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.