“Rusty” is my miniature, imaginary produce manager that lives in my desk.
Rusty: I’ve been following your past few columns. Kinda stuck on a management kick these days?
Me: You have that right. It seems in different cities I visit, the produce departments are in rough shape.
Rusty: And the produce manager is nowhere in sight, right? Either that or there’s a produce crew on the floor, and the stock conditions are still wanting.
Me: How do we convey the message that great presentation equals the best produce sales?
Rusty: All I know is that even a good crew needs constant direction. They must be given specific areas to stock. They have to be trained to do the job right and held accountable for their performance.
Me: I know I used to try to be on the sales floor as much as possible.
Rusty: That would be a good start. Store managers must realize that the produce manager is the key person in the department and minimize obstacles that prevent him from being on the sales floor — like fewer and shorter meetings for one.
Me: And giving him enough labor so he can actually manage?
Rusty: I know if I’m just a clerk who can order, write a schedule and throw freight — as some store managers think — then I get buried in side projects, and I manage less and less.
Me: A good produce manager helps out on the sales floor all right, but his role should allow for flexibility so that he can float around the department at will.
Rusty: Or run. I like to redirect my crew if I need to, like a general on a battlefield. I frequently pull them away from a task that can wait to something that needs attention right away, like a depleted ad display or roughed-up wet rack.
Me: Gotta be on the floor to see this, crack the whip and react, right?
Rusty: I can see why you have an axe to grind on the subject. Usually I’m the grump in our little get-togethers.
Me: It’s the old produce manager in me. We all have a lot of pride and passion to, you know.
Rusty: I do know. Do things right. The produce department is like an orchestra, and the manager is the conductor. I suspect that we both want the same things. I’m off now. This conductor needs to be leading the troupe, er, troops.