A Moment Of Thanks

Last year when the produce industry gathered for the PMA Fresh Summit Convention in Orlando the world stood at a precipice: Would the economy collapse? Was a new Great Depression imminent? There was widespread and legitimate fear about the stability of our financial system.

A year has passed, the crisis was stabilized, the government changed, and although it would be foolish to say we are out of the woods yet – unemployment is high, smaller banks are failing regularly, there are risks hidden in commercial real estate loans and credit card receivables – still and all, there is palpable sense of relief, a sense that the end of the world is not near.

Produce Business was founded at the PMA convention held in San Francisco back in 1985. The fact that the same entrepreneurial team that started the magazine runs it today has always struck me as an extraordinary advantage in the writing and editing of a magazine dedicated to an industry. After all, it means we have gone through the same challenges and see the same opportunities as the industry we are a part of.

Sweating out a payroll, seeking capital, having a bank pull a line of credit… these are integral parts of the entrepreneurial experience and they inform our coverage in a way that would be difficult to duplicate had we not had these experiences ourselves.

This year I learned to appreciate, in a way I had not before, the caliber of people I’m privileged to work with. Advertising is an easy thing to cut because the benefits accrue over long periods of time, whereas the expense is immediate. If you think the world is coming to an end, cutting advertising is a rational response. Yet the issue you hold in your hands is larger both in pages and in sales dollars than last year’s issue. That is a formidable achievement in 2009 — almost unheard of in publishing — and with even greater growth at our sister publication, the online Perishable Pundit, it speaks exceptionally well of the world-class team that has coalesced around bringing you the information and insights, the intellectual and informational tools, to do your job or run your business better.

As CEO and editor-in-chief, I try to do my part, but the secret all CEOs learn as their organizations grow is that they can’t do that much. I can allocate capital from project to project and I work hard to disseminate information from one part of the company to the other and, of course, I try to hire exceptional people of integrity, ability, and commitment.

I endeavor to set a personal example of industry commitment plus demonstrate a personal commitment to being world class in my own writing. In the end, though, with all our modern management systems, with all the Peter Drucker books I’ve read, success or failure is in the hands of people who have to draw their motivation from the deep recesses of personal commitment to excellence.

The team has grown. Once it was just my old fraternity brother, Ken Whitacre, with whom I founded this journal. Now there are many others:

  • Eric Nieman, our associate publisher, who has carried the Produce Business banner into battle for decades, and Ellen Rosenthal, whose genuine love for her clients and the industry knows no bounds;
  • Mira Slott and James Elmer, who have helped make the Perishable Pundit an international phenom;
  • Bill Martin and Sandy Lee, whose decades in the industry have earned them a loyal following;
  • Jennifer Kramer and Amy Shannon, two wordsmiths who bring youthful energy and perspectives to the magazine;
  • Jennifer Jordan, who has taken to the industry like a fish to water, and Melissa Miller, a “newbie” who has quickly brought organizational skills and personal integrity to bear that has helped us all;
  • My longtime executive assistant, Fran Gruskin, who I would trust with my right arm, and Jackie LoMonte, the quiet giant who gets us where we need to be and equips us with what we need;
  • Diana Levine, who typeset the very first issue of Produce Business and now brings an insistence on old-world values to our modern offices;
  • Shaunn Alderman brings the beauty of flowers to our business magazine;
  • Jackie Tucker, Freddy Pulido, and Joanna Armstrong take blank pages and create great designs;
  • Kelly Roskin gets the magazine mailed to the people who want it;
  • Jason Kahan turns electrons into works of art;
  • And, my wife, Debbie, who ensures we do it all without breaking any laws!

During a year when you couldn’t open a newspaper without reading about another magazine declaring bankruptcy or shutting its doors, this team of professionals rose, en masse, and, rejecting all talk of decline, declared: “Not on my watch!” The result is the record-breaking issue before you and my deep and abiding respect, admiration and appreciation for the privilege of working with such winners.

Of course, even the best team couldn’t do it alone and so on this 24th anniversary of the founding of Produce Business, it is fitting to take a moment out to thank our advertisers, who have provided the crucial sustenance that lets us deliver the industry service we do.

And, of course, to thank you for reading. A magazine without readers is useless and dead, but your sharing of your time with us brings life to our words as they are transformed into ideas and actions to advance your work.

I try to take lessons from each year and I think I learned a big one over the past 12 months. It is that despairing is an emotion for those who have not come to fully appreciate the enormous capacity and creativity of the human spirit to overcome. The challenge in business is always to tap into that spirit, for in the face of such power there are no obstacles, only opportunities.

May we all be worthy of our opportunities.