New Commissary manager vows no drop in service
December 10, 2009
FORT MONMOUTH, N.J. -- Redo Nolletti, the new director of the Fort Monmouth commissary, can be expected to become as familiar to customers as any fixture or department they now see during their shopping experience.
Energetic and eager to apply his skills and experience, Nolletti adheres to a steadfast belief that success in his line of work comes from constant interaction with customers.
"I spend most of my time on the floor speaking with people," said Nolletti, who assumed his new duties Oct 13. "I ask customers about the commissary, 'How do you like it'' or 'What is it that you think we should be doing that we're not doing'' and 'How can we serve you better''"
"We are really sensitive to people's needs and what they want."
The Fort Monmouth commissary is part of the Defense Commissary Agency (DeCA), established in 1991 to consolidate individual commissary systems from four military branches. The goal was to provide better service at lower cost.
Authorized patrons buy items at cost plus a five percent surcharge, which covers the costs of building new commissaries and modernizing existing ones. According to DeCA, shoppers save an average of more than 30 percent on their purchases compared to commercial prices.
Even though Fort Monmouth is scheduled to close in 2011, Nolletti says his focus is on maintaining high standards of service at whatever commissary he may be assigned. ("There is only one "e" in DeCA and it stands for excellence.")
"The guidance from my zone manager is to provide service at the highest possible level of excellence to everyone at Fort Monmouth, so that's what I'm here to do," Nolletti said.
Nolletti's arrival here is a homecoming of sorts. Born and raised in Italy, he arrived in the United States in 1960 as a 17-year-old. Four years later, he was drafted and sent to Fort Dix for basic training.
In his 28-year career as a Soldier, serving as a logistics specialist, Nolletti had duty assignments in various locations, including Vietnam, Germany, Italy, France, and Saudi Arabia during Desert Storm. Domestic assignments included Fort Bragg, N.C., Fort Belvoir, Va., and Fort Devens, Mass.
He retired from active duty in 1992 and continued to work for the Army in logistics. He joined DeCA in 2004 and held positions in commissary management in Sigonella, Sicily, and Puerto Rico. On Aug. 13 of this year, he was offered the job as store director here.
"My reaction was positive in that I had asked for more challenges and more responsibilities and they came through," Nolletti said. "Fort Monmouth was a great idea for me, a great place to come to because this is where I started my career and ending it at the same place was remarkable."
Aside from the opportunity to end his career in New Jersey, Nolletti said he was also pleased by what he found upon his arrival at the post.
"What struck me when I first came is the teamwork that already existed in this particular workforce," he explained. "I strive for teamwork because nothing will happen unless people are involved and there is respect between people--people who work well together, who believe in what they do and are proud of what they do."
Nolletti said he encourages a collaborative work environment for his 40 employees while also exploring ways to offer them opportunities to learn and grow on the job.
"You also have to give them room to make mistakes," he noted. "If a person does not feel comfortable with making a decision or taking an action because you are going to burn them if an error occurs, that person will never be a successful professional.
"They are going to be gun shy. They're going to stay in that shell. My style is to bring them out of that shell."
One of Nolletti's biggest challenges at Fort Monmouth is to bring back many of the 23,000 retirees who he'd like to see at the commissary more often and who make up 98 percent of the customer base. The commissary carries 15,130 items.
As part of that goal, Nolletti plans to attend meetings of the retiree council and to assiduously seek out retirees for feedback regarding the commissary.
"I'm on the floor every day and I ask questions like, 'How long have you been shopping here'' 'Why do you come'' or 'Why would you be reluctant not to come''"
"You'd be surprised what you learn when you ask people directly."
Based on past experience, Nolletti said retirees may drift away from a commissary because they believe it has already closed or believe that because it will close that it no longer has the same level of service to which they were accustomed.
"My responsibility is to make sure those perceptions are eliminated," he added.
"The average supermarket neither provides the variety nor the quality of service we provide," Nolletti continued. "My goal is to make the Fort Monmouth commissary the place of choice for shopping."
If a specific product has been discontinued, customers need to be informed about substitutions to ensure there's no perception that the class of item is no longer available.
The tentative working date for closing the commissary is June 1, 2011, but that date could move until later that summer if a population of active duty Soldiers and families are still assigned here.
For Nolletti, however, the operational principal is to uphold high levels of service each and every day commissary doors are open. "We will still perform the mission at the same high standard we always have," he said.