It is a dog eat dog cutthroat world, right? Wrong, not when it comes to the food business. Yeah, maybe it’s a little more so at the big CPG level. But, for the most part, it’s an industry filled with people rooting for you, who want to help you succeed.
This may sound a little idealistic yet, I can cite countless examples that support this hypothesis. Sure, there are a few jerks out there but there is a lot more kindness than there is cruelty.
I see it every day. I’ve been a regular beneficiary of it, and I hope throughout my career, I’ve done my part to pay it forward.
If you are an entrepreneur with an emerging brand, raise your hand, seek out the collective wisdom that exists in the business. You don’t have to pave the path alone.
There are teachers all around you. They’re often cloaked as competitors, buyers, brokers, and distributors. I’ll share a secret, there is a magical tool that can be used to unlock the door to this community. What is that tool you ask, it’s a well-crafted question.
For whatever reason, people are reluctant to ask questions. Maybe they are fearful they will seem foolish or ill informed. But, that is just a story. The truth is, in my experience, I’ve never asked a question that has not been warmly answered.
I’ve always sought and found industry Yoda’s. There are so many people who have made so many mistakes and are more than willing to share the lessons learned in hopes of seeing you avoid the same suffering.
Early in my career, I had a meeting with a buyer at a large retailer. He started using unfamiliar terms. I got this lump in my throat and felt foolish and vulnerable. If I could just fake it for a few more minutes, I thought at least I could get out of there without looking stupid and try to figure out what the heck he was talking about.
However, instead of just trying to fake it, I stopped him and asked a question. Not only did he take the time answer, he invited me to meet him at a store and walk the aisles so he could explain the concepts in more detail. Every two weeks when I went to call on him, I had a question ready to ask. I’ve always been grateful for his generosity and willingness to teach me, and he wasn’t the only one who did it.
Today, I often get the chance to be the teacher, but I will forever remain a student. If someone reaches out to me with a question, I will absolutely take the time to provide a thoughtful answer. When I have a question of my own, I don’t think twice about reaching out to my network for answers.
This is a crazy, tough business. To think that anyone of us has all the answers or is even capable of figuring it all out is just wrong. In the more than 25-years I’ve spent in the business, there have been a lot of hands pulling me up.
This is a community. I encourage you to ask questions, leverage the collective wisdom and intelligence. If there is any question I can answer for you, just let me know.
Thanks for reading.