Fresh produce is an industry that leaves a lot up to chance. In spite of our best intentions and efforts to control things, at the end of the day many things are left to uncontrollable variables that decide for us how things will happen.
The most obvious variable is the weather, which controls the fate of most of the industry. There is also variability in the availability of labor, the transfer of goods, and, among other things, the regulations that are set in D.C.
This is not to mention the innumerable variables that are in place when dealing with business growth, new ideas, customer acquisition, etc.
In an industry where chaos reigns supreme, how much is luck versus skill, and what separates success and failure?
As far as I can tell, individual skill in this business is not as much about innate talent or God-given brilliance as much as it is persistently applied hard work and the lessons learned from failure in those endeavors. Many of the most skilled people have simply made more mistakes than others, and through the experience of dealing with issues have become skilled.
When I am asked by someone who is new to our industry how I came to know so much (and I am very far from considering myself among the most skilled), I can honestly say that I have messed things up about every way possible before, and I just know how not to do things. Like most, I have learned more from the things that I have gotten wrong than the things that I have gotten right. In the same way, companies like individuals that are able to persistently work through their problems while learning from failures are much better situated to attain success.
One might imagine that luck and skill are at nearly opposite ends of the spectrum. Skill ought to be attained over time and luck must be randomly applied. However, I believe that luck and skill are very closely tied together, and that they feed each other.
Everyone has heard the term “you make your own luck,” and while this is definitely true to a point, I believe that there is more to it. Skill gives people the confidence to take risks, and persistently taking calculated risks when opportunity arises is what makes luck happen.
When someone is lucky, they feel more confident to take calculated risks, and the cycle repeats itself. The key is to never get discouraged to the point of despair, and never give up. It is so important to have a positive outlook on things and to know that persistence and hard work does pay off.
Also, never fall into the trap of resting on your laurels for too long — if you are successful, begin looking for the next calculated risk or a hungrier, luckier competitor might knock you off.
The people and companies in this industry that apply this will be successful, even if it doesn’t happen at the time or in the way that it was originally anticipated.
Alex DiNovo is president and COO of DNO Produce group of companies, Columbus, Ohio. E-mail him at [email protected]