Washington should learn from supermarkets
This column has been written for and originally appeared in Supermarket News.
Well it is official. The White House and Congress just don’t play together very well – and as a result, this fiscal year’s budget cuts of $85 billion (and $1.2 trillion over the next decade) became official.
The cuts will touch practically everything to do with food – the 83-page detail can be found here and as you’ll read, the effect on our industry will be holistic and consequential.
I learned a lesson early on that I would like to share with those we have elected to represent our interests in our Capital. I started my career working for my dad selling cheeses and canned meats to supermarket buyers, food service operators and to the butcher stalls in the Gansevoort, Hunts Point, Newark and Bronx Terminal markets. One of the most important lessons I learned is how to compromise.
Some might call selling commodities to the food industry a negotiation – those days I could easily lose a sale over the difference of a half a penny a pound. And truthfully it wasn't a negotiation. The buyer held all the cards. I was selling products that could easily be supplied by dozens of others, with little (if any) difference in taste or quality. I quickly learned that it was all about the relationship.
In order for me to “sell” the products off my list, especially as a new guy right out of college, it wasn't about the products or price. I had to convince my buyers that I was there for them. Whatever it took, late night phone calls for emergency orders, picking up products in my car and delivering it to their customers, being yelled and cursed at and even listening to really really bad meat packer jokes. To succeed I had to prove that I was there in the thick of it with them. And I was. And I sold a lot of cheese and ham.
What we have witnessed in our Nation’s Capital is that the opposing sides do not feel that they are in this together. Neither side is willing to put aside their differences and understand that they (and we!) are all in this together; and if the “sale” doesn’t happen the customer might not get their food and no one gets their money. Perhaps it’s time to give them all order books and a list of food buyers to call on.