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DSR of the Month, Sept. 2004: Dawn Ragsdale, Scruggs, Nashville, Tenn.

Dawn Ragsdale, national accounts manager for the Scruggs division of Dallas-based Strategic Equipment & Supply Corp., has achieved success and earned the respect of clients and co-workers alike. Now, she has garnered recognition as FE&S' DSR of the Month for September 2004.

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How has she achieved such renown?

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"Hard work," Ragsdale responded simply. "I would say really good customers, a really good team around me and hard work."

One of the top salespeople in her company, Ragsdale personally accounted for $6 million of Knoxville, Tenn.-based Scruggs' $55 million in sales last year. She works out of Scruggs' Nashville, Tenn., office.

Ragsdale counts as her mentors Ed Poore, president of Strategic's Scruggs division, and Mike Slemp, who heads the roll-up's San Antonio division. A 16-year industry veteran, she came to work for Scruggs about two and a half years ago as national accounts manager. In this role, Ragsdale works exclusively with chains, including Cracker Barrel Old Country Stores in Lebanon, Tenn.; J. Alexander's in Nashville; and Rare Hospitality International Inc. in Atlanta (operator of Long Horn Steakhouse, Capital Grille, Bugaboo Creek Steak House, Hemenway's Seafood Grill and Oyster Bar and The Old Grist Mill Tavern). Taking charge of the company's chain accounts was not by design, Ragsdale recalled. "It just happened that way. When I was hired originally, that was the opening that was available. I had worked with just one chain up to that point and I've built my career off that."

"Years ago ... we only had to take orders and process them. Now, service means following a job from start to finish."

Ragsdale said she has seen her role evolve over the years, as have most DSRs across the country. "For me, it's been about becoming able to handle more responsibility. Years ago, it just seemed like when it came to customer service we only had to take orders and process them. Now, service means following a job from start to finish."

Though she works exclusively with chains, which dictate much of what individual restaurants buy, Ragsdale believes that these multi-unit operators do benefit from her expertise and experience. "They'll come to me and say, 'We're interested in this piece, can you get us some information?' I'll go out and bring them all the information and give them all the different choices." This type of service is needed more than ever, she noted, because, "There are a lot more choices out there now, so customers require more support than they did before."

A perfect example of the service Ragsdale provides is her work for Cracker Barrel, a client of many years. As she related, "I've gotten a phone call from them on a Friday afternoon telling me a piece of equipment is down. I've put it in my own vehicle and driven it to St. Louis from Nashville, a six- or seven-hour drive, just because it was something they needed ... and needed now."

That empathy and dedication to customers, Ragsdale said, stems from her own days working in restaurants. "I know what it's like if a major piece of equipment breaks on a Friday and you don't have it for the weekend. That's one reason I feel it's my job to make sure [our customers'] restaurants are operating. It's nothing for me to put a package in my car and take it to UPS at eight o'clock at night to make sure a customer gets it."

Ragsdale, a single mom, lives in Nashville.

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