For years, I have fantasized about learning to golf. But I never had time. So, whenever I attend a produce conference and there is a golf tournament, I always feel a little regret in that I cannot participate. Golf in business is a great way to spend quality time with others, including customers.

So this year, I decided there are a few things I want to do now that I am an empty nester. On top of that list was to see if I like golf.

I was careful to set my intention to find out if I liked golf vs. deciding to absolutely learn it.

So, a couple of months ago, I was at breakfast with a produce friend and I casually mentioned that this year I wanted to see if I liked golf. He immediately told me that we have a mutual friend, who recently retired from the produce industry and is a great golfer. As a sideline, he is teaching golf! He shared his contact information with me.

Shortly afterward, I was on a business trip and had the opportunity to play nine holes with a few colleagues. Turns out, I can hit the ball (apparently, that is not always normal during your first-ever round). And, as luck would have it, one of my co-workers had a brand-new set of golf clubs his wife had never used, and he gladly gifted them to me.

So, I was set. I had a set of clubs. An instructor. All I had to do was buy a golf glove!

I’m not very far into learning golf: I’ve had a couple of lessons and hit about 500 balls at the driving range.

But my biggest learning thus far is that there are many parallels between golf and work:

Golf Clears Your Head 

Golf is time-consuming. It can take 5 to 6 hours for a full round. While some people complain that golf takes too much time, I see these hours as a time to myself to get away from the daily grind. Sometimes you need to step away from your work to clear your head. That “white space” of not thinking about work helps us be more focused when we return to our desks.

Concentrate on the Game

Just like in business, whether you are in sales, finance, operations, or marketing, when you are working you need to not be distracted by non-business things or it affects your performance. You must leave your personal issues at the door. When you are getting ready to hit the ball, you cannot be thinking about anything else but the game at hand.

Get a Grip

Literally! During my first two lessons, my instructor spent a lot of time reiterating how important it is to correctly grip the club. Not too tight. Hands in the correct position. In business, do we have the right tools and are we using them correctly? Or do we take shortcuts? Do we prepare for meetings in the same disciplined manner each time, or do we rush through (because we’ve done it many times before)?

Find a Coach

I knew when I wanted to learn golf that I needed a good teacher. I interviewed a few people, and price was not the deciding factor. I wanted someone with experience, who was patient and had a track record of coaching other players. All great athletes have a coach. Just because they have won or have a lot of experience, that doesn’t stop them from hiring the best coach possible. It should be the same in business. I recently hired a business coach to help me be a better CEO. Having a coach helps (especially if you are open to brutally honest feedback).

Practice Really Does Make Perfect

I guess this is kind of obvious in golf. Practice, practice, practice! But how many of us practice at work? If we are in sales, is the first time we give a presentation in front of the customer? Or do we practice ahead of time? It doesn’t really make sense to practice on the customer, does it?

As I continue my golf journey, I’ve noticed that I get frustrated with my performance sometimes. And it’s usually because I am not concentrating on my game. Or I was not visualizing what I want to happen. Or I got distracted by something around me.

And I sometimes get frustrated at work. It’s usually because I am not concentrating. Or I am not visualizing what I want to happen. Or I get distracted by something around me.

I’ve decided I do like golf. And the lessons I’ve learned are some that I did not expect.

Karen

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate? - Karen Caplan Golifing
Here is me golfing on a recent business trip.

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Last week I was fortunate to spend time in Stockholm, Sweden. I was attending a global conference of women leaders from around the world.

Although it was not possible to meet all 650 women personally (although I did my best), I did have a chance to interact with many of them. Several sessions updated us on Africa, the United Nations, Populism vs. Nationalism, and much more, but the most interesting session for me was on unicorns.

In addition to being a mythical animal, I learned that the term “unicorn business” refers to start-ups with a value of more than US $1 billion. When Cowboy Ventures founder Aileen Lee coined the term as a label for such corporate creatures in a November 2013 TechCrunch blog post, just 39 of the past decade’s venture capitalist-backed U.S. software start-ups had topped the $1 billion valuation mark. Now, Fortune counts more than 80 start-ups that have been valued at $1 billion or more by VCs.

