Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Calm and Confident in the GMC dealership Service Bay!



As is obvious from my last post, and from a slight change to the layout of the blog itself, I formally “retired” from Bolthouse Farms earlier this month.  The process of coming to this point of transition has been underway for months, but the actual steps of publishing a written announcement to the company, followed by a “Virtual Town Hall,” followed by posting and announcement on Linked In, then saying goodbye to a host of old friends and colleagues has been emotionally wrenching.  I knew that the final ACTS (“Hands/Feet”) of transition would be hard, but I totally underestimated how deeply I would FEEL (“Heart”) the parting.  I KNEW (“Mind”) that it was the right time to make a change, but regardless of that clarity, I was (and still am a bit) floored by the impact of this big change.


As the month of January 2024 played out, I had one more major ACT that needed to be take place in order to complete my Bakersfield transition and “come home.”  Most readers aren’t aware that since 2021 I have kept an apartment in Bakersfield and commuted there weekly from Atlanta. (not many of us doing the weekly Atlanta->Bakersfield-> Atlanta commute!!)  As my time at Bolthouse Farms came to a close, I also wrapped up my lease at the apartment and with the help of dear old friends and work partners (Cathy & Alan) packed up the apartment and packed as much as possible into a vehicle to drive across country.  The map above depicts the majority of the route starting in California and ending in Columbus Ohio at apartment of my daughter’s boyfriend.  We were dropping most of the “apartment goods” there, then finishing the journey by bringing the vehicle back for a final “drop-off” in Atlanta.  Marie and I did the trip together (which was outstanding and certainly fodder for a future blog for sure) and after 3204 miles, I was happy to be done with cross country driving for a while!


The ”GMC dealership” story came about on day 5 of our trek, in Columbia Missouri.  We had driven in deserts, crossed the rockies in a snowstorm and were now squarely in the plains when after a lunch stop one day, the check engine light came on… ugh!! We had had a few challenging moments with the car over the previous few days, but now the light was solidly on, and the car wasn’t running well!  I asked Marie to see if there was a GMC dealership ANYWHERE close by and in a flash she pulled up that there was a dealership literally around the corner, less than a ½ mile away.  Incredible!!  We limped into the dealerships’ lot and pulled right up to and literally RIGHT INTO the service bay.  Now I was tired, road weary and pretty freaked that we had a major problem on our hands and we were a long way from home…. or Columbus!  


I went up to the service counter and met Cole (no last names on the blog) who was working the desk and after a brief explanation he dove right in.  Marie was with me every step of the way and was upbeat and calm as we were dealing with Cole and kept reminding me that we were on an adventure, and that everything was going to be ok, and that we weren’t in any real hurry… all very calming comments that helped me settle down and not be so freaked out.  Cole on the other hand had identified a “mis-fire” in cylinder 4” and was swapping our spark plugs and coils to isolate the problem.  It took about an hour and the engine was running fine and after Cole took it for a test drive on I-70 (no mis-fires!!) we were literally good to go.  It was an incredible relief to pull out of that service bay, and head off to our stop that night in Effingham Ill.


I share this specific story because we all feel stress from many many sources.  Mine were coming from all the emotions of the January transitions, then the check engine light in Missouri!  In that “freak-out” moment, the combo of Marie’s funny/calming confidence and Cole’s quiet competence saved the day and totally put be back on track.  I am so thankful to both of them for their impact that day and will be thinking about ways to bring a “calming confidence” to stressful moments in the future!



Friday, January 5, 2024

It's official!

