Recent issues with crops, local and industry-wide, are affecting the marketplace nationwide; this brings to my attention the precise nature of the operational standards required by our industry. Years ago, farmers may have been characterized as a group of people who ran a farming business. Today, they are best defined as business people running a farm. As subtle as the difference might seem, it is significant; in one case the process will tend to manage you; in the other case, you can manage the process. The margin for error is razor thin. Customers of our products, especially the larger ones, have several qualified and capable options for their mushroom supply. High quality and service are not so much expectations as they are requirements. So what maintains a relationship? How has South Mill been able to maintain fiercely loyal relationships for so long? Buyers are typically very busy, often dealing with the purchase of multiple commodities. They appreciate consistent and dependable product quality and service. In short, they do not want their suppliers being the cause of problems in their world. For that to occur, suppliers MUST operate at a 99% service level, without excuse or exception, even when the reason for failure is out of the supplier’s control. To meet these standards, our sales, transportation, growing, finance and strategic planning all must come together to deliver as expected. In spite of significant industry shortages, we have fared well. I am convinced that this has only been due to the high standards South Mill has provided to its customers for the last 25 years, its people, their loyalty to the company and to their jobs, and a focus on their work. No one chooses to deal with unexpected issues. However, when you do find yourself with such a problem, the defining caliber of a company is how they provide a solution. I believe that all relevant parties have done all they could to attend to the issue in the best possible way. The responsibility is now ours to continue to stay ahead of our competition, perform at excellent standards and to learn from these events.

– John Pia

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