At the Helm: Bill Ingram

By Patricia Olsen

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.







Copyright 2013 by Family Business Magazine. This article may not be posted online or reproduced in any form, including photocopy, without permssion from the publisher. For reprint information, contact


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July/August 2013


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