Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Mama's Peanut Butter Cookies for the New Year!

 I know, the last thing you are thinking about are Cookie recipes but over the years on this blog ( 11 years and counting!) I have a little tradition of including family recipes around the holidays.  Below is an "Easy" Peanut Butter Cookie recipe from my paternal grandmother Lakie Pearl Hill otherwise know to all as Mama!  She lived a long and colorful life, born in 1901 and passed in 1998 and was a fiercely proud West Virginian.  

I learned so many things from Mama, including how to save tomato seeds from year to year, how to choose the right whiskey for eggnog, how to roll a tobacco plug and so on... Beyond all of those lessons, I learned how to cook from her and we have saved so many recipes like the one below that are in her handwriting, sometimes including great little illustrations!  Give it a try and I am sure you will find it a real treat over the new years holiday to make some of Mama's tasty cookies using your "fork points" for design!

p.s. I want to wish everyone a very happy New Year.... filled with hope for better, safer and healthier days ahead in 2022!

Friday, December 3, 2021

Lessons from "Goat Knob"


Early in 2004, Jennie and I bought a wonderful little cabin in Highlands N.C.  Over the past 17+ years (hard to believe!!) we have enjoyed numerous gatherings with family and friends across all seasons and I have had the privilege to share the cabin with quite a number of work groups as part of leadership retreats that I have held there over the years.  The cabin, while only 2+ hours north of Atlanta, feels completely like a "world apart;"  with Highlands at over 4000 ft of elevation the climate, topography, flora and fauna  ( replete with black bears) is entirely different than our home in Georgia! 

In that part of North Carolina, the mountains are beautiful and filled with wonderful hiking trails, waterfalls, state parks, etc.  We have enjoyed hiking all across the region and I have taken many of my "work groups" on hikes on trails at Whiteside Mountain, a local favorite in Highlands.  Most of the hikes we do are classified as easy-moderate, and usually take just a few hours.... a nice morning or afternoon activity for all.  One hike is an exception to this rule.... for me the "big hike of the year" that pushes me and my physical capability to the edge.... the infamous Yellow Mountain hike!  With such an innocent name, this hike is quite a challenge.... 12 miles, with over 5000 ft of elevation change and no available water.... and it usually takes me six to seven hours to complete... a real all-day adventure! The specific section of the hike that I reference in this essays title has to do with the challenge of "Goat Knob."  A North Carolina hiking website comments about this:

            From the Shortoff summit, the trail descends and then climbs to Goat Knob at 4,955 feet, and then plunges nearly 900 feet into Yellow Mountain Gap. On the descent into the gap, the trail passes a major trail intersection, denoted by a sign indicating the return route to Cole Gap and the direction to head for Yellow Mountain.

The gap marks the approximate halfway point to the summit – and 1/4 of the total hike. The route veers to the left here, being mindful of the steep descent – as the return hike of this section is punishing.

That phrase... "as the return hike of this section is punishing" is the lesson of this story.  The first time I did this hike, I had no idea what was ahead us on the trail.... no idea of the elevation changes, the time required, the necessary water to bring, etc. Quite simply, I was ill-prepared!  While I was walking DOWN the 900 ft. from the peak of Goat Knob to the valley floor of Yellow Mountain Gap, it all seemed so easy... until I realized that we had been walking DOWNHILL for over 20 minutes and that the return route back to the car came back this same trail and we would be walking UPHILL to go over Goat Knob for who knows how long!  

That first Yellow Mountain hike was a mess, and yes we did make it back over Goat Knob ( after almost an hour for that section alone) but what a learning about challenges and preparedness.  I have been thinking back to Goat Knob a lot lately as I look ahead at the challenges of my business.  At our company, the business is thriving and accelerating but filled with incredible challenges exacerbated by Covid.  In our normal rhythm of work, this time of year... the holiday season, is always a challenge because the months of November, December and January ( good old N/D/J!) are the busiest and hardest for us every year.... it is our annual Goat Knob!  While no one from my team has taken the Yellow Mountain hike (YET!!) I have shared that we can't be surprised by the difficulty and challenges on the trail ahead in N/D/J.  A key to succeeding in the challenges that lie ahead is not being surprised by them .... it IS going to be hard..... there will be unexpected barriers ..... it WILL test our strength and capabilities..... don't be surprised,  anticipate the challenges, anticipate YOUR Goat Knob and harbor your strength for the key moments that lie ahead.

