Santa Means Business
There is a kid in all of us who still craves the delicious treats from our childhood. That is why McKee Foods places the creation of memorable snack experiences at the heart of our business. McKee Foods has come to understand that by creating the freshest, best-tasting snacks available, consumers’ love for Little Debbie snacks is something they will never outgrow. Carrying forward that brand belief is Sales Training and Development Manager, Ross Ian Vance. A kid at heart, Vance uses his playful personality and quick wit to make on-the-job learning a piece of cake for the Field Sales Organization. Each year he also channels his inner child to play Santa for McKee Foods’ Sales and Marketing team, an annual tradition that spreads cheer to McKee Foods’ hardworking staff.
Vance is a lifelong learner, instructor and entrepreneur, earning two bachelor’s degrees, a Master of Arts in Teaching and soon a doctorate in education from the University of Tennessee. Traveling the nation to work alongside and learn from McKee Foods’ Field Sales Representatives, his aim is to understand their on-the-job experiences so his team can build an effective training program and tools of the trade that carry on the quality maintained by McKee Foods for generations. Vance also works to further the McKee family’s strong belief in being of service in business and in life.
Vance and his team build robust instructional programs that include ongoing hands-on and virtual training, videos, podcasts and more. For some field sales trainees, the program involves months of what Vance calls “grain-to-pantry” education that includes a rotation of intensive classroom instruction, followed by on-the-job training, virtual learning experiences and more classroom education. Vance believes that the company’s dual focus on sales training and service and on the holistic development of individuals is a key ingredient in its recipe for success.
“Part of building a loyal following in our business is bringing the best possible products to retail. That involves everything from fragility, freshness and taste to the display, the conversations people have in store and the memories that are made at home. That’s what our sales training and development program is designed to do,” said Vance. “When people unwrap a Little Debbie snack, they unwrap a smile.”
Vance plays Santa to the delight of children and adults alike, so he knows a bit about generating smiles. The married father of two, who also holds a Bachelor of Opera Performance, has a penchant for surprising and delighting a crowd. When Vance dresses up as Santa for McKee Foods’ Sales and Marketing staff meeting, he passes out gag gifts, and he roasts and toasts company leadership.
A self-professed creator of “entire learning experiences,” Vance said one of the greatest things he has learned from the McKee family since joining their company three years ago is the value of “servitude” at work, in life and in the community. This year, Vance said he and his wife will pay that value forward by building on a Christmastime tradition of volunteerism with their children. The family will spend a portion of their holiday supporting Operation Christmas Child, a program dedicated to providing for the physical and spiritual needs of children.