I often look at my 3 year old son and wonder what he will be when he grows up. Will he be a doctor, a lawyer or a fireman? Maybe he will develop the Facebook of his time (I can only hope). I suppose my parents had the same thoughts (they’re probably still wondering). For the past 6 years I have gotten up and went to work everyday not quite sure what the day would bring. Working at a place like Beef Products, Inc.(BPI), we all wear multiple hats so to speak. We are all trained to do more than one job to help fill in where ever we are needed. BPI is a small company that strives to make a great quality, lean beef that is mixed in with ground beef to make it leaner hence the name Lean Finely Textured Beef. Almost every time the plant was not scheduled to run, we were upgrading our process and making improvements, whether it was for food safety reasons, to increase production or to make it better for the employees. I remember a few years ago telling my dad how great of place it was to work. I was always learning something new. We were producing a great product that everyone wanted so I had stability. I can still hear my dad saying “make sure you save lots of money because things can change in a heartbeat.” He knew because he worked for a division of General Motors and had to take an early retirement because the place he worked at closed down. I remember saying “dad, we make beef. I will always have a job. Everyone has to eat!” At that point I was a field service coordinator. I worked on equipment. I performed electrical and mechanical work, heck I even worked on the production side of things. All of this changed about 3 months ago.
Just a few short days after the media had drug BPI through the mud 9 days in a row, our company pretty much shutdown, almost as if someone had turned off a light switch. As the rumors started to fly around about customers demanding that our product be taken off the shelves, I began to wonder what I could do to make a difference. I think it was on a Thursday that the situation became very tense around the office. I noticed that Tom Cother, the Assembly facility manager had his office door closed most of the day on Thursday. I assumed he was wrapped up in strategy meetings. On Friday morning, I went into his office to get some information about our situation. He was on his smart phone looking to see what the media was saying about BPI. Next thing I know, I am in his office doing the same. After about an hour of looking at blog sites and seeing the hate and anger towards BPI and “pink slime”, I realized the magnitude of the devastation. By the end of the day, I was in shock, blown away by our situation. I don’t think you can ever really be prepared for a situation like that. I was in awe at how fast information can travel in social media.
That night, while I was at home racking my brain trying to figure out what I could do to help, I decided to start a Facebook group. At about 11:00pm on a Friday “People for the Truth” was born. I was pretty excited to get the group going and help make a difference. There was only one problem, I had no idea what to do with the group and at that point and I was the only member. I wasn’t going to change the world’s opinion with that platform. The next morning I told Tom that I had created a group. Tom said “Okay. What are your plans for it?” If my memory serves me correctly, my response was “I have no idea………” After throwing some ideas back and forth, we decided that we would use the group as a place to post factual information for others to use as references. The group grew rather quickly. By Sunday the group had almost 300 members. We had to enlist the help of our wife’s to manage the site. We were keeping negative comments down and new reading material up. One of the fondest memories in the early days, I remember sitting at Tom’s kitchen table with his wife Cammy, and my wife Emilee all day and most of the night on Sunday monitoring the group. We had laptops, Ipads and smartphones everywhere trying to stay on top of the situation. As “People for the Truth” grew, and it did very rapidly, we asked Lindsey Kovarna to help. The group at one point was over 20,600 people. Things were going well. People were using the site to get facts to help counter negative blogs. Then we started to hear concerns because posts were being removed that we viewed to be irrelevant and negative. That did not sit well with some. After some in depth discussions, we decided to let the group become more of a forum and allow people to have conversations on the page. As I read the conversations, the impact of social media started to dawn on me. It’s a difficult subject to explain to someone that is not familiar with it. I will be the first admit I was pretty ignorant about social media. I had used Facebook on occasion to keep in touch with family and friends but was far from an expert. Most people under estimate the influence social media has on a subject, I was one of them. Since this has all came about, I have been on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Linked In, blogs and on comment threads daily. I often wondered and even tried to plan where life would take me. I guess what life has taught me is to take everything day by day. Life is not a race, it’s an adventure. A friend of mine once told me “If you wanna hear God laugh, just tell him your plans.” Boy has that ever been dead on.
I am a Field Service Coordinator. I have a beautiful wife, an adorable son and the strangest cat ever! I love riding my motorcycle, boating, golfing and hanging out with my family and friends. I believe that hard work leads to success, even if it is not a monetary value and that life is what you make it.
Follow me on Twitter @ted8910