CEO Karin Sugarman Shares How the Buying Group Stays Focused on its Mission and Sets Up its Independent Members for Continued Success

Buying groups play a critical role in the foodservice equipment and supplies industry, and their value only grows during periods of economic uncertainty. Businesses that add their buying power to a larger collective benefit from larger economies of scale, resulting in higher costs savings and lower supply chain expenses. But the most effective buying groups make an impact beyond the balance sheets: They add value to their members’ organizations and prepare them for future success in an ever-changing industry.

For the past 31 years, PRIDE Centric Resources has been a leader in developing programs and resources to benefit its dealers and vendors. That forward-thinking mindset is why FEDA was excited to welcome PRIDE as an associate member in May, making it the first buying group to join the association.

In the Q&A below, Karin Sugarman, president and CEO of PRIDE, discusses how the buying group has evolved in recent years, how it’s helping members through the COVID-19 crisis, and where it will turn its focus next.

How would you describe PRIDE’s mission?

PRIDE’s mission is to create and implement market-leading strategies in vendor programs, marketing, training, and networking to drive increased shareholder and channel partner market share and profitability. We are structured as a cooperative, with all our dealer-members as equal shareholders of the corporation; we’re governed by a dealer-elected board for the benefit of all our members.

This has been PRIDE’s structure and focus since its founding in 1989. We exist to support our dealers in serving the foodservice equipment and supply industry, and we are proud to have the privilege to work in this diverse, yet close-knit industry.

What sets PRIDE apart in the industry?

PRIDE is a unique network of dealers with minimal intra-group competition who value the opportunity to leverage each other’s strengths to support their individual operations nationwide. We focus on the long-term sustainability of our dealers, and we work together to develop programs and opportunities that grow the strength of our network. Because of our collaborative nature, we’re able to connect our dealers to support various needs with fellow dealer specialties and expertise like design or regional installations. In addition, we focus on group marketing initiatives to benefit all our members. One of our recent initiatives, TheKitchenSpot.com, is a shared platform to boost the dealers’ digital exposure and to obtain new customer opportunities for all our PRIDE dealers.

What kind of members do you serve?

We have a diverse group of members ranging in size from $4 million to over $100 million in annual sales. The main dealerships are located throughout the United States but their customer base extends all over the world. As a group, PRIDE is involved with all segments of the industry – restaurants (both chain and independents), institutions, hospitality, concessions, and B&I (business and industry). The members provide product, design, installation, consulting, service, customer services such as local inventory, delivery, financing, credit, purchasing technology, and local cheerleading for their customers.

How has the group changed over the past five years?

The PRIDE organization has faced some interesting challenges and opportunities during the past five years. The group has always been creative and willing to try new ideas. One of these ideas was to create a company to facilitate online sales, but the plans for this company went off-track in 2015 when it became over-leveraged. The PRIDE dealers and many of our channel associates were severely impacted as a result. 

Fortunately, however, core dealers were determined to honor the obligations PRIDE committed itself to and worked to overcome the financial challenges. Our suppliers and rep organizations recognized that the individual dealers were not to blame for the problems and stood by the dealers and a revamped PRIDE organization. Without their confidence and support, PRIDE would not be here today.

In 2016 and 2017, we reorganized our structure and, after much self-reflection, brought our focus back to the basics of the mission of the cooperative.

This is reflected in our slight name change to highlight the organization’s role as the central hub for information and resources that our dealers can use to improve or augment their own businesses. Today, PRIDE is a strong organization with a renewed focus on independent dealer success.

What are some of the accomplishments PRIDE is most proud of in recent years?

We are proud of the resiliency of the organization and of the individual member companies. They represent the best spirit of our industry – independence, confidence, competence, and grit.

We are also very proud of our emerging next generation of business owners. Many of our members are multi-generational family-owned businesses. We see our members actively cultivating relatives and key employees to step into the C-suite, ownership, and full management within the next few years.

How have PRIDE’s members been affected by the COVID-19 crisis?

Without a doubt the COVID-19 crisis has been a monumental disrupter for everyone. The PRIDE dealers remained open, at least virtually, to serve their customers’ needs and retained most of their teams. However, their businesses certainly suffered. Many were seeing record starts to 2020 and while business has been better than feared, they remain greatly concerned by the downturn that has impaired their customers’ operations.

What are some ways you’ve seen members respond to these challenging times, and how has PRIDE supported them during this period?

The PRIDE dealers quickly pivoted to allow team members to work remotely and adjusted operations to safeguard their employees and their customers. Many began offering expanded delivery and curbside pickup. They also jumped on providing personal protective equipment (PPE) products to customers and other local businesses.

PRIDE assisted in sourcing sanitizers, masks, gloves, and traffic-control items. The PRIDE office put a complete focus on determining dealer needs that included product sourcing as well as coordinating dealer collaboration, sharing information about new solutions and available financial assistance (for them and for their customers), and by being available for emotional support. Communication has been key during these events and our focus has been on keeping an open dialogue with both our dealers and vendors.

What are some ways you’ve adjusted your services or your approach to help members?

We streamlined our operations to focus on the activities that are currently most meaningful and provide the most value for members. We evaluated several operational functions as well as other activities to determine more efficient ways of accomplishing our goals.

Being a cooperative, we want to ensure we’re being good stewards of our resources, time, and efforts to support our members. We always look for opportunities to minimize initiative expenses while still providing the assistance our dealers require. We focus on communication with members through frequent individual conversations and monthly update webinars to ensure we are meeting their expectations.

How do you see PRIDE evolving over the next two or three years?

PRIDE will continue to improve itself as the strongest dealer service-oriented buying group. We want to attract like-minded dealers who are focused on value-add activities for their customers – those that truly provide expertise and support before, during, and after the sale. As recent events have challenged us all, we plan to work even more closely with our dealers to support their efforts to be resilient in this changing landscape, increasing and improving the services they offer their customers. We also will continue to support the development of dealer capabilities with our educational, marketing, and business improvement programs.

Why are buying groups like PRIDE essential to dealers and distributors moving forward?

As a cooperative group, we leverage resources to benefit all members. We focus on providing the strongest purchasing programs and operating on a transparent model to provide the highest return to our dealers. This allows them access to resources and platforms like our Online Learning Academy content, digital and printed marketing collateral, as well as lead generating initiatives. These services are a great benefit to our dealers and would not be cost effective on an individual basis. There is immeasurable advantage of having a professional community to back up your individual efforts in the marketplace.

Is there anything else you would like to share with FEDA members?

We are excited to join FEDA as an associate member and we look forward to expanding our support of the dealer community any way we can. We hope to see everyone in person soon!