SIOUX CENTER, IOWA — Gary Malenke, current president of the North American Meat Processors Association, says smaller processors succeed by focusing on what their larger counterparts cannot. Malenke, president and chief executive officer of Sioux Center, Iowa-based Sioux-Preme Packing Co., told that smaller processors must differentiate their products and services to stand out from the industry’s much larger processors.

"Competition is always in front of us; it’s never ending," Mr. Malenke said. "And for small- to medium-sized companies such as N.A.M.P. members, the key to success is they must continue to differentiate themselves, continue to be able to provide something the mainstream guys have difficulties doing.

"From a challenge standpoint, a number of N.A.M.P. members are in the beef business," he said. "Obviously E. coli and food-safety issues continue to dominate our discussion and a lot of what the association focuses on. I continue to see that as a real challenge for N.A.M.P. members."

Packers and processors should be more proactive instead of reactive, Mr. Malenke said.

"N.A.M.P. is an advocate for being proactive," he added. "N.A.M.P. has been involved with other trade organizations in trying to bring the N.A.M.P. members’ culture to [packer members of other associations]. In the end, we’re all in the meat business. If any people along that chain are doing things that adversely affect us, we all suffer."

Continuing to increase N.A.M.P. membership and serving N.A.M.P. members are important to Mr. Malenke. "Every person who’s a member of N.A.M.P. is a customer of N.A.M.P.," he says. "N.A.M.P has to look at every member as a customer and say, ‘What am I going to do to serve them to make their business better?’ N.A.M.P. is an environment of openness and sharing, which makes it unique. People think about how to help other people and they don’t feel threatened by it. I think that makes N.A.M.P. outstanding."

Mr. Malenke feels strongly about helping others.

"I had a mentor in this business named Stan Lammers [former president and chief executive officer 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 and started walking out the door, Stan said, ‘Hey more thing...remember life is all about helping people.’

"I walked out of the room and I wept, but I take that with me not only serving N.A.M.P., but at Sioux-Preme and in my personal life. That’s what I love about N.A.M.P.; that’s what N.A.M.P.’s all about."

(For more on Sioux-Preme Packing Co., read "Made to order" in the December issue of Meat&Poultry.)