What is your background and current role with Hackney?
I worked many years in Venezuela before moving to California in early 2000 to work for Canteen Corporation. My main job was managing the customer accounts for companies that have employee cafeterias on site. My main take-away from that role was customer service, which has helped me tremendously with my current job at Hackney.
Throughout the years I worked in many different industries including hotel remodeling, airplane maintenance, and Latin American freight forwarding. During this time, I acquired my yellow and green belt certification in Lean Six Sigma. International customers love that I can talk with them in the same language about reduction of waste and process variation.
In 2012, I was approached by Leandro Rodriguez for an International Sales Manager position with Hackney and Kidron. My main focus was on Latin America. Even though I was originally from Venezuela, I never traveled south always north. As soon as I started working with Hackney, I began pointing south and visiting countries I never thought I would see in South America. I have been to Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Columbia, Panama, Costa Rico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica and Mexico. I have great relationships with customers in all those countries as well as countries I haven’t been.
Working Internationally, what are some of the challenges?
My biggest challenge was coordinating appointments for different customers I would visit in one short trip. Once there, some meetings would run-over because there were lots of questions to cover. This would run into the next appointment or time I would need to leave. It’s get easier but is always a challenge. I am much more comfortable now doing it after 8 years at Hackney.
One thing that I have been doing with customers is to present myself, not as a sales man, but as technical support to them. So I am always trying to discover their needs. How can Hackney help their operations and make it economically viable. I take the time, with the support of engineering, to provide different truck configurations until we define the best option the customer can get from Hackney.
What do you find is most interesting about your job?
I really enjoy getting to know the operations of my customers. Because each one of them has their own way of providing almost the same service of delivering side load beverage bodies. Safety has become more standardize over the years. Many customers now have a list of features that are requested by their customers like rear cameras, additional hand grips, pull-out steps, etc. for the safety of the operator. Still not all of the customers are concerned with safety features. The cost for the added safety features may add 2, 3, or 5 percent to the cost of the body. Those companies will save much more in the long run than on high costs for employee accidents.
Do you feel there is a big change in your role now that we are mostly virtual?
Currently, I am managing all International. We have sold quite a bit outside of Latin America, but for me it is a different approach. Since we are not able to travel right now, I am using virtual conferences because I think it is very important to see the faces of the customers that you are dealing with wherever they are. When I have a conversation and I am explaining the product it helps me a lot to see the face of the other person so I can figure out if what I am saying is what they need. Sometimes the customer can say one thing, but his face is saying something else. I can dig further into the process and further explain to help them understand.
Have you seen a lot of changes in the beverage body market?
When I started working with Hackney, Hackney and Kidron were the top of the line and best option for many of our customers. Yet, customers have been searching for a body that “flies” – something that does not exist, that is lighter with lower maintenance and lasts longer, but is cheaper and has a great image. We have been looking for materials other than aluminum to build our bodies stronger and lighter to keep the prices down since we are the higher priced option in the market.
Some customers leave us for a couple of years to try other options and come back because they realize that Hackney is still the top of the line in quality of long lasting beverage bodies. The total value of the Hackney bodies is what is being recognized especially for companies that are willing to use their bodies for many years.
Tell me about your family and what you enjoy doing when not at work.
My family is my wife, Monica and three kids who are 31, 29, and 27. Two live in Florida and one is married living in New York. We do not currently have any grandchildren. We all love to spend time together and when we do we love to play Mexican train dominoes and eat the typical Venezuelan dish, arepas.
My current hobby is playing golf. It is so relaxing. It is the best therapy to have a peaceful time to relax and enjoy. During the last two years we have been busy completing the details on the house we built which is kind of a hobby.
Email Miguel Spiteri to learn how he can help your international business excel!