As you look forward in our organizations, work to help our team "see" that challenges and roadblocks are a normal part of business, just as Goat Knob is a normal ( and devilish) part of the Yellow Mountain hike, and help them take their time, garner their strength and overcome those challenges and find a path to successful though challenging outcomes.

Monday, October 25, 2021

The “order” of things matter… remember “PEMDAS”


I remember the moment so distinctly… our son Bryson was in 5th grade (now 12+ years ago) and he came home from school with a significant insight about Math.  He explained to Jennie and me that Math was based on a set of rules called “PEMDAS” that were “made up” or arbitrary (my word) and if you followed a different set of rules, like maybe “MEPDAS”, you would generate completely different answers.  While at that moment I realized I needed to brush up on my core math principles, I also knew that Bryson was a very smart boy who was able at a very young age to think about some funky abstract ideas.


Let’s take a step back and refresh ourselves on “The order of operations in mathematics.”


Definition:  In math, order of operations are the rules that state the sequence in which the multiple operations in an expression should be solved. 

A way to remember the order of the operations is PEMDAS, where in each letter stands for a mathematical operation.

The PEMDAS rules that state the order in which the operations in an expression should be solved, are:

1. Parentheses - They take precedence over all other operators. The first step is to solve all the operations within the parentheses. Work out all groupings from inside to out. (Whatever is in parentheses is a grouping)

2. Exponents - Work out all the exponential expressions. 

3. Multiplication and Division - Next, moving from left to right, multiply and/or divide whichever comes first.

4. Addition and Subtraction - Lastly, moving from left to right, add and/or subtract whichever comes first.


Let’s look at an example:


4x (5+3) = 4X8= 32… following “PEMDAS”


4X (5+3) = 20+3=23…following Bryson’s suggestion, “MEPDAS”


As you can plainly see, the order of operations is fundamental to successful math operations and a reminder to all of us that the “order of things” matter in many facets of business and life,


This lesson from Bryson’s 5th grade math class has been on my mind recently, as I have been working with a team at Bolthouse Farms that is working on its processes and business “rhythms.”  I shares in a work session recently that I follow a very strict and consistent “order” to my weekly leadership/business routines, a method that I refer to as our “Performance Management Discipline.”  Daily I count on the “Daily Sales Report” to be published so I can track Net Revenue for the company as a whole and broken out by product and by customer.  Every Monday I take that specific Daily Sales Report and build out my Weekly Sales Report that highlights that net revenue trend for the past week, month, quarter and year to date.  I share that report with my leadership team Monday afternoon and EVERY Tuesday I hold a live leadership mtg (or zoom) with that weekly report as its central data document.  On Fridays of every week, I receive a forecast for the sales orders for the week ahead and calibrate where that will take us vis a vis our budgets and our production plans.  

This weekly cadence is complemented with monthly, quarterly and annual “Performance Management Routines” that directly connects to that daily sales report and to our top and bottom-line performance vs budget through the fiscal year along with connecting to the multi-year strategic planning process and the annual budget cycle.  This interconnected process needs to follow its own “order of operations” …. Its own “PEMDAS,” in order for the organization as a whole to stay on track.  Regardless of function or department, having a set “Performance Management Discipline” and staying true to following it is fundamental to success in business.  I encourage all of you to remember Bryson’s lesson of “PEMDAS” and ensure that you and your organization are staying true to your core “order of operations!” 


Friday, September 10, 2021

The Hunt for Optimism



Here we are, at the end of a complicated and challenging summer of 2021 and now more than ever it seems hard to find “rays of hope” to help fuel a spirit of optimism from any angle.  Whether through the lens as a leader, a father, a husband, or a simple citizen, we seem to be surrounded by tough news and challenging, pessimistic voices on all sides.  Earlier this week I met with a work colleague that I hadn’t seen since “before Covid” and we spent the first 45 min of our coffee together (outside and socially distanced) venting/sharing what the past 17+ months have been like trying to lead companies during this extremely challenging time.  While the “venting” was probably cathartic, I left the time at the coffee shop down and depressed, more immersed in the problem statement of today, “hunting for optimism” from other sources.


As I have mentioned before, “optimism” is vital in many applications, but as a leader it is fundamental!  If you aren’t hopeful and optimistic about the road ahead for your organization/company, how can your team pick up that slack.  I am historically a “glass half full” kind of guy, but these past 17+ months have really challenged that historic paradigm and I have found myself often searching for a few “rays of light” of “green shoots” as sources of encouragement to raise my flagging spirits.


