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Driving Change at New England's Leading Wholesaler - In her unique position at Taunton, MA-based Martignetti Companies, one of the country’s oldest wine and spirits distributors, Jessica Cyr has a front row seat to the pain and the power the comes with change.    Kristen Bieler: Your title is Assistant VP, Sales Operations, but that doesn’t totally describe your current role.   Jessica Cyr: I have a very entrepreneurial role, helping to oversee and integrate training, technology, organizational development and partnerships. My goal is to enhance our teams through coaching and development. A lot of my time is dedicated to the Sales Management Certification programs I created for Martignetti.     KB: This position didn’t exist at Martignetti until you created it. What gave you the idea—and the courage—to push for it?   JC: I have a degree in social work, so I’ve always been someone who wanted to develop and help people. And because I’ve worked in various aspects of the business—from sales to portfolio management to operations—I knew that we needed to change, and that’s hard in an industry that’s built on years of tradition and legacy. I presented my plan, and was given the opportunity to really transform the company. It did take courage, but I’ve been lucky to have strong mentors throughout my career—individuals who saw more in me than I saw in myself, challenging me to take risks.    Elevating Training   KB: Tell us more about Martignetti’s training and sales certification programs.    JC: Martignetti has separate selling divisions, and for years, I observed them all doing things differently. They used different accountability measures, sales presentations, even different language with customers. Some divisions were great about having team meetings, others had none. There was no structure or comprehensive education program, so I felt we absolutely had to change this. The executive team was on board, so I built the certification programs to establish a consistent approach, and have transparency of processes and expectations across all sales.    KB: Did you get pushback from sales teams when you implemented the program?   JC: Yes! Change is difficult, and many people doubted the worth of the program at first. The certification program is now an embedded and celebrated initiative. We conclude each certification with a recognition breakfast award ceremony. This allows senior management to highlight the efforts of each manager to achieve that status, Certified Sales Manager Professional. At last count, we’ve certified approximately 100 employees across four programs since 2018. People are starting to see the value. The world is changing and we can’t just tell our people to go out and increase sales; we have to coach and develop and educate.    KB: You’ve also created Train the Trainer and an on-boarding program for new hires.    JC: In most industries, employees are in training programs from Day One, but this is much less common in the wholesale industry. We needed to start on-boarding people in a structured way so new employees feel connected and understand expectations. In our first year, approximately 100 employees successfully completed the 60 Day [on-boarding] program.     Our Train the Trainer program has been revolutionary; it breaks down barriers by empowering team members to teach one another. Our trainers meet regularly and have detailed conversations about how to increase efficiencies. As a result, we’ve solved communication breakdowns about out-of-stock issues and delivery problems. Our warehouse is pumping out cases, and we want our sales reps spending more time selling and adding value, not worrying about the back end.    Embracing The Future   KB: How has company culture changed as a result of this work?    JC: Evolution is slow and nothing is perfect; it’s still a work in progress but this process has led to more transparency. I’m proud to say, one of the outcomes of the certification process was that it showcased the many talents and capabilities of our sales organization.  Our technology usage has improved, we’ve increased efficiencies in sales execution and reporting as well as professional development of our employees. It also reinforced the need to reorganize our sales structure by adding two new senior Vice Presidents. These two promotions have had a cascading positive effect for employees to advance their careers.   KB: Martignetti Companies has been an industry leader in women’s empowerment, launching the Women’s Beverage Alcohol Symposium, now in its seventh year.    JC: The idea was born over a discussion at a supplier dinner about how many dynamic women there are in the industry—producers, winemakers, restaurateurs and  sales people. We created the Symposium to celebrate and recognize leading women in our industry and provide an opportunity for networking and education. The next Symposium is taking place at our corporate headquarters on Tuesday, May 12th.    KB: Yet when it comes to seeing more leadership diversity, you believe slow change is the best kind of change. Explain.    JC: Change that is slow is organic and real. Our Symposium is a great example of how building momentum over seven years has proven to be transformational. There are many statistics that show women bring more to the bottom line when they are included, heard and supported. But it can’t just be plug and play.  The data shows that women will not apply for a role unless they are 100% confident they have the skills to do the job. We have to bring awareness and action to this point. Our responsibility is to groom, develop, support and encourage women to take a risk for that next promotional opportunity. Take a chance!   KB: What is something else you would like to see change in this business?    JC: Honestly, there is plenty of change going on in our industry, whether it’s consolidation, direct to consumer, federal regulations and cannabis.  We are all watching, anticipating and preparing for these large-scale issues that will shape the business moving forward.   I would like to see more women in leadership positions at the wholesale tier across all companies nationwide. That is something we need to change. I was honored to be nominated as an Advisory Board Member to the WSWA’s Women’s Leadership Council in 2016, and am currently Vice Chair. We encourage women to have a voice through our organization as we educate, elevate and empower women in wholesale. 
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