Opinion: why everyone should be 'doing business naked'
By Dawn Gray Global Consulting founder and president Dawn E Gray
There is a new "buzz word" in business these days... and that word is transparency. So what does it mean to maintain and support transparency in today's global, conscious and connected marketplace, or as I like to say - doing business naked?
With only a few strokes of an omnipresent keyboard attached to either a smartphone or computer anywhere, almost anyone can access the most detailed or obscure information.
We are living in an era of accessibility, an era of transparency. The consumer has really gotten savvy as well as hungry for truth and enlightenment when it comes to the products they use and the food they eat. So what does that look like in real life, and how are you taking advantage of that in your business?
Transparency, especially in business, means honesty, candor and integrity, and it means there is nothing to hide. A transparent business is a compliant business, one that respects colleagues, employers, employees, government agencies and of course the consumer.
Growers, shippers and marketers of fresh produce today all do their best to be compliant. However, they are all faced with the threat of foodborne illness terrorizing both the public and our livelihoods.
It is interesting to look at what is driving the growth in organic fresh produce sales. I believe that they are driven in part by more than just the concept of abandoning pesticides. It speaks to the consumers desire for transparency. They want to know what is going on with the food they eat, no matter how it's sourced or handled. It creates both a mandate and an opportunity for every grower, distributer, wholesaler, retailer and everyone involved. "Tell us what you've got, how you've grown it, shipped it and sold it and make sure that everyone is accountable." There is huge opportunity for conventional growers!
Technology and the information revolution is in fact a mandate for transparency. It inspired me to take a traditional phrase and give it a makeover of sorts, one that will modernize its message for the new millennium and beyond. We have all heard the phrase known as "Murphy's Law". It simply states "Anything that can go wrong, will at the worst possible moment." Murphy discovered and identified that condition in the late 1940's.
I would like to propose "Gray's Corollary on Murphy's Law " and that is "Any detail that can be discovered will be requested" or "Give up and reveal." Be prepared for candor, accountability and conversation. Be proud of your produce and its source, and be prepared to share the process. Ultimately, transparency fosters partnership and an improved vendor client relationship and understanding at every level of business.
Our industry is under scrutiny like never before - trust needs to be built. Whether we like it or not the lid is lifting on everything. Building this trust and traceability will take time but it is a tremendous opportunity. The IGD (Institute of Grocery Distribution) research revealed that 56 % of shoppers interviewed want to know more about the origins of the food they buy, and that percentage more than doubled over the past two years. Demand for transparency is gaining momentum. At this point in the revolution the consumer will no longer prescribe to the adage "ignorance is bliss". We need to embrace the idea that an educated consumer is our best customer.
Going back to "Gray's Corollary on Murphy's Law", think about the impact of social media on transparency. Social media has enabled word of mouth to occur at an unprecedented scale. One of its most powerful effects through reviews and recommendations is to put product quality and value for money as the key to success. I think this is good news for fresh produce as it brings a level of transparency that prevents marketers from advertising their way to success without underlying product quality.
There are many ways and means to doing business naked in the fresh produce industry. We are really fortunate to be involved in a variety of aspects of a business that is ultimately an essential part of life. In many ways we have a captive audience, but that audience also has choices. We all have to eat to live, but no one has to ingest your produce in particular.
There are ways of conducting business and then there are ways to conduct business that are inclusive, fun and informative. The technology revolution also provides us with new ways of informing the public and supporting our industry. Are you using them to share your message?
We live, work and are more than a little passionate about an industry that is steeped in tradition. We have to find the balance between honoring tradition while accepting innovation. Adapt or Die, as they say. So our challenge is to take all that knowledge, integrity, pride and experience and fine tune all that you've got to enter the conversation of a new age.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Partnership used to explore new territory is not only wise, it's to be encouraged, and of course it's an essential element in true transparency. I've no doubt that we will see more of each other in the future!