It’s in this context that I wanted to share a few results from my “hunt” that come from a range of sources/data sets that are giving me a touch of hopefulness as we head into the fall of 2021.  The following three examples are not meant to be a broad spectrum of insights, or in any way a complete “world view” of our current reality; they are just three points of data lifting my spirits a touch on a busy Friday morning:



Ø  “We may have crested the peak of the Delta Variant”

o   This Covid trends table is published daily in the N.Y. Times.  I have been tracking the “14-day change” metrics daily for many months and it is exciting to see the numbers turn negative this week.  While this doesn’t mean we may not have another spike, a downward trend is a VERY good sign!


Ø  “An incredible number of people were safely evacuated from Afghanistan since the fall of the Government

o   When I saw this report by CNBC of over 120k people (and growing) safely evacuated since 8/14 I was blown away.  The fall of Kabul and the legacy of the 20 yr. war in Afghanistan will be a very rough chapter in our country’s history, but this accomplishment is beyond heroic and inspiring!


Ø  “The world is making real progress on global poverty”

o   The World Bank tracks global poverty rates broadly, by region and by country.  While the Covid pandemic has certainly challenged these trends in the past year or so, the multi-decade trend is not to me missed.


I will leave you with those three ideas for today…. Do your own “hunting” and make sure you don’t ONLY read the negative headlines and bad news stories in your news feeds (remember, fear and tragedy sell) …. Do the extra work and find a few positive trends and data points to keep your spirits up and find an optimistic path towards tomorrow!

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Building “Grit” through the lens of …. 59/36/16+

No, the numerals in the title aren’t some sort of code or lock “combination.” Instead, those numbers are the very personal “lens” that I am thinking a lot about these days as I am working on building my own “grit” in the summer of 2021. As I am 59 years old, have had a 36 year business career, and have been in a key operating role, leading a wonderful company through the Covid pandemic for over 16 months, I have been working on building my own “grit” this year like no other time in my career. I want to reflect on that dynamic and share a few thoughts about my leadership journey in these troubled and challenging times so that maybe my experiences can be helpful to you. 

Grit: (noun) firmness of mind or spirit: unyielding courage in the face of hardship or danger

 As I think about this concept, the definition above is very helpful. We are all living (and working/leading) in times filled with hardships and danger, really pushing all of us to have a “firmness of mind or spirit.” When I saw this definition, it really rang true. Across my career, I have faced various challenges, and tough moments but I have never seen anything like this … leading through Covid. Recently the country and our company have been challenged by the spike in covid cases driven by the Delta variant. While this essay is about resilience and courage, I will make this simple statement….. the science is clear…. the actions we ALL need to take is to get vaccinated and wear our masks! No questions and no debate of any kind! 

It’s in this context that I have been working on my own “grit” and have looked for ways to build by own “firmness of mind/spirit” in the face of these ever-present challenges. A few years ago, I wrote an essay about “grit” ( https://fylegacy.blogspot.com/2014/01/the-importance-of-grit.html ) that was inspired by the work of Angela Duckworth. (https://angeladuckworth.com) Her work was centered around the need for “grit” to be a priority for parents raising children in the 21st century. While profound and true in 2013 (her TED talk is well worth the time,) WOW do I see it as a huge topic for ALL of us today. You could think about the political strife in our country and around the world, the climate challenges facing the globe, the pervasive racial inequities, again in our country and around the world, then add on the Covid pandemic and the current delta spike and it all may seem like just too much to handle. It’s in this reality, through the lens of “59/36/16+,” that I have realized MY NEED to work on MY GRIT and strengthen MY “firmness of mind or spirit!” I don’t have any simple panacea of how to handle these challenging times, or a simple leadership model that will make it all easy! Instead, I have a few ideas/practices that are helping me and may be helpful to you: 

 Think about what you need 

I often write about the need as leaders to know your team, the competitive landscape, know the numbers, etc. Now I want to quote Plutarch…”Know Thyself.” What do you need to be strong? When do you need a break? What gives you energy or the opposite? And I could go on… get in-touch with YOU and pay attention to how you are doing. I see across business today so many leaders working themselves into the ground, not taking time for themselves (and their families) and to what end?? So they can be worn out, brittle and fragile as challenging moments arise?? That’s the wrong move, now more than ever!

  Work the problem 

As challenges arise (and we know they will, maybe even new variants beyond Delta) it gets overwhelming when we think about the macro context and ALL the challenges. Not being naïve, my suggestion continues to be “work the problem” ahead. As a planner, this is hard for me, always trying to anticipate the next few moves ahead, but now more than ever I have narrowed my focus and have centered myself on the challenges immediately ahead. 

