July 2023 Newsletter Feature: David’s Top 5 Highlights from the 2023 AAMP Convention

Last week, NMPAN was fortunate enough to be included both as exhibitors and as presenters at the 2023 Annual AAMP Convention in Charleston, South Carolina. From what I’ve heard, it was the most attended annual event to date – that’s surely due to the effort, coordination and general hospitality of the AAMP team. 

Instead of regaling you with a play-by-play of the entire conference, I’d like to share my top 5 takeaways from the event. For a more detailed account of what the event has to offer, feel free to send me a note and I’d be happy to convince you of the value of attending next year when it’s in Omaha, Nebraska.

Without Further ado, here’s my Top 5 takeaways from this year’s AAMP Convention, in no particular order:

Oliver Mincey’s Breakout Session, ‘HR and Other Wild Topics’

What more can I say about Oliver Lee Mincey? This charismatic powerhouse and wealth of knowledge regarding team performance, leadership development and personnel management delivered yet another compelling information session. While I was lucky enough to work with him at a company a few years ago, I still learn something every time he gives a talk. His approach to personnel development, highlighted by his ‘5 Coaching Conversations’ and the concepts of how Objectives and Key Results can be applied to teams of any size, completely changed the way I manage plants and it has never failed me to date. 

If you haven’t had a chance to watch Oliver’s 5-part video series in collaboration with AAMP, I highly suggest you do so. You can find part 1 of the series here: 

Meeting people that I’ve only ever met over Zoom

I’m sure I’m in the majority when I say that more than half of the folks I spend the most time with in the industry, I’ve only ever seen on the other side of a screen – and that includes some folks who I have the closest working relationships with, like some of our Meat Processor Academy Mastermind cohort members. It was so refreshing to meet people in person and get to hear their ideas in real-time, rather than in an email, survey or moderated Zoom call. The pandemic taught me a lot of things, but I can confidently say that the importance of face-to-face working dynamics was one of my top lessons.

Learning about people’s challenges, innovations, successes and ideas at the NMPAN booth

NMPAN was lucky enough to be included in the exhibitor’s hall for the trade show, and our community members certainly made the best of our time together. The booth ended up being a networking hub and technical assistance resource wrapped into one. Folks stopped by to talk about specific challenges they were experiencing in their businesses, and while waiting in line, met other NMPAN and AAMP community members who has experienced something similar and problem-solving fireworks were going off left and right. It was truly inspiring to witness the level of collaboration that was happening right in front of me and I’m super grateful for all of the students, experts and NMPAN members who stopped by and networked. 

The Culture

I’d be lying if the look and tone of regional and national meat conferences wasn’t changing, and it’s trending in a very positive direction. Not only are Rebecca and I noticing an increasingly more diverse crowd of owners, operators, students and individual contributors, but the conversations themselves are changing. 

It’s clear to me that silos are being broken down and that information sharing is taking precedence over protecting stashes of trade secrets. The phrase ‘high tide floats all boats’ was echoing through the halls of the convention center, and we’ve noticed in throughout the NMPAN community at large in general. It’s a tremendously exciting time to be a part of this industry, specifically for this reason. More people are exercising the courage to ask questions of all kinds, and the community’s wide array of subject matter experts are more willing than ever to share their info. 

Only 10 years ago, this industry was being read its last rites as a ‘dying trade’. I feel as if the tide is turning for the better and this was very evident at AAMP!

The NMPAN Presentation

All of the above represented by favorite parts of the convention as an attendee, but overall, the most fulfilling aspect of this event was the hour that I was able to spend with the audience for the NMPAN presentation, MC’d by Troy Wilcox of the NW Meat Processor’s Association (Thanks, Troy!). 

In case you missed it, I’ve linked the .pdf of the presentation at the bottom. There’s a few juicy nuggets about upcoming programs, current projects and a more in-depth explanation of what we do, as well as a segment I like to call ‘NMPAN’s Top 3 Things to Consider Before, During and After Opening a Meat Plant’. I had recorded the audio for the presentation, but on the way home, something bizarre happened to my laptop’s hard drive and I seem to have lost the audio file beyond recovery, which is severely disappointing, mainly because of my next point.

The true value of this presentation came from the audience themselves; we kicked the session off with a bit of a roundtable discussion. I asked the audience how many folks owned, operated, formerly owned or managed a processing plant – a large portion of the group raised their hand. I then asked if anyone from that cohort would be willing to share ONE thing that they’d advise of their younger self before they opened the plant. Anything they wanted. I have to say, we were all blessed with some real gems of wisdom from a handful of our NMPAN community members. Here were a few of my favorites:

  • Approach leadership from a place of service – This was shared by the matriarch of a multi-generational family-owned meat processing business who have had their share of challenges but have continued to be successful regardless. She shared that when she learned about leaders who work in service of their teams, everything changed for the better. As I like to say, we as leaders are there to ‘remove the speed bumps’ so that our managers and operators can do their best work.
  • Less is more, don’t try to do it all: This is one that shows up in NMPAN’s ‘Top 3’, which you’ll see in the PDF of the presentation. This processor shared that keeping things simple in the beginning and getting really good at your core items was the key to their success.
  • Invest in training your people: This processor explained the importance of training your team for quality, consistency and retention.
  • Hire a good contractor, don’t try to do it all yourself: This processor shared that although they possessed the expertise within their family to skillfully complete the construction projects for their new facility, they went years over time allotment and massively went over budget. In retrospect, she said, they would’ve found a reputable contractor who they could’ve held accountable to time and budget.

Here’s the link to NMPAN‘s presentation PDF.

Thanks to Abbey, Niki, Chris, Sam and Nelson from AAMP (and everyone else I haven’t mentioned) for putting on a great event. We at NMPAN sincerely appreciate the opportunity to get out into the world and work with, and learn from our community, and we’re looking forward to next year’s convention in Omaha!

– David Zarling, NMPAN Program Manager

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