Thursday, March 17, 2016

Julia, Julio, And a Few Lessons on How to Pursue the Finer Things

This is Marc, aka ‘Julio.’.  He is our second child, six foot four second son, soon to be headed to Canada to begin studying and flying at Prairie College.  We're very proud of him, as most parents are (or should be) of their kids.  Most of the things about him are fun, and of course, those qualities are what we brag about.  He's a great writer, he plays a mean violin, and he is frequently complimented for being very caring and compassionate.

But, he is also extremely impulsive, and the word 'no' means very little to him if and when he really wants something.  Everything is 'wide open fun and games run like a mad man at it' until he gets hurt.  Then, after his owie goes away, whatever that might be, off he goes again, one more time.  From a mother’s point of view, this had been scary at times.

He also has a taste for the finer things in life.  And boy can he tell the difference between a knockoff and the real deal!  Clothing, food, music, cars, you name it, he has a good idea of what 'best' should look like.

So when he asked for a Julia Childs cookbook one Christmas, I knew better than to give it to him.

"French cooking and cuisine just have a 'feel' to it Mom, ya know what I mean?"

I did have a 'feeling,' and it was worse than the feeling I usually have after I eat rich French food.  Somewhere in Marc's past, between the good old green beans and bacon and an occasional butter garlic laden filet mignon with a side of sautéed mushrooms, Marc had had a taste of upscale culinary delights that he wanted to make at home.

After several serious attempts at trying to get him to scratch this off his Christmas list, I realized my efforts were futile, and I ordered the book.  As they say, 'The rest is history.'

Marc chose two recipes, Beef Bourguignon, and French Onion Soup.  My husband was annoyed because Julia insists that to achieve the highest level of flavor, only the best ingredients should be used.  No chuck roast for this effort.  And the Chianti?  You don't even want to know how that part of the discussion went.  All I will say is that I must have received ten texts while my husband shopped at the store, and the content was not questions.  Nope. All complaints about Julia, her attitude about $3 red wine and Marc's refusal to settle for ingredients that we could buy without selling one of our cars.

The recipe for the Beef is four pages long.  I had read through it before he started because I knew he would be asking questions by the first paragraph.  I was gardening that day.  Yes, it's all coming back to me now.  I heard the back door open and shut, for what would turn out to be the first of about twenty times, and here Marc came, nose in the book, confused look on his face and honestly I don't remember the question.  But whatever he asked, I knew that he was somewhere between peeling and caramelizing the 500 pearl onions.

"You're still on the first page aren't you?"  He didn't answer, but undaunted asked his first question.  

And the next day, the completed dish was as beyond exquisite.  Yes, a day later, we ate it.  Here's the funny thing, well, at least now it is.  Julia wrote a simple little sentence at the end or the recipe that went something like "This dish is very good the next day."  Of course, because it takes a day to make!

My poor gracious mom endured much of my complaining during this ordeal. Typical Mom, always encouraging and looking at the bright side, would comment that this was like many recipes, as well as most good, 'worth doing' things in life.  

“It's not hard, or complicated, but it takes time.”

Time.  More expensive than a good cut of beef and really expensive Chianti.

But as Dad says, "The juice is worth the squeeze."

Back to the Sanitary Transportation Rule

Some of you this past week were a little incredulous about my email newsletter last week.  After all, you have been either handling or managing some part of transportation for a long time, and 'this food safety thing' can't be as bad as it sounds.  Right?

Yes, compliance for carriers, shippers and receivers is non-negotiable and may take some time to develop and implement a quality program.  Look at it from the end consumer's point of view.  They have a right to expect their food, and the supply chain that brings it to them will be safe and secure. Also, the FDA has decided what 'preventative' actions, behaviors and/or practices should be, and will enforce them. Yes, compliance will be a part of our life.

There is a flip side to this, however.  Think about it as another great opportunity to gain respect and trust in your company.  It’s Brand Building time folks!

Take it from Julia, and Julio.  There are some good things to remember when it comes to pursuing the finer things in life.

First, time and money will be well spent.