 Early today I posted the following on "Linkedin," after sharing the news with the company yesterday at a virtual town hall.  Filled with emotions, I wanted to share the posting here:

It is with great pride and gratitude that I share the news today of my retirement from Bolthouse Farms.  I need to acknowledge and thank so many talented and dedicated “Bolthouse People” that have been part of my journey at the company since I first joined almost 15 years ago.  Many thanks to my long-term business partner Jeff Dunn, who asked me in 2009 to be part of this amazing company, to be part of a leadership journey which drove dramatic business growth, a sale of the company to Campbell’s, and a repurchase in partnership with Butterfly Equity. Together, along with the Executive Leadership Team, we led Bolthouse Farms through a global pandemic, the acquisition of Evolution Fresh from Starbucks, and ultimately prepared the company for its next chapter of growth and success as two separate business entities.


I am very proud and excited to pass the business along to Tim Escamilla who will run the Ag- Centric farming business under the company name “Bolthouse Fresh Foods,” and Steve Cornell who will run the CPG-Centric Beverage and Salad Dressing business under the company name “Generous Brands.” These two “sister-companies” will create unique value and drive growth in their respective markets, and I am confident that Tim and Steve will have a strong impact in the next chapter of the company’s 100+ year history!


While I am “retiring” from Bolthouse Farms, my plan is to pivot my professional path towards opportunities where I can leverage my 35+year career in board roles, and to act as a “trusted advisor” to CEOs, foundations, and non-profit organizations.  I am humbled by my experiences at Bolthouse Farms, and I know the organization will continue to grow, overcome challenges, and thrive as it continues the next chapter of its legacy.



Monday, January 1, 2024

Finding a "Fresh Perspective" for the new year


I am not someone who spends much time or mental focus on New Year's resolutions.  For me, they seem like fleeting whims that after a few days or weeks are forgotten in the business of calendar invites, zoom meetings, hectic schedules and unseen challenges that lie ahead.  It's in that somewhat "cynical" spirit, that I share the following resolution for 2024... its high time for some "fresh perspective" and I am going to work hard to have it start with me!

As I reflect of the year/years recently past, it is hard to find hope and possibilities amidst the nightmare of wars actively raging in Gaza and Ukraine... hard to see the "light" in the darkness of dramatic climate change issues challenging all countries... hard to see cooperation/compromise in a political landscape that is more focused on radical partisan ideologies than creating progress for the average family.... and the list goes on.  It is in this context that I look at the start of 2024 as a time for a new headset, or a "fresh perspective" not championed by others, but by yours truly!

From a dictionary's point of view: 

The phrase "a fresh perspective" is correct and usable in written English. You can use it to describe a situation in which someone adopts a different point of view, such as when considering a problem from a new angle or looking at an issue with renewed interest.

I am inspired and "nudged" into action by this headset and am heading into the new year looking for ways to shake off my traditional way of thinking about things and "work" on ways to "consider a problem from a new angle."  I emphasize the word "work," because I know that for me, it will not be easy to slow down my traditional headsets/perspectives.... to quiet my inside voice that is certain that it knows the right answer to so many things... "considering a problem from a new angle, or looking at an issue with a renewed interest" is never easy!

For me, I find it helpful to try some "tricks/games" to push my thinking or habits and to get myself out of my traditional patterns...and one such trick or habit is a restaurant game I learned years ago called "two up/two down."  It's a "game" I have played at family or team dinners over the years as a playful way to "break the ice" and to change up our normal habits and to push ourselves to try new things.  The game is simple enough... imagine a group at a restaurant table, menus in hand.  Everyone selects their entrees as normal, and allowing for any food allegories, the game commences!  I ask someone to pull out a dollar bill, and someone to pull out a quarter, ( in today's cashless world, I often come with the bill and coin in my pocket.)  I ask the person with the bill to tell us the first digit of the serial number on the bill ( lets imagines its a "2",) and for the person with the coin to flip it ... heads or tails.  If "heads," then EVERYONE finds their entree choice on the menu and goes "2 up" from it and that's their dinner order... inversely if the serial number of the bill had started with a "5" and the coin had flipped tails, then EVERYONE'S dinner choice would be "5 down" from their original order.  Its always a bit of mayhem when the person wanting a burger gets a chefs salad and other than one "ill-begotten" dish of Tripe, ( ouch, that was a smelly mess!!) the game is always worth a lot of chatter/laughs and it ALWAYS pushes folks out of their comfort zones in a very "low-stakes" environment.

