What started as a life of drugs and broken relationships soon became a success story by the grace of God, In-N-Out CEO Lynsi Snyder-Ellingson shared at her talk for The Larson Lectureship on Ethics & Business.
From Glendora, California, Snyder-Ellingson gained full control of the In-Out-Burger restaurant chain in 2010. However, it did not come without facing hardships in her life, sparking the deepening of her faith in God and his love.
Snyder-Ellingson was raised in the home with her father, mother, and two half-sisters. When the family moved to Northern California at 7 years old, she was taught a new level of independence. This is connected with experiencing her father’s past with addiction for most of her life–not realizing it was actually an addiction until she was much older.
“My dad was very sick when I was younger and I thought he was in a hospital, but I came to realize he was in rehab dealing with his drug addiction,” Snyder-Ellingson said.
Her parents later split when she was 12. Five years later, her father passed from a drug overdose in 1999.
Snyder-Ellingson explained throughout her speech that these events changed her life forever. After that, she spent her early years searching to fill a void.
Married at 18 years old, and sadly divorced three years later, was the beginning of this search. She was in a relationship shortly after with her soon-to-be second husband that was in a world of drugs.
Snyder-Ellingson explained that she found herself ready to end the relationship because this wasn’t the life she wanted to live. That changed, however, when her boyfriend became a Christian, resulting in her second marriage.
Their marriage lasted for six years but later ended when she had an affair.
As a result of that, she divorced her second husband and continued the relationship with her lover. This led to a third marriage shortly after. Within two years of this relationship, she was divorced again. Snyder-Ellingson said her husband had been cheating on her. She felt as though she deserved it: she had hit rock bottom.
“I felt at those moments that I couldn’t do anything for God, but my life now has been a story of His grace,” Snyder-Ellingson said.
Snyder-Ellingson’s life had changed since recommitting herself to God. He was able to show her his love and mercy, renewing her strength.
“I had the Jesus that walked on water, that healed the blind. I had the Jesus that filled my void, and reminding me that he saw me as I am, rather than who I thought I was,” Snyder-Ellingson said.
One of the ways Snyder-Ellingson integrates this faith into her leadership is by putting God first, which helps outline her priorities.
“God is the power strip of our lives and everything in our life has to be plugged into him,” Snyder-Ellingson said.
Since one of her top priorities is taking care of her 20,000 employees all over the nation, she works to create a great relationship with them. She believes in servant leadership over dictatorship and has many job skill trainings in place for her employees.
Due to this focus, she is in the top four ranking for employee approval ratings, according to President Mike Beals. She believes in creating a bond with those that work under her, inviting regional and district managers from different states to a retreat every year on her father’s ranch.
The event, put on by the Business Department and located at Newport Mesa Church, began with President Beals welcoming the distinguished speaker of the night, Howard Booker, a Vanguard alum and an In-N-Out Foundations and Corporate Supervisor who has worked alongside Snyder-Ellingson.
Naturally a reclusive individual, Snyder-Ellingson attracted a large audience to hear her speak. Speaking to students and other business professionals, she was very open about her struggles, the ways she had turned from God, and her journey back to Him through his mercy.