The word “strategy” has many definitions; one element they all have in common, however, is that strategy involves choices.
Produce company executives and owners make strategic business decisions every day, but those who do so with forethought and an eye on market forces can differentiate themselves from their competition—and carve out a unique and valuable place within the industry.
Creating A Sustainable Difference
In his classic 1996 Harvard Business Review article “What Is Strategy?,” Michael E. Porter defined strategy as having three key or ‘trade-offs’; and determining your ‘fit’ within the industry.
Regarding the first step, it is crucial to pursue a unique set of activities, such as focusing on a particular group of products, a certain customer segment, or a particular means of reaching customers.
Holly G. Green, managing director of The Human Factor and author of Using Your Brain to Win in Today’s Hyper-Paced World (Amazon, 2013), says, “Every organization or company has to determine what brings unique value to a customer—whether that’s a commodity item you deliver in better condition, with better customer service, with a better price point, or with additional value (such as inventory tracking or monitoring).”
Further, she notes, your company’s resources must be fully aligned to support this product differentiation.
In the produce industry, positioning can be a simple matter of concentrating on one or a few commodities and doing it well. “Some companies compete on the basis of growing their products in uniquely favorable locales,” explains Minos Athanassiadis, managing partner at marketing consultancy FreshLink Group, LLC.“Examples include celery in the Oxnardarea during the fall/winter season, lemons and avocados in Ventura County, lettuce in the Salinas and Yuma areas, and grapes and tree fruit in California’s Central Valley.”
The second element of Porter’s strategy involves trade-offs. “The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do,” he writes.“Without trade-offs, there would be no need for choice and thus no need for strategy. Any good idea could and would be quickly imitated.”
Green puts it this way: “Like all other industries, there are numerous opportunities that can be pursued,” so, she says, it is very important for produce companies to be clear about what products or services they do not offer as part of their business. “What gets in the way of providing the best possible value for whatever it is you do? Many times we continue doing things long after they add value in a market—mostly because they have become habit or ‘just the way we do things in our industry or our company’—and these old habits need to constantly be updated so you can keep up in a rapidly changing world.”