Meat+Poultry - August 2018 - 18


Rupp divides his time
between his office in Dakota
Dunes, South Dakota,
and visiting the three beef
plants he oversees.


carpentry. That's my outlet, I guess you'd say."
He even worked as a carpenter as a side hustle
back early in his career at the beef plant. From
roofing to deck building to pouring concrete,
Rupp had a gift and a love for construction and
with a more predictable schedule, he picked up
plenty of jobs requiring his expertise.
When he was given the chance to take a
promotion that didn't require hours of cutting
meat at the plant, Rupp had to make the
difficult decision to give up his extra job as a
carpenter to focus on his career. The stepping
stone into management began with Rupp
being given the chance to start up a program
for training new workers. This would include
teaching new employees how to use knives,
sharpening knives and any skills specific to the
part of the plant they were hired to work in. As
one of the first 12 trainers in this new initiative,
Rupp found himself bored with the job after
about six months. "It wasn't moving fast
enough," he says, "so I went into a supervisor
position," which was anything but boring. The
fast and furious pace of this role challenged
Rupp. It taught him to respect the supervisors
as some of the hardest-working employees in
the plants to this day.
"That was a jolt to the system," he recalls
of the rigorous and demanding work. After
working as a supervisor for about nine months,
Rupp transitioned to what was known as a

MEAT+ POULTRY | 08.18 |

floater, filling in for other supervisors and
working on special projects. As he pursued the
next rung of the corporate ladder, which was
to be a general foreman, he was required to
work as a training coordinator. It was then he
learned something about himself and his skill
set. "I'm a lot better at training people on how
to cut meat than I am in a classroom training
environment," he says, and at about the time
he realized this, a night-shift general manager
position became available, which he eagerly
stepped into. The transition, he says, was
natural and comfortable.
In 1999, he applied for the operations
manager position at the plant and got it. That
was when he had to stop the side hustle. The
Finney County plant wasn't growing much at
that time, so Rupp moved to the mammoth
Dakota City, Nebraska, plant just after Tyson
acquired IBP in early 2001. It was a lateral
move to be the operations manager there with
the plan to take over as general manager in two
years, filling the position of a retiring GM.
The transition wasn't jarring from a volume
standpoint, as both plants were about the same
in terms of operating capacity. For a variety
of reasons though, "the first year here was the
toughest of my career," as he adjusted to a new
plant in a different state, working with new
employees after uprooting his wife and family
to live in a community where they didn't know

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