Rich Dachman attributes his success in the produce industry to the long, steady path he"s taken to get to his position as vice president of produce for Houston-based foodservice giant Sysco Corp., and the people he"s been around along the way.

"I"ve really just tried to surround myself with great people," Dachman said.

"I think I"ve just been really lucky to have great people around, so I don"t know how great a leader I needed to be."

Dachman, 54, is a big believer in working one"s way up, and can speak from experience there. He got his start in produce in the 1970s working for his father"s produce distribution company, Perry Produce Co., Denver.

After a stint into business for himself, he again worked with his father at a produce company he founded as part of a broadliner called Westman Commission Co., which was acquired by Kraft in 1987.

Dachman worked in Kraft"s corporate office as national director of produce until the early 1990s, when he joined FreshPoint Inc. He ran its offices in Salinas, Calif., Denver and Atlanta before the company was acquired by Sysco in 2000, an acquisition Dachman said was good for his career.

"Working for a great company like Sysco, that has been very beneficial for my career," Dachman said.

Sysco took Dachman straight to its Houston corporate office where he worked as senior vice president of FreshPoint until 2007, when he was promoted to his current position.

Although Dachman believes a leader shouldn"t tell anyone what to do unless he or she has done it before, he also recognizes that he works in an evolving industry.

"Everything is so immediate now," Dachman said.

"It used to be fun when I was young to be a produce buyer because you would try to find a market or beat a market. Everybody"s so tuned in now. It"s gone from more of an unpredictable business to a very predictable business."

Some key values of the produce industry have stayed the same, though, he said.

"I still think you just have to have good relationships," Dachman said.

"You need to be fair and have good partnerships with your suppliers."

A leader not only in his own company, but also in the industry, Dachman is vice chairman of the Produce Marketing Association"s board of directors and was nominated chairman-elect in July.

He"s set to take the reins at the association"s Fresh Summit convention in October. He also chairs the Foodservice 2020 steering committee, heading up efforts to double the use of produce in restaurants in 10 years, and has served on the Fresh Summit committee, spoken at PMA events and advised on the Produce Traceability Initiative and the Foundation for Industry Talent.

"I love that I"m so involved with PMA at this point in my career," Dachman said.

"I really care about increasing consumption and you"re going to hear this from me a lot acting as a single industry rather than acting so fragmented as we are."

Dachman has four sons Jason, Lucas, Nicolas and Samuel and has been married to his wife, Clari, for 16 years.