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On Topic: What These Business Leaders Learned From Their First Job

Executives with Toyota, Rogers Healy and Associates, and Health Catalyst talk peeling potatoes, Blockbuster Video, and opportunities for improvement.
By |
Quinn Sullivan Ogawa
Jake Meyers

Everyone remembers their first job. For me, it was working with my (identical twin) sister at a Dairy Queen knock-off in a resort town in northern Michigan. We were only 14 years old, but the owners trusted us to run the place, from the cooking and counting the cash to serving ice cream.

The experience taught me about teamwork and how to multitask—and how to make that perfect soft-serve cone with the curly-Q top. (A skill I’ve retained after all these years; just ask my sons, who have seen me prove it during visits to Dickey’s.)

In our March issue, we asked three area executives to tell us about their first jobs and what they learned from them. Here’s what they had to say:

Trudy Sullivan Stoudamire

Chief Communications and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, Health Catalyst

Trudy sullivan Stoudamire“I started working at Quinn’s Restaurant & Lounge, our family’s business in Boise, Idaho, when I was in the fourth grade. I washed dishes, peeled potatoes, swept the parking lot, and did whatever else was needed. I learned the importance of a strong work ethic, initiative, grit, and the value of customer intimacy. About 60 percent of restaurants fail in the first year. Because of my father’s deep commitment to customers, Quinn’s celebrated its 50th-anniversary last year.”

Rogers Healy

Owner and CEO, Rogers Healy and Associates Real Estate

Healy Rogers“I’ve worked pretty much my whole life; I always enjoyed it. The first time I had a formal job was at Blockbuster Video when I was in high school, and at the same time, I was a sandwich artist at Roly Poly. Through those jobs, I learned how to read people and how to talk to people. I then worked as a waiter and did that all through college. The psychology of sale is something I had to perfect early on, and it positioned me well for the
world of real estate.” 

Tetsuo “Ted” Ogawa

President and CEO, Toyota Motor North America

Ogawa Tetsuo“I joined Toyota Motor Corp. in 1984 as a buyer. The best jobs in purchasing were those responsible for main vehicle parts; my job was buyer of all miscellaneous goods, such as office supplies, stationery, and even tea leaves for serving guests. At first, I was disappointed in my job, but I built relationships with my suppliers, and after one year, I was able to significantly reduce our costs. I learned to always look for ways to improve a process, no matter what your job may be.”

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