#13: Gary Hollis & Henry Vance
Gary Hollis & Henry Vance Podcast Transcript
Neil Dudley: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Pederson Natural Farms podcast. We’re so excited you’re here. We look forward to sharing all about this beautiful industry of better-for-you food, meat, protein. We call the podcast the Pederson Natural Farms Podcast Powered by Protein because we’re going to talk all things bacon, sausage, ham, consumers, customers, vendors that support our business, employees that make us what we are, and peers, people that are in the industry competing for your attention and your dollar. And we think that’s healthy and we’re proud of them, so we want to share about them as well. Thank you so much for joining us. Be sure you tune in, don’t tune out, and remember, grab life by the bacon.
Oh boy. I’m looking forward to this conversation. Hey everybody. Thanks for joining the Pederson Natural Farms Podcast Powered by Protein. YouTube, hey, everybody, wave at the YouTubers watching. We appreciate you paying attention to what we’re talking about, and I hope you’ve enjoyed some previous episodes. If this is your first one, go back and listen to some of our other episodes. What we’re all about on the podcast is talking about what I think is one of the coolest industries through the eyes of consumers, customers, vendors, and employees, which these two guys fit that employee role. And I think you are a lot of times the unsung heroes in a production plant, which Pederson’s, hopefully we’re going to teach people all about Pederson’s, and if they don’t know, now they will. We have a plant, we have equipment, we have- well, we’ll just get into all that stuff because you guys know it intimately, you work and deal with it each and every day. So, first things first, Henry Vance, wave your hand; Gary Hollis, wave your hand. These two guys are part of the reason our maintenance team, I think, is world-class, one of the best ones. Really, I would put you guys up against maintenance teams all over the country. You’re totally educated, consistently delivering uptime for our plant. And we’ll get into all that. I tend to ramble and take up all the air space, and I don’t want to do that because you guys are here. I hope you feel the appreciation from this company for what you do each and every day. And what’s in your mind is valuable to other people that are on maintenance teams in plants around the country or work for our competitors, our peers. All of that stuff to me is just the reality of business. And it’s pretty cool. So, we’ll start with Gary. How long have you been here? Do you know off the top of your head? Even an approximate number would be good.
Gary Hollis: About three years.
Neil Dudley: Yeah, cool. So how- just let’s tell that story a little bit. How did you come to be a part of the Pederson’s team and what’s that journey been like a little bit?
Gary Hollis: Okay. Well, I started, well, Cammie came, Cammie works for Stacy. Well, you invited me to come out here to check everything out.
Neil Dudley: I’ll put a little color to that. You’ll see this banner behind us, if you’re watching on YouTube, it’s talking about Bacon Bash. Well, I met Gary at Bacon Bash. He was a volunteer, we have connections otherwise, and he just worked his tail off. And I was like, dude, we need a guy like you Pederson’s. Okay, you can start again.
Henry Vance: On with the rambling.
Gary Hollis: I originally come out here to look at QA, quality control. Well venturing through that, it wasn’t quite for me. So, Luke happened to take me out to maintenance, which is where I am now. And talking to Bert, which is my supervisor, telling me the things that go on out here and the things that we were going to get into was appetizing to me because I grew up working on cars, and I mean, anything you could put your hands on, I’ll put my hands on him. So, he took me around and I just fell in love with it. It looked interesting because I’d never seen anything like that before. The first day I actually got in here to work on something, I opened up, I think it was a power pack, and it just blew my mind. I mean, instantly was culture shock because I’d never seen anything quite-
Neil Dudley: What do you think makes you like that mechanical kind of stuff? Like what drives that interest? Do you know?
Gary Hollis: The unknown, it’s just a rush. You look at it and it could be a multitude of anything. You look at it and it’s like, well, maybe it’s this, but it could be this. So, it just gives you some kind of- it gives me some kind of crazy rush just to get it in there to figure it out because I’m going to figure it out.
