My father did not finish high school, yet was a very successful businessman. Every Saturday morning, for as long as I can remember, he had breakfast with his doctor and his attorney. Both were childhood friends and both were educated well beyond their degrees. Dad sat quietly, taking in every word of subjects that he had little knowledge of and even less interest in. I was always amazed at this behavior from a man who was usually vocal and sometimes even articulate. He told me “always hang out with people who are smarter than you”. I am just now beginning to see the wisdom in that statement.
Over the years I have become involved in produce industry groups, local chamber of commerce groups and even more intimate CEO roundtable groups. If you are willing to stop talking about yourself and listen to what others are doing in their lives, you can learn a tremendous amount. The manufacturing process of a snowplow has exactly zero to do with fresh produce handling, yet the lean practices implemented on that snowplow shop floor translates immediately into refrigerated warehousing operations. When we needed a specialized piece of food processing equipment, I called on two CEO acquaintances in town (one makes breadsticks and the other makes frozen pizza). Within 2 hours I was offered the opportunity to test my own product on the specific piece of equipment that I was looking for. That is the power of networking.
There are so many opportunities to get involved with peers at the local, regional or national level. It is incumbent upon leaders to provide opportunities for their teams to get out and interact with others in similar roles, be it in fresh produce or any other industry. Many peers have opened their doors for me at a moment’s notice and I have vowed that our company will do the same. You never know which smart person will walk through the door next.