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Know When It’s Your Time

As I write my last column as FM’s editor, I find myself thinking back to 1995, when I first assumed this role.

Recently, I was talking with a college dining director who is an old friend, and our conversation turned to a colleague whom we both knew well. The director in question’s administration had sought an independent, comparative review of the dining operations. Not a good sign, and usually a signal that outsourcing or a restructuring would be coming down the pike.

“He just lost his ‘peripheral vision,’” my friend said. “He had a great reputation, but stopped paying attention to the politics at his institution and to how the industry was moving ahead around him. People stop seeing things that are right under their noses.”

From the outside it is never possible to fully evaluate such situations. There can be unseen politics, personal issues, financial considerations that you’re not privy to. Other times, it’s a sign someone has overstayed his or her time in a career or position. We all have known individuals who made this mistake, and I have often considered how important it is in one’s career to recognize when it is time to step back and move on.

Back in 1985, Esquire magazine’s then editor-in-chief, Phillip Moffit, explored this issue in a column titled “The Time of Your Life.” I was struck by the thoughtful nature of his essay then and still have a tearsheet copy of it that I re-read from time to time.

“Doesn’t every man get trapped in by the very success he enjoys?” Moffit asked. “It is not failure that traps a person, for failure, by definition, forces one to try something new. But how does one break out of a pattern of success?”

When one feels a call to move on to something new, to a different challenge, to a different role, how does one do so and escape the trap of past success? Wisdom is to “Learn that you can order your priorities and act accordingly,” Moffit answers. “Know there is a call to action.”

I re-read that piece once again as I prepared to write this, my last column as editor-in-chief of Food Management. I also found myself thinking back to the time in 1995 when I was first asked to take on FM’s editorship. I felt then that I was being given something very precious, of great value. Food Management was and is a magazine brand with a distinguished history. It has always enjoyed a respected role in a community of people who hold it and its traditions in high regard. Over the years, I saw myself as the magazine’s brand steward and tried hard to honor those traditions and that community as fully as I knew how.

In my first editor’s page, I wrote that “an editor in the trade press must not only produce a magazine that targets the professional needs of his or her audience, but must also represent that audience to the industry at large…investing the time to get to know its readership on a personal and professional basis that goes well beyond simply ‘being an editor.’”

This month, I step away from that role and into a new one that is still very open-ended. In keeping with Moffit’s advice, I wanted to pick my own time and establish my own new priorities. I hope to stay active in many of the same industry circles in which I’ve traveled, but that will depend on the direction my new opportunities take.

As I pass the editor-in-chief’s mantle on to my successor, Eric Stoessel, I see in him someone with the kind of energy and fresh enthusiasm I brought to the magazine myself two decades ago and who will carry FM’s traditions into the future. He will be supported by Mike Buzalka and Tara Fitzpatrick, the staff that has provided much of the magazine’s backbone, content and character for many years.

Eric has considerable experience of his own as an editor in several segments of the hospitality industry. I know he will have more to say on this page next month about himself and the direction in which he hopes to take Food Management.

In the meantime, I want to thank the thousands of FM readers who, over the years, have opened their doors and selves to me, offering ideas, advice, feedback and most of all, friendship. I thank you all for those gifts, especially the last one, and want you to know that I will miss the pleasure these relationships have given me much more than you can know. Stay in touch—you can always find me on LinkedIn.

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