Karen Buch, RDN, LDN
Interim Editor, RDBA Weekly
Early in a registered dietitian’s career, the focus is understandably centered on developing and honing nutritional expertise. When a dietitian begins to work in the retail food industry, and particularly if there is a desire to move up on the corporate ladder, a new focus emerges. It is essential to learn the business fundamentals of the grocery industry. Developing a business mindset will help you find the most impactful ways to apply your skilled nutritional knowledge to retail job duties that align with your retailer’s mission, vision and values.
Learn the Lingo
Similar to the medical terminology and charting abbreviations that you studied as an intern during clinical rotations, the food retail industry has its own terminology and abbreviations. Learning the lingo is essential to understanding and contributing to the flow of conversation in meetings with leadership as well as communicating effectively with store teams.
Explore What Drives the Business
Learn about supply chain and the mechanics of how product moves from supplier to warehouse to shelf. Dig in to the data and analytics used to measure the effectiveness of sales and marketing programs. Learn about profit margins and the top priorities of the merchandising teams. Showing a passionate interest in these important aspects of the business can provide the credibility and visibility you will need to be able to move ahead.
Create Your Spot on the Team
Don’t sit back and wait to be invited to the table. Consider volunteering to participate on a work-team for a high priority project involving cross-functional departments. Your nutritional perspective and understanding of emerging food trends may help to shape and improve the customer relevance of a new marketing strategy in ways that your company’s leadership might have not anticipated. As you begin to see yourself as an important part of the retail team, whose common goals include driving sales and building lasting relationships with customers, others will too.
Build Internal Relationships
Remember that networking is just as important inside your organization as it is outside. Scheduling “store rides” with district managers and internal department heads is one of the best ways to learn about their area of the business while building a personal relationship. Forging strong, authentic relationships built on trust are crucial for a successful corporate leadership role.
Drive for Results
As you set your work priorities, make sure that your programs and related primary tasks align with the company’s primary goals and objectives. Then make sure to take the time to measure and report the impact and results of your efforts. This shows that you can look beyond day-to-day tactics. Retail dietitians who are emerging leaders have an ability to think strategically, set action plans, anticipate desired outcomes and determine measures of success.