“It’s just amazing that you can plant a seed and what springs up,” he said. “That drove me to study agriculture production in college.”
He tried growing sweet onions, blueberries, watermelons and tomatoes on some land his family owned outside Tyler, but he decided he wasn’t cut out to be a farmer.
“I always had more fun marketing,” he said. “It was really interesting to me that the industry could work collectively and that one (commodity) can benefit the entire industry.”
Marketing orders and promotion boards are an ideal example, he said.
“They’re perfect,” he said. “They’re not publicly funded. The industry controls them and can end them anytime.”
Succeeding in business never seems to have been a concern, Watson said, because he had the encouragement of his parents, who urged him never to give up and “keep focused on what you’re doing, moving forward.”
He gleaned additional inspiration specific to his life’s calling from Bob Smith, chief executive officer of the National Honey Board.
“We became fast friends because we had a lot of producers,” Watson said.
“At the end of the day, these programs have the same issues. They’re just different commodities. But we’re always challenged with communicating with our members and trying to figure out how to get an exceptional return.”
Watson also has taken some inspiration from his wife, Deborah McKeever, a native of Mission, Texas, who has worked for the California Strawberry Commission.
Whatever the source of Watson’s inspiration, he has earned respect across the industry, said Greg Leger, owner of Leger & Son Inc., a watermelon grower in Cordele, Fla.
“I think William is a natural leader,” Leger said. “We were one of the first commodity organizations, and he was the first president and the fact that there was competition in the produce section, and he brought us prominence because he thought outside the box.”
Watson foresees a bright future for the mango board.
“I think the mango board is going to be here for a long time,” he said. “I believe we have a system and a staple that we can do that with. I see the board’s future as being very, very bright.”