May 03, 2012 • By

Success in sales starts early

Not many people pursuing sales careers in any industry have the unique early experience that Dave Schmeer had.

As a teen growing up in Cape Vincent near the Canadian border in upstate New York, Dave helped manage his family’s fast-food restaurant – “The Dog House” – which offered typical summertime food fare.

“It was the perfect business to have in a resort town. We sold pizza, hot dogs, popcorn, ice cream and hamburgers – all those things you’d buy in a resort town,” Dave says. “I had to manage everything in that business, the payroll, taxes. And I had to order inventory. It was absolutely a lifelong lesson that I’ll never forget.”

Now after 29 years in a variety of roles and cities with General Mills, Dave is in Philadelphia and manages a large team that is dedicated to Ahold, one of the leading food retailers in the U.S.

“It’s an exciting business. It’s a rewarding business.”

Dave was recently honored by our Sales leadership team with its Walter B. LeSueur Award. LeSueur set a standard for leadership, performance on-the-job and an endearing approach to work and life.

After completing his business degree in marketing at Le Moyne College in Syracuse in 1982, Dave started looking for a job that would be the right fit. He filled his time by working at a bike shop and a shoe shop.

“I was just trying to find a job because the last thing I wanted to do was go home and live with my parents!”

Dave spotted an ad in a newspaper for a sales representative in 1983 and applied, hoping for the best.

“It didn’t even state it was for General Mills,” says Dave.

That blind ad started his rewarding journey with us.

Within two months he went from Syracuse to Albany. His work eventually took him to Boston, Connecticut, and Minneapolis, and then back to the east coast for the last 15 years.

Dave says the business landscape in the sales field for food retailers has changed tremendously, including the consolidation of his customers. The responsibilities of people in his position also have evolved.

“I was the one guy working with the customer in the 80s and I did just about everything – filing orders, managing the supply chain – today you could never survive by doing that yourself. You need the type of team that we now have in place for our customer support.”

The sales teams have evolved in countless ways to make sure you have your favorite General Mills brands on the shelves of your neighborhood grocery store.

“Today, I actually have 17 people on my team,” Dave says. “But we actually have much more than that when you include all the people who support us from areas like shopper insights, supply chain, our national retail organization, category management, customer marketing and consumer promotion support. It’s a large effort.”

Dave and his wife Penny have two sons and a daughter – Andy, Ryan, and Cailin – two are out of college and the youngest will start in the fall. Time will tell if they inherited his business sense.

To anyone just starting out in a sales career today, or any field for that matter, Dave offered this advice.

“Work hard. Be organized. Enjoy yourself.”

Good advice from someone who learned how those skills can pay off at an early age.