He’s the man behind the scenes who makes the Imperial in-store merchandise “stand tall”. Derek Potter is director of sales and service operations and is a rising young star in an expanding company whose success is marked by execution and meeting and exceeding the needs of its retailers.

Part of Derek’s success is anticipating challenges and finding solutions before problems arise. He is a proactive problem solver.
Derek is responsible for most of Imperial’s in-store service. Imperial is recognized throughout the Northeast, Mid- and South Atlantic and Midwest states as a leader in both distribution and merchandising of supermarket non-foods.

Derek and his team interact daily with store management to ensure that the retailer does not miss a sale. His goal is to make sure that the right product is on the right shelf in the right amount every day and that non-food sections are always “standing tall.”

Derek conducts surveys of each retailer to ensure the company is satisfied with Imperial’s service and department execution. Retailers are regularly asked to rate Imperial’s service on a number of dimensions, and their responses guide the actions of Derek and his team. “We are proactive, and we constantly ask for feedback. We want to be ahead of any potential problems,” he said.

Derek came to Imperial in April of 2001, having worked as a department manager for Ann & Hope.
Derek started his career at Imperial as a sales and service representative and, over his 14 years at Imperial, has held several positions including sales supervisor, sales operation supervisor for Shaw’s and manager of field operations. In 2010, he was named director of sales and service operations.

Derek is pleased that Imperial has allowed him to grow each year and to widen his horizons. He finds his management role exciting and loves to interact with his staff and retailers on a daily basis. “Not only are you trying to meet retailer expectations every day but also expectations from the company. There’s no doubt you learn something new every day,” he said.

What’s an average day like for Derek? He starts his day with reports from two supervisors and four operations managers. He identifies the challenges for the day and makes sure that the right resources are in place to meet those challenges. He interacts with human resources and numerous team members and spends time nearly every day touring stores.

Perhaps the most impressive thing Derek has done, according to Deb Kaufman, Imperial’s VP for organizational effectiveness, is create a vision for how technology can enable quality at the store level. “He created the vision and has been its champion — and new technology has become a differentiator for Imperial,” she said.

Today’s electronic technology has improved service and reporting in many ways. Derek can get instant supervisor reports as well as instantaneous images of a store set at any point in the day. If something is not right, he can email or text the Imperial team member, and it can be corrected in real time. Derek gets instant reports of how items are selling and can compare results before and after a reset or new sales initiatives.

Since April of 2014, Imperial has outfitted its service sale representatives with tablets, allowing interactive communication among Imperial staff and the retailer. “This process has been a game changer,” said Derek. “It has given us an instant opportunity to view stores and category sets with photos and messages. It’s great to get a visual in the field and get feedback from the retailer. I feel there is better execution when there is visibility,” he added.

People describe Derek’s management style as open and willing to listen to suggestions — he appreciates feedback from his team and his customers. Derek sees it this way: “I do have high expectations. I expect all of us to do quality work and hit our deadlines, but I am ready to help and lend support. Customer service is important to all of us. It’s important to deliver and execute what the customer expects.”

Mike Sleeper, Imperial’s chairman and CEO said, “Derek Potter represents the best of Imperial. He cares about his people. He is dedicated to our customers, and he gives 100 percent every day. Derek is an important part of our management team, and we are counting on him to help lead the company for many years to come.”

By Mike Berger