When the business climate gets tight, it is very easy and common for most people to start to panic. The knee jerk reaction is always, "Well, we have to do something!" And it is during those times that business leaders and, subsequently, their rank and file employees, lose sight of what's really important and start compromising long-term success for short-lived stability.

But the minute organizations begin to compromise their values and standards out of a sense of panic they unwittingly begin chipping away at the aspects of their corporate DNA and those attributes that truly make them unique. Indeed, it is the companies that never lose sight of who they are, what makes them unique and how all of that translates into their special value proposition that are the ones ready to withstand the test of time.

Such is the case with Tom Schrack Sr., chief executive officer of Hockenbergs and FE&S' 2011 Hall of Fame Award recipient. Schrack learned early in life that if you want anything you have to go out and earn it. And the only way to earn a customer's respect is to work hard on their behalf, be honest and never compromise your integrity. It's that simple.

When Schrack, with some help from a couple of his many friends, first bought Hockenbergs back in December of 1985, just days before Christmas, he had no idea the company's sales would dip to their lowest levels in quite some time the next year. But what he did have was faith and confidence in his ability to sell. Just as important, though, Schrack knew what the company was capable of and no matter how scary times got, his faith in the employees' ability to make Hockenbergs' successful remained constant.

As a result, Hockenbergs has been able to weather the bad times and prosper during the good ones to remain on an upward trajectory. In 2010, the company reported annual sales of $81.7 million, making it the fourteenth largest foodservice equipment and supplies dealer in the country, according to FE&S' 2011 Distribution Giants Study. And Hockenbergs shows no signs of slowing down.

What makes this all the more remarkable is the fact that Hockenbergs has no real growth plans. The company continues to earn its success by keeping its head down, working hard and making sure everyone — be they customer, supplier or employee — has the same respectful experience with Hockenbergs.

A part of Schrack's legacy will be a keen understanding that each member of the foodservice industry plays an important role in the overall success of the community. An equally important part of Schrack's legacy will be his seemingly boundless sense of charity. From local nonprofit organizations to his church to keeping the memories of two deceased Hockenbergs' employees alive through a golf outing that raises money for cancer research, Schrack's charitable nature is impressive and inspiring. Of course, he does not see it that way. Instead, Schrack sees it as all in a day's work.

Hotel and Restaurant Supply's Jerry Greene, a FE&S Hall of Famer, sums up Schrack best: "It was never about the money. For Tom it was always about building a business, being truthful and treating everyone with integrity." Amen.