 “Small bites”

 Those of you that have read my blog over the years know that I often quote “Aunt Lorraine’s Law,” 
( https://fylegacy.blogspot.com/2009/03/aunt-lorraines-law.html that is to “take small bites and chew thoroughly.” WOW do I find this relevant and helpful today! When I mentioned above to “work the problem,” I am now taking a few extra moments to divide and sub-divide the work plan into smaller portions, “chunks” that are clear and achievable to help propel the work forward and minimize the sense of being “overwhelmed” by the size or extent of an issue.

  Get more steps/get more sleep

 I give credit fully to my long time work partner and friend Cathy for this one. Improving your exercise and improving your sleep are not just good ideas in normal circumstances, they are vital today!! Just this week, after a VERY challenging day, I took some time after work to go to the driving range and hit balls for about an hour… just to get some physical time at the end of a tough day. Now it was 107 that day in Bakersfield and I plowed through my jug of water pretty quickly, but it felt great, and after an evening shower and a light dinner, I crashed early and actually had a nice night of sleep…. VERY needed sleep for me so I could be fresh the next morning to “re-face” those challenges from the day before. 

 “Use the big spoon” 

My final encouragement is for all to work on appreciation… to take a moment and use the “big spoon” to appreciate all we have…. whether it’s our family, friends, our pets, our health and just the fact that our lives are fragile and precious, and we are so lucky and fortunate to have the chance to face the challenges we are facing!

 I will close with these few thoughts and encourage all of you to think about your “grit” as we finish out the summer of 2021. Yes, it's been so tough and deeply challenging and those “hardships” may continue and (god forbid) may even grow in the weeks/months ahead. Regardless of that dynamic, we can all take steps to strengthen the “firmness of our mind/spirit,” and to build our “grit” and I hope the ideas that I have suggested above can be helpful in your journey!

Friday, July 2, 2021

Reflect, Appreciate and Breathe




Over the past weeks, I have taken a few moments and thought about this past year (thinking back to March of 2020 when Covid really took hold here in the U.S.) and it’s hard to try to sum it up.  It has been challenging, heartbreaking, tiring and bewildering just to try a few adjectives; and while the challenges certainly continue and the virus is still present in our communities, we have taken a new and tentative step forward.   It is in this context that I want to suggest that it's a good time to reflect on all that we (and you) have been through, appreciate all that we’ve (you’ve) endured and accomplished, and take some time to literally take a deep breath (or maybe two or three!)


As I think back over the year, I reflect back to where were as a society last summer.  The virus was raging, the vaccines were not clearly in sight, and it wasn't at all clear how we were going to make it through what was being forecasted as a dangerous fall and winter of 2020.  In our business, while revenue was strengthening, we were pretty consumed by thinking about ways to keep our employees healthy and safe, and like many organizations had a huge spike of positive cases after the July 4th holiday last summer.  It was a time of crisis management, and high levels of anxiety and uncertainty.


Here we are today, July of 2021 and we are in a different spot.  Society is still challenged by the Covid virus, now with a new variant spreading quickly among unvaccinated individuals.  Vaccinations aren’t just available, 66% of eligible adults have had at least one shot, and while we may not make the president’s 70% goal by July 4th, we will hit that level before the end of July.  In our business, over 70% of employees have had at least one vaccination shot, the business is strong and we have started taking steps to reopen the offices.  I am so appreciative of the actions, hard work, and sacrifices of so many over the past year and am deeply appreciative for the health, stability and support of my immediate family. 


In the context of reflection and appreciation, we need to acknowledge just what an incredibly difficult time this past year has been for so many including ourselves… I don't know about you but I have NEVER been through anything like this!  We need to give ourselves the room, the time and the grace to take a few extra breaths, and realize it will take some time to recover from all of this…  and that process may take a while and that's not just ok….. its required as a process of healing!


I will close this essay with a quote from a note I recently received from my dear son Bryson as he reflected on the past year…


“I think the present question is how do we process that past period, how can we incorporate the lessons and survival instincts of such a tumultuous moment into the calm of a new normal?  Do we perpetually recall memories, emotions, lowlights from the period, bringing an infusion of gratitude to the present?  Or do we push the harshness away, enjoy the freedom of our earned safety and trust that the implicit takeaways are baked into our conscious and unconscious selves?”



I will let you ponder these poignant and very “on-point” comments, and as you do, please join me and take a few moments to reflectappreciate and breathe as we all find our way forward from this past year and chart new paths and directions for all of our futures!