The unicorn session was a panel made up of four CEOs of start-up organizations in Sweden. So the first discussion item was answering the question: Why are there so many tech start-ups in Sweden?

Sweden is second only to the Silicon Valley with innovation per capita (and more unicorn companies per capita) than any place in the world. The panelists talked about a few factors influencing this phenomenon:

It kind of makes you want to move to Sweden, right? Well, one of the downsides to Sweden is its location: there’s a lot of darkness when it’s not summer (in winter, some days only have six hours of light). This might be one cause of Swedes’ high depression rate.

One of the panelists talked about the Swedish Startup Manifesto she had written with a dozen other entrepreneurs, which was quite intriguing.

So, why did I find this panel so interesting? Because I know that the future of business, of invention, of innovation—or survival—will be due to new thinking. Twenty-five years ago, who would have thought that today’s innovation in the automobile industry would be driverless or electric cars? Or the impact on adjacent industries? Driverless cars will have a significant impact on the auto insurance business; electric cars will affect the oil industry and the power concentrated in OPEC.

In my business, most retailers (who currently control about 50 percent of all food purchases) probably thought the future of food would be to build better, bigger (or smaller) supermarkets. And build more of them.

Enter Amazon. Blue Apron. Farmers markets. Grubhub. Soylent.

Think about it. What are you doing to explore what the future holds? Maybe a trip to Sweden is in your future.

Karen

P.S. Here are some examples of a few of the amazing women who attended the conference in Stockholm:

Frieda’s Specialty Produce offers shoppers’ favorite tropical fruits in easy-to-merchandise, protective clamshells

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Rambutan - Lychee

Los Alamitos, CA (May 2017) – The popular lychee and rambutan are back in season with lychees beginning now and rambutan in late May. Frieda’s Specialty Produce offers this dynamic duo in bulk or in protective clamshells to help with merchandising, reducing shrink, and attracting shoppers.

“Despite their weird looks, both lychees and rambutan are quite delicate. Our clamshells help protect the fruits, extending the shelf life, and make them really easy to merchandise,” said Karen Caplan, president and CEO of Frieda’s Specialty Produce. “Shoppers often confuse the lychee and the rambutan—they’re both red tropical fruits of roughly the same size and similar texture. Our clamshells with bright, colorful labels reduce the confusion.

“Sampling of these often-confused tropical fruits may also help increase basket rings,” said Caplan. “And they’re really easy to sample—just peel and enjoy!”

The renowned lychee has rough, bumpy skin, while the rambutan has thicker skin covered in soft, hair-like spikes. Both fruits have juicy, grape-like flesh with one large inedible seed, but the flavors are completely different. Lychees are fragrant with a strong, sweet-tart flavor. Rambutan are more subtle with their sweetness.

Frieda’s “Luscious Lychees” from Mexico are available now in 10-lb. bulk and 12/12 oz. clamshells. “Rockin’ Rambutan” from Guatemala are set to start late May, and will be available in 5-lb. bulk and 14/12 oz. clamshells. Rambutan are also available from Vietnam and Mexico.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce has been inspiring new food experiences for friends, families, and food lovers everywhere since 1962. From kiwifruit to dragon fruit and from Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes to habanero peppers, Frieda’s has introduced more than 200 unique fruits and vegetables to the U.S. marketplace. Founded by produce industry trailblazer Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is owned and operated by Frieda’s daughters, Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins, in Orange County, California. Find Frieda’s on Facebook, @FriedasProduce, and Friedas.com. Inspire. Taste. Love.

One of the speakers at our daylong business conference in Omaha last week did not talk about corporations or investments. He talked about high performance, stress management, better eating choices, and getting a good night’s sleep.

Actually, when Andrew Herr got up in front of the room, I thought he resembled Christopher Reeve, aka Superman and Clark Kent.

Little did I know that the results of his research about high performance and stress management could indeed allow people to increase their personal performance to a Superman-like level. You can read about his work in Wired magazine and Ivy Magazine. As you’ll see, he’s a pretty remarkable guy—especially since he is only 33!

