November 1, 2007
Holding the High Ground
I recently returned from our annual Management Workshop and Pretzel and Baked Snack Seminar in Gettysburg, Pa. It was a well planned and executed meeting, and my thanks goes out to our volunteer members and our associate members who organize and sponsor these events.
The meeting fully took advantage of its venue, close to the National Battlefield of Gettysburg, where the tide turned in the Civil War during the crucial battle in 1863. Most impressive were the lessons we learned about business and leadership from the events of that year.
We kicked off the meetings with a presentation by “President Abraham Lincoln,” who greeted our guests at a welcome dinner and reviewed the story of Gettysburg. He talked about leadership and the tough decisions leaders must make to succeed. Lincoln was an amazing judge of human character, which served him well in finally putting together the team of Generals that would enable the Union to defeat the confederates. The fate of our Union was by no means certain, as the war started off with disastrous results for the North. Although the Confederate Army was out-manned and without the resources possessed by the North, they drove within four miles of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. “Lincoln” pointed to the problems he initially had in trusting military leaders who looked good on paper, but couldn’t deliver victories for him.
The first joint session speaker of the seminar was Steve Wiley, who talked about leadership, using the examples of Gettysburg to lead our businesses. He demonstrated that if it wasn’t for some very quick thinking on the part of the first Union troops to arrive at Gettysburg, General Lee and his soldiers would have captured the high ground on the battlefield and likely won the battle. Wiley made the analogy to our businesses by noting that if you have good people on the ground, you must put your trust in them. He said they often have the vision that is necessary to see opportunities that executives back at headquarters cannot see.
The SFA’s vice chairman, Daryl Thomas of Herr’s Foods, gave an impressive luncheon address in which he discussed the collective strength and positive impact the snack industry has on our country. He reminded us all that the products and services we provide every day, coupled with our outreach to our communities, comprise a key fabric woven into our society. He said we should be proud of our contributions, while looking for additional opportunities to do even more.
We had a strong program, and I invite you to review the coverage elsewhere in these pages. I must add that we also learned first-hand how to make quality pretzels by taking a tour of the Utz Quality Foods High Street pretzel plant.
Passing the memorials to the fallen soldiers of the North and South on my drive out of town, I was reminded of what “President Lincoln” told us at our opening reception. He wanted his Gettysburg Address to serve as a testament to all those who fought and died for freedom, not to be simply a solemn dedication of a national burial ground. He wanted the lessons of Gettysburg to have meaning well beyond the 19th century and to serve to unite us in times of conflict and turmoil ... another great lesson learned at this year’s seminar.
President & CEO
President & CEO