Use Julia’s take on making fine food.  Instead of thinking about the four pages of detailed instructions, focus on the end result.  We all want customers to think words like quality, excellence, and best when they hear our names.  These company characteristics are like money.  They do not grow on trees, and they will take large amounts effort.

And speaking of money, I would just encourage you also to consider costs in a variety of ways.  Concentrate on the long term reputation building/strengthening opportunities that customers and consumers will notice and for sure use to decide whether to buy your product or service instead of your what your competitor is offering.

Hmmm...What is the cost of not putting your best foot forward in your compliance efforts?

Second, learn to look ahead and reap the benefits of good planning and preparing.

If Marc had at least read through the recipe, he could have had a better idea of how the parts became the whole.  The progression of steps, and the places he could have either taken a shortcut or made the process simpler would have really made a difference in time and effort.   

I have posted 10 things to think about now before the final Sanitary Transportation Rule is published.

But why should you listen to me?  

I am working through my 18th year of owning a produce transportation company.  My family and friends work in multiple areas of agriculture and/or end consumer businesses.  When I wrote those ''threshold' questions, I relied on my expertise, my experience, and my education, which by the way, never stops happening.

My point is, use me.  Work through these questions to look ahead and begin planning.  This alone will simplify the process.

Some parts of compliance will get easier because the steps will become more familiar and methods of doing certain things will become streamlined and definitely improved.

Some parts will always take time and effort.  It is what it is.  Like I tell my kids, if it's something you can't change, change your attitude.  How simple is that?

Third, try not to do it alone.

Julia had a few cohorts in her recipe making/testing process, and definitely had help writing her book.  Marc had me to encourage and prod him (ok, a small bit of nagging) through his cooking experience.  

Gather your team around you, define your goals and expectation, and then support each other through the process.  

Now, get ‘cooking!’ Call your transportation partner today and start working on your program.  If they can’t or won’t help you, call Aly or I and we’ll get you rolling.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A Lesson Plan for Peace of Mind

Years ago I spent my days in a classroom, mostly in the primary grades.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but teaching kids and helping them understand the world around them was very fulfilling.  Now, almost 18 years later, there are times when I really miss the hustle and bustle of grade school.

There were days that required my absence.  Rarely was I ill, but there were various things that would come up and I would need to plan for a day away from my students.  

The goal in planning for a substitute teacher is peace of mind--for the person who would take the reins while I was out, for myself so that I wouldn’t worry about how things were going, but most of all my students who relied on my daily presence to take care of their concerns on a daily basis.

This means that I had to make sure that every detail I communicated and organized to the substitute would result in my classroom running just as if I was present.  Trust me, if I forgot something, I heard about it.  And the complaints were not from the teacher, but boy oh boy, my students were very clear about what they did or did not like while I was out.

Of course, my lesson plans had to be complete and crystal clear, down to the most minute detail.  But often, it was the planning beyond the obvious that took the most time.  And it was on these details that all of our peace of mind rested.

Kids are interesting.  They are bright, and I mean all of them in their individual ways.  They all want to do very well, and feel successful.  Also very important to them, even though it looks different for almost every student, they yearn for order and structure.  Knowing what to expect helps them work well because surprises that create confusion and uncertainty affect every part of them, mentally, socially and emotionally.

Substitutes are interesting too.  They come in all sorts of behavior and professional ‘sizes’ as well.  Some are clearly there for a check, others are trying to gain experience in a classroom before they decide on a career in education, and others are there for the sheer fun and excitement of being around bright creative minds that keep them on their toes for a day or two.

Most subs liked my classrooms because they walked into an organized day with kids prepared for another usual day.  Some of my classes could have run on autopilot, which of course I would never do, because the minute I think that then somebody would do what I thought they never would, and chaos would happen.  Sort of sounds like my day here in my truck brokerage!  Just when I think ‘that would never happen,’ well, it does.

Some substitutes did not like my classrooms.  Because my detailed plans, down to how to expect my class to line up for recess, turn in their homework, and even discipline George, all of these nitty gritty details held the sub accountable, not only to me but the class.  No one who failed to follow protocol could escape the fury of a prepared 2nd grader!  Oh, the sub might get one break, but don’t make the same mistake twice!

