In today’s frantic industry environment, many are tempted to refuse requests to volunteer their time for anything outside of their own job responsibilities. Competition is increasingly tougher, many companies are being forced to do more with less, many industry folks are working longer hours plus wearing several hats while on the job – and the list goes on and on.

One of the most gratifying meetings I attend, which is driven, in large part, by industry volunteers, is the annual Meat Industry Management Conference presented by the North American Meat Processors Association. NAMP’s 2010 MIMC was held March 19-21 in Chicago.

Perhaps the best part of this program takes place after a networking breakfast on the first day; it is an interactive session called Issues, Answers, Actions. Although attendees are competitors, those sitting together at breakfast tables share pressing issues they’re facing…and their peers and competitors at the tables offer suggestions and share experiences they’ve had regarding these same issues.

This year, attendees sought advice on how to better track raw materials through the process, how to advance supervisors from “best workers” to the “best leaders” and communicating food-safety policies, among other things.
Brent Cator, president of Canada’s Cardinal Meat Specialists Ltd., and John Vatri, Cardinal’s director of logistics, are NAMP members who have volunteered to moderate Issues, Answers, Actions for years.

After the meeting, Phil Kimball, NA MP executive director, cited others who volunteered their time for this year’s program, including Gary Malenke, NAMP president and president and chief executive officer of Sioux-Preme Packing Co.; program chair Dave Crost, publisher of Meat&Poultry; NAMP chair Michael Strauss of Colorado Boxed Beef; and NAMP vice president Bobby Hatoff, co-owner of Allen Brothers, just to mention a few.

Malenke told me last year NAMP is an environment of openness and sharing, which makes it unique. He feels strongly about helping others.

“I had a mentor in this business named Stan Lammers [former president and CEO of Sioux-Preme Packing Co.]. Stan was diagnosed with stomach cancer about 10 years ago. A few days before he passed away, I went to his house and had a chance to visit with him and talk about business. When I got up to leave, Stan said, ‘Hey Malenke…one more thing: Remember, life is all about helping people,’” Malenke said.

“I walked out of the room and I wept, but I take that with me not only serving NAMP, but at Sioux-Preme and in my personal life. That’s what I love about NAMP; that’s what NAMP’s all about,” he concluded.

This meeting is just one example of how volunteering can benefit you and others. If approached to volunteer for an industry event, try to help out. As NAMP’s Kimball says, you will likely get more out of the experience than you put into it.