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July 22, 2020 | Tom Ballard

PART 3: Patricia Bible describes growth pains, talks about her approach to daily life

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is the last in a series featuring Patricia Bible, President and Chief Executive Officer of KaTom Restaurant Supply Inc. Her company has made Inc. Magazine’s list of the 5,000 fastest growing companies in America 11 consecutive years. The accomplishment by KaTom and 10 other local companies was the point of a celebration earlier this year that was organized by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and sponsored by PYA, the power behind

Growth does not always occur without some pain, and that was certainly the case when KaTom Restaurant Supply Inc. moved from Russellville to Kodak a few years ago.

“We went from this tight, cozy family to one where no one knew anyone,” says Patricia Bible, the company’s President and Chief Executive Officer. She describes it as culture shock, explaining that one-half of the existing staff left within a year, even though Google Maps says it’s only a 34- to 36-mile one-way trip, depending on route, from the old facility to the new location.

For someone who takes pride in her family, both by birth and at work, the turnover was something that greatly distressed Bible. She describes KaTom as a community, not just a business.

“I brought in consultants to determine what happened and how to fix it,” Bible says. “The changes had totally flipped the culture. What’s causing the riff? What’s causing the pimple?”

The answer was to actively and regularly communicate with the team, an area that she now makes a high priority. “As a result of changes we made, we are stronger today,” she believes.

In terms of the Inc. Magazine 5000 list, Bible says she applied the first time out of curiosity, but quickly learned that there was great value in being selected.

“I was exposed to great leaders at the annual conference,” she says. “I needed to better understand the financial side, and the webinars were very helpful. They also imparted rich information in other areas.”

At the January celebration organized by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center and sponsored by PYA, the power behind, Moderator Brandon Bruce asked each of the honorees if they planned to apply again. Ironically, the application had just come-out that day.

“I have already submitted mine,” Bible quickly replied. During our later interview, she said, “It’s kind of fun to see if you can outgrow yourself.” With a goal to grow to a $1 billion company, one can only imagine that KaTom will be on the list for years to come.

As far as Bible and her contagious, positive outlook, it’s probably best summed-up in this statement she made at the end of our interview: “I give life a big hug every day.”

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