Our award-winning columnist, Jeff Dearduff, discusses how spreading your wings can invite success.

Soaring with the Eagles

After attending the “Eagles” concert recently, I headed to a hotel in California to attend the American Society of Baking Fall Advisory Committee meeting, where a group of “eagles” from the industry got together to create a progressive and energetic flight plan for next year’s annual conference, which runs from March 1-4 in Chicago.

While I won’t spill the beans about the upcoming event, I will note that this industry continues to move forward as a result of hard-working and caring people. During the last few years, for instance, we have witnessed some greatest hits in the form of significant, if not passionate, messages delivered by a host of ASB chairmen.

It started with Gary Brodsky’s vision in 2006 when he proposed to create a baking industry hall of fame. He wanted to recognize and preserve past accomplishments of those legends who paved the paths we walk today.

For the 2007 conference, Theresa Cogswell’s message centered on acquiring new knowledge, identifying new opportunities and reaching out beyond the paradigms that can sometime paralyze our minds.

The next chairman, George Poulos, stressed the importance of mentoring and teaching to prepare others for the future. Now, for the 2009 conference, Robert Benton wants attendees to be like one big family gathering around the dinner table where real discussions can take place to solve problems and where people can develop solid relationships that will last for years to come.

Each of these messages takes it to the limit and proves that the baking industry still has people stepping out front and leading the next charge, and there are dozens of other professionals who are working behind the scenes to take the industry to the next level.

Whether the times call for drastic measures or just some fine tuning on a particular issue, it takes people with passion and a vision for the industry to make the difference. These same people know that they need to stay in tune with the issues. They’re willing to confront the challenges facing our businesses and conjure up solutions that are shared industry-wide. It becomes the responsibility of each of us to make this knowledge transfer successful. The material is there for our taking.

Just like the bumper sticker says, “you can’t soar with the eagles when you are surrounded by turkeys.” How true is that?

As individuals who are committed to this business, we make our best recommendations, right decisions and highest accomplishments when we lean on and learn from the most knowledgeable people. The real chore is discovering those key individuals and determining how they can truly help us soar to new heights. By connecting with the “eagles” in the industry and heeding their advice, we will find our careers flying in new and better directions. Soon enough, we will be expected to become the new “eagles” who help the next generation of industry professionals advance.

So why don’t people get involved?

Sometimes it is because they are simply unaware of the options. Sometimes it’s because their company is too isolated from the bigger industry to know what is going on outside the bakery’s walls. Sometimes there is a fear of commitment. Other times, people feel they already know it all. Whatever the case, there are few opportunities like the annual ASB technical conference so it’s best not to pass them up.

I see fewer and fewer maintenance engineers involved with groups like the ASB. This society, which used to be called “the engineers,” depends on suppliers and bakers to carry the load. Maintenance engineers from all sections of the grain foods industry should take advantage of the connections by belonging to the society and learning from the vital information that can provide the leading edge.

Such knowledge is difficult to spread to those who don’t attend this event.

Just like the rock and roll band the “Eagles,” we are all going to work hard for a long time. If you choose to stay in the baking industry and have the desire to be an eagle, it’s time to get involved.

Don’t be a desperado.

As everyone knows in the baking industry, you can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.


Jeff Dearduff




Editor’s Note: To read Jeff’s previous columns, please visit www.snackandbakery.com and, while you’re at it, check out SF&WB’s new digital edition.