Fear of speaking ranks above even fear of dying. This means that most people would rather be eulogized than be the person delivering the eulogy. Go figure.
So when I was invited to speak to a group of retailers in February hosted by Caito Foods, Indianapolis, I wondered if I could pull it off, never having had to speak to more than a roomful at a time. Marketing director Joe Himmelheber was a terrific host, however.
“You’ll do fine,” he said, and assured me I would be among friends, as many on his staff were fans of The Packer and regularly follow The Produce Aisle.
The theme of Caito’s educational seminar was “The Road Less Traveled,” inspired by the famous Robert Frost poem. I was honored to be among several impressive speakers during the two-day event and just wanted to deliver a respectable message.
My message, as it turned out, wasn’t so much about produce but about the ever-changing business environment — the unpredictable positions many find themselves in: Companies merge, get sold or fold completely. Good people get upended in the process, and positions are eliminated, job descriptions are rewritten.
It was a fairly simple message. I called it the “Three B’s.”
- Be happy. I admit that’s a superficial, Pollyanna-like statement, but I believe by putting on your best face and keeping an upbeat attitude that positive things can result, even when change occurs.
- Be open to change. For as we all know, it’s the only constant. If produce is truly the passion, I encouraged them to pursue this accordingly. Along the way, recognize change is right around the corner. Allow yourself the flexibility to react.
- Be prepared for when change happens. Aspire to take on new responsibilities, including encouraging produce managers to become store managers — or more. This doesn’t mean abandoning your produce roots, but carry them to higher levels, where perishable backgrounds are traditionally weak.
In this vein I encourage managers to add skills and get more education.
I wanted to combine a passion-with-structure message — especially to those in the early stages of their careers.
If you had a half-hour and three points to cover, what would you say to a group of young produce managers?
Armand Lobato works for the Idaho Potato Commission. His 30 years of experience in the produce business span a range of foodservice and retail positions. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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