We recently hosted a plant tour comprised of 40 franchisees of a national restaurant chain. This was one of the most interesting exercises we have ever done. We needed to look at our business from the standpoint of the tour participant who had never been intimately involved with fresh produce before. Sure, they had worked with it in the back of the restaurant, but all they really knew is that it came off of the distributor’s truck a few times per week.
I had the opportunity to ride the tour bus en route to the plant and give some background on what we do and why we do it. It truly was a value statement presented to those who buy our value added products and services. Next we talked about the food safety aspects of what we do and how it would impact them on the tour; sign in, don mocks and hairnets, remove jewelry, wash up and so forth. Finally we a little lighthearted story about the lifecycle of a tomato plant as we pulled up to the ‘tomato plant’.
Our various operations teams in the facility had prepared in advance the topics that they would cover, knowing full well that they only had 20 minutes each to present a lifetime of experience. That makes you drill down to what is truly important and find a way to communicate it quickly and effectively. All of the industry jargon had to be tossed out the window and you could not assume that the audience knew anything about the topic being covered.
The busload was broken down into 3 smaller groups and each had a guide to move them safely between areas. The leaders in each area presented their concise expertise three times as the groups rotated through the facility. At the end, we headed to the conference room for a 5 minute debrief. We quickly learned that a snack and a memento were the best things that could be offered following a tour. We hadn’t planned for that but reacted on the fly.
Many of our folks were a little nervous having so many people at once, but we planned and executed well. Next we will debrief and review what we did to make it better for the next time. Taking a step back and looking at your business like an outsider is a valuable use of time.