Thursday, May 27, 2021

D=>K=>I=>A/A/A…. A foundational “formula” for success!



As a guy that does gravitate to formulas, processes and repeatable management disciplines, this essay has been brewing for a while.  A few weeks ago, I had a great conversation with a young friend Meg, who was interviewing for a number of very different roles.  In that conversation, we focused in on the fact that while the roles were very different (one in a small non-profit, one in a large ad agency), the actual “foundational work” of the roles had some clear similarities and those common ideas triggered this essay.  Regardless of your role, or nature of the organization where you work, these simple ideas or process steps are incredibly common and deeply important in order to drive successful sustainable results.


The foundational formula/process/discipline is made up of a set of actions that are done in sequence, and follow the path of: 


Data->Knowledge->Insights-> Action/Assess/Apply


D: Data


Noun: facts and statistics collected together for reference or analysis:


The first step is always to dig into the data…. and never get tired or bored, it always worth it!  I for example pull together a weekly performance dashboard for my leadership team, and rather than have someone in IT or finance pull it for me, I take an hour every Monday digging into last weeks results and building the dashboard myself.  I find that weekly process so helpful and EVERY WEEK I find little nuggets of trends, aberrations and surprises that allow me to understand where we are as a business and what actions we need to take going forward.  This first step, all about the data, is a step EVERYONE should do!  Don't let a fear of Math, or a lack of formal “data analytics training” stop you from diving in…. a vital and REQUIRED first step in this “foundational formula!”


K: Knowledge


Noun: facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject


By taking the step above and consistently digging into the data, we can gain knowledge and a deeper “understanding of a subject.”  Data on its’ own is relatively inert.  The purpose of the data dig “experience” is to gain understanding and build knowledge over time so you “convert” the data into actionable insights.


I: Insights


Noun: a deep understanding of a person or thing


Having a “deep understanding” of the work at hand is the big part of finding success.  While this evolves over time, the process steps reviewed above allow you to always be updating YOUR “deep understanding” of the business and will push you to take those thoughts/ideas and translate them into action!





A: Action


Noun: the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim


Take action, its time to have an impact!  Don't let the D->K->I phase lull you into passivity or inactivity.  This whole “foundational formula/process” is about taking thoughtful action in the marketplace and the “first A” is vital.  This step takes insights (mentioned above) AND COURAGE.  Step out there, make your recommendation be heard and drive to action!


A: Assess


Noun: evaluate or estimate the nature, ability, or quality of


With the “Action” step fully in-place, lets make sure we are ready to “evaluate” and learn from the “Action” deployed.  We can never learn enough, but too many skip this step entirely.  The amount of work to get the “Action” deployed is often so significant, many “run out of gas” at this step and lose energy to “evaluate” the impact/costs/ROI/etc. of the “Action” and fail to glean very available and much needed additional “Data” to help this process strengthen over time.  Many of you have read my essay on the “Curbside Debrief” https://fylegacy.blogspot.com/2014/02/selling-curbside-debrief.html

This tool is a handy way to ALWAYS take a step to “Assess” or learn after every significant “Action.”

A: Apply


Noun: give one's full attention to a task; work hard, administer


This final step as another call to turn learnings into “Action.”  If you have “Assessed” the impact of “Action,” once again don't get passive!  Turn those ideas or approaches into immediate improvement plans and deploy…. No need to wait and start the process again, dive in and “Apply” those learnings and drive success!



Well there you go, the simple ( and vital) D->K->I->A/A/A model.  I hope you can use it in your work, whatever the organization / industry and let it have a positive impact of the challenges of the moment, and help you be more successful with your challenges/opportunities over time!

Friday, April 30, 2021

A “Virtuous Cycle” in the Pivot to Growth



Like so many companies and organizations, this past year has been incredibly challenging. Leading a company through the reality of Covid has been so intense and difficult, certainly the most difficult challenge of my 35 year career!  Here we are as we enter May, we are finishing up our on-site vaccination clinics over the next few weeks, finishing up our return-to-work planning and prep activities and starting to look at easing some of our Covid policies (e.g. outdoor mask policy, etc.).  Along with these policy/readiness adjustments, we are dealing with the difficult (and wonderful in many ways) challenge of a booming business, growing very quickly, that is pushing our capabilities and capacities across our system.  We are clearly in a big “Pivot to Growth” moment and I have refreshed myself on some lessons that will help us and may help you as well.


