A minute with

Jessica Meade

VP of Sales & Marketing

11 YEARS WITH ATLAS

Q: Walk through your career at Atlas and how each role has led to your growth and impacted your current outlook.

I started working at Atlas the summer I turned 14 and I was fired! As a kid I was more preoccupied with friends than work. But I got a second chance, and all through high school and summer breaks I did data entry, clerical filing—a lot of introductory work that taught me a lot about the company. In 2009, I sat down with my dad and asked to become a bigger part of the family company. So he started me in sales, which was great, because it gave me an opportunity to learn about all of the equipment and to get to know the dealers and reps really well.I became an assistant sales manager and I became responsible for a team. In that role, I learned how to delegate and how to motivate and lead a team. In 2017, I became the VP of sales and marketing, where I oversee all of the customer service and marketing.

The path I took has definitely helped me appreciate the thriving business my family created. Starting in an entry level position and having all this time to cultivate relationships and learn firsthand what we do and how we do it has shaped how I approach being the VP of sales and marketing.

Q: Not everyone has a dad who becomes their boss. Are there lessons he’s passed on or that you’ve gleaned from being around him at home and in the office that have stuck with you? Personally, professionally, or both.

First and foremost, he taught me how important it is to surround yourself with people you trust. He’s built a team of people he trusts, respects and that challenge him, which I admire. He always says, “you want to be challenged so you can keep evolving the company.” He also taught me to follow a strict code of ethics and to not compromise who we are or what we believe in. A big part of that is the belief that there will always be a place for high-quality products. We’ll probably never be the least expensive option out there, but that’s okay. We build handcrafted equipment because we believe it’s the best way. It’s what makes us who we are as company. Being family oriented is another big part of who we are. My dad was my softball coach for 10 years and he never missed a game or practice. He’s brought that same devotion to Atlas. He’s showed me how to lead with respect and to treat everyone like family, because they are.

Q: What are your guiding principles at Atlas?

Transparency for sure, with customers and my team. I make it a point of being upfront about what we can deliver and how quickly we can deliver it, which I think people appreciate. For my team, I make sure they know my expectations of them and in turn, I ask their expectations of me. I think it creates mutual respect, which is important in any workplace.

I also really focus on communication between the sales team and customers. For me, making metal personal means having a real person to talk to. I never want someone to call and get an answering machine or an automated response. I want there to be a live voice on the other end of that line—so we do our best to make that happen. We also operate under an open-door policy. We know that good ideas can come from anyone and anywhere but people will only share their ideas if they believe you are open to listening. It’s really important to me that everyone who works here feels like they have an equal voice.

Q: Atlas is known for its superior craftmanship and durability. From your perspective, how have you all earned that reputation and how do you keep it going today?

It’s pretty simple: we just don’t cut corners. One time we had a major chain come to us and ask us to build our units cheaper because they updated their units every five years. It would have been a huge win for us financially, especially having guaranteed business of that size every five years, but we wouldn’t do it. We aren’t willing to compromise our integrity and I believe our customers know that.

We also make a point to only buy US grade steel. We tried purchasing outside of the US at one point but the quality wasn’t up to our standards. Sourcing the best materials means we pay more but quality starts from the ground up.

Q: How has day-to-day business changed with COVID-19?

From an operations perspective, we’ve definitely made adjustments and modifications in order to keep all of our employees safe. That’s a given. From a customer perspective, we’re constantly getting requests for food guards and plexiglass products. A lot of operations are adding these retroactively. But for those that we’re doing new builds for, we’ve talked a lot about modular units that can help create more space within a serving line and allow for better social distancing. We also advise those folks on adding plexiglass to areas and carts they may not have thought about. A cashier cart is a great example of that. We encourage people to add additional barriers because we know it keeps their employees safe and makes guests feel more comfortable.

Q: What are the best ways that people in the industry could learn more about what makes Atlas, Atlas?

The best way is probably to participate in our visitation program, when we can do it again! We like to host consultants, reps, foodservice directors, you name it, to come to Miami to see our process first hand. We want them to see how we do things and the actual quality difference. It’s also an opportunity for them to put faces to the voices of the people they’ve been talking to. There’s really no replacement for seeing our superior craftsmanship in person.

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