Monday, June 29, 2020

"Storm the Breach".... but come well prepared!

As many of you know, I am a bit of a history nut and enjoy looking back at history to look for clues or advice about how to face the challenges of today.  In past essays I have turned to many voices across time, including Plutarch, Ghandi, Dr. MLK jr, and many others to help illuminate and inspire; today I am turning to Wellington... the British general most well known as the leader who defeated Napolean at Waterloo.

While famous for that final battle in 1815, a few years before he lead the British forces in Spain in what was known as the Peninsula Campaign, driving French forces across Spain ( the Iberian "Peninsula") ultimately ending in the final battle in Waterloo Belgium.  As Wellington drove across Spain, the French forces would take up defensive positions in various small "cities" that were defended by ancient stone walls and attempt to stop Wellington's advance.  In many off those situations, none more famous than the "Siege of Badajoz," the British artillery would fire upon the walls until there was an opening, or a "Breach," where one part of the wall had collapsed and was opened, the British infantry would "storm" into the "breach" and fight their way into the city, ultimately routing the defenders into a panicked retreat.

The notes above are taken from Wellington's dispatches from that time, and are incredibly detailed in the plans and preparations for the soldiers preparing to "storm the breach!"  This wasn't some sort of wild, unplanned assault but instead a highly coordinated, and well prepared plan to take advantage of an opportunity and to drive it to its maximum impact. ( the fact that he highlights the number of ladders and that the troops should bring "light materials" to be thrown into the ditch is an incredible level of detailed planning!)

I have reflected back on Wellington this past week because of a competitive opportunity facing our company.  We have owned Bolthouse Farms for just over a year, and late last week we received word  that a long standing competitor had announced their plans to close operations in the next 30-45 days!  What an incredible opportunity and in appropriate fashion we gathered our teams and within a few hours were having calls with key retail buyers to maximize our ability to capture the opportunity.... we were "storming the breach!"  The reality that this competitive news came a year after buying the company back from Campbell's, not a few weeks after closing last summer, is so key because it gave us the chance to "come well prepared" to this moment! We had rebuilt the team broadly ( still more work to go of course but we are in good shape with a great group of people).  We have rebuilt our operational capabilities and our quality system, allowing us to run the plant at efficiency levels well above a year ago and has expanded our capacity levels to allow us to take on more business AND do so profitably..... and literally the list goes on!  We are "storming the breach" and have "come well prepared!"

While success is never assured, and we will have some ups and downs in "storming this breach," this moment has reminded me of an important lesson; in business and in life you never know when an unexpected opportunity will present itself, but you are always able to build capabilities and become "well prepared" when the opportunity breaks to "storm the breach!"

Monday, June 1, 2020

Where to find hope today.....

It is with an incredibly sad and full heart that I write this essay today.  Our country and our communities are broken and in need of a tremendous amount of work and reconciliation.  In communities large and small, in the north and south, in the east and west, so many are wondering today where is the hope for tomorrow and what should they as individuals think/feel & do today??

  I share these same feelings and struggle today to find a "guiding star" to help remind me of the path forward.  Its is in that spirit that I share two quotes that have helped me today and I hope they can both be helpful to you.

 The first is a from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech from December of 1964... a message from almost fifty six years ago that sadly rings true today:

"I accept this award today with an abiding faith in America and an audacious faith in the future of mankind. I refuse to accept despair as the final response to the ambiguities of history. I refuse to accept the idea that the "isness" of man's present nature makes him morally incapable of reaching up for the eternal "oughtness" that forever confronts him. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality."

The second is from a message that President Obama posted today.

"Let's not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it. If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves," Obama wrote in an essay on Medium.
He added, "The bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn't between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform."

These two quotes give me a sightline on the need to turn our feelings and thoughts into actions in our communities.  I hope that you can find a path today, for you, your families and your communities to stay focused on the "oughtness" for all of humanity.  Stand up for what is right, stand up with moral courage and stand against racist injustice in our country;  find ways that we can all work to "model" a higher ethical code as a nation.