Q&A with EBSCO Industries CEO David Walker: Celebrating 75 Years

News | David Walker| August 27, 2019

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EBSCO Industries CEO David Walker shares his viewpoint on their 75th anniversary, and how EBSCO Information Services plays a key role in its parent company’s success.

EBSCO Industries celebrates its landmark 75th anniversary this year. Originally a small door-to-door magazine sales business, EBSCO Industries has grown to be a top 200 privately owned U.S. company. With divisions that include information services, manufacturing and distribution, insurance brokerage, software-as-a-service, and real estate, EI continues to grow and flourish.

To celebrate this milestone, EBSCO Industries President and Chief Executive Officer David Walker sat down with us to share his experiences at the company, the path he took to earn his position and the significance of being in business 75 years.

What were some of your roles before joining EBSCO Industries?

Before joining EBSCO Industries, I was a public accountant within the audit department at Ernst & Young. In fact, my first exposure to EBSCO was working on the company’s annual audit as an E&Y auditor.  After four years, I joined a client that filed an initial public offering, PJ America, as Vice President and Corporate Controller. In 2000, I joined EBSCO Industries and have served in a variety of roles over the past 19 years.

How did your early career set a foundation for your role today?

Public accounting provided a wonderful training ground in business because I was given the opportunity to work with many successful companies. The busy season nature of the public accounting profession ensures that you establish a strong work ethic; the opportunity to work in teams ensures that you develop a collaborative approach; and the competition amongst colleagues pushes you to excellence.  While at Auburn University, and during my early years at both Ernst & Young and PJ America, I learned that dedication, hard work, and a commitment to doing my best was the key to success. 

What does it mean to you and the company to celebrate 75 years in business?

It is humbling to work for a family-owned business that has been in business for 75 years.  From the entrepreneurial spirit of our founder, Elton B. Stephens, to the thousands of team members, past and present, who have contributed to the company’s success, thank you for your commitment, loyalty and resolve. However, our work is not done, and our story is not complete as we continue to pursue growth to make the next 75 years even stronger. 

Which area of information services do you believe will experience the fastest growth?

We are aggressively investing in growth initiatives within EBSCO Information Services.  These investments are being made across all segments of the business, including books, journals, databases, and software and end-markets, including academia and healthcare.  It is an exciting time, and I look forward to seeing these new products begin coming to market very soon. 

EBSCO Industries works with a variety of businesses including Alys Beach, Vulcan Industries, and Valent Group. What’s the key to success with such a diverse portfolio?

The key to success is empowerment, ownership, and accountability. We want our businesses to be talent-driven, customer-centric, growth-oriented, and results-focused. Additionally, we want our businesses to embrace the same entrepreneurial spirit that Elton B. Stephens embraced in 1944. 

One of my favorite sayings is “you can’t use the runway behind you.” It speaks to the importance of continuous improvement and motivates me to be better every day. 

What sets EBSCO Industries apart from other companies?

EBSCO has natural ownership advantages that distinguish us from other business owners. Our long-term investment horizon allows us to make the right long-term decisions. We are committed to reinvesting our profits into our people, our businesses, and our communities, which creates positive results. And, our family-owned structure provides an excellent place for our team members to work. 

What is key for EBSCO Industries to continue to grow in the coming years?

Our success will come from our ability to attract, develop and retain top-level talent. So, we must hire and invest in the people that will develop and grow our businesses.

What piece of professional advice do you find yourself giving most often?

One of my favorite sayings is “you can’t use the runway behind you.” It speaks to the importance of continuous improvement and motivates me to be better every day.  

Thanks to David Walker for sharing with us. For more information on EBSCO Industries and its deep history, visit EBSCO Industries.

Visit EBSCO Industries

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David Walker
CEO, EBSCO Industries

With a background in accounting, finance, and mergers and acquisitions, David joined EBSCO in 2000 as the General Manager of Military Service Company, EBSCO’s original business. Only a year later, then Chairman Jim Stephens asked David to lead EBSCO’s first mergers and acquisitions team, a role he held until 2010 when he became Chief Financial Officer. Four years later, David’s role was expanded to Chief Operating Officer and his additional responsibilities included providing direct strategic leadership for multiple businesses, as well as the accounting, administration, and communications departments.

Since David had experience with nearly every business and corporate service center at some point in his tenure at EBSCO, it seemed like a natural transition when David became Chief Executive Officer in September 2017. As CEO, David’s ability to create and connect business strategies at both the corporate and business-unit levels, and his commitment to the values of EBSCO, will guide EBSCO’s future success.

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