Founding a Company

First Interstate Bank Loan, 1981

In late 1980, General Host announced that it intended to sell its meat operations, but no buyers were found. Therefore in early 1981, General Host requested that Tim consider buying some or all of the business. After difficult negotiations, an agreement was reached and Bar-S Foods Co. (“Bar-S”) commenced operations on August 28 through a management leveraged buyout involving the acquisition of three plants, 10 distribution centers, brand names, and other assets of Cudahy. But, this entrepreneurial venture meant putting everything – reputation and financial resources – on the line. As principal founder, major stockholder, and Chief Executive Officer, this was to become his “baby” and “life’s work.” It was a fresh organization that could be molded with his values and philosophies, and a new company that could be built from the ground up with his vision for the future.

The start-up of operations at Bar-S was very difficult and traumatic. It involved opening facilities with untrained employees, establishing a basic system of management for all aspects of the business, creating sound operating policies and procedures, retaining customers in spite of marginal performance, and countering aggressive competitive activities. The biggest challenges were in manufacturing with 500% labor turnover; poor productivity, quality, and yields; and unreliable delivery service. These major operating problems were significantly magnified and compounded by the former unions of Cudahy Company. They aggressively campaigned to unionize Bar-S and instituted 22 unfair labor charges, violent picketing, election proceedings, consumer boycotts, and lawsuits. At times defeat almost seemed inevitable – but the organization refused to give up and never stopped fighting for survival. However, the battle exacted a steep price. Losses the first year exceeded $5 million, which severely strained the Bar-S’ modest financial reserves given its highly leveraged position. Ultimately Bar-S prevailed, and this epic struggle created an organization hardened with knowledge that the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire.