For the members of a centuries-old industry charged with feeding the world, Jeff Dearduff has one piece of advice: “Stay small. Stay close. Stay strong.”

Coming from the person in charge of the supply chain strategy for Aryzta North America, one of the country’s largest wholesale bakery operators, that sounds like quite a challenge. Not really, if you ask him. In fact, keeping the “stay small” mentality is easy, he said, if you keep the focus in the right place.

“When I say, ‘Stay small,’ that’s directed at people,” Mr. Dearduff explained. “People need to keep their communities small, and that’s all about networking.” The key, for him, is in the associations — BEMA, the American Bakers Association, the American Society of Baking and even AIB International.

“If you took these associations away, this would just be another industry with a lot of big companies doing their own thing,” he said. “It’s these associations that make the industry close.”

By actively engaging in these groups, bakery professionals get the opportunity to address the same issues from different angles.

“It exposes you to different ways of looking at the same problem and coming up with various ways to deal with those challenges,” he added.