Frieda's Specialty Produce_Andrew Herr_Helicase

But what piqued my interest most was his discussion of the blue light effect on our ability to get a good night’s sleep. Andrew said it’s the blue light from the sky (after the sun comes up), which actually causes us to know it’s time to wake up. So when the sun goes down, it is only natural (with the absence of blue light) that we start to think about going to sleep. But since the advent of smart phones and our tendency to check them almost continuously, they may cause difficulty in falling asleep and having a restful night’s sleep.

Enter: Orange-tinted glasses.

Frieda's Specialty Produce -What's on Karen's Plate? - Karen's Blog - Orange Glasses

 

Andrew told our group that these $10 plastic glasses, if worn for a period of time before going to bed, actually block out the blue light (from regular light bulbs in our houses and from our smart phones and computer screens), thus signaling to our brains that it’s time to wind down.

The way he explained it to me was:

“Blue light, which comes from our overhead lights, phones, TVs, etc., tells our body to stay awake. We have special receptors in our eyes that our body uses to tune our circadian rhythm, our day/night clock, and blue light activates these to prevent melatonin production.

“Melatonin is a natural hormone that tells our brain it’s time to go to sleep. It may also have other benefits as an anti-inflammatory compound. So, when you wear the orange glasses, it blocks the blue light. Then your body starts producing melatonin naturally, and you fall asleep more easily and sleep better. Because we start to get drowsy naturally from the melatonin, hopefully this also prevents us from playing on our phones too long and keeping our brains alert and expectant too late, which also can disrupt sleep. So, overall, wearing the orange glasses for 90 minutes (at least 60, or you can wear them for a couple hours also) before you go to sleep should make falling asleep easier and the sleep more restful.”

I did a little research online when I got home and found an article in Popular Science magazine sharing the experiment done by a neuroscientist. I found it fascinating.

So, if you’re one of those people who has a hard time falling asleep at night or you wake up in the morning not feeling very rested, you may want to order a pair of these orange-tinted glasses and try them for yourself. (I found a wide range of orange-tinted glasses on Amazon. Search for “blue blocking glasses.”)

Andrew was kind enough to give me a pair before we left Omaha, and I have been wearing them every night since I got home. Funny thing, I have been waking up before my alarm goes off, feeling very rested each day. Not sure if it’s the effects of the glasses or that my body is so happy to be home, sleeping in my own bed.

If you try them out, be sure to let me know how they work for you!

Karen

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I spent last weekend in Omaha, Nebraska. That is, of course, the home of Berkshire Hathaway, the company that Warren Buffett (and Charlie Munger) are famous for. I am not a shareholder, but was fortunate to be invited to attend its annual shareholders’ meeting, always held in early May.

Advice I often give is: “Ask for what you want.” Well, while attending an agribusiness seminar a few months ago, I overheard a friend of mine talking about attending the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting last year. He mentioned that he was invited to attend by our mutual friend, Ejnar (pronounced eye-nar).

That sounded like something really interesting to do. So, at dinner that evening, I arranged to be seated next to Ejnar. And I asked for what I wanted. I half-jokingly said, “I’d like to come to Omaha.” And he, in all seriousness, said, “You are invited! And bring your daughter Alex.” Ejnar owns a private investment firm, and each year invites about 100 business colleagues to Omaha for a day of business presentations and the following day, they all attend the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders’ meeting. He encourages people to bring their children, so they can start to learn, at an early age, about investing and business.

So last weekend, Alex and I flew to Omaha and spent the first day with 100 total strangers from the dairy, grain, and indoor farming industries, plus many financial advisors and investors and more. Two people traveled all the way from Oman (in the Middle East), just to join this meeting. And several attendees came from Europe and Australia, too.

On Saturday morning, we were all up at 6, so we could be at the Century Link Arena when the doors opened at 7. We lined up, along with 40,000 shareholders. It was kind of crazy! We were lucky to get seats in the stadium. You can see from this photo that we’re in the “nosebleed” seats.

Frieda's Specialty Produce_BerkshireHathawayMeeting

What is so unique about this annual meeting is that Warren Buffett, age 86 (on the left), and Charlie Munger, age 93, sit on the stage and answer questions from the audience from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (with an hour break for lunch). They do not know the questions in advance and the questions are from regular folks.