Neil Dudley: Right, I’ll say that is one of the cool things. We started launching bacon with Costco this year, and one part of that was this overwrap machine we had to get. Well, I know Gary, and we were on a tight timeline. Everybody that runs a plant or any kind of business knows anytime you launch a product, it’s always like just barely getting it done in time to deliver and all those things because there’s just a lot of stuff that goes into it. Well, that machine delayed and couldn’t get here. And then well, it shows up over the weekend, and Gary’s just the guy that’s on that thing, making sure it works. And equipment is so fickle, I want to say. It’ll be just working perfect, well, if you change the environment at all, move it into the cold room, move it out of the cold room. So that’s stuff you guys battle all the time. All right, Gary, thanks for that insight to your perspective and what you do on the team. We’ll come back in a minute, but I want to move to Henry. Henry and I are kind of buddies because when I come to the shop, Henry knows what I’m looking for. And 90% of the time, what is it?
Henry Vance: Super glue.
Neil Dudley: That’s right. I’m coming in there because I need to super glue the little PopSocket on the back of my phone or little piece of metal so I can magnetize it to something, or my hat band to my hat. I get my little- See, my brother made this hat band for me and it falls off if I don’t super glue it on there. So anyways, that’s a little insight into the cowboy, how I got some super glue. So, Henry, tell us a little bit about your story. Like what makes you tick and how did you become a Pederson’s team member?
Henry Vance: Well, whenever I first started here, I worked with a guy that worked in our maintenance shop, Roy, and he’s the one that really got me the shoe in here because I was already working with machinery kind of like that whenever I was working at my last job. So, it kind of gave me a shoe in to come into here, but it was so much different. Like all the equipment here is much different from what we were working on, but I like the complexity of it. I really like to I like to get in there. And at first it was a little overwhelming, really, because you get in there and you see these things, and it’s just so much, like if you open up the electrical cabinet in any one of these machines, there’s wires everywhere. You’ve got no idea what you’re looking at or where you’re going, and then you get into like manuals and other things like that. I really like the challenge of it because you never know what you’re going to get into. If you’re working on the same thing more than one day in a row, you’ve got a real problem. Other than that, it’s always something different. And that’s really what drives me is that it’s always doing something else. You never know what you’re going to come into in the day. And being able to get these people up and going in a timely manner, man, that’s the best feeling in the world whenever you know that you can go in there and you can solve this problem and you can get these people back on track and going again. So that way we can get our orders out.
Neil Dudley: Well, that’s one thing I’m proud of y’all for. I think it is important for listeners that maybe even run a business or are consumers of our product, just understand there are, I want to say a couple of guys, but really there’s more than just you guys. There’s a team of people behind the scenes that care that our production team is up and running, can make the product, that it’s running on equipment that’s safe. It’s not going to be a problem dropping screws into the package. I mean, that’s just a- I think people that consume bacon of any sort or sausage don’t necessarily get the insight-
Henry Vance: Right, I don’t think they have any idea.
Neil Dudley: Or understanding of how much you guys care.
Henry Vance: Yeah. And we’re well taken care of. We feel appreciated, and the actions that come from this company, it really makes you strive to want to move up, to want to do better, to want to come in and make sure things are working right.
Neil Dudley: Well, I mean, I appreciate that, but I think also that’s just a piece of you as part of what makes you valuable, what makes you guys just naturally valuable to any business, whether it’s Pederson’s or your previous employer or whoever you end up going to another day. I mean, I also take that perspective as like, I think Pederson’s actually wants what’s best for you in your life. And hopefully that’s working at Pederson’s. If it happens to not be, then whatever- if that’s a better thing for you, man, that’s what I want. Cause I care about you. You guys do a job, listen, I so badly wish you could come back with- if we had a little time travel thing that took us back 15 years when I was working on the equipment, you would just be laughing. I mean, which you guys I’m sure call these technicians pretty often. I mean, but stuff would break down. I was basically the maintenance guy. We just played all a lot of roles, sometimes Cody would be working on it. And we’re kind of from the cowboy process of if you hit it with a hammer and it didn’t work, just hit it harder.
Henry Vance: You have those days.
Gary Hollis: With everything, no doubt.
Neil Dudley: Let’s paint a picture about the continuing education you guys go through. Oh, okay, actually, I want to come back to that question, but first I think this will be really fun, I’m interested. Okay, Henry for you, what’s the coolest piece of equipment we have? All right. What’s the one you hate to work on the most?
