Embracing change, maintaining integrity and authenticity, and defaulting to transparency—these are my watchwords in business and in life. In the piece I contributed to April’s issue, I spoke of becoming a catalyst and all the moments that brought me to where I am today. If being a catalyst means bringing action and change, to me it also means bringing humanity to everything you do. There are mountains of research that support that this approach is not a soft science, but a business philosophy that will have a positive impact on anyone’s bottom line.
I sometimes think of myself as an “accidental consultant.” What better thing to do with this mosaic of experience I collected over the past 36 years? If you recall, in Part One I named several “catalyst” people who opened doors and took chances on me. Enter a few more: Craig Stauffer and Guy Kisling, Founders of Vanguard International, who taught me that sometimes you can return home. I worked with these two back in 1989 and 2000, and they brought me back on the roster in 2015 on a consulting basis, allowing me to work as a part of their team and to participate at the highest levels in their company’s marketing, communication, and strategy.
Don Goodwin, Founder of Golden Sun Marketing, also supported me in my journey of becoming an accidental consultant by convincing me that I could be for other companies what so many had been for me, and I’ve been doing that ever since.
"I can be silly and goofy, I have a strong personality, and I am unapologetically who I am—and it’s earned me a voice."
- Dawn Gray, Founder of Dawn Gray Global Consulting
In a recent presentation to a group of industry mid-level managers, I was asked about the greatest challenges that leaders and managers face today with employee attraction, retention, and creating a company culture that supports growth. It was a wonderful question.
While working in the fresh produce industry, I often hear that we have a big challenge to attract and retain talent. And, of course, that the incoming generation is “different” than the one from “the good old days.” A hallmark of success has been a willingness to do the “hard yards”—traveling, working long hours across multiple time zones, and let’s face it, Mother Nature often throws us some high hurdles despite our best planning.
My belief is that we are an industry that is in the perfect position to attract the best and brightest. We represent growers who are the finest stewards of the Earth. We represent health, wellness, taste, and flavor in the products we bring to market. What could be more in tune with the desire to do meaningful work than these values?
As leaders, we have to be open to new ideas and new ways of working. That might mean supporting remote employees, recognizing that technology supports technology, and different ways to communicate. The definition of what determines great customer service has changed. It requires MORE listening and a willingness to take stock of OUR behavior as leaders. That is a big ask, but I have witnessed numerous times the very real benefits to the bottom line when companies are able to embrace change rather than fear it.
Earlier, I talked about the idea of defaulting to transparency, and I want to stress that I mean appropriate transparency here. I have given a number of presentations that I have cheekily titled, Doing Business Naked, which always gets some attention, to say the least!
For me, in large part, this means that I try always to be authentic; the Dawn you see on a podium, in a boardroom, or in an orchard is the same Dawn. I can be silly and goofy, I have a strong personality, and I am unapologetically who I am—and it’s earned me a voice. I have also been very lucky to have great mentors and advocates; I believe that it is my authentic, transparent, human approach to my work that allows me to (hopefully) rewrite the narrative for the men and women who will come after me.
Try not to give your fears and doubts credence, but instead pay attention to that inner voice that knows you can do it. Believe in yourself, because if you can’t why would anyone else? So please, do business naked. Do life naked. We’ve got one shot at all of this, so let’s take inspiration from those brilliant risk-taking growers, farmers, and producers who are at the root and heart of this brilliant industry and let’s do it right!
Dawn Gray, Founder of Dawn Gray Global Consulting, has over 36 years of global industry experience. She has worked with some of the top companies in the world, including Oppy, Turners and Growers ENZA International, Frieda’s, Vanguard International, The Autenrieth Company, World Wide Fruit (UK), ENZAfruit Continent (Belgium), BC Hot House Foods, Central California Orange Growers Cooperative, and Sunkist Growers Inc.
Dawn’s hard work and outside-of-the-box thinking have earned her the respect of industry leaders. She has helped companies all across the supply chain increase sales, reduce market-based and operational costs, create operations savings, and zero in on how to go to market with a cost-effective and targeted plan.