Rick Post: A Born Leader
Rick Post is a Brooklyn boy who made good by working hard to make success 'happen,' but he never takes anything for granted.
At A Glance: Rick Post
•President and CEO, contract foodservices
•Associate degree in psychology/marketing, College of Staten Island
•Married 25 years; 4 children
•Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y.
•Resides in Wayne, N.J.
•Leads an organization of 71,000 associates with annual revenues surpassing $5 billion. The contract foodservices segment includes B&I (Eurest Dining Services, FLIK International Corp., Restaurant Associates Managed Services, Canteen Dining Services, Food Works and Wolfgang Puck Catering); Education (Chartwells); Healthcare and Senior Dining (Morrison Management Specialists), and Vending (Canteen).
•A commitment to developing his people, and a keen eye for innovation have been the traits which distinguish him as an admired leader among his peers and network of associates.
•Seven days a week, he challenges himself to improve the business without neglecting the importance of family life. Getting results is not negotiable.
•Ongoing communications keep associates informed of Compass’s priorities and resources. He’s created an ownership culture by aligning objectives with training and awards.
Rick Post learned from his family that working hard was the way to succeed in business, and that you can’t sit back and wait for business opportunities to come to you. Responsibility is a mantle he wears with earnestness and caring, for his family, friends, employees, clients and customers. Since joining Compass Group a decade ago, his personal and professional goals—“to live life and drive business to reach its highest potential”—have seamlessly merged. But no matter the pressures, he nurtures and cherishes the personal element and remains genuinely pleased that this realm he cares for so deeply is at its heart a people business.
“I’m a kid from Brooklyn who didn’t finish his education. My goal is to continue to learn through life’s experiences. It’s helped me succeed in today’s business environment.
My family has always been in the dairy business. When school was out, I was working in my brother’s or father’s store, and the money was good. I started when I was 12 but got serious about it at 16. I’d go to college three or four days and spend the rest in the store.
I have an associates arts/sciences degree; I majored in psychology and marketing, took some business courses at Brooklyn College, then Dad died. I’m 15 credits short of a degree but I know I’m kidding myself to think I’ll go back.
In 1977 I met my wife-to-be, Darlene, and Eddie, my future father-in-law, saw that I was coming home so tired. He introduced me to Avon Products where I started as assistant cafeteria manager in 1978.
When you talk about mentoring, I learned everything about ownership skills from by brother, Tony, who died three years ago. That experience working for him, working 15 to 18 hours a day, working holidays with no down time—working in business-and-industry was like a vacation. I learned from my brother that you can’t wait for business opportunities to come to you. And, if you really loved what you did, weekends just came up upon you. What I learned from that store with real live customers you can’t learn from a book. It’s still paying off today.
From my mom—she’s now 87—I learned everything about life. She raised six children; Dad was a successful businessman in the dairy business but when he became ill, she went to INA (it’s now Cigna Insurance) as a file clerk. She didn’t have experience in the business world, but she went on to become a successful supervisor. People couldn’t pronounce our last name so she said, ‘Just call me Ann Post.’ I figure it works for ‘Rick Post,’ too. Mom always told me that things don’t always work the way you want them to, but always look for the best in people. Then you have a better chance at a successful relationship.
For me to join Compass Group was by far the biggest turning point in my career. I was in the industry 18 years and I felt like the luckiest guy in the world; I got to work with the best in the world: Gary Green, Rudi and Julie Flik, and the entire Compass Group North America executive committee. These are entrepreneurs who have grown their businesses from the ground up. Flik [International] was purchased in 1995 and I joined Compass Group September 18, 1997.
Flik was about $60 million when it was sold; I came on board at about $90 million and now Flik is over $300 million, operating in 18 states. I had worked for Blakie, Miller & Hines; they were acquired by Trusthouse Forte/Gardner Merchant, then Sodexho purchased Gardner Merchant, so I worked for Sodexho for about a year-and-a-half. During that time I was being courted by Compass. When I signed up for Flik, it was to be Rudi and Julie’s successor. If you want an opportunity to grow, I thought Flik would be it. Now I’m responsible for $5 billion in revenues with about 71,000 associates running that business for me and Compass in the Core Four [see at a glance box].
I started in 1997-98 in leading Flik. Then, in 1999, I was approached to run Eurest Dining; in 2001, I was asked to help grow Restaurant Associates’ B&I sector; in 2006 Gary Green [Compass Group ceo] asked me to take responsibility for healthcare, education, B&I and Canteen. It’s an unbelievable opportunity to have this responsibility. I’m the keeper of the gate to keep these cultures intact while nurturing them at the same time. People join these companies to be part of the culture. We don’t go to market as Compass—we go as the individual companies. How do you do it right, managing this kind of volume?
I have the best executive team including Adrian Meredith, my cfo, and Rosemarie Iannibelli, my administrative assistant. You can’t take the people around you for granted—they keep you going every day. Especially my wife; she puts up with my long hours. She keeps telling me that I say it’s going to get easier. But actually now the kids are getting older, we’re enjoying life more.
Out of all the people I’ve worked with in business, the person who inspires me the most—to challenge myself and stay humble—it’s Gary Green. He knows people and he knows business better than anyone I’ve ever worked for. He’s such a humble man (and he’s going to hate that I said that). Taking inspiration from Gary, I’ll continue to remain humble and never take anything for granted. There are no guarantees in life.
I just think you’ve got to treat people with respect—you’ve got to really mean it. If you don’t mean it, they’ll see right through it. I believe in treating people as people; if you care about them, they’ll care about you.
My personal goal is to live life and drive business to reach its highest potential. I don’t think it’s a matter of title. You judge leadership not by how many people you lead. People will follow you ’cause they trust you and care about you. I take people’s problems personally: I make them my problems.
We’re in a people business; if you stay out front with your people and your customers, you’ll always be successful.”