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10 to Ponder… Industry leaders recall their best career advice

bp career advice

What was the best career advice you ever received, and how did it shape your future?

Jan DeLyser
California Avocado Commission BB #:145028 – Irvine, CA
Some of the best advice I’ve received (there’s been a bunch along the way) was given to me by my father when I first started in the produce business. He told me to look at my list of things to do each day and do the five things I wanted to do least, first. It definitely helps minimize the opportunity for procrastination.

Julie DeWolf
Sunkist Growers BB #:102141 – Valencia, CA
Never be afraid to put your ego aside and hire people smarter than you, because that exchange of ideas leads to some of the best collaborative teamwork and valuable lessons for both parties.
As a result of really trying to listen to this advice, we have hired strong, independent, creative, and highly intelligent people and I feel that we currently have one of the most talented, dedicated marketing teams in the industry.

Kate Dowling
Kate Dowling Strategic Consulting – St. Paul, MN
“Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.” –Dale Carnegie. I use this every day. Sincerely honoring this requires me to be a person of integrity and match my motives with my actions. Applying this principle has supported me through times of difficulty and transition, when it would be easy to blame or make excuses. Instead, taking responsibility has made for more positive outcomes, every time.

Emily Fragoso
Mixtec Group BB #:152072 – La Crescenta, CA
Never burn bridges—I’ve remained in contact with many people since my start in the industry. It has served me well to be open to relationships at every turn. People have evolved into mentors/sponsors/confidants and vice versa. I have developed new friendships, called for resources, and have learned you never know who you will work for, with, or have reporting into you as your career progresses.

Doug Grant
The Oppenheimer Group BB #:116424 – Vancouver, BC
The best advice I had was “to be promoted, you need to learn as much as you can about the position and voluntarily take on related work. When the position opens up, you’ll be the obvious choice.”

Charlene Keller
Choptank Transport BB #:168125 – Preston, MD
I’ve been given a lot of good sales advice over the years, but the one that sticks with me the most came from a former boss at Perdue Farms. She told me that when you engage with your customers, it’s not about you: you ask questions, find pain points, and offer solutions. Even if they ask you something on a personal level, you should quickly bring the conversation back around to how you and your company can help make their job easier, more profitable and/or more efficient.

James O’Neil
Ongweoweh Corporation – Ithaca, NY
The best career advice I ever received came from a business consultant who was helping us navigate through a very tumultuous time for our organization. Her advice was, “Never say or do anything that you aren’t willing to defend later in life.” This statement has stuck with me and helped form my leadership style and strengthen my integrity. Oftentimes in leadership roles, you’re faced with difficult decisions and heated debates where emotions can run high. It’s at these moments that this statement plays in the back of my mind and reinforces the decisions I must make as a leader within my organization.

Bob Rose
Allen Lund Company BB #:107465 – La Canada, CA
Early on in the produce business, when I was a produce broker, I was told by an old street wholesaler, Jimmy, “When you’re giving me bad news, just tell the truth and tell me how you’re going to fix the problem.” That was it—just let people know what’s happening and how to make the situation right! Simple advice that I follow and expect from the people in my life. Business is not always easy, but it’s easier when you tell it from the heart.

Joe Rubini
Rally Logistics BB #:209734 – Toronto, ON
“Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching”—C.S. Lewis. As a company, we’ve never found it ok to not do the right thing. We always look for win-win scenarios, between our clients, suppliers, and sometimes even for ourselves. I personally have lived these words in business and in my personal life—so far so good.

Becky Wilson
Tom Lange Companies, Inc. BB #:102175 – Springfield, IL
Our chairman/CEO told me: “Your word is your bond and when you tell a customer or shipper something, you had better honor that commitment.” As our company is celebrating 60 years in business, I use this code of ethics every day.


Taryn Pfalzgraf is Senior Editorial Manager for Produce Blueprints