Fruits of Thought
Lessons From United
A couple of years ago the United Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Association was on the ropes. Talk throughout the industry was about the possible merger with another association or other dramatic changes in the structure of United.
Yet today United is coming off of what was, in many ways, its most successful meeting ever. In addition to attracting over 8,300 attendees, the highest in United’s history, the association’s recent Anaheim convention was able to realize higher gross revenues than ever before at a convention. Now United is not totally out of the woods yet – United has been investing heavily in its convention to please attendees and exhibitors, so all that revenue is not likely to fall down to the bottom line. And as the convention is the association’s major fund raiser, the bottom line is important.
Still, the turnaround from two years ago at Houston is remarkable. And I think it’s worth noting how United pulled itself up by its bootstraps because the lessons apply to every business.
Some have been trying to derail the Retail Institute with the idea that it poses some great challenge to the Annual Produce Conference. The funny thing about this is that United, the National American Wholesale Grocers Association (NAWGA) and the National Grocers Association (NGA) will all be holding their national conventions in Florida in 1992. All of these very large meetings, as well as the Annual Produce Conference, which also is scheduled for Florida, will be held within six weeks of each other.
That people are paying so much attention to the “threat” posed by the Retail Institute to the Produce Conference and ignoring these much larger and long-established conventions simply illustrates how threatening people often find a new idea.
Perhaps that is the real lesson of United’s renaissance. If you are going to set out to change things, you have to be dedicated, draw on the resources available, lead your organization in the direction you want to go, try new things knowing they might fail and be able to see criticism as what it often is: the sincere form of flattery by which people let you know that what you are doing matters. pb