Meeting Mike for the first time may be unsettling—it seems he’s known you forever. Some say he’s an avid hunter, a family man, a great salesman. However, after a few minutes, it’s evident that Mike is most interested in you…and your success.
I met Michael J. Duggan, Missouri State ’74, in 2003 while recruiting alumni for the Kansas City Carlson Leadership Academy. Several prominent alumni had shared stories of Mike’s character and his sales success.
“People have forgotten the value of a first impression. We should seek to make a good impression upon everyone we meet. Interviewing for a job? Research the company, its goals, and identify how you will add value. Meeting someone for the first time? Ask mutual friends about their interests, their history, and their aspirations. When you are actively interested in people you encounter, life will be much more rewarding,” he said.
While Mike has made many impressions, SigEps have also impressed him. Asked why he hired 21 brothers during his career, he quickly responds: “Much of my business success has come from hiring SigEps. Some I knew from college. Some I met volunteering for Missouri Eta or working with the Headquarters. Because I spent time with these people, I knew they were hard workers who would get the job done.” More importantly, it helped him find the right fit for his brothers.
College convinced Mike that culture was a determining factor in the success of an organization and its members. This conviction led him to SigEp, where he served as chapter president and a student national director. He met men like Frank Ruck, Michigan ’46, John Hartman, Missouri ’61, and Barry Posner, California-Santa Barbara ’70. “Serving with these men changed my view on fraternity. It confirmed my belief that culture, and influencing it appropriately, are vital aspects of leadership.” Mike also realized he had much to give back.
Leading in business
Professional interests led him to the food business. He made an impression at Craig Distributing in Salem, Mo., and became president of Kraft Foodservice in Los Angeles. An opportunity came knocking to return to St. Louis and help start Arctic Foods, a frozen foods redistribution business. It was a gamble for Mike who had just relocated to California, purchased a new home, and settled in with his wife and three young children.
Mike took the chance and the job as vice president of sales in 1990. He hasn’t looked back. The company performed beyond expectations and merged with Dot Foods, Inc. His leadership, mentoring, and commitment to making great impressions propelled the company from less than $300 million to nearly $5 billion in sales by 2013, making Dot Foods the largest foodservice redistribution business in the nation.
Leading at home
Despite constant travel, Mike, whose father died at a young age, committed to be there for his family. He returned frequently to catch wrestling matches or to share his love of hunting with his three sons. All three became fraternity men; Patrick and Matt joined SigEp, and Tim joined Sigma Alpha Epsilon. “I was proud two of my sons joined SigEp and even prouder my third son felt comfortable enough to go in another direction.” He was thrilled that they all had great experiences.
They followed him into the food business. Patrick, Missouri State ’98, is a regional sales manager for Advance Pierre Foods. Matt, Missouri State ’02, is assistant general manager of Dot Foods’ new Dyersburg, Tenn., facility. Tim is a business development manager at Dot Foods. This year, Mike and his wife, Susie, celebrate 40 years of marriage. Susie has been duck hunting and fishing with the boys and is always up for whatever challenge they throw her way.
Leading in his communities
Over time, Mike’s success grew along with his desire to serve. He turned his love of hunting into service on the Ducks Unlimited National Board of Directors. Ducks Unlimited encourages hunting and supports conservation. Mike encourages young people to try the sport he loves and find more ways to enjoy the outdoors.
Mike served two terms on the Missouri State University Board of Governors, appointed by both a Republican and a Democrat. “It was an amazing opportunity to give back to the school that made it possible for me to get a college degree. Eight years was a very short time to only begin to pay back what I received.”
SigEp offered opportunities such as the Carlson Leadership Academy faculty, Conclaves, Louisiana State chapter counselor, and Missouri State AVC president. What drew Mike back to the Fraternity was the Balanced Man Program. “When I was an undergrad, I wanted nothing to do with servitude and the demeaning philosophies of the time. Today, if parents knew what the Balanced Man Program was and we executed it to our very best: there would be a lot more people encouraging their children to join SigEp.”
Five years after my first phone call with Mike, another call with him would change my career. It was a Friday around 7:00 p.m. I had just caught up with Ryan P. Jacobsen, San Diego ’00, who was working for Dot Foods and had been promoted to western regional sales manager. We were talking about my plans after working on the SigEp staff, and he mentioned a role with Dot in North Carolina. My wife, Danielle, and I knew we wanted to live there. Ryan asked if I’d be interested in speaking to someone about the role, and I said yes. When we hung up, I had no expectation of speaking to anyone at Dot anytime soon. I was ready to start the weekend.
Not much later, my phone rang again. It was Mike. At the time, I thought it a bit odd, but having grown to know Mike better, I understand that he seizes an opportunity. He was calling to follow up on my conversation with Ryan. He would be in Richmond in a week and would like to have dinner with me. I agreed. At dinner, it felt as though he had remembered every detail I had ever shared with him. We talked about mutual friends, my wife’s figure skating involvement, and my desired career path. He was inquisitive about my goals, and he spent time sharing how Dot might help me achieve them. Never once did I feel sold, but sold I was. I will always appreciate Mike giving me the opportunity to interview.
During our last call, Mike was heading to Asheville, N.C., for a Ducks Unlimited national board meeting. What advice does he have to share with today’s undergraduates? Mike’s reply: “After college, the next most important thing you’ll do professionally is develop your career. Your career requires the same level of enthusiasm and commitment you invested to get into college. While the degree is the culmination of your college work, its attainment does not guarantee anything. You must have goals for your career.”
Mike said, “I’ve always believed that making a good first impression is vital. I still remember the guys who took the time to prepare, research, and be genuinely interested in me and my company.” And countless men have benefitted greatly from the man who always put their success as the center of his. I’m grateful he made that call that Friday night and for my 20 other brothers he’s hired over the years.
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