I met David Rowe while selecting strawberries at the grocery store. The strawberries looked beautiful, and the sign attached to the stand announced I could buy one pound and get one pound free. Upon seeing my reaction to the alluring look of the strawberries, David introduced himself and told me he had grown those strawberries.
After talking with David for a bit, I found out that what we hear about local food is true. He said that after picking strawberry, squash and his other crops fresh in the morning, and after a negligible time for processing, those beautiful fruits and vegetables make it from his hands to the grocery store displays in twenty minutes. I learned from him that our generation changed the food distribution chain and pushed the collective conscious towards local foods. He also noted that his family members have been North Carolinian Farmers for five generations.
However, two things that David revealed stuck with me.
David told me he was at the grocery store because he often drives to see what his product looks like when stacked on fruit and vegetable stands at the stores. The second important point he made is that after five generations of farmers, he would be the last generation of his family in this profession, because the work is intense and the monetary reward is very small. The interest for the trade within his family has diminished to nothing.
The lifecycle of any product ends only after your clients have become an advocate for your business. In this case, David could have responded to market forces, which in farming would dictate increasing or decreasing the supply of a certain crop after measuring how much of each crop sells and how much of it rots in storage. That is one way to understand and respond to the way the world reacts to your product.
What David does, however, is to check on the performance of all other businesses upon which his product depends. This way, he can make sure that those businesses are delivering on their promises to properly display and represent his product, just as David himself promises to those businesses that his product is of great quality. If strawberries are not selling well, it may be correlated to an external factor other than quality. The store display might be hidden or dirty, in which case, David’s response would not be to grow less strawberries, but to find a better store to help market his product.
The solution proposed to a problem in business may require an adjustment aimed at improving the client experience. Conversely, it may require corrections to internal management. You need to decide what the focus should be. The efficacy of your proposed solution will depend on your willingness to accept that your client is indifferent, and that you must earn his or her business at every step of the way. Furthermore, David’s commitment to the entire cycle of his product is firm, even though he knows his business will not be around after he has stopped farming. That commitment comes from a characteristically American trade that has pushed people like him to act in this way for as long as our nation has existed. David is providing the world with his best performance, not because of a future reward, but because excellence is a discipline that cannot be turned off.
I anticipate that will continue even after the very last strawberry has been picked.