Warren_Buffett_and_Charlie_Munger_YahooFinance

(In case you’re wondering, the box of See’s Candies’ peanut brittle is on the table for two reasons: They own See’s Candies and it is Charlie Munger’s favorite, so he munches on it during the entire meeting.)

You can read the transcript of the annual Berkshire Hathaway (B-H) meeting, but these were some of the high points for me:

  1. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of young people (under 20) were in the audience. I met a 24-year-old who attended his first B-H meeting when he was 10! It made me realize that it is never too early to start talking about financial investment decisions and business with your children. And when one of the young folks asked Warren and Charlie a question, they were treated with the same seriousness as those asked by older adults.
  2. Warren admitted that he is not a tech guy and that he really missed out on many tech stocks, like Amazon. B-H only invests in companies and industries that they understand. It was pretty amazing to hear their honest and authentic answers about their misses. (I don’t think Warren missed much, as his net worth, over $73 billion, is more than Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg’s).
  3. They talked about how important culture is in a business they invest in. That’s why they spend so much time studying businesses before they buy an interest. I’ve heard they may only make one new investment a year.
  4. They have a lot of cash on hand (over $90 billion right now). That tells me they are patient, thorough, and in no rush to invest if they don’t feel ready. How many of us could learn from that?
  5. When talking about their investment strategy, Charlie said, “Remember, the first rule of fishing is to fish where the fish are. The second rule of fishing is to never forget the first rule.”
  6. Berkshire Hathaway never misses an opportunity to promote the companies it owns. In the lower level of the arena, a giant trade show displayed products from many B-H companies. You could buy See’s candy (which I did), Fruit of the Loom underwear (with B-H logos), and stickers from Oriental Trading Company, plus get SWAG from Coca-Cola (B-H owns 9.4 percent of the Coca Cola Company, or 400,000,000 shares). No opportunity was missed to highlight their holdings.

Overall, it was a mind-expanding weekend and I hope to be invited back next year. Shares of Berkshire Hathaway stock are $245,000 per share (they have never done a stock split). I was happy to know they have Class B (non-voting) stock that goes for about $160 per share. I think that’s the only way I’m ever going to be a shareholder.

Karen-Caplan_Warren-Buffett

Here I am at the Coca-Cola booth with “Warren Buffett.”

Karen

P.S. Here are the 9 best Warren Buffett quotes from the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, from Fortune.

Shoppers are looking for something new to grill this season, including tropical fruits, specialty citrus, and fresh spices

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Grilled Tropical Fruit Kebabs

Los Alamitos, CA (May 2017) – According to an April 2017 report by the Institute of Food Technologists, three-quarters of U.S. homes own a grill and millennials are by far the most likely to grill. From grilled salads to vegetable-centric main courses to charred fruit sangria, millennials are looking to the produce aisle for something new to serve in the summer.

“According to a 2015 Mintel survey, millennials want meals to be social, healthy, and delicious. And grilling satisfies all of that,” said Karen Caplan, president and CEO of Frieda’s Specialty Produce. “It’s all of their favorite activities rolled into one—healthy cooking, experimenting with food, and sharing the experience in real life as well as online.”

It’s not just millennials, either. The Mintel survey also said that more Americans are pairing grilled meats with grilled fruits and vegetables more than stove-top or oven-baked side dishes like baked beans or potatoes.

“Grilled vegetables are becoming the norm, but grilled fruits, especially citrus, are trending with millennials and gaining popularity,” said Caplan. “Create signage to encourage shoppers to try grilling citrus and other tropical fruits.”

To help shoppers grill something extraordinary, Frieda’s recommends tropical fruits such as dragon fruit, cape gooseberries, and rambutan, and specialty citrus, such as pink and seedless lemons, and Cara Cara and blood oranges. Exotic aromatics like turmeric, ginger, and lemongrass are also used for marinades and glazes.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Thai Grilled Turmeric Chicken

Contact Frieda’s account managers today to get started on the perfect summer grilling product mix for your produce department, such as summer grilling favorites like Shanghai bok choy, baby pineapples, watermelon radishes, and pepper varieties from shishito and mini sweet to serrano and habanero.