I share this "game" as an idea that helps push us to consider things "from a new angle," or to try something on a menu that might never have been considered.  While a simple playful "game," I know that I will need to push myself to explore fresh perspectives to the challenges of our world in 2024...monumentally more difficult and more significant than an entree choice on a dinner menu.  I wish all of you a very happy 2024 and encourage all of us to work hard to find "fresh perspectives" to the problems of our world and our communities in the year ahead!

p.s., the image at the top is a sunrise photo from this morning, January 1, 2024 at our cabin in North Carolina... a chilly start to a new year filled with "fresh perspectives!"

p.p.s., I found that I had written about this "game" almost seven years ago, and about bringing it to life in an ice cream shop in Highlands N.C. with some dear friends and work partners... take a look:

Friday, December 22, 2023

A tasty family Legacy: 2023


I have no idea how old I was when I first enjoyed our Aunt Lorraine's "Jelly Tarts" at Christmas.  Maybe I was 5 or 6, but I remember them so fondly and always craved more... each year there was only enough for each of us to get 1 or 2 of these incredible treats. She and my maternal grandmother would make a bounty of Christmas cookies each year, but the "Jelly Tarts" were the clearly the "star on the tree" among the many choices.  The picture to the right is a current one of our daughter Marie and I with a plate of OUR Jelly Tarts that we made last weekend; working hard to keep Aunt Lorraine's legacy alive this Christmas season!

The impetus for me of writing this essay, and candidly what started me on this entire journey of writing this blog in the first place... now 260+ essays and 15 years ago... was this idea of "legacy."  In my life, I have been touched by so many people who have left their "mark" on me,  both personally and professionally and I feel so lucky to have had the chance to learn and grow from these "legacies."  Whether lessons from my grandmother MaMa,, or Mrs. Carfang and her feast of the Seven Fish, or the lessons of Bruce Paynter, my first boss at Kimberly-Clark who passed in 2009 from ALS, or tasty memories or rules about "small bites" from Aunt Lorraine,, or.... literally the list goes on and are spread across the hundreds of essays that I have posted on this blog.

This is the third or fourth year that Marie and I have made Aunt Lorraine's "Jelly Tarts" and while our technique is growing, it's a pretty simple recipe that is VERY hard to get exactly right.  Always tasty, each year we try to get closer and closer to "how Aunt Lorraine" made them... and I hope we get the chance to keep trying to perfect this specific "legacy" for years to come!  Give the recipe a try, it's highlighted below, signed by the creator herself!  

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

"Authenticity"... the 2023 word of the year!

The following clip from the BBC hit my feed earlier today, and now more that ever it seems VERY appropriate…


Merriam-Webster has picked its word of the year - and it's legit. 

"Authentic" is the top word of 2023, according to America's oldest dictionary.

Merriam-Webster said it saw a "substantial increase" in online searches for it this year. 

The interest was "driven by stories and conversations about AI [artificial intelligence], celebrity culture, identity, and social media", the dictionary publisher said. 

One reason many people search for the word is because it has a number of meanings, including "not false or imitation" and also "true to one's own personality, spirit, or character". 

"Although clearly a desirable quality, 'authentic' is hard to define and subject to debate," Merriam-Webster said. 

The publisher added that the popularity of the word, which had been highly searched in the US in the past, grew this year as "the line between 'real' and 'fake'" became increasingly blurred.


“Authenticity” is a concept or actually a principle that I have focused on numerous times across the 250+ essays that I have posted on-line.  I have always considered “Authenticity” a foundational principal for leaders, and my experiences in 2009 around the passing of my first boss, Bruce Paynter, provide vivid memories that I reflect on often today.  After battling ALS for months, he was nearing his passing, and I had the chance/honor to spend a few days with him at a hospice center.  Across that time together, we had three deep profound conversations, one centering around this idea of “Authenticity.”  He deeply felt that “Authenticity” was the foundation for leadership, and successful, effective leaders.  We talked for hours about this idea, comparing notes on business leaders we both knew, and talked about what made some effective and others ineffective and we kept coming around to this concept… “Authentic” leaders were effective and impactful leaders…. period.


