Times like these allow us the opportunity to discover what we are truly made of, and for me, perspective is key. Thanks to COVID-19 and social distancing and sheltering from home mandates, I have now been working from my home office for more than four weeks and have had time to reflect on what lessons I’ve learned from this experience. My decades in this industry have taught me much about crises and resiliency, and how to see obstacles as opportunities.
One of the lessons that I have gleaned from this time, in partnership with my experience moving through the ups and downs of the produce industry is that you should Plan for Future Opportunities. Play for the rebound. The produce industry is a resilient business. And there will be a new normal, with plenty of opportunities for those who have planned ahead. If you have people in your business who are focused on the day-to-day and the here and now, then make sure you are looking at three, six, even 12 months down the road. Do you have the right team for your future business model? Are you selling the right products? Is your customer mix optimal? I imagine those produce companies who were focused almost 100 percent on food service must be evaluating how they can diversify. Are there opportunities to partner with other companies—companies you would have never considered before?
Another lesson I have learned is: Make decisions that are best for your business. It was Winston Churchill who said, “No crisis should go to waste.” In business, during this crisis, many of us are being forced to make difficult decisions: decisions about people, suppliers, products, and customers. Let’s be honest, how many of us already knew that we had issues with people, suppliers, or customers? Probably all of us. But we never took care of making those tough decisions, because, well, we didn’t HAVE to. But now, at a time when we are being forced to make those difficult, life-changing decisions to assure our viability as businesses, we are making them. This allows us to re-prioritize and do a deep dive into our values and find that resiliency. Each challenge is an opportunity for discovery.
Always remember to take care of yourself first. If you are not in a good space you cannot take care of anyone else. That is why the most important priority is to take care of ourselves— physically and mentally. Getting enough sleep, a regular exercise regime (preferably outdoors for fresh air) and making healthy eating choices. During the workday, I make myself get up every hour or so, for a walk around the house. After work, walks or hikes are the highlight of every day (if it’s not raining) and having set sleeping hours has certainly made getting in this new work-from-home (WFH) rhythm easier. Social distancing i.e. not seeing friends in person has been a challenge. Connecting with friends—whether they are in produce or not—helps with our mental health. Even if you have to make a “Friends List” and schedule time each day to call at least one friend or see them via FaceTime, Skype or Zoom, staying connected will prevent that feeling of isolation.
And the lesson that should remain a steadfast practice rain or shine: Show gratitude. Be grateful. Whether you are grateful to be healthy, or grateful for your friends and family—or grateful for a paycheck or a nimble business strategy. At least once a day, I find myself being grateful, even in the midst of the trials and tribulations of running a company, having friends face health challenges, and not being able to see my family, coworkers, and friends in person. I can always find something that I am grateful for. And stopping, taking a deep breath and saying it out loud causes me to be a little bit calmer.
A few years from now, as we look back on 2020, we will say “I am a better person because of what I learned during that crazy year.” Let’s not forget, this is a great year to make lemonade out of Meyer Lemons.
Onward and upward,