Virtuous Cycle


I want to emphasize the first word here, “Virtuous!”  When businesses are dramatically beating budget and forecast, and outstripping existing capabilities/capacities, it is very easy to devolve into a “Destructive Cycle” of anger/blame/finger-pointing/etc.  Do your best as a leader to stay calm, remind everyone that we are in this together, and that in so many ways we are lucky to have the problems of a high growth business.  Remind yourself that “anger/blame & finger pointing” are rarely highlighted and key leadership tools for progressive/successful leaders in good times or bad.  Stay calm, keep your cool, keep your team together and work the problem at hand!


Work the Problem


At least for our company in this Pivot to Growth, there are multiple problems all occurring at once.  That dynamic is actually not surprising and should not be allowed to cause confusion.  Look at the landscape, idea the problems and help the team to break them down into bite-sized chunks.  Remember “Aunt Lorraine’s Law”????  “Take small bites and chew thoroughly”!  

That lesson is so true now… help your team on this and get everyone focused on THE problem at hand and have other teams working on ANOTHER problem at hand but be careful to have one group working on many problems at once….. usually a situation that causes confusion and limited progress!


Search for Root Causes


As teams get into problem solving, we can find ourselves actually fixing a problem at hand and being tempted to quickly move on to the next issue at hand.  As a leader help your team to slow down enough to try to identify the “root causes” to the problem so we might possible not just fix the problem at hand but identify and solve the deeper “root causes” of the problem to we don't face this challenge again.  A technique that I learned many years ago is the “ask “why” five times” rule.  Once a problem/issue is clearly identified, force yourself and your team to go five layers deep…. Ask, “Why did this issue occur”??? then when that answer is clarified, ask “why” did that occur??? and keep that routine going for five layers of asking “whys?”


Deploy solutions and measure success


The best part of problem solving is actually fixing the problems/challenges at hand…. duh!  No brilliant insight there but again we are so often tempted to fix it and move on; not good enough!  Use the measurement tools at hand or build the measurement tools to assess just how much or how well we have actually fixed the problem and improved performance.  We only really learn true performance improvement through measuring our success and continuously improving on that improved performance.


Work the problem


Repeat the “Virtuous Cycle!”



I hope that this simple “cycle” can be helpful as you and your organization begin your pivot to growth post Covid!  There will be challenges ahead (there always are) but none so daunting as the challenges we all faced this past year.  We can work our way through the challenges of growth by keeping our cool, reminding the team that we are all in this together and working the “Virtuous Cycle” above….. those will be key ingredients for solving the growth problems that lie ahead!

Monday, March 22, 2021

It's been too long old friend !


We have all shared quite a year, so much loss and so many sacrifices.  It will probably take years for us to really understand the impact of the pandemic on our families, our society and our future.  Now that vaccination trends are accelerating (I am one shot in, my second scheduled for 3/31!!), we are starting to turn the corner to think about "life after Covid."  One step I have taken in the past month was to start traveling again to get back to the plant in Bakersfield; it has been incredible to be back in Kern County and back with the inspiring Bolthouse Farms family!

On a recent flight back to LAX, I got through security early at ATL and walked out to Concourse E to see Dr. King's Nobel Peace Prize medal.  As many of you know, I have always been very inspired by Dr. King's speech from that event in 1963, and have shred with with teams and have commented about it on this blog over the past 10+ years. (see more at https://fylegacy.blogspot.com/2016/11/the-work-of-hope.html)

There are so many emotional moments these days, but I found myself standing in front of the display at the airport, tears in my eyes, just so happy to "be back" visiting my old friend.  This moment triggered me to reflect on all the things/places/people/restaurants I wanted to see and experience again once vaccinations are broadly deployed and we can say we are officially "post-covid."  

I dont know if you have done this, but I actually took a few minutes on the flight and started a "notes" page on my phone that I titled "Post-Covid."  It was stream of consciousness at first, a jumble of ideas ( with quite a number of restaurants in Atlanta and Bakersfield dominating the list) but after a few lines I settled into all the people /places I wanted to visit again and it was interesting what topped the list.

My Aunt Lorraine lives in an assisted living facility in N.J. and has survived the pandemic.  With her advancing memory loss, the phone calls have grown more interspersed and less connected over the past year.  No-one in the family has seen our Aunt over the past year and that needs to be my first stop post Covid.  My other "first stops" that topped my list are visiting my mom and sister's grave in my hometown of Murrysville Pa., and visiting my old boss Bruce's grave in Appleton Wi.  

