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52 • FOODSERVICE EQUIPMENT & SUPPLIES • APRIL 2017 "One of my big things is that nobody should ever go home from work feeling bad. This isn't life or death. We're selling pots and pans and dishwashers," David says. "Growth is largely a function of the economy. We don't create that much demand. People either need new china or a new range, or they don't. We've lined up the busi- ness to grow above market, and I'm proud of that — but even more important to me is that people like being here, they're happy at work, they're proud of the organization and want to help it grow." Recently, it became easier for him to focus on and pursue that mission while keeping the company moving forward. His cousin Eric, Rick's son, had decided to leave the finance world and take steps to join the business. Following family policy that dictates working for at least two years outside of Bargreen Ellingson, Eric gained experience at foodservice equipment manufacturers Unified Brands and Alto-Shaam before coming in as vice president of contract sales in late 2013. Eric's skills and temperament complement David's, and the two are close personal friends as well as part- ners in the business. Another key part of David's success is the autonomy that he has been given. Next-genera- tion leaders need the freedom to find their own way, make mistakes and do things differ- ently, he says. He enjoys just that type of freedom at Bar- green Ellingson. "I really credit the fact that they've let go," David says of his dad and uncle. "They're still engaged and available to us, but they've let us try crazy things and make mistakes. Sometimes in our industry the next genera- tion or younger leadership is criticized for not stepping up, and often that has as much to do with the senior generation resisting change and not letting go. That's not the case here, and it goes back to the way I try to coach others: 'I've failed, but maybe that's why you should do it.' The importance of giving people autonomy is what I grew up learning from my father and my uncle, and I think it's a big part of why people like working here." Maintaining the Human Factor Going forward, David says a big challenge is how to maintain the very personal nature of the company. For that reason, he gives managers many of the re- sponsibilities that a human resource manager tradi- tionally handles. "It has to be personal, and it has to be authentic," he says. "If we can do that, I believe we can outperform anyone." As the company grows, it will continue to pivot and shift to stay ahead of trends and changes in the way customers buy. Product categories ebb and flow. Tabletop is a bigger piece of the business and equipment smaller than 10 years ago, for instance, and disposables are now part of the mix. On the customer side, institutional accounts represent a larger share today than do the independent restaurants that fueled the company's early growth. And the in-house design/ contract division, now representing roughly 35 percent of total revenues, will continue to be a strong focus as a way to add value. "Our industry is consolidat- ing rapidly," David says. "But our two constituencies, custom- ers and vendors, both like doing business with independents and having a lot of choice. Consolidation strengthens our position. We're committed to remaining independent, to our family-business structure and to being a dominant regional company. We'll continue to make selective acquisitions and to put our value proposition not just a little higher, but a lot higher, than the national com- petitors. We have to evolve as the industry changes, but I love change and I love disruption. That's what makes all of this so much fun." DEALER DAVID'S CULTURE-FOCUSED MISSION FITS WITH HIS PERSONALITY: HE'S KNOWN AS A FUN, SLIGHTLY IRREVERENT, ENGAGING PEOPLE PERSON WHOSE MANAGEMENT STYLE IS DEFINED IN PART BY SEEMINGLY SIMPLE THINGS. Hometown: Federal Way, Wash. Education: B.B.A. in Finance, The George Washington University Favorite Restaurant Style: Fast casual, preferably takeout to eat in a park Favorite Tech Tool: A 737 jet. "I have to be present, to meet face to face." Industry Involvement: FEDA board; incoming ABC president Fun Fact: Has eaten at every Michelin 3-star restaurant in the U.S. Recommended Reading: "The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work" Family: Wife, Katie; son, Andrew (4 years); daughter, Abby (18 months) Hobbies: Spending time with family, playing golf, tasting bourbon GET TO KNOW DAVID ELLINGSON