is recognizing potential threats and how you communicate them. A key tenet is engaging your frontline associates to remain diligent and avoid complacency in daily activities, such as sign-in logs and access control. Of equal import is creating an environment of trust so they are comfortable recognizing and reporting suspicious activity This advice isn’t just for your locations but can help ensure all suppliers, distributors, and other organizations in your supply chain are conducting vulnerability assessments and sharing their results. Threats can always occur further up the chain and end up with your name on it.

In one of the last set of roundtable discussions, Theresa Maricevic of King Kullen led a group conversation on adding value with store audits. From trying to find the balance of how much time is spent conducting the audit versus the time that could be spent remediating problems, the group shared other audit best practices such as timing, triggers, and the communication of results. Even more challenging was the difficulty in proving value before you get buy-in and also ensuring you get buy-in so you can prove the value. Many attendees brought up the need to have the audit process be iterative and change as the business changed to ensure the right questions were being asked to support the business risks.

Thom Blischok, General Session Speaker
Thom Blischok, General Session Speaker

The final session of the day from Thom Blischok of the Dialogic Group walked through the impacts of the digitally engaged shopper. With estimates
that 75 percent of America will integrate digital purchasing into their food shopping in the next ten years, it will be important to start building that team now as the lines between digital and in-store shopping start to blur. With no single operating model standing out to be sustainable, there will be changes as each retailer tries to get it right. No matter which model(s) are selected, the key leaders in making the changes know they can’t do it alone. It will be a team effort, and asset protection will need to be involved.

With the final session over, that wasn’t the end “change” for the day. Before breaking for additional vendor showcase hours, FMI announced that they will have a change for their next conference. Leaders from the Food Marketing Institute (FMI)’s Audit, Safety, Asset Protection conference and National Retail Federation announced they will partner together to combine the existing risk and safety events into one cross-industry gathering in 2018. More details will be forthcoming at this year’s NRF PROTECT event held at the Gaylord in Washington DC, June 26-28.

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