About Frieda’s Inc.

Frieda’s Specialty Produce has been inspiring new food experiences for friends, families, and food lovers everywhere since 1962. From kiwifruit to dragon fruit and from Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes to habanero peppers, Frieda’s has introduced more than 200 unique fruits and vegetables to the U.S. marketplace. Founded by produce industry trailblazer Dr. Frieda Rapoport Caplan, subject of the 2015 documentary “Fear No Fruit,” the family company is owned and operated by Frieda’s daughters, Karen Caplan and Jackie Caplan Wiggins, in Orange County, California. Find Frieda’s on Facebook, @FriedasProduce, and Friedas.com. Inspire. Taste. Love.

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I’m a foodie! (Gee, no surprise there.) My exposure to innovative chefs has been mostly from dining at restaurants, watching them on TV (think “Chopped,” “Top Chef,” etc.), and seeing them at food events. So I was excited to learn about two different approaches to getting that awesome chef-food experience.

The first came to me in an unusual way. I was interviewing Darlene, a potential employee, whom we have since hired. As I was reviewing her resume, I noticed she spent most of the last year working for Outstanding in the Field. So I asked her about that.

Darlene told me that Jim Denevan and his food-loving group of friends started out at a vegetable farm near Santa Cruz, California, offering a dinner made with only local ingredients. That was in 1999.

In the last 18 years, Jim’s company and his farm-to-table dinners—always held right on a farm—have expanded so they are now held across North America, and even in France, Argentina, and Japan. Outstanding in the Field puts on 87 events each year and every single farm dinner is sold out in advance!

So get this: Once spring starts (and vegetables and fruits are ready for harvest), Jim’s team of cooks, servers, and foodies loads up a bus, trucks, and vans with people and props, and starts the journey across America. At each stop, publicized on Instagram, Twitter, and Outstanding’s website, the crew arrives at a field. Some of the crew then set up a long table and chairs for all the guests. In the field. Everyone else is cooking, oftentimes working directly with the farmers and local chefs until the guests arrive.

Each meal is based completely on locally sourced ingredients. That means the menu changes every time. Everyone in the crew of a couple dozen people does multiple jobs (whatever it takes), from prepping food and serving to answering questions about the food and menu. And they do this over and over, across the country, every few days, for months at a time.

After almost two decades, it’s exciting to know that Jim still has passion for celebrating the people whose hard work brings good food to the table, aka, all the people that are “Outstanding in the Field.”

I was fascinated with this model of true word of mouth (WOM) marketing. I cannot wait until I can coordinate my schedule to attend a dinner later this year.

The second innovative chef experience brings chefs to your home. This enterprise, MiumMium (French Canadian for “yum”), was started by a professional chef and entrepreneur, Chloe St-Cyr.

Her foodie-rewarding version of Uber connects potential customers with professional, and sometimes “damn good” amateur, chefs. The mobile culinarians go right into gourmands’ homes with all the food they need to prepare memorable dining experiences. And not just in the U.S. There are more than 11,000 chefs from around the world registered with MiumMium.

The way it works is kind of like other shared economy enterprises, one of the best being Airbnb. In an interview with Specialty Food Magazine, St-Cyr said that Uber and Airbnb are “monetizing an unused asset…there are millions of chefs around the world, why not create a platform where they can market their skills and earn some extra cash?”

So, chefs advertise their menus at prices they set on Chloe’s digital platform and MiumMium promotes the chefs’ work on the website. Consumers browse to select a location, menu, and chef that they want. And the food is expertly prepared by the chef in their home.

Can you imagine? If you want to have a few friends over for a chef-quality gourmet dinner, but don’t want to slave away in the kitchen all day, all you have to do is go on the website, find the chef you want, the menu you like, and pre-pay with your credit card. Then the chef shows up at your home at the appropriate time and prepares an amazing meal!

Last year meals cost about $48 per person, on average, including everything but the tip.

All I can say is, if you are a foodie or a wannabe foodie, many options are available for the food experience you’ve dreamed of. Uber meets Airbnb meets farmers market meets chef-prepared dinner. I’m already planning my next food experience. What about you?

Karen