I left information on the class extroverts and introverts.  The sub would have pre knowledge on who would be rude during a four square game, who would try to explain why it was the mother’s fault that the student forgot the homework, who would know the answer but was too bashful to call out an answer, who would tell you that ‘we always go to lunch 20 minutes early,’ and maybe even why we should have an extra recess.  Oh yeah, everything written, including how to respond and be prepared to deal with the all of the surprises.

So my organization gave the sub confidence that the day would progress smoothly, and my own mind was at rest while I was away so that I could devote my full attention to my day off.  But most of all, I knew that if the substitute was even mostly diligent, then my students would be worry free and they too could enjoy their day.  This meant a lot to me because many kids come to school for peace of mind, because it is not at home.  I had the privilege of bringing that relief and rest to these students for at least a few hours of their day.

A lot of work for a day off!  But there was no alternative if I wanted to give the people most dependent on my effort a great measure of confidence that all would be fine while I was away.

Do you see how this training in the classroom is helping me now?  

Of course, obviously, details matter.

Also, I live for ‘peace of mind.’  And not only for myself, but for my customers, our trucking companies (dispatchers, drivers, bookkeepers, owners) and shippers (sales and shipping.)  My goal, every day, is to give all the people that depend on us here at Pam Young & Company, Inc. a steady, full, and very real sense that all is taken care of and things are being handled well.  

I knew my students had expectations, and it was important to me to exceed them.  Today, our customers too have expectations, and we are always finding ways to exceed them.

Aly and I are experts at understanding details.  In fact a buyer friend of mine introduced me to a supplier of his by saying “She’ll drive you nuts over the nitty gritty but you will know that she has your back!”  

Here is what I want you to hear and heed:  

Moving produce is about to undergo major changes that will be disruptive, chaotic and have many areas that could leave people exposed to serious threats in their businesses.  

The Sanitary Transportation Rule, in its final form, is scheduled to published at the end of March.  

Yes, there is time to begin implementing, and it is also true that depending on the size of your company, you will have different timeframes within which to comply.  There are even some possibilities that the FDA would issue a waiver, in specific circumstances.

But know, in most cases, and I think I would even be bold enough to argue in ALL cases, ignoring the rule, either by procrastinating in putting your safe transportation program together, or in being incomplete or incompetent in how your program will function, this will pose serious risks to your company.

I guess the real issue, or question, that we all must ask ourselves is how much peace of mind do we want when we move produce?

And to me, the answer rests on who most expects this peace of mind when they eat the produce we move?  Right...the end consumer, people.  

Earlier I mentioned that the most important group to me that depended most on my diligence and determination to line out the day in the classroom during my absence was my students.  They needed to know that when I was gone, life was safe and sound in those four walls.  They trusted me to care for them down to the nitty gritty detail.  

Whoever ‘touches’ your loads of fresh food better be experts in handling the most sensitive and sometimes the smallest of details.  It has always been interesting to me how quick suppliers are to hand off the transportation to their customers.  We hear “We don’t get the trucks, thank goodness”  or “We don’t have anything to do with the transportation.”

I would humbly suggest that you begin to be a bit more involved and proactive in your produce shipments.  Your business will depend on it.  Your customers are depending on it, even if they get the truck.  

As always, I write from ‘the middle.’  My perspective is from the broker’s seat.  So, my advice to you brokers, step up and give your customers the tranquility that your customers are paying for, are expecting, and very much deserve.

And to those of you who are supplying/selling or receiving/buying fresh produce, whoever you are depending on right now to move your produce must have peace of mind as their main goal.  Both for you and for the people you hope will buy and eat your produce.  Do not settle, do not compromise and do not think you have to do this alone.

Count on your transportation partners for peace of mind!


I am supposed to finish all my communications (blogs, website, newsletters etc.) with a CTA.  Yes, a Call to Action.  I guess I struggle with being pushy, but I will ask you to call us if you have questions, or are uncertain about any detail involved in moving produce.  We are experts, and are very eager to help you.  

Please do not hesitate:  

Pam is at (800) 538-5904 or
Aly is at  (541) 306-0524 or