Last year she wowed the audience with a presentation we previewed in a piece titled Industry Veteran Dawn Gray To Discuss The Concept Of “Glocal” At Global Trade Symposium. Now she proposes we do business, well, naked. We asked Keith Loria, a well-dressed Contributing Editor at Pundit sister publication PRODUCE BUSINESS to give us a sneak preview of her talk at The Global Trade Symposium, co-located with the New York Produce Show and Conference:
Dawn E. Gray
Dawn Gray Global Consulting
Vancouver, BC Canada
Q: As a return speaker of the New York Produce Show and Conference, what has been your impression with the event over the years?
A: The company I was with prior to going on my own was there at the beginning, so through my partnerships or on my own I have been coming to this since it started. I love the show. It is intimate, and yet robust. It gets a great draw. People are excited to be there, they’re engaged when they are there and you have the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with people in an amazing venue.
Q: Once again, you’ll be speaking at the Global Symposium; what will be the subject of your talk this time around?
A: The title of my speech is, “Doing Business Naked: What Does Transparency Mean to the Produce Industry?”
Q: Interesting topic. Why did you decide to tackle this subject?
A: I think we hear the word kind of constantly now—typically in government or big business—but I think it’s very relevant in the produce industry. What makes me really passionate about it is that I think we have a phenomenally great story to tell. I have been in this industry a little over 37 years and most growers have that great story to tell. These guys are busy running their businesses, growing their produce and they don’t necessarily have the time or inclination to think beyond that. Yet today, people are really interested in where their food is coming from and how it’s grown and who is growing it, and in our case, transparency can be really positive.
Q: What is the biggest challenge of transparency in the business?
A: There’s a lot of negativity around food safety and that gets lots of play. There isn’t enough transparency around all the good-news stories and the phenomenal people who produce the food we need to survive.
Q: Give a little sneak peak of what your talk will cover. Can you provide a bit more details on some of what you’ve already mentioned?
A: It will touch on food safety and why and how it behooves the industry to create an opportunity to enter the dialogue. It will look at the fact that with the way consumers communicate and gather information today, they are going to talk about you, and you can be part of the conversation or choose not to, but you’re not going to cause the conversation to cease, just because you’re not participating in it.
Murphy’s Law says anything bad that can happen will happen and at the most inopportune moment and I decided there’s ways corollary to that, if there’s information out there, people will find it.
The organic community has done a pretty good job with organic growth registering double-digit growth in a less-than-robust economy and I think part of that is because of their transparency. I think the conventional grower community can take advantage of that as well. It shouldn’t be organics are good, conventionals are bad. Organics are a choice, people make the choice I think largely because of that desire to know who is growing the food, where it’s being grown and how it’s being grown. There are passionate organic consumers for sure, but I think a large proportion of these organic consumers really are just seeking information.
Q: You mentioned there are some great stories to tell. How are you gathering those stories for the talk?
A: It is largely based on my being in the industry for so long. I’ve had the good fortune to work in a bunch of different countries over the years and have met growers from as many as 25 different countries, and I’m a big fan of them. I want the growers to become the next big celebrity chef because I think the growers are an amazing, unique bunch and so passionate about what they do. They have to be, to do the work they do, take the risks that they do, it’s more than just a business to them, it’s a real passion and a lifestyle. It’s phenomenal to watch them engage with consumers when given the opportunity and consumers love it. I think we can lose sight to the fact that people who work in this industry live it, love it and know a lot about how things are produced and shipped. Consumers don’t know what we know and when we share it with them, they are really excited.
Q: What are you hoping participants walk away with after listening to your talk?
A: I hope they walk away feeling that transparency isn’t negative. It doesn’t have to be about revealing things that put you at risk. It can be empowering for businesses as well as consumers. Also within their own businesses, transparency can help engage a staff as well.
Q: Is there one target group for your talk or do you feel it’s something everyone can learn from?
A: I tried to take the subject matter and make it applicable to as much of the audience as I can. For sure, the grower community, but the message is relevant to retail and foodservice. I try to make it as broadly applicable as possible, but my passion for growers probably rings louder than anything.Although, of course, growers can’t prosper if their customers aren’t able to buy more produce so telling our story in a transparent, trust building way, helps the whole supply chain.
Q: Why do you feel the New York Produce Show and Conference is an important event?
A: If you look at where trends tend to come from in the U.S., generally the East Coast, they are the thought leaders, they are the ones that are going to create the future for our industry and I feel they are early adopters of good ideas and change. I think people flock here to see what is new and how they can apply it to their business.
Q: Anything else you’re looking forward to?
A: New York City is one of my favorite cities in the world. It’s so vibrant, not just in terms of the industry but the city itself. It’s a great time of the year and I’m excited to get there and be in that Christmas spirit.
One of the most useful traits in business …and in life…is to understand that just because you wish a situation didn’t exist, does not mean it is necessarily the wisest choice to disengage from the situation. Dawn challenges executives to not merely be transparent, but to conduct oneself so that transparency becomes the optimal strategy.
Want to learn what is the optimal strategy for you and your business. Come sign up to attend The Global Trade symposium, co-locatedw ith The New York Produce Show and Conference. You can register onsite or save some time and register right here.