Rapids Wins 2018 Innovator of the Year Award

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More than a year ago, Rapids implemented an initiative called Innovation Inspired. This initiative focused on including every member of the Rapids team, from warehouse staff to sales reps to the company owners, in segmented sessions where our only focus is bettering ourselves and the company. No idea was too small, and we were encouraged to shoot for the stars when it came to bigger changes.

Quite a few of the ideas brought to the first several meetings have been successfully implemented, and new ideas are constantly being brought to the table for consideration, as we strive to maintain the highest level of efficiency and service in today’s rapidly changing world.

As it turns out, this program inspired more than just the employees at Rapids – the people behind the MEDCO Innovator of the Year Award (presented by the Corridor Business Journal) were also impressed. Rapids was presented the 2018 MEDCO Innovator of the Year Award!

MEDCO is the Marion Economic Development Corp, an organization that focuses on creating an environment in Marion where companies can expand, attract new talent, and thrive. It is an honor to be recognized by them, and we hope to continue operating in such a way that encourages every day innovation and improvement.

*All images courtesy of Joe Photo and the Marion Economic Development Corp.

MEDCO/CBJ Innovator of the Year Award

Rapids Leadership Group

President Joe Schmitt delivering acceptance speech.

Joe Dodds, Joe Schmitt, Eric Schmitt

Nomination Letter:


Thank you for taking the time to consider Rapids & Affiliates and Joe Schmitt as the 2018 MEDCO Innovator of the Year.

82 years ago, Rapid’s founder Harry Ribble designed and patented the world’s very first direct draw beer dispenser. Since this time, Rapids Wholesale has evolved into a multifaceted complete commercial foodservice solution with the ability to help our customers from conception & design, through procurement of equipment & smallwares, to installation, all the way through facilities management and service. But none of these things are innovative. All businesses grow.

Why I’m suggesting you consider Rapids for Innovator of the Year, is that we have been shown that we cannot be complacent in maintaining the status quo. We understand that we must innovate to survive in an age of disruption, and we’ve been given the green light to shoot for the stars. All of us.

A couple of years ago, our President, Joe Schmitt, attended a conference lead by Dirk Beveridge called UnleashWD. He returned to us with a renewed passion to keep Rapids relevant in an increasingly crowded space. After discussing with Joe Dodds and Eric Schmitt, Joe teamed up with Dirk to provide our entire management staff an outline and tools to inspire innovation within our walls aptly named Innovation Inspired. But we didn’t stop there.

Rapids management leaders then structured these ideas and strategies to create an environment and program where every single employee, from warehouse staff and call center techs, all the way up to ownership breaks off into mixed groups regularly to brainstorm ways to improve, to expand, and to innovate. Ideas are introduced, encouraged, cultivated, vetted, revised and ultimately presented to the ownership group for approval and implementation.

Sometimes the ideas are really small; simple procedural tweaks to streamline our workflow. Some ideas are much larger requiring business plans, marketing strategy, product development, and local partnership to come to fruition. But in the end, all ideas are considered, regardless of how far out of our comfort zone they may at first seem. And everybody here has a voice at the table. And every employee has a role to play in the process.

Some success stories from this program include implementing a product sampling program to reward and introduce our customers to relevant consumable product offerings. Another is designing a series of Cold Brew Coffee dispensers and partnering with local coffee roasters and brewers to get them placed in local groceries and convenience stores. This might not be the biggest tech innovation you receive from your request, but this isn’t something we would have done readily in the past.

The PROCESS in which these ideas come to be is what is worth noting. We could have gone through just another day selling refrigerators, but we were inspired and encouraged by our leadership to get together and challenge ourselves and ask, “Hey, WHY CAN’T we put something together to do THIS? Let’s discuss it together, map out the steps together, and DO IT!”

Now we innovate everyday.

Paul Adams

Media & Marketing Nerd, Rapids

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