Bruce had me draw a grid… his “grid of authenticity” … that had “Words” and “Actions” identified on each axis, and “+” and “-“ symbols at the ends of each axis.  In his mind… his definition…an “authentic” leader needed to ensure that their “Words” and “Actions” we aligned.  He had be draw a line from top right (positive “words” and “actions”) to the bottom left of the grid (negative “words” and “actions”) and he called this his “rail of authenticity.”  Effective leaders operated as close to the “rail” as possible, working to have their “words” and “actions” as aligned as possible.


As I sit here, writing this essay 14+ years later, I still remember that time in the hospice center and those powerful conversations.  In reflection, I think back on the discussion highlighted above and am deeply moved and strengthened by the TRUTH that Bruce’s “rail” is deeply true and has been a model that I have tried to embody in my personal and professional lives.  Let Merriam-Webtser’s “top word of 2023” be a driver for you… and a reminder that we all need to focus on our “words” and our “actions and find ways to come closer to “Bruce’s rail!”

p.s.  here is the link to the original essay that I wrote just a few days after that fateful "authentic" conversation back in 2009... take a look.

p.p.s. the pic above is from a flipchart in my office ... the product of a recent conversation with a young leader on our team ... the "legacy of Bruce" still active in Bakersfield in 2023!


Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Always start with gratitude

 I want to take a moment this week to comment on the idea and practice of trying to "Always start with gratitude."  Over the past few quarters, we have had a tough run in our business.  Challenges and headwinds were experienced on many fronts and the team broadly has been working extremely hard in very tough circumstances to problem solve and overcome many issues across the board; and in that context,  last Friday we reported our FY' 24 Q1 results and they were extraordinary!!  

I was so thrilled to see strong top-line performance and superior bottom-line results... literally one of the best quarters I have ever been part of at Bolthouse Farms and possibly one of the best across my entire career....  the team totally rocked!!  In the after-glow of our Flash report zoom call, I was reminded about the headline of this essay.... that in this moment or financial "over-delivery," I needed to find ways to BE GRATEFUL and share that gratefulness to my organization as broadly as I can!  As tempted as I was to dig into different departmental performance, and dive deeply into specific p&l drivers,  I needed to check myself and just start saying "thank you" as broadly and as often as possible.... I needed to "start with gratitude!"

As I endeavor down that gratitude path this week, I pulled up an essay that I posted three years ago this week.... November of 2020,  in the heart of the Covid crisis.  The following essay, which is actually a letter that I sent to our company at that moment,  is a great reminder to me about what we all have been through and how we all need to "start with gratitude" whenever we can... I hope this essay connects for you and I wish all of you a very "grateful" Thanksgiving holiday next week!  

November 24, 2020

I just wanted to send out a note before the Thanksgiving holiday this week.  This year is unlike all others for me ( and I think for all of us) as we head toward this day of thanksgiving….. this year has been so hard, so challenging, so painful, and so long, that I for one am having a hard time being very thankful; it’s in that spirit, not in some “hallmark card” moment, but in the midst of all of our challenges and pain that  I share these thoughts and reflections.  


Maybe 10-15 years ago I had the chance to see The Dalai Lama live at Canon chapel  on the campus of Emory University.  The setting matters since it was where Jennie and I were married ( by her Father,) where both Bryson and Marie were baptized and where we attended the funerals for both Jennie’s mom and sister… certainly a sacred space for our family!  It was there that the Dalai Lama, with a number of monks, held a “service” of sorts that included all sorts of Tibetan Buddhist rituals and comments from The Dalai Lama.   While I was struck by how “cheery and jovial” he was ( often chuckling/laughing) one comment he shared has stuck with me over the years…. that being to “always start with gratitude.” 

