If You Want To Clean Up—Strive to be Spotless


Originally printed in the January 2018 issue of Produce Business.

Thank you for joining me as I accept this opportunity to write the Wholesale Market column‭. ‬Following in the footsteps of Alan Siger is something very personal and special to me‭. ‬Janice‭, ‬my wife of 36‭ ‬years‭, ‬and I spent the early part of our marriage visiting with Alan and his wife‭, ‬Pat‭. ‬The things we saw in their home taught us how we would ultimately raise our five children‭. ‬Alan‭ ‬and Pat were calm‭, ‬well-organized and had great babysitters‭.‬

Coming from a poor family‭, ‬my earliest work was searching out soda bottles for deposit‭, ‬followed by shoveling snow and cutting lawns‭. ‬The newsstand in town was looking for a delivery boy for Sundays‭, ‬and I took the job‭. ‬

Each Sunday I would wake up before the sun came up and deliver the newspaper to the people in town who wanted home delivery‭. ‬My‭ ‬work effort paid off‭, ‬and I was invited to watch the newsstand on Sunday afternoons for 25‭ ‬cents per hour‭. ‬Learning about timely‭ ‬deliveries and customer service‭, ‬I became a newspaper carrier when I was 14‭; ‬at the height of my newspaper career‭, ‬I was delivering 216‭ ‬newspapers a day with my best friend‭.‬

At 15‭, ‬my father invited me to join the family produce business after school‭, ‬so I gave up the newspaper business‭. ‬The year was‭ ‬1972‭ ‬and my father was going to pay me‭ $‬7‭ ‬a week‭. ‬When I questioned the tremendous cut in pay‭, ‬he told me that someday I would be grateful for the training‭. ‬He was so right‭.‬

This column is about taking every job you get very seriously and doing it in a great way‭. ‬When I came to work‭, ‬I knew I would be‭ ‬starting at the bottom‭ ‬‮—‬‭ ‬we all start at the bottom‭.‬

My dad handed me the broom and explained that my job was going to be to sweep the entire building‭. ‬I made up my mind that I was‭ ‬going to do an outstanding job‭. ‬After five weeks of sweeping‭, ‬I asked my father when I would be able to put down the broom and join him in the office‭. ‬It dawned on me that wearing tattered blue jeans and a T-shirt was the uniform to sweep up‭. ‬The next day‭,‬‭ ‬I wore a tie‭. ‬That was the last time I had to sweep‭. ‬I have worn a tie ever since‭ ‬‮—‬‭ ‬45‭ ‬years‭.  ‬

I take clean very seriously‭.

Clean isn’t just broom and dust. Clean is an attitude. Clean business is easier to track. Clean business allows us to look in the mirror and sleep at night.

Clean isn’t just broom and dust‭. ‬Clean is an attitude‭. ‬Clean business is easier to track‭. ‬Clean business allows us to look in the mirror and sleep at night‭.‬

Being in the produce distribution business in 2017‭, ‬we are all faced with new challenges in legislation and food safety‭. ‬We must‭ ‬provide a transparency that allows our customers‭, ‬suppliers and industry partners a clear vision of who we are‭, ‬what we do and‭ ‬why we would be important enough to handle their product and get their attention‭.‬

All of us have physical addresses‭, ‬packing houses‭, ‬distribution warehouses‭, ‬trucks‭, ‬depots and offices‭. ‬In order to be taken seriously‭, ‬it is essential to keep our facilities spotless and well-organized‭.‬

Honest business‭, ‬steeped in integrity and clear focus‭, ‬is spotless clean business‭. ‬We can never say‭, ‬“First we will be a success‭, ‬then we will get it right‭.‬”‭ ‬Success is a byproduct‭, ‬never a destination‭. ‬Great success is built from focus‭.‬

Do any job‭, ‬every job‭, ‬like your life and the company’s success depend on it‭.‬

Your clean facility and your clean business are your calling cards‭, ‬your resumés‭, ‬your financial statements and your ultimate marketing‭.‬

It starts with you‭ ‬‮—‬‭ ‬the leaders and the workers‭ ‬‮—‬‭ ‬doing your best at every moment‭. ‬Encourage everyone in your operation to think clean in everything they do‭. ‬Clean business and clean facilities promote food safety and sustainability‭, ‬and build a great brand and reputation‭.‬

The hallmark of success is the mentoring that takes place at every level‭. ‬Each of our businesses is a ladder‭. ‬New people are coming in and going up the ladder‭, ‬while others are coming down and getting ready to leave‭. ‬A constant mentoring process is another‭ ‬key to great success‭. ‬Taking in family members as interns and summer and holiday help is a must‭. ‬Employees need to feel that this is their company‭, ‬their success‭ ‬‮—‬‭ ‬and they will work so hard to achieve it‭.‬

Those of us who made success had so much help along the way‭. ‬It is always appropriate to take the time to pay back the industry‭ ‬by teaching and mentoring‭.‬

Best wishes to all for a Happy New Year steeped in staying clean‭, ‬mentoring‭, ‬learning and getting to our company’s great success and our individual achievements‭. ‬

Harris Cutler is president and chief executive of Race-West Company, Philip G. Ball Co. and Sparky’s Transportation Corp., Clarks Summit, PA. He has been in the family produce business since 1972.