Welcome to the first FoodOps blog. In addition to thought leadership content, Asa and I will be celebrating our team weekly through the Problem of the Week. Our goal is to share a way to think about, process, and solve problems. We will discuss various topics that we’ve encountered in the Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) industry. I thought it would be fitting to solve a problem that I’ve been sitting on for years – The process of getting started. This could be anything; starting your own food business, starting a co-manufacturing search, starting to better understand your COGS with the plan of reducing them, starting your slide deck in order to get investor funding, or simply starting the process of sharing ideas and best practices in the form of a blog. 

When my former business partner, Jim, and I started FoodOps in 2016 I had goals – really big goals. Aside from the traditional method of growing our business through grit, determination and word of mouth, I wanted to expand our brand presence through social media – Youtube, Instagram, Facebook (for you older types like me), LinkedIn, and Tik Tok (no, there will be no viral FoodOps dances in case you’re wondering). I also aspire to write a book (I already have the subject and content) and share lessons learned and thought leadership through publishing blogs, short articles, or informational videos. 

It’s taken me this long and I’d like to share my self reflection on why it’s taken me so long as well as provide some insight to inspire you to get started on something you’ve been wanting to do but have been avoiding. 

I have to want to initiate change. More importantly, I had to get over the hardest obstacle, which was created in my own head. I was filled with self doubt. There are many reasons for this and here are a few I’ve observed through introspection: I’m not good at writing. My subject matter might be boring. What if the content isn’t good? It’s time consuming to research, reflect, write and edit. I could go on and on. Whatever the reason, I feel that you can remove each obstacle in order to create the space for yourself to begin. I’m talking about being intentional about the time to focus on subject and content as well as creating the mental space to give yourself positive thoughts and grace. Here’s a consideration:

It’s not landmines. 

We have to overcome self doubt or fear of failure. Ask yourself – What’s the worst thing that could happen? 

I was working in an R&D lab with Susie, an exceptionally talented colleague of mine, when we were under the stress of making multiple versions of oatmeal samples for a cereal company’s launch, in a very short timeline. We had made hundreds of variations of dozens of flavors (SKUs) and we were making samples for board approval. Susie told me that she was stressed that we weren’t going to meet deadlines and I looked at her and said, “It’s not landmines”. 

She looked at me quizzically and asked me what I meant.  I flashed back to a time where I was at the end of a 13 year career in the Army. I already had my paperwork in to separate from the military, I had a Fortune 500 company job lined up for me in 60 days, and I thought I’d be easing into civilian life. At the last minute, I was ordered to run landmine training for a National Guard unit who were preparing to deploy to the Middle East. Running the range wasn’t the stressful part, it was that my team and I were responsible for training 140 guardsmen/women on arming, disarming and detonating landmines which contained 25 lbs of explosives. The National Guard are a hybrid of volunteer civilian/soldiers who only wear the uniform and train as an Army soldier for 52 days a year. They barely have enough time to be proficient in their occupational jobs let alone have any level of expertise in handling mines that can blow up tanks. I went on to tell Susie how stressful that two week assignment was and that we had to put this project into perspective; What is the worst thing that could happen and how can we mitigate any potential negative outcomes? Were we potentially going to unalive someone or severely injure anyone if we missed the timeline? Were people’s lives counting on us being absolutely correct in measuring the samples? 

The answers were obviously no. After relaying my landmine story Susie looked at me with a new level of confidence and energy and said, “You’re right, it’s definitely not landmines”. Most things outside of arming, disarming and detonating mines don’t have to be perfect and starting with this mindset can be truly transformative. Throughout our time working together and when things seemed stressful we would turn to each other and say, “We can do this, it’s not landmines”. 

After thinking of all the ways it could go wrong and working to mitigate those negative outcomes you should focus on this question – What happens if I get this right? Think of this in best case scenario terms. Think of the steps it takes to achieve this fantastic outcome and focus on what you need to do or who you need to be in order to make this a reality. Think of the time and energy it’s going to take and commit to what habits or routines support that. 

I would suggest starting small and establishing easy goals that create the routines to build upon. You can always improve or modify as you go. Also, start anywhere in the process that feels right – this often gives you the initial burst of motivation to build on those good habits. 

My goal is to write this in under a thousand words. My goal is to write this in under an hour. My goal is to reflect after releasing this and focus on how I can make this a repeatable process and improve each time. My goal is to be ok with what I just published. 

There you go, I just started my blog. 

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