Regardless of their differences, bakers and snack producers can build relationships with others in the industry that last forever. That’s why contributing columnist, Jeff Dearduff, challenges the food industry to identify your true brothers and sisters.

Bond of Brothers (and Sisters)

When I was 15 years old, I had a buddy that I thought would be at my side my entire life. He would be the guy that would be there when I needed help changing the transmission on my first car, or the extra hand I would need when moving into my first apartment and the one who would be my best man in my wedding. When I was 18, I had a different buddy because I lost track of the first one. We go through our lives depending on other individuals and develop expectations that they will always be there for that dependence. Problem is, we move around too much, and our environments change where we just lose touch with those people and the bond that once was.

At least that is our excuse.

This summer, I was fortunate to witness a long-term bond with people that is almost unexplainable. I was in Sumter, S.C., with my wife Wendy, to celebrate the retirement of my younger brother, Scott, a Command Chief Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force. It was the end of a proud 29-year-career spent defending our freedom on many different fronts throughout the years.

It was at this event and the days before and after where I saw what true, long-term friendship is all about.
Here was a couple hundred people that traveled to this event from all over the world, not because my brother was some big shot, but rather because they had a bond with him that in some cases went back 29 years. Generals, Colonels, Majors, Staff Sergeants, other Chiefs and enlisted Airmen were all in attendance and all had a common respect for him, whether he was led by them or where he had been their leader. There were individuals that he met when he was first assigned to an Air Base in Holland in 1982 and others he met in the past couple years while deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. No matter when they first met, they interacted like it was yesterday. It was clear that they had stayed in touch without any excuses.

This level of bonding is developed when the mission of one is the same as the mission of another. This special bond further develops when people go through special moments together, whether it is dodging incoming mortars in a foxhole or reading to orphaned children together in a war torn country. I wondered if this relationship building could be found outside of the armed services. I then wondered if we really have this level of bonding in our workplaces and our industry where we spend a large percentage of our waking hours.

So here we are, many of us in this industry for 20 and 30 years, maybe more. Some of us have moved around a bit, while others have remained with the same organization throughout their career. In all cases, we have been around a lot of different people who have impacted our lives. Co-workers, bosses, subordinates, suppliers, educators and mentors have come and gone over time. Can you look back and name a few people you have met along the way that would give their shirt to you? Do you have that person or two that would do just about anything for you in a time of need? Is there someone in this industry that you trust wholeheartedly?

As I ponder these questions, I can’t help but think that what I see in my world is greatly different than what I saw in the military world. A very thick line of differentiation is drawn between the relationships developed within a workplace from those fostered out in the industry. I am only speaking for myself, but I see these relationships two distinct ways. At the workplace, the possibility of the true brother- and sisterhood seems more difficult to come by. Maybe it’s the competition or the pecking order, but it is rare that I see two people who are bonded so tight that they will hold each other up in times of need. It just seems like people who work together everyday just want to get away from each other come quitting time.

As for the industry, it feels totally different and maybe for the exact opposite reasons, no competition and no pecking order. Regardless of the differences, it seems you can build relationships with people in the industry that last forever and in many cases these encounters lead to a true support network that nearly matches what I saw with the military. Many times these relationships are formed because of our common missions and those special moments we go through together.

I challenge you to identify who your true brothers (and sisters) are in this industry and then let them know who they are in the next 30 days and what they mean to you. When you let your guard down a little and get through this challenge, you will know that your back will always be covered by the shirt of your brethren.

Finally, a special request. Over the next year or so, as you walk through airports, you will see more and more military personnel traveling. You never know if they are coming home or going out, but stop and shake their hand and thank them for the freedom that they are so honorably protecting. Thank you.