The SCN Encourager – Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Pulitzer Prize Nominated Report Continues (Eggs, Pt 2)

I’ve looked it up. According to the Official Pulitzer Prize Website, this is the formal awards nominating process: “The awards are the culmination of a year-long process that begins early in the year with the appointment of 102 distinguished judges who serve on 20 separate juries and are asked to make three nominations in each of the 21 categories.”

Who’s got the time for this? No school communicator I know! So I had to nominate myself – just so there would be some degree of integrity to today’s headline (and more than most days, actually…).

Yesterday I described the first part of a 20 minute Rotary Club presentation made by Greg Herbruck of Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch. He attended our our club meeting as an ambassador of the egg industry, not his own enterprise in particular, and his stated objective from the get-go was to increase our awareness of modern farming and to clear up a few common misperceptions about the egg-processing business.

I thought the presentation would be dry and dull. It wasn’t. I thought the topic would be irrelevant to anything I cared about (other than breakfast and chocolate cake). It wasn’t. And I thought egg-processing wasn’t sophisticated or complex like other major industries. I was wrong here, too.

Because Greg made such a solid presentation (grounded in great preparation), I’ve been reviewing what I saw and heard as an audience member. And because I’m – if I do say so myself – pretty accomplished at pondering the success of others, I’m sharing my learning with you.

You’re a good egg to have hung in there with me this far. (This line isn’t clever, but it is sincere.)

Here were the six points from yesterday (CliffNotes): My long-winded version is here.

1.  Greg simply stated the problem – asked for our help.
2.  He connected his facts with our values, interests, and hopes.
3.  He offered one mega-fact that established his credibility and knowledge.
4.  He projected just one visual image to unify our thinking about our perceptions.
5.  He described how his family had to intentionally decide their farming future.
6.  He taught us what it meant for his family to become a “maximizer” enterprise.

The second half of Greg’s presentation was equally insightful, both in its content and the communication skills utilized. And once again, I’m not saying Greg Herbruck is the world’s greatest keynote speaker. I believe he (or his association) employed a professional communication specialist (like you) to help him with the development and delivery of his message. And yes, I was impressed that he apparently followed their advice to a “T.”  Many people don’t. Their egos don’t allow it. Greg was himself, friendly and engaging, and he trusted the input of his team. It paid off.

Now that Greg had described for us the size and scope of his family’s egg-processing enterprise (and those similar), he knew that our audience – an audience in 2013, not 1970 – would have other priorities on our minds as well. He didn’t wait to pull them in.

7.  After making tangible connections with our audience and presenting a whopper of a mega-fact (tips 2 & 3), Greg used single bullet powerpoint slides to provide data about how the nutritional value of eggs has increased, how poultry care has improved, and how there were rapid advances in environmental stewardship – all while the price of eggs has remained relatively steady.

8.  He admitted that all of the good things pointed out in his four previous slides (above) did not come easily for his family. They had to adapt and change. They had to make “sleepless night” investments in technology, training, and facilities. They had to accept increased accountability and scrutiny from outsiders. So what did they do? They embraced it. In two minutes or less, with video clips and photos, he showed us how. Greg told how he and his team really didn’t care for the monthly onsite audits from the government and McDonald’s, his biggest customer. So what did they do? They installed surveillance cameras all around their egg-processing operation and invited the auditors to visit them online 24/7. (In 120 seconds or less, Greg demonstrated to us how his business was exceeding the expectations of both the government inspectors and his largest customer.)

9.  In closing, Greg spoke about the pride he has in the people he works with (about 400). He said it about as simply as I wrote it, and then projected short video clips of various staff members. You heard from a highly-skilled maintenance technician, an enthusiastic truck driver, a marketing team member, and one of Herbruck’s five full-time M.S.U. trained veterinarians. I didn’t see a roll of chicken wire or a pitch fork in any clip – and I was looking!

10.  I think he saved his best point for last. He described how today’s egg consumers are just like “us” and the other “choosers” we experience in our own lines of work. An egg simply is not an egg in today’s marketplace. It is either a white egg, a brown egg, an organic egg, or a free-range chicken egg (or some other type I’ve forgotten). And to meet all of these needs, Greg spoke about the new partnerships he and other egg-processing farmers were forging. For example, to expand his ability to provide organic and free-range eggs to his big chain store customers, Greg created a new “start-up” egg collective with 15 Amish egg farmers in Shipshewana, Indiana. He provides an efficient distribution network and they consistently deliver a category of eggs for growing number of consumers. It’s win-win and profits for all involved. Not too shabby.

Of course, every good presentation allows for some Q and A at the end. And here, a couple of things stand out in my mind. First, I was surprised by what Greg asked us to do before leaving the room. And second, he was asked a real doozy of a question, one that asked him to pull back the curtain a bit on what it’s like to negotiate a “multi-million dollar deal” with the high finance types from McDonald’s. His answer surprised me, too.

The “Q & A” is what’s on tap for Friday.  Thanks again for reading!

Tom Page, SCN
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