The Value of Industry Participation

BY Gregg Halverson

It is meeting time again!  It is time to scrutinize our schedules to try to determine and prioritize our calendars and timetables to come out with the perfect plan. To loosely paraphrase Hamlet: “To participate or not to participate…. that is the question”.

I believe a lifetime spent in one industry just might be enough of a license to write about a particular subject from a certain perspective. I will take the liberty of using that lifetime experience to make a point relating to a forward look at what I will loosely label, “The Value of Industry Participation”.  The industry I continue to be a member of and remain very passionate about, is what I call Production Agriculture.  Or in my specific case, Potatoes.

There are many opportunities that present themselves from a “what shall I do today” perspective.  Knowing full well that we all have our favorite tasks we do on a daily basis which provide some indication as to our many personality traits, as well as our propensity to make things happen…. or not happen. I realize that every person, thankfully, does not have the same mindset nor the same perspective as he or she designs their to-do list for a given day or a particular week. However, I would like to explore some reasons that some members of our industry participate at some level in various industry events, while others choose not to.

As I make my own arrangements to attend upcoming area field days, conventions, state association meetings, political briefings or large industry meetings, I sometimes get to thinking:  Why do I enjoy these meetings while some of my competitors and friends choose to stay at home?  I believe there are many reasons, but I would like to take a couple of minutes to lay out my thesis. 

Of course I have a bias, which honestly, becomes evident by my actions and the actions of my family, business associates and folks that I interact with. Yes, I have a definite bias for participation and contribution toward many of the different facets of my industry when possible. In some cases, it boils down to priorities and the importance an individual assigns to those priorities. Of course, because we are all unique and prioritize differently, the results of that prioritization manifest themselves in many different ways.

Supply Chain Participation

One point of variation might be related to all the different possibilities as to where an individual is situated within the supply chain. A vendor views participation differently than a manufacturer.  An academic views the industry from a different perspective than a primary supplier. Likewise, a student has a very different set of priorities than a member of the press. The point is, everyone has a somewhat different set of values and perspectives from which to draw. Therefore, their individual judgement as to whether to participate, or not, will be a result of many variables.

Personal Priorities

From another point of view, everyone is situated somewhat differently within their personal sphere.  Taking the kids to their ball game or dance classes may be a priority. In the case of production ag, the time of the year may help with the decision-making process - that is, planting or harvest timelines may be top priority. Another factor in the decision-making process certainly revolves around the personal value judgement. This is where the old bang for the buck enters in.  

In my mind there are advantages to industry participation that can be gleaned from all levels of the supply chain, not to mention the associated stakeholders. At the end of the day, there must be some sort of “return on investment” in the activity.  It could be an intellectual satisfaction; it could be associated with both sides of a buyer/seller perspective; it could be a potentially stimulating educational opportunity, or it may revolve around the value of networking between companies and individuals, which cannot be underestimated. 

Participation means to Participate

However, in order to obtain maximum value from participation…. there really needs to be “participation”. That is, to make the event a success, I believe the most value can be attained from attending the meetings, volunteering for a committee, having a serious meeting with a buyer or vendor, or making it a point to do some more specialized, specific networking. 

Giving Back

Lastly there is the more touchy-feely inner value that can be important to some people which may be loosely labeled “giving back”.  It is my belief that within all steps of the supply chain, from the initial raw material vendor to the final finished goods purchaser, all have a stake in this thing we call “giving back to our industry”. 

Contribute, Participate, Network, Learn and have some Fun

Yes, every individual or company has their own level or threshold of “Industry Participation” within which they are comfortable. In the end I believe it boils down to value, ROI and fulfilling the human concept of “giving back”. I believe it behooves every member of the supply chain to find their comfort zone and be an active participant in their industry, at a level that makes them feel good. So, considering all the options out there, my advice is to find your spot, contribute, participate, network, learn and have some fun.