 He encouraged the crowd to 


·     “start every day…” 

·     “start every meal…”

·     “start every conversation…”

·     “start every walk…”

·     etc.

o  “with gratitude.”


I think back to that moment, so many years ago and find strength and inspiration thinking about this note today.  In the midst of rising covid cases and so many challenges facing our world, I am very thankful for my family, my sweet Jennie and our two wonderful kids, Bryson and Marie.  I am thankful to have the chance to work at Bolthouse Farms, and to work in a business that is trying hard to find ways to get more fruits and vegetables (go carrots!!) on family’s tables, and to work with a team of hardworking “Bolthouse People” that care so much and are so committed to our mission.  I am thankful to be healthy and capable to find ways to try to make tomorrow a bit better than yesterday…. and the list literally could go on for paragraphs….. I am actually thankful for so much!!


I wish all of you a very happy, healthy, safe and “grateful” thanksgiving holiday and I do sincerely hope that you can enjoy some well deserved time off this week with your family and friends as safely as possible!


Monday, October 30, 2023

When things are “murky”, use your “fog lights”



Many of you know that a few years ago (back in the summer of 2014) I bought an old car that I very affectionately named “Miss Kitty!”  I picked the car up near downtown LA, and my dear son Bryson and I drove her home, back to Atlanta, on a cross county multi-day road-trip that we still talk about today.  “Miss Kitty” is quite a character, with many unusual quirky features, but as you can see from the picture, she has some pronounced “fog lights” on her front grill. This essay is NOT a deep dive onto my old car’s unusual characteristics, but it was prompted by a recent experience I had driving on a foggy morning.


When driving in fog, I remember being taught in drivers-ed class to always use your car’s headlights, but to NEVER use the “high-beams!” If your car had “fog lights,” they were to be utilized in conjunction with your “low-beams” in conditions that were hazy, rainy, murky, or had limited visibility.  It was in just such a situation recently that I was heading to that the Atlanta airport, on a drizzly/foggy morning, when I realized that my old car’s “extra-large fog lights” were really needed to drive safely in the challenging conditions.  While those big yellow fog-lights did the job perfectly, it got me thinking about “murky/unclear” situations in life and in business that I was experiencing today.


How many times does your work environment lack clarity or appears hazy/unclear??   How many moments in your life do you face challenging situations and are uncertain of a clear path forward??  At least for me, these challenging situations happen all the time, and I for one often “turn on the high-beams” rather than the “fog lights” often to little avail!  Thinking about good old “Miss Kitty.” I realized that in those murky work/life moments, I needed to ditch the proverbial “high-beams.”  I didn’t need to add MORE intensity of introspection, MORE high analysis, MORE digging for clarity to make the matter clearer… instead I needed to SLOW DOWN and find/utilize the “fog lights” available to me. 


This imagery makes logical sense, and I am certain you understand the idea that I am trying to share… but I find the exercise very hard.  All my training and my 38+ years of a business career have been centered extensively on the “high-beam” curriculum!  How to accelerate your tempo, how much data can you connect with and how quicky can you do it?? I am literally writing this essay on a flight heading back to Bakersfield, and I am scheduling calls in 15-minute intervals for my layover in Phoenix…. more “high-beam” action!! 


As I look at my personal business landscape, I certainly see challenges and uncertainties that lie ahead.  Much more significantly, I look broadly at the political landscape domestically and internationally and see incredible challenges; illuminated today by the wars in Ukraine and Israel that are just two examples of tragic nightmares with no clear path forward in sight.  Now more than ever I am reaching for my “fog lights” to help navigate to road ahead, and I encourage all readers to be sure to keep them handy and in good working order… the path ahead does not look to be clearing any time soon and I think we will all need to use our “fog lights” regularly!