On September 24, 2019, Davis Wright Tremaine and partners Pacific Family Business Institute, Cascadia Capital, and Moss Adams hosted a Family Business Legacy Series event. One of the largest food service supply and restaurant design companies in the United States, Bargreen Ellingson serves nine states (and one province) with almost 600 employees.

Byron Ellingson led the company for 10 years before hiring his sons, Paul and Rick who, in turn, have brought in their sons, David and Eric. The youngest Ellingsons currently serve as the president and executive vice president, respectively.

Paul, Rick, David, and Eric participated in a humorous and insightful discussion on how they maintain and enhance the family legacy. The Ellingsons described their early work in defining and fostering a unique company culture.

Developed in the 1990s, the company’s nine values have withstood the test of time and guide how the Ellingsons and the company make decisions. The values – given to every employee during orientation – include: smart hiring, respect, teamwork, good judgment, communication, learning, pursuing change, ownership, and “hoopla” (the company’s term for employee recognition).

Recognizing the importance of making sure the next generation is prepared to take on leadership in the company, David and Eric spoke fondly of a letter sent to them, their siblings, and their cousins in 1998. The letter outlined what they would need to do if they wanted to join the family business.

Most importantly, the letter mandated that they must get a degree, work somewhere else for at least two years, and show a level of success in that position. The letter served its purpose, and David and Eric are planning to update the letter for their children and the next generation of Ellingsons.

Our next event will be held in January 2020 and focus on women in family businesses.