Welcome to the first edition of Says Who, a new FE&S online feature that has foodservice industry leaders sharing their thoughts and experiences in an easy-to-read Q&A format. In this issue, Steve Don, the third generation leader of Edward Don & Company, the North Riverside, Ill.-based foodservice equipment and supplies dealership, offers his advice to people just starting out in the industry and a unique take on the term partnership.

sayswho_background Steve Don

FE&S: If I were just starting out in the foodservice industry, what advice would you give me?

Steve Don: Be Patient. Get to know the industry and its dynamics. The foodservice industry is much more complicated than people think. If you work hard and stick with it you can build a great career.

FE&S: Would you encourage your children to work in this business?

Steve Don: I would definitely encourage my kids to work in the business. They are only 9 and 10 and are already talking about working in the business with no encouragement from their parents. When they are actually ready, we have a family requirement that they work outside the business for a period of time. Outside work experience is extremely valuable to family members before going to work in the family business.

FE&S: What aspect of your career gives you the greatest sense of accomplishment?

Steve Don: There are a lot of things that I am proud of, but if I have to pick one, it would be the legacy we have created. This year Edward Don & Company is celebrating our 90th anniversary. Statistics show that most companies don't make it to the third generation, so we have beat the odds.

FE&S: What type of charitable activities are you involved in and why?

Steve Don: Part of our family and business values has been to give back to the community. We support a number of our industry and customer's charitable events. In 2005 we started the Adam Don Foundation, to honor my brother's legacy. Two of Adam’s greatest passions were the foodservice industry and golf. We have combined them to help raise money with the mission "to make life better for young people". Our 6th annual fundraiser is August 22, 2011. Details available at Adamdon.org.

FE&S: What do you look for in a business partner?

Steve Don: I happen to think the word partner is often misused in our industry. In terms of a business relationship I think it needs to be based on a level of trust that comes from both parties. In the simplest form it is saying what you are going to do and do it. It amazes me how often that doesn't happen.