An interview with Andrew D. O’Quinn Jr. vice president/contract director for Thompson & Little, Inc.
For a complete list of FE&S' Future Foodservice Leaders see The Future Is Now.
Name: Andrew D. O’Quinn Jr.
Company: Thompson & Little, Inc.
Title: Vice President/Contract Director
Industry involvement: NSF certification held in my name, member of FEDA, member of SEFA, formerly served on the SEFA marketing committee, completed the SEFA Cheetah training program, managed and completed over 200 commercial kitchen contracts.
Years in foodservice: 10 years
Educational background: BSBA, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Business Administration; MBA, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Finance and Entrepreneurship
What’s the most important lesson you have learned?
I learned a great deal running a business through the recent recession. I realized that no business is immune to collapse or failure, whether you are a small business or Lehman Brothers. It taught me to always stay humble, don’t get comfortable, and always look for positive change in your business no matter the circumstances.
What’s the best career advice you have been given?
In dealing with customers, listen! Sell them solutions, not equipment. In regards to our staff, empower them and make their voice heard.
What makes you want to stay in the industry?
I want to stay in the industry for many reasons. I love working with our end users and am very passionate about delivering results. There are days it is very stressful and demanding, but there is no greater satisfaction than solving a customer’s issue and providing them with real solutions. Secondly, I see a lot of opportunity for a younger person such as myself. We need a youth movement in this industry to cultivate new leaders that are ready to learn from our seasoned veterans, and I want to be one of those people.
What attracted you to the industry?
I watched my grandparents and parents grow our business from an early age. Seeing the pride and excitement they conveyed in building a business and being a part of the American dream was special. As many in this industry know, it is a family industry, and it got in my blood at a young age and never left. I had always wanted to follow in my family’s footsteps and build on what they started.
What has been your proudest accomplishment?
My second year in the industry, I was the project manager on a $2 million project. Being so green, I had no idea of the depth of managing a large project, from coordinating shipments to working with all the trades on the project. The jobsite was running three months behind, and the university came to us for help. They needed an expedited schedule put together and asked that Thompson & Little save the schedule. We worked nights, weekends, and expedited all installations to meet their goal. To see a large project come together was a great feeling and knowing we solved an issue for a client was even better.
What excites you most about the foodservice industry?
I love the people in our industry. I have formed strong relationships with many respectable and outstanding professionals. In this industry, it is all about the people and I love that.
If you could improve one thing about the industry, what would it be?
Some distribution channels have gone away from the dealer community since I joined the industry. I hope the distribution channels continue to respect the abilities of food service dealerships and understand the values that we can bring in delivering their products.