I hope that as we get close to this "post Covid" reality, we all stay as safe as possible and that we work hard to get our vaccines as soon as we are eligible!  This "light at the end of the tunnel" is not far away and I am already thinking about my visits ( maybe mid summer??) to see Aunt Lorraine and the gravesites of important people from my life!  I hope you build your list, and think about your summer "trips"to reconnect to all the "old friends" that you have missed this year!

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Work the process & work ON the process!


It’s been a wild ride over these past 20 months since we bought Bolthouse Farms back from Campbell’s.  The challenges of turning around a business in steep decline, executing a “carve-out” of a business that had been integrated into a bigger entity, rebuilding a team across all functions/levels … and then Covid hit! In the midst of these significant challenges, the business is growing, the team stronger than ever, and we have learned so much and become stronger through facing and overcoming challenges in our way.  A great lesson was shared last week in a “zoom call,” that I want to pass along today.


Late last week, we had our weekly S&OP (sales & operations planning) call and one of our excellent, long-term Bolthouse veterans John (no last names on the blog!) was on the call early when I signed in.  He and I had a couple of minutes to catch up and were talking about our fast growing beverage business and how hard it was to get the right flavors, in the right size, in the right level of inventory, to the right customer …etc!  We were talking about how hard it was to run a tight S&OP process in a high growth business and John shared a powerful insight….” You know Bill, we have to work the process and work ON the process at the same time!”


That simple phrase really hit home in this moment/situation, but is so true broadly.  Too often we don't even do the first part very well; we often don't even have a consistent business process and if we do have one we don't execute it in a consistent, disciplined fashion.  Knowing this, the idea that we have to always “work ON the process,” identifying ways to improve WHAT we do and HOW we do it was the deep insight of John’s comment.  


Even though our business is booming, and so many good things are happening, we need to push ourselves to improve our processes broadly.  To often companies wait for things to go bad to start thinking about changes, the trick is to dive into this work when things are going well… that's the perfect time to work and work ON your processes!


A few helpful tips:


Ø  Think about your business/enterprise/organization and identify the key operational processes that are required to get the work done, and insure you have a structured, disciplined process in place.

Ø  Once those core processes are set, don't get bored with them!  Execute and lead those processes with intensity and efficiency and insure the broader organization knows that those process steps are key to the organization’s success.

Ø  Look for the processes and that need improvement and work ON those processes very publicly.  Identify and implement improvement steps and you will insure that your processes will continue to improve over time!


Tuesday, February 2, 2021

A fresh start for spring… Again!


As many of you know, I have grown up in a family of keen gardeners.  My grandmother (Mama) raised a garden her entire life, and one of her biggest gardens was when she was over 90 years old!  My brother is a master gardener (and quite a “canner”) and my sister is often working in her garden on Bainbridge Island.  Part of this family tradition has included the passing down of tomato seeds across generations, and specifically passing along seeds from a tomato that Mama grew for decades in her garden in West Virginia.

Every year I take the seeds form a healthy tomato and let them dry in a dark/dry pace over the fall and early winter.  In January I typically start those seeds inside and after a week or so the first seedlings start to appear… well those seedlings pictured above are Mama’s tomato seedlings that sprouted this past weekend.


It's an amazing piece of family history to think that Mama was raising these same tomatoes, keeping the seeds and starting them anew each spring decades and decades ago.  While the story of this tomato’s origin is filled with family lore (and certainly embellishment), there is no doubt that my grandmother was raising these same tomatoes more than 50 years ago!


While I have kept this tradition alive personally for over 20 years, this January it all felt a bit different.   We have been in “covid mode” since mid March of last year.  So many things have been pushed off to another time, another year…. so much of life has been put on hold.  With the millions of positive cases and hundreds of thousands of deaths tied to Covid here in our country, I am actually VERY grateful to have a life where we can put things on hold for a bit.  Yet this year as I pulled out the seeds from last summer and started preparing the seed trays, I became excited about the fact that I was TAKING ACTION on something for the future.  The garden was not going to be on hold…. Mama’s tomatoes are not going to be on hold…. summer will come and we will enjoy delicious fresh vegetables from the garden AND save some of those seeds for the future.   The cycle of seasons will hold and winter will go into spring and into the summer.  Never has that felt more vital and important!


In this dark and cold winter, faced by so many challenges, I hope that you can find something, maybe as small as a tomato seed, to take action on that will allow you to focus on and have an impact on for the future.  Yes there are dangerous days ahead and our need to continue to practice our covid safety protocols (mask wearing/social distancing/hand washing/etc.) has never been more important.  Its in that context that I share this story; the positive energy and the small “light” of hope that those seedlings are bringing to me this year are helping me see a brighter summer for all of us.

