For Brian Miller, there was never any choice: He had to go into the produce business.
“I kind of grew up in the produce business,” said Miller, who has chased the dream professionally for nearly a quarter of a century, including the past three as director of business development at Coachella, Calif.-based Prime Time International Inc.
The company is a year-round grower-shipper of peppers and asparagus but also supplies tomatoes, watermelons, cucumbers and other items seasonally.
Miller’s stepfather was in the produce business, on the marketing side, and that always seemed to have a strong pull for Brian.
“That kind of drew me toward working in the industry in this neck of the woods,” he said.
Miller, a native of Indio, Calif., focused his education on the business, as well; he earned a bachelor of science in ag business/marketing at Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo.
Now, he not only markets: he builds, with Prime Time, which was founded in 1993.
“From the marketing side, I handle relationships with customers on a higher level and work on forward business for the company and maintaining current relationships,” Miller said.
“I also have a lot do across the board with all the products, but essentially it’s the marketing and business development.”
Miller characterizes his leadership style as “leading by example.”
“I enjoy coaching and mentoring and really allowing people to use their talents,” he said.
“I enjoy working. and I think that rubs off. I always come to work with an energy. Other people, I think, get that sense of energy.”
Miller says he is passionate about all issues that affect the industry.
“I’ll be honest — I’m about growing the business,” he said.
“You’ve got to be about growing the business. We’ve got to be able to bring the right people in this business, and I think we are. There’s a lot of talented people who want to work hard.”
Mentoring is crucial to growing the business, Miller said.
“I think it’s critical: if you’re not growing people in the business or sharing information and knowledge, you’re really not contributing,” he said. “That’s the only way to make yourself and your industry better.”
The produce business is built on legacies left by one leader or another, but Miller said he doesn’t fancy himself in those terms; he just wants to do his part.
“I’ve never been driven by ego,” he said. “I think it just comes back to building the company — a company that I came to grow and build and continues to thrive even after I’m out.”
“A legacy is relationships,” he said. “We build strong relationships with our growers, our customers. I think building relationships and having to continue to foster them and pass them on is what’s going to continue the business running. Without relationships, the business doesn’t grow. You’re not learning about your consumer and customer if you don’t have relationships.”
Miller has lived those words in his three years at Prime Time — and beyond, said Mike Way, Prime Time’s president.
“He’s an absolute professional — dedicated to his job, great with all employees, a mentor to the younger employees,” Way said. “He’s a great guy to have around.”