CEO Insights: Connections Matter

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Connections matter. No matter who you are or what you do, seeking out connection with those around you is a key piece of the human experience.

We are wired to succeed when we are connected with other people. Studies show us that connection to others is so important that babies who lack human contact often fail to thrive and may even die.

Michele Jennae once wrote, “Networking is not about just connecting people. It’s about connecting people with people, people with ideas, and people with opportunities.” This is evident by the variety and depth of connections in the baking industry.


Connections can help you get started

I moved to Kansas City as a young man in 1985 (just in time to see the Kansas City Royals win their first World Series). I was alone in a new city, but I had found a place to live with five other guys whom I had never met. One of them was Kyle Gillespie.

Little did I know that meeting my new roommate would change the course of my life. In addition to introducing me to Gates BBQ, the Plaza, late night poker games, and a new set of friends, Kyle also introduced me to Joe Ungashick.  That connection led to a job at Shick Tube-Veyor (now Shick Esteve). That job eventually led me to my job at BEMA.

I’m not alone in finding a job, moreover a career and exception group of personal and professional friends, through a personal connection. Many career search experts will tell you that 50% to 80% of all positions are filled through networking.  This means the more people you know, the better your likelihood of finding a job.  This is especially true when you’re looking for your first job or seeking an industry switch.

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Connections can help you grow

The importance of connecting with others isn’t just related to our mental health or career pathways. Regardless of our role in the industry, we can learn so much from those around us.

At BEMA, we believe in the importance of connections so much that in coordination with ABA, we created an entire event with connections as the centerpiece. With our first NEXUS event this past September, we intentionally created spaces where people from different parts of the industry could come together and learn from each other. Spark sessions provided a great opportunity for suppliers and bakers to connect and understand each other’s needs and offerings. We now know, these experiences also helped build new industry friendships.

NEXUS is now a new vein pumping at the heart of connection in the baking industry. BEMA Convention is held every June, and held in favorable anticipation by many – and not just because of the business opportunities. It’s a time to renew friendships, and for our entire families to connect with one another.

Regional dinners also provide an opportunity for industry members in the same area to carve out time to interact, plan, and make new industry friends. Our goal at BEMA is to provide opportunities where it takes little effort to make connections.

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Be intentional in connecting with others

Although BEMA provides multiple opportunities for connection throughout the year, it’s up to industry members to grow those connections on their own. Whether you’re looking for a new golfing buddy or want to grow your business, focusing on relationships is a primary way to reach those goals.

It is easy to get focused on the day-to-day operations of our businesses (and our daily lives) to the point where we don’t leave enough time to invest in our relationships, but relationship-building doesn’t have to be hard. It just has to be intentional.

If you’re struggling to make room for connection in your life, try some of these easy options for continuing to grow your relationships, whether they be business or personal.

1. Schedule time for connection.

This can be as simple as putting 20-30 minutes on your calendar to make phone calls to other industry members – not to sell or buy anything but just to check in. This can be a time for discussing problems or brainstorming for the future of the industry. It doesn’t matter what you talk about, simply connecting and strengthening an existing relationship is the primary objective.

2. Get together in person.

A monthly or quarterly lunch, happy hour, or dinner can be a great time to reconnect. After all, everybody likes to eat, and food often puts people at ease.

3. Reach out to someone new.

Make it a point to seek out new connections when you are at Convention or NEXUS or a regional dinner. It’s always easy to settle in with old friends, but adding someone new to your circle can provide benefits for both parties. If you have some tenure in the industry, consider helping an emerging profession or new hire in the industry by mentoring them. I’ve found I often learn as much from the person I’m mentoring as they do from me.

No matter your role in the baking industry or how long you’ve been a part of it, we can all benefit from connecting with others because as Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor once said, “we don’t accomplish anything in this world alone.” I look forward to connecting with you in 2024.

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