Position: President and chief operating officer, Performance Food Group, a Richmond-based company that markets and distributes food and related products to about 44,000 restaurants, hotels, cafeterias, schools and health care facilities in 50 states and 41 foreign countries.

Career highlights: Senior vice president and chief executive, broad-line division, Performance Food Group; president, broad-line division; regional president, broad-line division; president, AFI Foodservice Distributors, which was acquired by Performance Food Group in 1997.

Age: 45

Education: BA, business administration, Albright College

Personal: Lives in Richmond with wife, Holly, and their three daughters.

How did you get to where you are?

My family was in the business. I grew up around food, restaurants and distribution. I initially thought that I wanted to do something different. As a college senior, I worked part time at the local IBM branch office. After graduation, I wanted to work full time for IBM in their management-training program. But at that time, they were only recruiting from the Ivy League schools.

My first break came on an afternoon in 1982 when my boss handed me this "new IBM gadget," the personal computer, and told me, "You're a college kid . . . figure it out." In those days, not a lot of folks were paying the PC a great deal of attention. Well, I did. And in fact, I spent the rest of the semester fiddling with it.

That summer, I took the IBM directory and started calling people and asking for interviews. I didn't have much luck until one day, when I was riding up in the elevator, I noticed a well-dressed man carrying an IBM briefcase. With youthful bravado, I introduced myself and told him that I was a college grad looking for a job. After a pause, he said, "I'm not sure I can help you." After another pause, he said, "Have you heard of the personal computer?"

Of course I had. I spent the rest of the elevator ride sharing with him the work that I had done. By the 34th floor, I had secured an hourly job at IBM's first retail store at 57th & Madison in Manhattan. . . . I was then able to move into IBM's training program a month later. Life Lesson No. 1: A little perseverance, and some luck, can go a long way.

In 1985, my father's company, AFI Foodservice, was undergoing some painful changes. I was now engaged to be married, and if I was ever going to try the family business, now was the time. It was a hard decision for me to leave IBM, especially since I had worked so hard to get in the door. The change wasn't easy. My dad and I had different opinions about how to run the business. We were tripping over each other.

Finally, someone suggested that my dad hand over some of the operational reins. At first he was reluctant. But then he agreed -- with the caveat that if I delivered, then he would back off. If I couldn't deliver, then we'd do it his way. Needless to say, I made sure that I delivered. I learned Life Lesson No. 2 from my dad: Make folks accountable, make sure that they understand their accountability, and follow through. In other words, deliver.

-- Judith Mbuya