There could very well be an unintended consequence of the coronavirus: a wide-ranging exodus of veteran sales and other executives from seafood companies.
The fallout of the pandemic is forcing a large-scale, rapid pivot for seafood suppliers, many of whom are having to shift sooner than may be expected to a more technology-powered business approach.
Sales veterans with a couple of decades under their belts, who came of age in an industry built on relationships, might suddenly find themselves left behind as the young, digitally adroit “kids” and their tech solutions are elevated in importance in an age of collapsing customer bases and shifting supply chains that went from growing trend to harsh reality almost overnight.
Early unemployment figures in the United States support this shift. The unemployment rate for workers 55 and older rose from 2.6 percent to 3.3 percent in March, and that's expected to keep climbing.
Dulcich's company, one of the largest seafood suppliers in North America and the world, has been forced to rapidly reorganize over the past few weeks in response to the pandemic, which has hammered the company's foodservice customers and dramatically collapsed the supply chain.
"We’ll be using a lot more technology for how we process and do orders," he said, noting that it's impacting both B2B and B2C customers.
One example he gave was Pacific Seafood shifting away from using call-in sales for ordering cycles.
"Now we’re going to have a web app where we’re bypassing all sales into our inventory," he said, describing the model as a Pacific Seafood version of an Uber app.
Dulcich said embracing technology will save the company millions by connecting customers directly with digital inventory and order-management systems, and "a lot of positions" will be permanently removed from his company, even when the pandemic ends, as a result of the streamlining.
The fact is, as sad as it is to say, senior executives in sales, marketing and other traditionally business-critical roles -- who also typically come with large salaries ripe for cutting or furloughing -- could very well be the first to go in a post-corona world in which companies struggle to bring balance to their balance sheets.
Those executives' relationships with customers, which have been so foundational in the seafood world for so long, could be supplanted by one-click order simplicity. Additionally, there will be a lot fewer restaurant and other foodservice clients for sales personnel to chase when this is all said and done.
Perhaps lots of these veteran seafood sales execs might take matters into their own hands. Maybe the coronavirus will be the motivation they have been looking for to step into retirement or some other career change. Maybe they reach a point where they conclude, “I’ve seen enough,” and exit the industry they love, and that has sustained them for years.
As with most things related to the coronavirus, it is too soon to know exactly what the longer-term impacts of these times will be on consumer behavior, supply chain management, social interactions or workforce realignment.
Maybe, just maybe, we will all come out of the corona chaos valuing business and personal relationships more than ever, and we won’t turn to technology to do all our grocery shopping, or order food from our favorite restaurant, or eliminate the human element from our supply chain.
Will seafood be the lesser if industry veterans exit and technology steps in? Probably. But all of these trends were already taking hold before corona supercharged them, so in all likelihood they are here to stay.
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