Mike Porter, president and chief operating officer of New Horizons Baking Co. (NHBC), Norwalk, Ohio, is a natural-born people person. He loves to talk to people, and he cares about them. But mentors throughout his career sharpened that love into true leadership skills that still guide him to this day and have contributed to his being chosen as Baking & Snack’s Operations Executive of the Year for 2022. One of the most significant is Tim Brown, a 2022 inductee into the American Society of Baking Hall of Fame and chairman of NHBC. Mr. Porter cited Mr. Brown’s integrity as one of his most shining characteristics, and it impacted not only Mr. Porter’s professional life but also his personal life. Mr. Porter came to see Mr. Brown as a father figure. 

“The Tim Brown you see in a meeting is the same Tim Brown you see on the golf course or at his home,” Mr. Porter said. “He showed me what a good businessman is, what a good father is and what a Christian man is, and he didn’t sit me down and have mentor meetings. He lives it by example.”

A philosophy of servant leadership, empowering people to be the best version of themselves, and caring for the customer were Mr. Brown’s foundation, and it’s a legacy Mr. Porter aims to continue. 

“We’re in the people business and without the people and the customer, we don’t exist,” Mr. Porter said. “We can never forget that.”

Cut from a similar cloth is Russ Bundy, owner of Bundy Baking Solutions, who has also had a major influence on Mr. Porter’s outlook and approach to leadership and business. Mr. Porter admires the care Mr. Bundy shows people, regardless of their status. 

“Russ had a party at his house, and it was full of people,” Mr. Porter remembered. “And I was a plant manager at the time, and when he talked to me, I felt like I was somebody. Tim Brown always made me feel like I was somebody. It wasn’t the fancy champagne he served at his party, it was all the people who showed up and the way he treated all of us.” 

Others he credits his success to include John Widman, retired senior vice president of operations of NHBC, who helped Mr. Porter make connections in the industry. Mr. Porter described Bob Creighton, former vice president of sales for NHBC, as a phenomenal salesperson who showed him how to put his family first. Mr. Creighton also was awarded Baking & Snack’s Operations Executive of the Year award in 2002. 

“As I was learning how to navigate the blessing and curse that is working in the baking industry and its demands on the family, I was able to see a man who has been successful in the industry, but you can see that his family comes first,” Mr. Porter explained. 

Sitting in the leadership position he holds now, Mr. Porter aims to spend his time doing what his mentors did for him: providing opportunities, trusting his team and helping them be the best version of themselves.

This article is an excerpt from the December 2022 issue of Baking & Snack. To read the entire special feature on Operations Executive of the Year, click here.