Whether you are a CPG brand, a niche natural food disruptor or contributor to the global food value chain, we all sit around the same kitchen table.

Food brings us together.

Many of us in the industry faced similar challenges this past year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. jobless rate dropped to 3.7 percent — the lowest in 50 years.

Great news except the opposite is true for manufacturing. Unemployment has hit an all-time high. There it is, a perfect storm.

It’s been said that true appreciation comes on the heels of surviving something big. At GreenSeed, we struggled to find enough people to meet demand. Because of this, we showed our weakness, and you know what? That turned out to be a good thing. Here’s why.

When you fall, you get up. You figure out how to leap to the next level. You grow. For us, the lessons we learned changed our posture. We evaluated our pricing models, growth plans, internal processes, and even how we inspire one another.

Lesson 1: Starting Over Isn’t a Bad Thing

Molly joined GreenSeed Contract Packaging in the fall and heads up our sales efforts.

In talking about lessons learned, she points to positivity. She says: “I’ve been in food for a while, but not on the operation side. It took some courage to make the leap. I know sales, but having to start over and learn the machines and packaging and everything — these things that were once done for me before — has been a challenge. However, I’ve learned that I’m capable of making the switch and doing something new. The big idea for me is that starting over isn’t a bad thing.”

Lesson 2: You’re Only as Good as the Person Next to You

Next up is Joe. He speaks to the value of team. He says: “I had a person who worked under me, but really he worked alongside me. When he left to take another position, I realized you’re only as good as the person next to you.” Joe now has a new person working with him. From his learning experience, the training and mentoring process has taken on even greater meaning and led to a positive transition.

Lesson 3: Learning, Adjusting, and Adapting to Change Leads to Confident Decision-making

The wage increases statewide impacted many manufacturers. GreenSeed was no exception. According to Brad, “learning, adjusting and adapting to change” mattered most. He also cites how the supply chain rarely stands still. “We always have to have open lines of communication with each person. This reflects on our efficiencies and our people,” he says.

Lesson 4: “Volunteering” Your Responsibility Means Taking Ownership of Your Work

Kirk works in quality. The onset of SQF Code Edition 8 meant a new set of rules for food safety this past year. He explains: “The changes we needed to focus on paralleled a lack of knowledge for our clients. As it should be, their focus is on their business so the responsibility falls on this building to maintain our client’s food safety programs. The higher lesson is the value of ‘volunteering’ your responsibility. This means you take ownership of your work. It’s a rule. Our job here at GreenSeed is to make sure the product is safe — no matter what.”

Lesson 5: There Are No Excuses

“I learned there are no excuses in the supply chain,” commented Hector. Like others, he brings up the talent shortage and the deep commitment to deliver for clients. “We deliver what we say we’re going to do — that’s what differentiates us from other co-packers. It’s our people, our commitment, our attitude, our results. This continues to be our story and why we are growing.”

Lesson 6: A Global Mindset Builds Bridges

Empathy raced to the top of lessons learned for David. He says: “In 2019, we will take a more deliberate approach to our work. Culture comes in small steps. Even if you have timelines and a vision, it takes time. It takes time to become a culture where everybody matters. In the end, understanding others and having a global mindset builds bridges.”

Lesson 7: Good People Are Hard to Find

Every organization has a Swiss Army knife — that person who answers phones as deftly as they organize plant tours. Samantha is that person at GreenSeed.

She talks about how a learning organization challenges people to expand their skill set. This year, Sam was asked to handle the hiring process. She describes her lesson learned as “eye-opening” because of a tight labor market. She says: “Going through that process and learning internally what we were looking for and meeting expectations led me to learn that it’s hard to find good people.”

What About You?

A year from now, new lessons will emerge. We will look at the world differently because of our experiences, perspective and the rapid rate of change in the food industry. Until then, let’s keep learning from each other.

What lessons did you learn in 2018?