As we mentioned in this piece about our collaboration with The Fresh Produce Consortium, we just announced a new world-class industry event, the London Produce Show and Conference.
Now we have written enough about Tesco and its travails in trying to launch Fresh & Easy in America to know that it would be a bad idea to send an American team over to London and do a show in Britain. So we reached out to the Fresh Produce Consortium to work with us and we couldn’t imagine a better comrade-in-arms as we proceed to build this new industry institution.
Yet we would have never gotten very far if not for an old friend, Tommy Leighton. Who is Tommy? Well, here is an excerpt from his bio:
Tommy Leighton is perhaps best known as the ex-Editor of Fresh Produce Journal (FPJ), the UK’s weekly newspaper for the fruit, vegetable and flower industries. He spent 12 years with the paper, a decade as editor and during his last five years with the firm, was managing director of FPJ publisher, Lockwood Press.
During his time as Editor, the FPJ underwent something of a renaissance, and Tommy was also the driving force behind the 2004 launch of Re:fresh, a trade conference and awards evening that brought a sense of unity and fun back to the UK industry.
Around the turn of the Millennium, Tommy also spent two years as European Communications Director for the Chilean Fresh Fruit Association, at a time when Chilean exporters were still beginning to make their presence felt in the old continent.
Since 2009, he has run his own company, Tommy Leighton Communications, worked with and represented a large number of companies and associations across the fresh produce sphere, and built a reputation as a strategic communicator in other sectors including childcare and education.
We set up an affiliate company in the UK, Phoenix Media Network Ltd., to work with the Fresh Produce Consortium and to represent our interests in the United Kingdom, and we worked hard to woo Tommy, who will keep many of his own projects while also taking on the job of Managing Director for our new British entity. We are lucky to have him.
Getting Tommy was crucial. It is very hard in business to find people who are not only competent but also happen to share your ethical values, quality standards and who care about the industry. Add another thing: Life is too short to work with people you don’t like, and Tommy is a genuinely good guy.
What is interesting from a business standpoint is that it is impossible to predict what will ultimately pay off or how it will pay off. We knew Tommy, and when the Pundit took off and we started to appear on TV, radio and in newspapers, Tommy was running the Fresh Produce Journal and he started calling or having his staff call and asking us to do things. We gave interviews, flew to London to speak at the conference he organized, and in fact, years ago, he arranged a lunch with the team at the Fresh Produce Consortium, including its Chief Executive, Nigel Jenney. In retrospect, this was a crucial meeting because it meant that when the opportunity to do this new London event came up, we were not strangers.
We do a lot of work with students, and they are always asking what steps they should take to build a career. Increasingly we have come to think that this is the wrong way to approach the subject of advancement. The secret, as best there is one, is to do stuff. You get a chance at a meeting, you take it. An opportunity to go to a show or conference, get out there. Someone wants to meet you, shake their hand. Invite people to dinner or lunch or breakfast. It is not always possible and everything doesn’t pay off and, of course, there are opportunity costs as when you do one thing, you can’t do another.
Yet most people do much less than they are capable of, so the costs are much lower than we want to admit.
So this note is a thank you to Tommy for joining us in this great adventure and a thought for everyone about how to get ahead and what to tell young people as they strive into the future: Do stuff. One never knows where it will take you or how it will pay off, but the odds are overwhelmingly better for you if you do stuff rather than do nothing at all.