Happy Trails


This is the second in a series of articles from our valued "retiring" state executives. Last month, featured Jim Harrison from New Hampshire. This month - Joe Williams from the Texas Retailers Association. ENJOY!

-- Bev Lynch

Happy Trails

So my favorite verses from one of our trail riding songs goes like this:

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.

Happy trails to you, keep smilin' until then.

Who cares about the clouds when we're together?

Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.

Happy trails to you, till we meet again.

Some trails are happy ones,

Others are blue.

It's the way you ride the trail that counts,

Here's a happy one for you.

From one cowpoke to another, it's been a fabulous ride and one that was spent entirely in the Food Industry. My first years after graduation (thanks to Jackie for supporting me until graduation!) were on the supply side of the industry in management with a commercial baker and a regional chip manufacturer.

I was serving on the Board of the Houston Grocers Association when the position of President was vacated when Rick Johnson resigned to become President of Texas Food Industry Association. I jumped at the chance and was thrilled when I was offered the position as President/CEO of the organization.

My how Jackie & I have been blessed with an awesome industry and such wonderful lifelong friends made during this journey. As one nears the end of this trail ride -- one you would call full-time employment, certainly not mentioning the word retirement as there are other trail rides just beginning, there are many things I now know and wish would have been done differently.

For me, my number one thing was time management. FIAE certainly helped me sharpen different skill sets to manage my time more effectively. If only FIAE had been there at the beginning of my career after graduation, but they got there as soon as they could.

One of the biggest lessons learned in my career was that "people do business with people they know and like." That was probably my most important lesson and one that led to a lot of the successes I've been blessed to be a part of. I tried to incorporate it into every part of the process of our association management. Each year, I schedule an appointment with each of our members to give a brief review of our past year activities and successes as it related to their business model. More importantly these meetings gave me the opportunity to listen to them as they related their concerns or issues that were most pressing for them. Once we had completed the meetings with retailer and suppliers, we would develop a list of priority issues that became the road map for the next year.

This is how we became so involved and somewhat successful in SNAP EBT, eWIC, ORC, Infant Formula & Plastic Container Task Forces, annual sponsorships for our suppliers, high school retail management program, and a host of other opportunities.

As you know on a trail ride, sometimes we get ahead of ourselves. Let me back track in time to talk about another key part of my career path -- Mentors. One of the first calls I received when I came on board with the Houston Grocers Association was from Eldon Roascher- President of Oklahoma Grocers, congratulating me for becoming President/CEO and to introducing me to FIAE. In addition, he also offered his services, "just call me"(this was before e-mail or texts, really even cell phones) on any issue or concern; he was always available to visit and offer his thoughts and advice.

Not long after that, I received an invitation to attend a weekend workshop for association newbies from the Sioux City Sinners (Eldon, Wes Ball-Tennessee, and Truitt Gill- New Mexico). Along with the invitation, we were asked to bring samples of our magazine, our Board agendas, Convention/Conference Outlines and information on other event such as golf tournament to share and discuss. [I'm not sure how this group received the name "Sioux City Sinners" but I imagine Jim Olsen, Chris Flynn, Dave McCorkle or Joe Lackey could shed some light on the nickname.] Also invited to participate were other new grocer association presidents- Nancy Christensen-Minnesota; Trish Smallenburger-Iowa; Kathy Siefken-Nebraska, John Morrison-Missouri and Brian Jordan- Illinois.

That weekend was spent showing what we were doing and then listening and looking at examples others brought. Eldon, Wes & Truitt also brought samples of each of their items and boy, you could just see the wheels turning with all of us newbies as they showed and discussed how they worked. The Sioux City Sinners set up the agenda, booked discounted rooms at some great facilities, had us over to their homes for dinner and shared information and expertise that covered any activity or event involving food industry associations. They were there to support us as our Mentors into this great "family" of FIAE.

We did three of these retreats over our first couple of years and it made a huge difference for me as a leader of my organization, helped me grow as a person, and developed a group of friends you could call on for help or advice at any time. Now all of this was in addition to attending the FIAE Conference each year, which is an expanded example of those weekend retreats. I can honestly say that without these Mentors when I first started, these fellow Exec's putting us on the right trail that included the annual rest stop at the FIAE Conference, the trail ride for this cowpoke would have been pretty short. I would most definitely have ended up stranded on the side of the road or with a lame horse that had thrown a shoe.

But, because of them and the friends at FIAE, I'm making it to the end of the ride, where there is a big dance and whole lot of BBQ just around the corner. By the way, Happy Trails was sung by Roy Rogers and Dale Evans when I was growing up. We all also joined the Roy Rogers Riders Club in the 50's. Thought you would enjoy our Club Rules:

Roy Rogers Riders Club Rules

  1. Be neat and clean.

  2. Be courteous and polite.

  3. Always obey your parents.

  4. Protect the weak and help them.

  5. Be brave but never take chances.

  6. Study hard and learn all you can.

  7. Be kind to animals and take care of them.

  8. Eat all your food and never waste any.

  9. Love God and go to Sunday School regularly.

  10. Always Respect Our Flag & Our Country.

Happy Trails to you, 'till we meet again.

Joe Williams

Texas Retailers Association

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