Monday, January 18, 2021

In honor and memory of Dr. King…. His “challenge” for our future!



 Since my earliest postings on this blog in 2009, now 200+ essays ago, I have shared a deep inspiration (in good times and bad) that is rooted in the Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech that Dr. King gave in Stockholm in 1963.  While Dr. King’s writings and speeches are broadly inspiring, I continue to find myself coming back to this same document, almost as old as I am, and I continue to find fresh encouragement and inspiration that is very timely and relevant to the challenges we are facing today.


For those of you who have not read his entire speech, click this link (www.nobelprizes.com/nobel/peace/MLK-nobel.html)

and take a few minutes to savor the entire document.   


Today I want to focus on a specific paragraph of the speech and reflect on what it says to us today, a few days before the inauguration of President Biden, and Vice President Harris. 


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.


Over the past few weeks and months, certainly culminating on the attack at the Capitol on January 6th, I have been discouraged by the  ““isness” of man’s present nature” that Dr. King refers to in his speech.  Are we incapable as a country and a society to reach to “the eternal “oughtness”,” thus being doomed to a “starlight midnight of racism”?  These questions and doubts have been persistent for me, and maybe some of you as well.  As I write this essay, in the dark quiet of the national holiday honoring Dr. King, I re-read this passage and I am actually energized by another sentence….. “I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsom in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events.”  While these words were written almost 60 years ago, they are “on point” for all of us today/this week as we end one chapter of our American story and begin another!


Dr. King’s challenge for us is that we aren’t victims of history, we aren’t “mere flotsam and jetsom in the river of life” …we are actually active parts of CREATING the future for all humanity! Our actions matter and if we choose to act in paths that will create a more just, a more truthful, and a more peaceful society then our world will have a more hopeful future!  The eternal “oughtness” that he refers to is his challenge for us and our actions to CREATE a better tomorrow for all!

I wish off of you a peaceful and hopeful week as we move into a new chapter for our country, and I for one am working to be hopeful about the path ahead.  Take a few minutes this week to read (or re-read) some of Dr. King’s works and find fresh inspiration and challenge for OUR work ahead!


Thursday, January 7, 2021

a message from a troubled moment in our history

 Early this morning, I sent the following "note" to my team at Bolthouse Farms.  Its rare that I post these types of communications on this blog, but at a very challenging and troubled moment in our country's history, I wanted to share these thoughts....

Early this morning, I got up with a fresh cup of coffee and reflected on the horrific images from our Capitol in Washington D.C.  I am angered, horrified, and deeply saddened by the acts of mob violence and domestic terrorism… and in the quiet of the morning I am highly motivated to speak out against those actions (and those inciting those actions) as an American and as a Bolthouse Farms person.


Since our founding in 1915, generations of Bolthouse Farms people have always had to work hard to do their/our honest work.  Everyday across our history we have had to work hard to overcome challenges, to take care of our land, take care of our facilities, take care of our people and to grow our carrots; to make all of our products, and to serve our customers and communities. We work hard everyday at Bolthouse Farms to Grow, Make & Serve.  This central idea of “working hard to grow, make, & serve” has always been at the heart of this company, a 105 year “young” idea that is never more true and relevant than today.  We don’t stand for lies, bullying, violence, and destruction, and we never will.


As an American, I am reminded that we must come together and work hard for a more just and productive nation.  Our communities face so many challenges, but through coming together and working hard together we can (and must) accomplish great things.  Very early this morning, after the congress reconvened and finished their constitutional work to confirm the results of our recent election, the Senate Chaplain closed the proceedings with the following prayer.  I found it encouraging and inspiring and I share it with that same spirit…


"Lord of our lives and sovereign of our beloved nation, we deplore the desecration of the United States Capitol building, the shedding of innocent blood, the loss of life, and the quagmire of dysfunction that threaten our democracy.
These tragedies have reminded us that words matter and that the power of life and death is in the tongue. We have been warned that eternal vigilance continues to be freedom's price.
Lord, you have helped us remember that we need to see in each other a common humanity that reflects your image.
You have strengthened our resolve to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies domestic as well as foreign.
Use us to bring healing and unity to our hurting and divided nation and world. Thank you for what you have blessed our lawmakers to accomplish in spite of threats to liberty.
Bless and keep us. Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to do your will and guide our feet on the path of peace. And God bless America. We pray in your sovereign name, amen."