Henry Vance: Yeah, I hate working on the multi-vac most. That thing has got to be the worst. There is no winning with that thing. I mean, you can get it running and it will be doing great-
Neil Dudley: How old is that though?
Gary Hollis: I’m pretty sure that’s the most antique-
Henry Vance: That’s got to closest to antique to the slicer we just replaced. But that one is awful. I think the coolest thing we have though is probably the [pick-n-pull]. I think that’s gotta be the most interesting piece of machinery. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Neil Dudley: Are you in there working on that thing very often?
Henry Vance: Absolutely. Well, I wouldn’t say all the time, but whenever you do have to get in there and work on it, you’re going to spend some time in there.
Neil Dudley: What do you work on most? Mechanical stuff or software stuff?
Henry Vance: Mechanical. Absolutely.
Neil Dudley: So, they support us with probably some dial in software support and we just have to do the mechanical piece or is it the software just works pretty well?
Henry Vance: Well, the software works pretty well. Every once in a while, we’ll have to do a little bit to that, but more than anything it’s mechanical.
Neil Dudley: Folks, are y’all hearing this? These guys work a wide range of disciplines from PLCs to software to hardware to nuts and bolts. I think it’s just a really cool picture to paint.
Henry Vance: It’s a fun job. It really is.
Neil Dudley: So, I think if you like puzzles, if you like mechanic type stuff, don’t discount or forget that these production plants all across the country need guys and gals just like you.
Henry Vance: And I’ll give it that. Whenever I first started here, I had no clue, no clue, that this part of the job even existed. Like as a mental state, I would have never thought that this is what happened behind the scenes of a bacon packaging plant, but coming in to here, initially being a little overwhelming, but now, I mean, you build all these relationships with these people.
Gary Hollis: A little overwhelming.
Neil Dudley: Talk about that. Were you ready to run the first-? How did you manage to stay? So, I’m like this, like when I get overwhelmed, it’s scary. How do you- so what kept you engaged and not leaving and going back to what you already knew there early on? How about that, Gary?
Gary Hollis: Well, I’m always the one that’s more interested in the unknown more than the stuff that I already know. So, if there’s something that I’m going to walk into that I have no idea what it is, that excites me. I mean, I get excited because one way or another, whether I have to spend 30 minutes or five days on something, I’m going to take that time and get it done without getting discouraged with myself or the situation because-
Neil Dudley: Man, that’s a good trait.
Gary Hollis: Well, that’s, I mean, that’s something you have to do when you’re working on things that you- I mean that are bigger than you, I mean, in a sense, or that’s going to cause people to be without work or without employment. I mean, that’s the main goal.
Neil Dudley: The equipment’s got to be running for the people to work.
Henry Vance: Absolutely. And speaking about getting discouraged with it, it’s you get almost to the brink of being discouraged, and then, because personally, I like to go in and I like to do the best I can. Before I try to contact somebody, I’m going to go through all the steps that I think I could possibly find. And then from there, once I start getting to almost discouraged point, then I call somebody. I call the tech support and they help me through whatever else it is that I have. But as far as like that anxiety feeling that you would get initially, like that overwhelmed, I think more than anything, my curiosity keeps me going than anything else, just because I want to know why. I want to know why it’s messed up and what I can do.
Neil Dudley: I would bet this is true – there’s a piece of equipment out there right now that’s not running perfectly. You’re thinking on a little problem that’s within it that you hadn’t got figured out yet. There’s just man, this, why, why does this chain seem loose? It’s brand new. This shouldn’t be like that. I mean, that’s just me pulling something out of thin air, but-
Henry Vance: You’re absolutely right.
Gary Hollis: Yeah, no doubt.
Neil Dudley: Would you describe yourselves as introverts or extroverts? Do you have a thought on that?
Gary Hollis: Hmm. I would say I’m a bit of both. I mean, it just depends on the situation. I know when I have something personally, like say the board inserter, which is my favorite piece of equipment to work on, just because to me, it’s not the biggest thing, like the pick-n-pull, which is straight robot, but it’s, to me, the most smallest complex piece of equipment that we have. I mean, as far as it’s when you get into say just the screen part of it, like the programs, you have 30 different screens, which have anywhere between 20 to a hundred different programs on it. So, I mean, it’s just, when I get into things like that, I’m totally introvert because my mind doesn’t ever quit. Like even I take it home most of the time.
