The Top Gun program, which won Best of Show honors from IFDA and Best Practices Awards from ID, is designed not only to recognize and reward, but also to motivate the best sales professionals in the industry. Out of more than 4,000 DSRs in Progressive Group Alliance distributor-members, only the top 1% is selected to attend Top Gun, the group pointed out. Attendees, after meeting eligibility requirements, can be nominated by the owners of the company or their sales managers. The nominations are then evaluated and the best of the nominees are awarded attendance at Top Gun.
This year, 30 DSRs, representing many of the broadline divisions of Progressive Group Alliance were selected to attend. Combined, these professionals brought more than 508 years of industry experience, in excess of $123 million in annualized cumulative street sales volume, and more than 2,090 accounts.
The Success Solutions team behind Top Gun, coordinated by Kay Taylor, director of training, provided advanced training by inviting top industry experts to talk about their products and services. Chef Jeff Basalik with Kraft Food Service, provided cutting edge salad trend information, Ed Talbott with the Wisconsin Milk and Marketing Board talked about cheese, while Rick Smith with House of Raeford, talked turkey.
Many found the presentation given by Ed Zimmerman, "Solving Operator Challenges," so interesting they said they wished he would have had more time to speak. Dr. Donna Garren from National Restaurant Association discussed the industry challenges that operators face on a daily basis, and Jonathan Eisen, senior vice president of government relations with IFDA, recapped what has been going on in Washington and what the industry could expect in the aftermath of the Democratic takeover of both houses of Congress. Michael Attias of The Results Group, Brentwood, TN, elaborated for DSRs how they can help their customers boost sales via catering. Other great speakers provided the group with superior sales tools and tips to help them continue to be the "best of the best."
Top Gun Academy concluded with the annual awards ceremony where all of the first-year attendees received the coveted Top Gun bomber jacket and second-year attendees were awarded a plaque. Keynoter Ihor Dlaboha, editor of ID, offered the attendees a retrospective-tribute about the late Mike Johnson, who spearheaded the formation of Top Gun academies, and then spoke about the importance of DSRs helping their operators build their businesses with an eye on the entire supply chain. Dlaboha also surprised Farner-Bocken's Bret Petersen (who didn't believe it when he was notified by phone) by announcing that he would be the ID DSR of the month for January 2007.