Tag Archives: business thinking

Fresh Picked

A little bit of a detour this Foodie Friday. Instead of talking about how food is prepared and served, this week I want to tell you a bit about where some of my food comes from, and it’s not a supermarket.

One of my favorite things about having moved to NorthCarolina is that I live in the middle of many farms. Most of them produce corn and soybeans and tobacco, but there is also a fairly local farm that offers fruits and vegetables. Each week I go online and can order a box of whatever is in season as well as some fantastic canned goods such as pickled okra or salsa made at the farm. They deliver the box to my house, and most of what’s in it has been picked earlier that day or the day before. That’s a serious flavor upgrade from what you get at the store, which might have been picked a week ago.¬†

While not organic, the farm is a GAP certified farm (Good Agriculture Practices) and is very careful to maintain a safe and healthy farm. The majority of their plants are started from seeds in the greenhouse. They purchase expensive hybrid seeds, which means they get good quality plants to grow the vegetables. The use of any pesticides or fungicides is closely monitored with all the crops. They use as little as possible, in part for health reasons and in part because chemicals are expensive. While not inexpensive, the produce is less expensive than buying organic produce ar the store and the quality is a huge upgrade.

I’m not alone in my thinking about supporting smaller farms. Maybe you’ve joined a CSA – Community Supported Agriculture – near you. If not, you can learn more about it here and search for one near you. It points us to a broader business point as well. There’s often a tendency to focus on the easy and less expensive in business as well as on the “big guys” (you’ve probably heard the expression that no one ever gets fired for buying IBM, ATT, etc.). Now – especially now as we’re beginning to come out of an economic disaster – is a great time to look at smaller options. Maybe the product isn’t as uniform as what the big guys produce, maybe it’s a little more expensive, but it might also taste better and be better for you. It’s almost certainly made with more care.

Something to chew on this weekend!

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Filed under food, Thinking Aloud

That Tonnato Sauce

This Foodie Friday, I want to write about one of my favorite summer dishes, vitello tonnato. When I first had it at some fancy lunch many years ago, I thought it was something thought up by a clever chef. As it turns out, it isn’t a new dish at all. One can find it in the 130-year-old Italian cookbook Science In The Kitchen and the Art Of Eating by Pellegrino Artusi (it’s on page 271 of my edition).

The dish is veal, generally a shoulder or rump portion, that’s been boiled and thinly sliced. It’s topped by a sauce that’s basically a tuna and caper-infused mayonnaise. Trust me – it tastes a lot better than it sounds. The veal is really just a canvas for the sauce in my book.

I was pleasantly surprised when one of my friends emailed my a recipe for a vegetable plate of crudites that was served with a sauce that wasn’t called tonnato sauce but absolutely was the same as what one would put on the veal down to the capers and anchovies in the sauce. The chef described it as a “garlicky aioli bolstered with oil-packed tuna.” Uh, yes, please.

It got me thinking about special sauces since the tonnato sauce is clearly special to me. Every business needs a special sauce if it’s not going to be a commodity. If you’ve not done a competitive set analysis, that’s a great place to start to see how you’re different. Then ask yourself why you exist. What’s the problem you’re solving and why is your solution unique/better? Check your assumptions against what your customers and employees think.¬†

Is your sauce really yours? Can it be duplicated or is it unique and defensible? Back in the day, we used to call something that you marketed around a USP – Unique Selling Proposition but I think your secret sauce is more than that. It gets to the heart of what your business is, including the culture. It’s what makes you you!

You can put tonnato on sliced pork tenderloin, vegetables, and of course veal. I suspect it’s great on grilled foods – veggies and proteins. As I’m thinking about it, it’s not far from a Caesar Salad dressing but with tuna. You see? Once you have a secret sauce, you can’t really tell how far it will take you!

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It’s Greek To Me

When I sang in the chorus in college we performed Brahms’ German Requiem. As you can deduce from the title, it’s in German. I really enjoyed singing it but I really didn’t understand much of what I was singing about since my reading comprehension of German is practically nonexistent. That didn’t stop me from singing the words, quite loudly when necessary, even if their meaning escaped me.

I see the same thing going on all the time, both in business and in life. These days, when science discussion is all around us due to the pandemic I’m fascinated by the folks who suddenly are virologists. Maybe they read a scientific paper about what’s going on or, more probably, read a link on Facebook that pointed them to something with a lot of big words. It’s nice that they read the science papers but when you have a conversation with them about it, it becomes pretty clear that they have no clue about what it means.

You can see that in business. Someone reads an article on something¬† – the efficacy of social media or the importance of influencers in marketing – and suddenly they’re an expert. The truth is that they don’t understand the details of the topic in a way that gives them the ability to discuss them out of context. They’ve done a great job memorizing but a lousy job in grasping meaning.

I used to tell consulting clients the truth about my knowledge base. I was a mile wide but in some areas, I was only an inch deep. It didn’t embarrass me nor should it disturb you. I think a sign of both maturity and intelligence is knowing what you don’t know and not being afraid to admit it. When a client got to the limits of my understanding I would either go broaden my understanding or I’d bring in someone more expert.

You can sing in a language that you don’t understand just as you can pronounce the words on a page if you have a pronunciation guide. That doesn’t mean a thing in business. We say something is “Greek to me” when we don’t understand it. Try and speak Greek without understanding and the minute someone asks you a question, you’re sunk. Don’t try to speak a language you don’t understand, Greek, German, virology, digital media, or otherwise. Make sense?

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Reality checks, Thinking Aloud