Bob Evans was model for entrepreneurship

Published 10:41 am Friday, October 16, 2009

Recently, Bob Evans was posthumously inducted into the Ohio Grocers Association Hall of Fame, and I was asked by the Evans family to make the presentation.

In order to present this honor, I needed to spend some time thinking about the entrepreneurial characteristics of the man who, with the help of his Uncle Emerson and other talented contributors, established a $1.7 billion dollar company that includes 713 restaurants and created more than 49,000 jobs.

I had known Bob most of my life, having spent much more time with him during the last few years of his life.

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The spirit of a human being is more than the sum of its parts, but if I had to identify five characteristics that stood out in Bob, they would be creativity, persistence, curiosity, quality and character.

Creativity: A variety of talents are needed to start a business, but there has never been a business started without an idea. Bob had that idea.

Plato, a classic Greek philosopher, took the position that the world of ideas is responsible for or is the cause of whatever order occurs in the material world.

To recollect Bob’s creativity and excitement compels me to think about Henry Ford, when he said, “An idealist is a person who helps other people to be prosperous.”

Persistence: Bob may have been the most persistent person that I had ever known. When he had an idea that he thought had merit, he would never let it die.

He might have called you at 7 in the morning and three or four times a week, asking questions or discussing ways that could make it work.

Curiosity: Bob was a very curious person. Quite often when he was working on an idea, he would give you an article about an issue and ask you to comment on it.

Bob knew that most ideas were not original, and if he heard about a program or an operation that was functioning successfully, he would travel to the site to learn skills to apply to his own business.

He promoted a number of projects, and his interests took him to such places as Arizona, California, New England, Texas, New Zealand and Australia.

Quality: Bob was obsessed with quality. He told me often that he had one very important rule: nothing would go into the sausage that he would not want to eat. He often said that he had six “musts” and the first three were quality. He did not express the last three, but they had to center around the way customers were to be treated.

Character: To this point I have talked about Bob’s interaction with the physical world or material world. There is a world that extends beyond the physical world — a spiritual world — that adds meaning to life. Bob had empathy for people, earning the love and respect from his family, friends, employees and the public that he served. When others were hurting he felt with them. He was always thinking of ways to improve his community.

Consultants and inspirational speakers travel around the country collecting millions of dollars, but if they fail to address the five characteristics that I have found in Bob, they will not have fully addressed the foundation of entrepreneurship. I am honored to have known this remarkable man and to have had the opportunity to watch his idea turn into a successful franchise over time.

Bob Evans was a truly great Ohioan and a model for the entrepreneurial spirit of our state.

Clyde Evans represents part of Lawrence County in Ohio’s 87th District in the House of Representatives. HeI may be reached by calling my office at (614) 466-1366 or by writing me, Representative Clyde Evans, at 77 S. High St., 13th Floor, Columbus, Ohio 43215.