Sticking to rule book isn't the only way to manage produce - The Packer

Sticking to rule book isn't the only way to manage produce

01/03/2014 12:47:00 PM
Armand Lobato

Kevin NiermanWeekly retail columnist Armand Lobato has worked with many produce managers over the years. Here’s a story about one of those managers. The names of people and businesses have been changed so they remain anonymous, but the story is true.

Little did I know the actual battle lines extended an additional 8,600 miles to the east and were decades old. For Max Reese, his war will never be completely over.

“If you’re looking for Max, he’s off today,” Wayne, the store manager, said. “But go ahead, take a look around, then we’ll go over your notes.”

Max was the produce manager at this location, and I was his new supervisor. Max, like most of the managers I oversaw, was older than me and had more experience. I was assigned the task of keeping guys like Max in line.

My territory was the southern half of the state, overlooking the growing chain. I lied about my age at 15 to join the first chain I worked for, and earned a series of promotions.

I was the come-in-early-and-stay-late employee and as a produce manager myself, had quickly ascended to the top tiers, having a knack for turning around poor-performing locations. By my late 20s I had even opened several new stores — choice assignments usually reserved for the best in our company.

I built on this no-nonsense reputation when I became a produce supervisor. I was young and ready to embark on a new string of accomplishments. My job was to make sure stores were maintaining company standards, such as building certain displays in certain areas, having only so much inventory on hand and sticking within purchasing, supply and labor budgets. These were all the things that I used to do and more. I took zero guff from my older charges, and despite my youth I was determined to become a force to be reckoned with. It was my-way-or-the-highway, as the saying goes, and I already had a hand in demoting a couple produce managers and built up the profit base in my area. I was on a roll.

And then came Max, as unconventional a produce manager as anyone could imagine.

Like the other managers I supervised, he was “old” — at least 40 — and had the stereotypical hardhead image and was described as being “set in his ways.” This didn’t matter to me.

I had heard it all before, or so I thought. I stuck to the set standards and wished guys like Max would do the same, but he didn’t. This was my third visit to his store in the past few months and he had done almost nothing to react to the direction I gave him.

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Judy Miller    
January, 06, 2014 at 09:10 AM

Excellent story. Thanks for sharing it.

Cynthia McQuaid    
Dayton, Ohio  |  January, 06, 2014 at 09:49 AM

I appreciate the refreshing insight ~ while you were managing people, you recognized what people are managing, themselves. Integrity like this matters to some of us, regardless of fiscal goals. Thank you.

Kellee Harris    
Portland, OR  |  January, 07, 2014 at 09:33 AM

Armand...thank you for reminding us all that there are always two sides to every story, and that people are the true assets to every company.

Adam Peltz    
concord,n.c.  |  January, 07, 2014 at 04:13 PM

Really enjoyed the story! Customer base and demographics vary from location. My hats off to Max.

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