Henry Vance: Yeah, go home and dream about working on stuff for real.
Gary Hollis: You get into those things, it’s just like, I don’t know. It’s fascinating.
Neil Dudley: It’s crazy how many people on the team are like that. Everybody says don’t take your work home, but if you love it, you can’t not take it home. I think about this company or some piece of it, how to make this podcast great, well, how’s the next customer going to come, how can I support the team? There’s something to think about within the business just easily. And I enjoy thinking about it. I have to guard against being kind of checked out when I’m with my kids and that kind of thing because I’ll be- and I think I would advise anybody to keep that balance or at least try to find that space in your mind to get away from work and be present with your family.
Henry Vance: That definitely takes practice.
Gary Hollis: That’s not a natural gifted talent, you could say.
Neil Dudley: Well, yeah, you have to work on it just like you have to work to get better at, I don’t know, troubleshooting a piece of equipment. I have to get work to get better. I have to spend time getting better at, what, sales or communication or leadership, any of those things, I need to spend time on it. So, you have to spend time. It makes sense to me that you have to spend time to get better at communicating with your family and being a part of that piece of our lives, that work’s not the only piece. I think that’s important. I love- that’s one great thing, one great good feeling I get is the bigger we build Pederson’s, the more we can do, the better we serve our consumers, our customers, and these people that are in this industry with us, the more guys and gals like y’all we get to hopefully make a great workplace for and find a way to make a good living for and all those things.
Henry Vance: Well, and the connections that you build while you’re here, like the people that you work with and the people that you work around, and when somebody needs help and then they know who to call because they know who works on their equipment at that time. You have all these great communication things that don’t necessarily have to leave the workplace, but the bond that you build while you’re here, this place really has- that’s changed a lot for me. I’ve never worked somewhere quite like here, the people around you. And I mean, even the people higher up from where you’re at know who you are, and they talk to you just like you’re a normal person. They don’t talk down to you or anything like that. And that’s new for me. This place really has brought that out.
Neil Dudley: Cool. I mean, I appreciate you saying that because that’s how we want the company to be.
Henry Vance: It really is that way though.
Neil Dudley: And I say, we, I mean, you are part of the we. We all make the company what it is or can be or should be.
Henry Vance: Absolutely.
Neil Dudley: Is it always easy? No. But that’s all right, we just grind it out together.
Henry Vance: That’s right. And that together is true. That’s the thing.
Neil Dudley: Okay, Gary, what about your least favorite piece of equipment to work on?
Henry Vance: Yeah, what you got?
Neil Dudley: You got to get a work order for this, he’s sitting here thinking, oh man, I’m not going to say that.
Henry Vance: You wait and see, we’re going to disconnect some wires and just let them have at.
Gary Hollis: Let’s see. My least favorite would probably- Well, we don’t have my least favorite anymore. The old [inaudible 18:20] slicer.
Henry Vance: That thing was rough.
Gary Hollis: That was probably my least favorite one to work on.
Neil Dudley: I mean, it’s crazy. Shout out to Don [Caseville 18:28]. Really, a lot of these equipment companies, I’m hoping to have on here as part of our vendor support, because at the end of the- the truth is they make great equipment.
Henry Vance: That thing lasted forever, I will give it that.
Neil Dudley: They support their equipment. It’s all just a dynamic, interesting thing. And without those vendors, without the guys, the engineers, whoever built that pick-n-pull, we wouldn’t have it. We’d be stacking stuff up in the freezer like we do in other parts of the plant. So, they’re an integral part of our success, and I want to highlight them. I appreciate them. I think you guys do too. That might be a thing I’d ask you is feed me those, who are some of the stellar ones that you work with that you’re like, man, Neil, let’s get these guys on the podcast. Cause they they’d be valuable and they do a great job for us. You don’t have to do that right now on the spot. But feed that to me. We’ll put it into the list. We’ll try to get them on.
