In produce, it’s experience first, then knowledge

In produce, it’s experience first, then knowledge

The produce business as I have known it is a business of experience first and knowledge second. 

Many of the best and brightest people in this business are often not intellectual luminaries by any stretch of the imagination. They are hardworking masters of their craft who have learned from every mistake that they have made. They have been in the industry long enough to have witnessed the cyclical nature of the business many times, and carry an almost encyclopedic knowledge of different aspects of this industry.
 
The next generation of leaders in the produce industry should be open and eager to learn from its predecessors, and at the same time be willing to challenge the status quo in order to bring about new ideas and change.

What qualities will the next generation of leaders need to possess in order to become legends and icons themselves?

We need to be willing to get our hands dirty, walk the field, walk the box, shake hands, and earn the personal trust and respect of our vendors, customers, fellow coworkers and industry associates. 

One of the greatest qualities that I believe any person can possess is a desire to learn. I believe that the leaders of tomorrow will be extremely inquisitive, and will genuinely want to understand how and why things happen a certain way. This will allow for a great understanding of the business as it currently exists, a lifetime of growth, and will also pave the way for improvements to be made by questioning the current state. 
 
Secondly, I believe that success will come to those who are persistent and optimistic. I roll these together into a single characteristic because it is absolutely necessary in this business to be able to keep moving forward in spite of the misfortunes that are assured to materialize daily in an industry where entropy reigns supreme from farm to fork. 

New leaders will need the ability to make informed decisions and move forward with the confidence that all will end well.  

Lastly, I believe that the next generation will need to possess a more collaborative business style than in the past. Not only will it be necessary to possess the ability to collaborate between coworkers within each individual business more so than in the past, but also necessary to collaborate with colleagues at other businesses with regard to the industry as a whole. The stakes are too high for the industry to not work together toward common efforts and with a unified voice.    

We need to be willing to get our hands dirty, walk the field, walk the box, shake hands, and earn the personal trust and respect of our vendors, customers, fellow coworkers and industry associates. 

As the torch is passed from one generation to the next in this ever-changing, unpredictable and perishable industry, there will be a need to trust and at times take solace in the relationships that have been built and the experiences that have been shared. 

Alex DiNovo is president and COO of DNO Produce group of companies, Columbus, Ohio. E-mail him at adinovo@dnoproduce.com.