Opinion: fresh industry could benefit from good parenting

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Opinion: fresh industry could benefit from good parenting

By Eric Viramontes, president of VISER

Eric-Viramontes-292x300-150x150Life has not yet given me the joy of being a father and I confess that this is a topic that at time invades my thoughts and causes me to reflect. At times in my life, I have entertained the idea of being one but it simply has not happened.

Lately I have spent a lot of time with friends, cousins and, more specifically, my brother who has six children and has given me a notion of what it means to be a father.

I'm a good spectator and seeing fatherhood from a distance, I am intrigued by the selfless, constant worry by fathers to play the best role possible for their children. It is a full-time job to constantly provide what's necessary: food, clothing, education, health care and preparation for the future by setting a good example.

Although not yet a father, as an observer, I have not been able to resist the temptation to share advice, opinions and theories on how to raise children. I must say that this has not helped me become a more likeable or popular person.

When I left the Mexican Association of Protected Horticulture, I was criticized for calling it "my baby." I lead this farmers' organization next to César Campaña for many years. Now that I look back, I understand the reasoning for the criticism, especially since I was the general director. But I think I also took my work very personally.

I do think it is an apt comparison, especially for those that, in an honorary capacity, invest their time and intellect to direct one of the many organizations that represent fruits and vegetables.

Perhaps it isn't so bad to give a paternal sense to labor management. After all, I think this is a way to keep your intentions legitimate and honorable.

Just like a father, you must make decisions to provide the necessary and seek autonomy for the organization. If the company is unable to pay for its operations and to be economically sustainable for its own members, it simply will not survive. An organization's economic solvency is the first evidence that the industry needs it and that labor supports it.

A good father of an organization will also promote its health so that it is always well and firm in the industry both economically and politically. It is also part of the job to direct the company and guide it along a good road so that it grows and becomes stronger.

Being manager of a farming organization means power and personal positioning, and I think we can all find great satisfaction in this regard.

Like a father with his children, one can find the greatest happiness in the achievements and successes of the organization, which can translate in the general good of the industry and the workers it represents.

This is the key idea. If you feel more satisfaction reaching common good than self-fulfillment, this is the first sign that you may have the build of a leader.

It would be ridiculous for a father to feel jealousy or overshadowed when his child shined. But as ridiculous as it sounds, it happens. This feeling can fall on our organizational directors who feel left behind by operational staff. Far from feeling proud and encouraging them, they try to hinder and block their initiative, or in extreme cases remove them from their position.

During my career, I have seen how organizations become weak and die from being political springboards or from serving the personal agenda of one individual. What bothers me personally is when the situation turns into the spoils for a manager, consultant or external agent who takes advantage of the good intentions of others seeking to do their best for the organization.

Leadership is not achieved simply by holding an executive position. There are people who preside over an organization because "no else wanted to take it" or due to many other circumstances. Respect as a manager is won showing your true intentions through action, sacrifice, time invested and overall, being consistent with what you say and do.

Managers come and go. Some destroy.  But the ones that put passion in management are the ones that last and are remembered.

The more we advance in this globalized world, organizations that represent the perishable industry have more value. These are the organizations that establish defenses, competitive parameters, positioning strategies, communication and promotions, in addition to being the industry voice.

Markets today are complex. In the perishable industry, entering into a high-value market means much more than just producing quality.

Today's consumer is changing. A few years ago, look governed preference. Buyers wanted photo-worthy apples and intense colors free of imperfections. Taste came last. You could export fruits that at a glance looked perfect but had the flavor of cardboard.

Suddenly, the consumer realized that fruits and vegetables should have a fresh flavor, that aroma is important and that sugar content is synonymous with quality. If that weren't enough, consumers want their vegetables in convenient packs. They want to know their origin and they demand total confidence in knowing they will not make them sick.

In the dynamic, evolving consumer market, it is difficult to keep up to date and be able to respond. This is where organizations find value by investing in monitoring and studies of market trends.

Common fronts must be established that, with government participation, can set minimum parameters to protect the integrity of perishable export products.

However, although organizations that represent the fresh industry are obviously necessary, I do not think they are as strong as they need to be. Many lack needed leadership. In some there are people with a legitimate intention of being managers and in others there is a clear lack of representation and active participation by staff.

It is vital and necessary that leaders transmit their paternal interest to their associates whose performance is the base of the common good.

Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad for directors to take a fatherly stance toward their staff. In my personal experience, I can say with pleasure that although I am not a biological father, I already have some children that I feel very proud to direct.

For me love is the ability to make sacrifices with a happy face on.

Follow Eric Viramontes on Twitter at @ervs_viramontes.


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