Since I was a young kid in grade school, I would always embark on adventures with friends and family to the little town of Mt. Sterling Illinois. I was fascinated with the sea of blue trucks and the monstrosity that is the corporate headquarters of Dot Foods, Inc. Our main reason for these journeys was to shop at the Country Store, a store that sells damaged goods at a reduced price to minimize loss for Dot. Now, it gives me a great sense of pride to have been one of the 28 interns for Dot Foods/Dot Transportation Inc. for the summer of 2015.
Dot Foods/Dot Transportation has always fascinated me as a business model. The company is so complex that it would take years to learn every facet. Dot is the nation’s leader in food redistribution.
But, what is redistribution? Redistribution is adding another step, or “filter” to the logistics chain. Dot buys from the manufacturer and sells to over 3,600 distributors across the nation with company owned trucks. By consolidating over 100,000 different products to one location, redistribution addresses problems in the logistic chain such as limited inventory space for distribution centers, manufacturers wanting LTL (less than truckload) orders, not wanting a product to sit in the warehouse for long periods, and many more. Dot provides a solution to all of these problems while also providing their customers with the broadest product offering, improved service, consistent pricing, and considerably reduced lead (delivery) times.
In the 60’s, Robert and Dorothy Tracy began Dot by selling various dairy products out of a station wagon and two rented trucks. Robert has since past, but Dorothy still lives in the house next to my summer office.
A new Country Store was built in their honor and named Dorothy’s Market. Dorothy’s Market is known for miles around for its great prices and friendly staff.
Located right next door is the company’s restaurant, Hagel 1891, a fine dine restaurant for the Mt. Sterling community.
The company also sponsors a local YMCA for the community right next to the corporate office. The headquarter location here in Mt. Sterling consists 2.5 million square feet of space in four different temperature and humidity regulated warehouses; dry, refrigerated, the cooler (-10 degrees Fahrenheit), and a warehouse called 4th temperature for various candies. This makes for the biggest redistribution facility in the nation.
Dot also has offices above Dorothy’s Market and Hagel 1891 and has a separate location for sales and training that we liked to call Dot West, my home for the summer.
Dot has so many different divisions such as Retail (who deal with convenience stores and gas station distributors), Foodservice (distributors to hospitals, schools, nursing homes, etc.), National Accounts (distributors to food chains) and so many more.
My position this summer was the Protein Customer Development Intern in the Sales Department of Dot Foods. The Protein Division was quite different than the other departments in that we deal with commodities, causing a large amount of risk in buying and selling. Protein is relatively new and presents a new avenue for the company that I hope to see grow in the future. I reported to both the buyer and the sales team so I learned all avenues of the business. The buyer focuses on profit margin while the sales team focuses on selling the most product. Protein is a small division consisting of one buyer, one inside sales rep, and two outside sales reps. My main mentor was one of the inside sales reps. Over the summer, I was introduced to watching the market for the buyer, dealing with customers in the ordering process, and any other tasks that may be needed. For example, on Mondays I sat in on a market call with the protein team to discuss any significant changes in the market for live cattle, beef cuts, live hogs, pork cuts, and seafood. Throughout the week, I sent the buyer the daily market close on certain pork cuts so that he could determine what prices he wanted to set for our products, what product to stock up on, and what products to set good deals on. The main reason I loved my internship so much was because I was given so much freedom to learn. I made my own sales calls, answered customer inquiries, and even made a few sales of my own!
Since my division was so small, there was always a ton of work to be done, and I was more than happy to help alleviate that. I feel like being in this department was the best fit for my educational goals and my personality. The atmosphere and the customers are laid back and lighthearted which made making various calls more enjoyable. I learned about market trends and meat cuts but also how to manage multiple projects at a time, how to problem solve when customers have various problems, all while learning about the culture of Dot and the values that the company stands for.
In three short months company gave me so much. I’ve shadowed multiple different divisions, sat in on various meetings about topics that spread from saving for retirement to the transport and dispatch divisions. Dot welcomed the interns with open arms. My summer was not “all work and no play,” the interns attended a baseball game as a group, attended a networking event with our managers, and even completed a high ropes course.
At the end of the summer, each intern is required to present something to a select audience typically including their bosses, supervisors, coworkers, etc. My goal was to pitch a plan to make an improvement to the Protein department. My presentation was a major success as it lasted over an hour and led to some wonderful discussion, ideas, and even productive changes.
I love the information I learn from my coursework in college, but nothing will compare to the experiences I took away from my summer internship. I walked out of those blue buildings with a new understanding of not only sales and working with commodities, but also how to deal with corporate culture, dealing with difficult conversations, deadlines, and goals. Dot Foods left a lasting impact on me, and I hope to have left a lasting impact on such a wonderful company.