Tran Nguyen

Account Manager, Retail Sales
IFCO Systems LLC: Tampa, FL

Years in Produce:

Age: 39

Personal Information:

Significant other; One son

Hobbies: Cooking; hot yoga; board games; brunch after Sunday church; charity work; Long Beach Rescue Mission

Motto in life: Live in the moment, as the grass is greener wherever you water it.

Work History: Nguyen first started in the produce industry in 2003 at The Oppenheimer Group as a temporary receptionist. Over the next 12 years, she worked her way up, moving into the sales and marketing departments and leading the training for I*trade, while being a brand ambassador for various commodities, including apple and kiwifruit under the Enza and Zespri labels. She later moved into category management in the tropicals arena at Oppy and was a part of the company’s “Champions of Change” and employee forum. She left Oppy to join 4Earth Farms as a senior sales director. In 2015, she accepted a position at IFCO Systems, a leading RPC company in North America. In her current position (working out of Long Beach, CA), she has helped grow RPC sales at regional retailers for the West Coast. She is a champion for sustainability savings throughout the supply chain. She is involved with the Fresh Produce and Floral Council’s Northern California Committee, as well as the Apprentice Task Force, serving as a mentor.

Questions & Answers:

Q: Are you a Gen X-er or Millennial?

I consider myself a Gen X-er because I miss the “old days” of minimal technology. I miss the days when people picked up the phone to have a conversation or wrote snail mail. Though I often enjoy having Google at the tip of my fingers, I do miss doing actual research. 

Q: What do you know now you wish you knew when you first started your career?

I wish I knew I didn’t have to sweat the small stuff. I have learned that having thick skin is essential within our ever-changing industry. 

Q: What aspect of the business challenged you the most early on?

Mother Nature challenged me heavily. I thought I was going crazy and running out of “excuses” when I had to tell a customer I didn’t have a product for them as ordered. I became an advocate for their business and offered other items to replace what I couldn’t provide or reached out to other suppliers to find product to fill their needs.

Q: What accomplishment(s) are you most proud of in your career?

I am proud that I became a salesperson. I never thought I would be making cold calls or selling a product that had a quick shelf life. I am proud to have grown and thrived in an industry I didn’t even know existed.    

Q: What advice would you give someone new to the produce industry?

I would tell them that in this industry, nothing is more important than following through on your word and that your integrity will always shine through to your customer. You can try to sell something for $2 more than your competition, and if your customer trusts you enough, you’ll get that sale. 

Q: What is the most critical “hot button” issue facing the industry in the next decade?

Rising costs of labor, along with the ability to attract younger generations into our business. The silver lining: we are on the right side of things, and people will always need to eat. Our newer generation is tapped into technology and finding that next, new fad. We need to harness this energy into something relatable.

Q: What has shocked or surprised you about the produce industry?

My biggest shock was that there was no special manual on how to sell produce. I had to jump in head-first, learn from my mistakes and teach myself along the way. Of course, I had the help of many great mentors.