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David M. Stafford, president, Stafford-Smith, a Kalamazoo, Mich.,-based foodservice equipment and supplies dealer. Prior to joining the company Stafford graduated from Western Michigan University with a double major and then went on to serve in the U.S. Marine Corps. Stafford began working at the dealership 18 years ago, making him the third generation to join the family business, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather.
David M. Stafford: Winning a job and making money on it in the end — that whole process is what does it for me. And it’s great to be able to see your whole team do such a good job.
David M. Stafford: I coach high school lacrosse. Also I like to work out and read.
David M. Stafford: When I am there I am not the boss. So I have to take complete orders from someone other than my family. That’s different from working in the family business and it teaches me humility. Plus, I have something I can teach them and I want to give back. You learn a lot working with the players.
David M. Stafford: Someone is there to work with you and you are there to work with them. They are honest and straightforward. They don’t have any hidden agendas. That is a real partner. You know how many times you work with someone only to find out they had a hidden agenda? When that happens you are mad, frustrated or hurt. You feel like you got punched in the stomach. Nobody wants to do business that way. And I am not a fan of watching our employees or my partners get treated poorly.
David M. Stafford: A good business partner is an honest, trustworthy and loyal person. It is a relationship business and that’s what attracted me to it.
David M. Stafford: Don’t tell everybody everything. You don’t want to tell everyone everything you know. Also to always listen.
David M. Stafford: Yes. There are times when you ask yourself that question but yes I would do it again.
David M. Stafford: Listen. When you first start, it takes you about five years to learn this industry. No, it’s not rocket science but there are a lot of nuances to this industry. Don’t assume you know everything. So ask lots of questions and study. This work is not done from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. You have to work at it. My dad taught me that and that’s one of the most important things he taught me.
David M. Stafford: Reading. I love to read anything. If it is a book for business? Great. If it is a book for pleasure, great. I will read anything.
David M. Stafford: I was 12 years old when I started working here and I did a variety of janitorial tasks like cleaning toilets and taking out the trash.
David M. Stafford: ...People think I am a screamer. But when things get heated, I don’t have to raise my voice. I try to remain level and calm. The only people I raise my voice to are factory reps when they are not treating our team correctly. Even there I do not yell but firmly explain our position as a company. Everything I do at work I try to do it with a smile on my face because our employees/team should enjoy coming to work here.
Click here to read part one of the interview with David M. Stafford.
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