I had the chance to chat on May 28 with Julie  Krivanek, founder and president of Krivanek Consulting, Inc., Denver, Colo.

2:15 p.m. Tom Karst: When you started your consulting business after your career at Amoco, when did your first produce client show up? What were first impressions of the industry?

Chat - Julie Krivanek

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2:16 p.m. Julie Krivanek:  I started my business like most startups. I hacked around a little bit. I started with a collection of services and industries. My beginning was focused functionally on leadership, strategy, executive coaching, the businesses I worked with focused on high tech and communications.  Then, in 1994, I was hired by now United Fresh to be their first speaker to class one of their United Dupont leadership program. And so if you wind back time, that was day one of exposure in the produce industry. At that time it was just another client and just another engagement.  But  people in that class were some of my very first clients and  United was one of my very first clients; not just  for that program,  but for their strategic  planning process. I can just tell you, for a person that does business planning, I didn’t  plan the best thing that ever happened to my business. I think it is sort of ironic and hysterical but that’s what ended up happening.  So this summer I will be in Seattle speaking to class 16 of the United leadership program. That was the seed of my love affair with the produce industry.

2:13 p.m. Karst: Is help in strategic planning what most of your clients are looking for?

2:14 p.m.  Krivanek:  It is. In this incarnation of Krivanek Consulting, strategic planning is about 75% of what  I do and I work maybe 90% of my time in the fresh produce industry. I often get a call for other things, but I will urge companies to start with a strategic business plan. People will say, “Come in and create a succession plan.”  I ask who  is succeeding whom for what purpose.
Companies can jump into a marketing plan or jump on something that is the latest and greatest leadership thing, but they kind of float around. It is my very firm conviction that once a business plan and strategic direction is in place, agreed upon, analyzed, decided, communicated, implemented and shared,   everything else follows.

2:17 p.m. Karst:  When you sit down talk about strategic planning, what are the things you do? How do you get that kick started?

2:18 p.m.  Krivanek:   When I worked with Standard Oil and its subsidiaries, I hired people like me to come in and do strategic planning. Consultants would come in and be inefficient and create long, complicated and laborious processes that in the end got put on the shelf and never got implemented, or made it so mystical that nobody could figure out what they were doing. What I developed is a business process design just for the produce industry. It is called strategic planning made simple. When I talk to companies, I tell them basically what the  process is in its simplest form, it is a gap analysis —where we are now and where we would like to be.

2:22 p.m. Karst: Are there common issues in the management of family produce businesses?

2:23 p.m.  Krivanek:  In  the dynamics of family business, the one thing that makes it crazier than other businesses is that you have more intimate knowledge of the players,  so you know “the whatever” about each other and each other's respective clan and the sensitivity level is ratcheted much higher.  Work can often be the place where family differences and issues are mediated; sometimes the true purpose of business becomes veiled and the business is really the sustenance of the family versus something outside the four walls, or competing with others in the market place for higher efficiencies, profitability and a grander space.  Is doing a strategic plan good for family business? The only thing that trumps personalities and agendas is a shared direction.
That’s  what comes first, not just for your family, but for the hundreds of families that will come after. So finding direction, becoming expert and informed enough to make good decisions about direction and then the process of getting behind it and making it happen; once that occurs, and people in the organization share it and they start working on it and  they start making it happen and see successes, which always happens. Then people become less about my disagreement with Jimmy and they come more about where we are headed and how do we get there.

2:24 p.m. Karst: If there is one thing produce managers could do, what would be the first thing you would suggest?

2:25 p.m.  Krivanek: : I’ve got three things for you. first of all, tell them to create a strategic planning direction. Many managers are struggling with many agendas; they need to stop wasting time with a lot of that and just go boom, “This is where we are headed and let’s go win at this.”

They  ought to do is build a human machine that is capable of giving their company direction. You need to spend time developing leaders, developing teams and including a training and development budget so people get new skill sets.

The third thing is to look deeply at your philosophy of operating your business and update it. Today’s business environment transparent, it is inclusive it is open. Don’t create a strategy and not tell anybody. I don’t organize a department without talking  to people who are working in the department. And the generation that is coming (into the workforce) will not work in the ancient environment of most produce businesses.  This generation wants to know where the business will be in five or ten years and it wants to know what schools you are going to send me to make more capable this year.

2:26 pm. Karst:  Do you think it Is it important for produce marketers to be a part of the social media scene? How do you use Facebook and Twitter – and where can readers find you in that space?

2:27 p.m.  Krivanek:   The  best place to find me is Linkedin and my website (www.krivanekconsulting.com). In terms of the industry social media is an evolving and exciting medium and definitely has its place as a component of a marketing program. Facebook is particularly effective for marketers who have a consumer focused product. People love finding recipes and tips. It also helps growers “tell their story” to a wider audience. Linkedin is terrific for professional networking and discovering the background and qualifications of an individual. It is also a great forum for discussion groups with people of like mind.