PMA Fresh Connections - Retail April 10-11, 2019 - Philadelphia, PA

Joe Produce: If It's Not Broke, Should You Break It?


"I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

I bet you can guess whom that quote is from. Now, if everyone can just learn how to be like Mike we may be able to see the struggle between successes and failures in a different light. For those of us who need to polish up their game a little, here are some thoughts for you to chew on.

As a tennis player, aka “weekend warrior,” I’m used to failing and forgetting. Tennis has helped me get better at failing and winning over the years. In tennis, you’re out there by yourself and solving problems on the fly—one point at a time. Tennis is a sport where you can actually end a game with more points won—and still lose the match.

Tennis is a lot like life, especially life in the produce business. Whether you’re farming, selling, or buying, “you’re only as good as your last load.” How many times have I heard that over the years? And like tennis, this business is riddled with failures and wins. Either way, you learn and move to the next point, order, game, load, set, season, match...or job.

I find myself quoting the famed tennis player turned commentator/tennis-philosopher—Martina Navratilova. “If you have a winning strategy, stick with it. If you have a losing strategy, then change it.”

It’s simple but sometimes hard to do.

At times, when we believe that things are going well, we feel the need to pivot and change things up. We hear it all the time, “If it’s not broken, then break it. Make it better! Improve it before your competitor does! Cannibalize yourself first.”

The list goes on, and in certain scenarios, all those quotes make sense. However, in tennis, and sometimes in life, you should stick with what is working and just keep on winning. I can’t tell you how many times that I have had to resist changing a winning strategy and then won the game. When that happens, I am almost always amazed that the other guy did not, and/or could not, do anything to change the momentum.

Conversely, I have been on the receiving end of the situation. I’m getting my tail kicked and refuse to change my game to adjust to my opponent’s winning ways. I’m losing, but, gosh darn it, I KEEP ON WITH THE SAME LOSING PLAY!

A candidate and friend recently called me and was notably frustrated. He has been sending out his resume to select companies and getting some phone and face-to-face interviews, and still no win (new job) yet. He shared his frustration and the fact that he has all the credentials, experience, skills, and desire to get, and do, these jobs.

My advice? If you have a winning strategy, stick with it. If you have a losing strategy, then change it. I admit it, I was happy to interject Martina’s quote into the conversation. But it’s so true.

To that end, we changed his resume and accentuated the attributes that were not obvious. This particular person’s professional experience clearly does demonstrate his sales experience, sales ability, and relationships. So, we came up with a new strategy: develop a page to accompany his resume that clearly demonstrates his sales experience, skill-set, and customer relationships. Also, we decided it was a great idea to speak with a couple people with whom he interviewed to receive some constructive criticism—look at it as an opportunity.

And you know what? If this doesn’t work, then he’ll adjust his strategy from there.

I do hope that he has adopted the tennis player’s other gift of short-term memory. Win or lose, when the point is over, it’s over, and you move on to the next…and pick up some knowledge and experience at the same time. I know that seems tough, but what it really means is that you learn intellectually and let go emotionally. It can be done, and takes practice.

Sports and life are far over-weighted in failures. We simply need to learn that we can look bravely and wisely into the future, and yes...move on to that next “point.”

Rex Lawrence, Founder and President of Joe ProduceRex Lawrence, Founder and President of Joe Produce, was born & raised in Salinas, CA. His 28 years in the produce industry includes positions in senior sales, marketing & management for some of the industry’s leaders. Rex and his team truly understand that finding the perfect “fit” is about more than matching a skill set with specific job requirements.