After a year at the helm of CAMA, Ed Kozma shares insights gained from his experience in the vending industry.
Canadian Vending: Tell us a little about your professional background.
My adult professional life has been all about vending. My entry into the vending industry was with a vending machine distributor (Electronic Industries), in 1991, as a co-op student. During that time, I attended DeVry Institute of Technology in its Electronics Engineering Tech program. After graduation, I remained at EI as an electronics technician until I took a similar position at Crane National Vendors in 1995, after which I became an operations supervisor at Compass, managing route drivers and field technicians for one year before starting with Mars Electronics International (MEI) in 1998.
Through my career with MEI, I increased business acumen through Durham College and completed a certified executive program through NAMA. I assumed my current role as a country manager in 2006 and have been managing the Canadian market for MEI since that time.
CV: How did you get into the vending industry?
I took a co-op job through a program placement service at DeVry. Initially, it was for financial purposes as a starving student and to gain experience in the electronics field. I was told by my trainer and by the senior tech at Electronics Industries that vending would get into my blood and would not let go. At that time, it was quite an amusing quip as I aspired to work in the communications industry, but 23 years later it could not have been more true.
CV: What lessons have you learned through your career?
Industry is truly defined by the entrepreneurial spirit and success is a direct result of the amount of effort put in. Successful businesses have distinguishing characteristics, and two common attributes: a strong work ethic and a willingness to take a risk. So, a key lesson I learned early in my career was not to judge a person’s success by the education they have but by the results of the actions they make.
CV: What is your goal as president?
My mandate as president is to build CAMA membership and to collaborate with other industry associations to find common goals and define if there are partnership opportunities to improve our lobbying efforts.
CV: Where do you see the vending industry headed in the future?
The industry will continue to evolve as regulations and innovation define what it looks like years from now; however, the core fundamentals will remain intact – customer service and convenience.
Specialty services or customer-specific services will drive industry expansion in the coffee and vending market. The advancement of mobile payment will offer an array of payment options beyond what exists in our wallets today. Payment methods like PayPal or Bitcoin become possible with cellular networked machines. Mobile wallets have the potential to drive vending loyalty programs that are focused on specific customers.
There will be continued reduction in energy consumption and construction using environmentally responsible materials. As more machines continue to be connected to the Internet, driven mostly by cashless adoption, the ability to leverage that real-time online connection will promote innovation to keep the vending industry up to date with other evolving retail technologies.
Editor’s note: This interview has been condensed and edited.
Vending in his blood
A Q-and-A with Ed Kozma, MEI’s country manager and CAMA’s president
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