At the Helm: Bill Ingram
A few minutes with the CEO of White Castle, Columbus, Ohio.
Generation of family ownership: Third.
Annual revenues: More than $600 million.
Number of employees: Approximately 9,000.
Years with the company: 41.
First job at this company: While in high school, I loaded trucks and stacked products on pallets in our factories.
At what age? 15. After I graduated from college, I worked as a line employee in the restaurants.
Most memorable thing I learned from my father: He wanted to see team members advance to the highest level they could in relation to their skills. I’ve continued that. We promote from within, and our employees have a lot of longevity; 275 team members have been with the company ten years or more.
Most memorable thing I learned from my mother: She was gregarious and loved talking to our employees and asking them about their kids, so she would advise me to socialize more.
Best thing about this job: The variety. Besides the restaurants, we have bakeries, meat processing plants and a frozen food division. I like the diversity. It’s interesting to see new developments, especially the use of robotics in the factories.
Worst thing about this job: Dealing with some of the government regulations that don’t help the consumer or the company. For example, we have a pension fund and profit sharing. Our pension fund is fully funded, but we still have to pay a charge to cover those pensions that aren’t. The current low interest rates mean that corporations’ pension liability is larger.
One of our greatest successes: Being in business for 90 years. You need shareholders and family members, who are one and the same, to be committed for that to happen.
Best advice I ever got: Know that you’ll learn more from your mistakes than your successes.
Quote from our company’s mission statement: Make memorable moments every day.
On my office wall: A quote from my grandfather: “We cannot expect loyalty except from those to whom we are loyal.”
One of my greatest accomplishments: Devel-oping the grocery store products about 25 years go. We took our hamburgers and cheeseburgers from our well-known restaurants to the freezer aisle in the grocery store.
Best thing about working in a family business: Seeing the next generation develop and take responsibility. It’s very gratifying. We have eight in succeeding generations working in our operation now.
Worst thing about working in a family business: Family introduces another dynamic regarding how you approach employees you’re related to. That complicates things.
My advice for other family business leaders: It’s never too early to start planning for the future.
On a day off I like to… watch sports, especially Ohio State University teams and the NHL Columbus Blue Jackets. I’m also a big fly fisherman.
Philanthropic causes our family supports: My grandfather started our foundation, now called the Ingram-White Castle Foundation. He was interested in rewarding students for working hard in school. We’ve gotten more funds over the years and continue to give grants to disadvantaged students.
I realized I had emerged from the previous generation’s shadow when… I became president and my father let me make mistakes. You know you’re on your own when no one cleans up after you.
Future succession plans: My daughter Lisa took over from me as president of the company in February. It was the result of a process that the family led and our board of directors approved. Other fourth-generation family members are passionate about and very involved in the business.
Words I live by: Don’t take yourself too seriously.
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