The Advancing Leadership Blog

A chat with TEC member Dean Noble

As Marketing Communications Coordinator, my position at TEC requires a good portion of time chasing down members’ awards and successes, sharing them with the Canadian business community. Much of this work consists of tracking news stories, sifting through awards sites, following up leads from Chairs, and my personal favourite, speaking with members about their accomplishments in business.

Recently I had the privilege of chatting one-on-one with member Dean Noble, President of Gordon Food Service (GFS), British Columbia. Dean’s insight into leadership, teamwork and a strong focus on quality customer service, are precisely the reasons for why he is a proven leader of a highly successful company. Here’s a snippet of our conversation…

KM: Dean, how has Gordon Food Services become such a leader in foodservice distribution?
DN: We have been very passionate around service, ensuring the customers current, and future needs are met, taking a true interest in the business, and the success of that business. We have also become leaders because of our people. We are in the people business. Without GFS leaders’ commitment and focus to exceed our customers’ needs, we would not look like any other company.

KM: Do you have any particular business challenges you have faced, or may be facing currently, and how you’ve overcame them?
DN: I think if you’re not faced with on going challenges, then you’re not growing. As you face any challenge, turn to your staff. In many cases, they have the answer that is needed. And if not, do not hesitate to ask your peer group and other sources you may have for insight and suggestions.

KM: As a member, what can you say about the TEC process? Has it helped you further succeed as a business leader?
DN: Yes, very much so. It’s been a wealth of resources – on anything from personal development and strategic planning, to day-to-day business improvement. My TEC Chair has become in many ways my personal coach…and the peer group brings insight from all aspects of business.

KM: GFS Canada has nine members in TEC across the country. This is quite unique to TEC. From your perspective, why does GFS find it important for its executive team to be involved in TEC programs?
DN: I think it’s the learning; the opportunity to share thoughts and ideas with peer groups, creating a network of business friends that can provide guidance on those many things that we face each day in our business. It’s an endless source of talent and insight.

KM: What’s the number one lesson you’ve learned working as a c-level executive?
DN: Get to really know your team; what makes them tick? Be sure they are fully aware of the company goals you are looking to achieve, and what role they play in achieving those goals. Once those have been set, you need to provide the support to remove any hurdles that might stop them from achieving their goals.

KM: Do you have a message for the next generation of CEOs? If you could tell them one thing they would need to know about being a CEO, what would that be?
DN: At the end of the day, no matter what business you are in, deep down you’re in the people business. Do not underestimate the value of a strong culture, and totally engage the team. It’s the difference between good results – and great results.

KM: Do you resonate with either of these statements? – “I live my life in my career.” Or “I live my career in my life?” And why?
DN: I would say early on in my career, it would have been the first statement. As you grow, you learn that you are only as good as those around you, so enjoy that you have the leadership in place that can support the business, and keep a very clear balance of work and family. It’s actually a much more successful model – both for the business and your personal life.

KM: Share your vision of what your company will look like in three to five years from now? What’s next for GFS?
DN: We will continue to drive the culture, develop our leadership to support the future growth, continue to better understand the needs and wants of our customers, leverage technology, and create a service model that will continue to make us a company of choice for both employees and customer in the hospitality/foodservice industry.

Dean Noble is a member of TEC 234 in Vancouver, BC with Chair Bob Sinclair.

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