Gary Hollis: Personally, right off the bat, I think Pack Pro because they’re always right on the spot. I mean, it doesn’t matter what it is.
Neil Dudley: Is that the board inserter? -that kind of makes sense.
Henry Vance: Right, no joke. It would, wouldn’t it? No, Riser’s pretty good too, though, man. They are on top of it. They’ll call you back almost immediately. And what is it? Units are through Marlin now?
Gary Hollis: Yep. Now Marlin. Yeah.
Neil Dudley: Man, that’s great. I hope those guys listen to this, and if you have their contact information, you ought to tell them we’ve talked about them, be listening for their names on the show. Okay so, continuing education, what do you do? Do you go to these places and get trained by these manufacturers? How do you stay on top? Because I know this stuff’s changing all the time. So what are we doing?
Gary Hollis: I mean, well, before all this COVID stuff, we got the opportunity to do stuff like that, but now it’s, they’re all shut down. They’re working from home. So, we don’t really get that. It’s just a get it as you go.
Neil Dudley: Teach yourself, which I think, I always think Google it. There’s probably some video on YouTube – YouTube, hey – that’ll teach you how to do whatever it is. And a lot of times you guys just instinctually know this is how this should work. You can kind of figure it out.
Henry Vance: And we’ll get new things and then they’ll send us schematics and stuff for what we’re doing. And if we have any problems, they’ll walk us through it step by step. They have no problem talking to us.
Gary Hollis: Or a lot of times in the field, it’s more like if I don’t know something, he’s more than likely going to know, or if he doesn’t know something, I’m more than likely going to know, and we just teach each other as we go.
Neil Dudley: Absolutely. Because each of you’ve had to dig through that problem. Y’all, don’t really walk hand in hand all around the plant. You’re both working on separate things all the time.
Henry Vance: We’ve each got our own little babies that we take care of, and those are our children. For have real though, you got to look at it like that.
Gary Hollis: He’s right though. That’s how it is. We call them our babies.
Neil Dudley: That’s absolutely right. So, for people that don’t know, I hope this gave you some insight into the realities of the team at Pederson’s, our culture, maintenance departments that are so crucial and integral in the process for bacon, sausage, ham, to be on your plate on your breakfast plate, on your Thanksgiving dinner plate. Anytime you’re having that, there’s just a really cool group of people behind it. And I’m so excited, I’m loving this opportunity to talk about these teams within Pederson’s. And just all this stuff is fun to me. I hope you enjoy it. I hope you find value in it. If you have questions, hey look, if you’re a maintenance man in another plant and you need access to these guys, I guarantee we’ll try to get the question to them. They might have the answer to it. They’re not afraid to help. I guarantee, they’ve got that. I’ve got that. So hit us up. We’d love to be a resource. And if you’re just a consumer and you’re driving by this plant in Hamilton, Texas, stop in, we’ll show you around.
Henry Vance: There’s always a tour.
Neil Dudley: That’s right. Thanks for doing this for me. I hope it wasn’t too painful. I know you’re not typically thinking that being on a podcast is going to be a part of your day. So, everybody knows, they didn’t even know they were doing this until about an hour ago. So, they just said yes, and I appreciate them for it. And I look forward to sharing more and more with everybody about the Pederson’s team and what we are all about.
Henry Vance: Yeah. Thanks for having us on.
Neil Dudley: Thanks fellas.
Hey everybody. Thanks for listening to this episode of the Pederson Natural Farms podcast. If you don’t mind go hit that subscribe button and check us out at pedersonsfarms.com. Thanks for listening.
(1:51) – Introducing Gary and Henry
(2:44) – Gary’s history with Pederson’s
(5:42) – Henry’s history with Pederson’s
(7:37) – The importance of the maintenance team
(9:42) – The most fun and most frustrating equipment to work on and dealing with discouragement
(14:00) – Introverted vs. Extroverted in work & the team dynamic at Pederson’s
(18:28) – Working with great vendors
(19:59) – Continuing education on equipment & changes during the pandemic
(22:08) – Wrap Up
The Pederson’s Natural Farms Podcast is produced by Straight Up Podcasts & Root and Roam.