Lessons from the Farm

office fresh fruit delivery

The Agricultural Approach to Small Business Management.

Anyone who works for a small business knows they must be prepared to wear many hats, sometimes in unison. As the Operations Wiseapple for ORCHARD At The OFFICE, I am at times required to take charge of logistics, customer service, marketing, vendor management, and accounts receivable – all in the same phone call.

Much of the practical experience I can share in business management I’ve gleaned from those who operate the original small business: the farmers throughout the world. Whether it’s “sixty acres up on the Caprock” James McMurtry sang of or a massive, county-sized ranch near the Rio Grande, there are certain basic principles a successful agrarian must adhere to. I have found that adhering to those principles has helped shape our success and make ORCHARD At The OFFICE the largest office fruit delivery service in Texas.

Here are some of the basic principles I can share:

Know The “Shelf Life”. In our business, we deal with fresh fruit: bananas, clementines, JAZZ apples, avocados and more. Fresh fruit is, of course, perishable. It’s not going to maintain its freshness, or indeed the ability to be eaten, beyond a few days. This means our business processes are geared around purchase and distribution of fruit within the parameters of perishability – which means we can only be as “flexible” as our product allows.

This idea has broad applicability. A wedding photographer has a very specific window – the actual event – in which they absolutely must get their work done, regardless of time allotted for pre- and post-production. A restauranteur must keep careful track of the ingredients that comprise the items on their menu. “Use It or Lose It” – this is the understanding that nature creates deadlines. As a result…

I have found that adhering to these principles has helped shape our success and make ORCHARD At The OFFICE the largest office fruit delivery service in Texas.

No Excuses. When the cotton is ready, it doesn’t care if the harvester is broken down, or if the farm is shorthanded or the landowner doesn’t really feel like “adulting”. Either the work gets done or the crop gets lost, which means a successful farmer, even one bereft of mechanical acumen or a line of credit, must devise creative solutions on the spot.

I cannot overstate how important this principle has been in practical application. Whether it’s being aroused from a lethargic moment with the thought of “those bananas need delivered by tomorrow!” or taking the time to work out how to get fruit delivered to Fort Worth in a timely fashion, it has helped me immensely to picture a farmer with a broken tractor part, looking at a field demanding urgent attention, and think “I’d better come up with something”. Necessity truly is the mother of invention and creative problem-solving is a source of self-confidence at any age.

You Can’t Force The Corn. Genetic modification notwithstanding, crops will grow at their own pace. All the self-will, teeth-clenched determination, or plucky “can-do” attitude on earth won’t turn an apple seed into an apple tree overnight.

A billion dollars in funding will not turn a first-time entrepreneur into a success without a commensurate amount of experience.

As someone involved in marketing, I must always remember that no matter how determined I am to grow the business, I cannot convince, force, manipulate or cajole a person into eating more fresh fruit than they’re hungry for. When I remember that, instead of trying to squeeze water from a stone, I can focus my energy on spreading the word – in our case, Workplace Wellness Through Fresh Fruit. People who run businesses in the service industry understand: a person only wants so many haircuts, or guitar lessons, or high-bandwidth multi-channel digital receivers. Give your customers as much as they want, but don’t spend 50% of your time trying to get another 5% out of them…because you can’t force the corn. It will be ready in its own time.

Memories of the Elephant and the Goldfish. This could be as accurately described as needing the memory of the football coach and the kicker, or a hundred other analogies. Simply put, the idea is this: learn the long-term patterns and see trial-and-error as your most valuable instructor…but put mistakes immediately out of mind rather than dwell on them.

The hospitality industry has been known for being on the leading edge of the former for decades. Since the early 1980s, some hotel chains have been maintaining records of guest preferences, so that when that person checks into a hotel in Albany, there’s already an extra comforter and two hand towels in their room because that’s what they requested last time in Albuquerque. Medical and automotive centers will send out reminders of when service appointments might be made. Identifying patterns beyond the day-to-day, and taking action on them, requires the memory of an elephant.

Yet at the same time, the operator of a lawn service may mess up on a hedge trimming. If they decide that they “suck at life” and need to go home and nurse their self-pity with large quantities of wine, they won’t operate a lawn service very long. They need to accept responsibility, make appropriate amends with the property owner immediately – and move on. Self-doubt will sabotage their ability to be effective with their other jobs, so they need the memory of a goldfish. The moment has passed; focus on the present.

While I could enumerate other examples, I don’t want to run the risk of drifting into Poor Richard’s territory. There is no doubt operating a small business in any sector is demanding, difficult, and not for the faint of heart. However, the rewards that come with it – the fruits of our labor – are as enjoyable as an apple orchard…and we are proud to put agrarian effort into bringing that orchard to your office.

ORCHARD At The OFFICE can be contacted at 972.295.9091 or at getfruit@orchardattheoffice.com

20 Questions with Orchard At The Office

office fresh fruit delivery

Today, we’re playing 20 Questions with Kevin Long and Chris Buchanan of the Richardson-based office fruit delivery service ORCHARD At The OFFICE, who have served the Dallas/Fort Worth area since 2010.

Q: Describe your company in fifteen words or less.

BUCHANAN: We deliver fresh fruit to Metroplex offices.

LONG: That’s it. Seven words.

BUCHANAN: Do we win anything?

LONG (laughing): I don’t think it’s a competition.

Q: Where did the name “ORCHARD At The OFFICE” come from?

LONG: I wanted a name that told a story, that gave a clear mental image and conveyed a journey. Here, in this basket of fruit, you have an orchard…right here at your office! It’s worked well for us.

office fresh fruit delivery

Q: Give us a Fun Fruit Fact we may not know.

BUCHANAN: If you took every fruit on the planet, laid them side by side, and attempted to name them all aloud, you’d irritate people. Even Harlan Pepper would tell you to stop naming fruits.

LONG: One thing I like to show people is how to peel a banana from the bottom, the way monkeys do.

BUCHANAN: And when you do it that way, you don’t get the phloem.

LONG: Right. That’s the technical name for the stringy matter inside a banana.

BUCHANAN: I should have made that my fact. (sighs) I had my chance, but it’s gone forever.

Q: Speaking of bananas, what’s this “bananigans” thing all about?

LONG: It’s really a state of mind, a reminder that health and happiness go together. Whether it’s the “banana smile” or juggling clementines, moments of silliness provide levity that add dimension to a workday.

Kevin Long and Chris Buchanan banvnigans
Bananigans at D Magazine

clementine

Q: You describe yourself as a “local business”. What exactly does this mean to you?

BUCHANAN: Well, the company was founded right here in the Metroplex – Richardson, specifically. Our home office is here, our staff lives here, and our fruit is sourced from here. While it may be grown elsewhere – I’m certainly not aware of any pear orchards in Rowlett or Euless – the lifeblood of this business is Dallas. These are our friends and neighbors we’re serving.

Q: What’s the most popular fruit in Dallas?

BUCHANAN: Bananas are by far the favorite. We sell tons every week – and that’s not a figure of speech.

LONG: Yeah, bananas are the most popular, but whenever I’m in a conversation with someone, I’ll often ask them what their favorite fruit is. So many times, people say mangoes! I’m not sure why that is, because I don’t see nearly as many people actually eating a mango, but that’s what they say.

BUCHANAN: They could be lying.

LONG: Yeah, they may be lying.

Texas favorite fruit

Q: So what’s your favorite fruit?

BOTH (in unison): Mangoes.

Q: What are the smallest and largest offices you serve?

BUCHANAN: There’s one business with only three people, but they’re very dedicated to healthy living, so they go through our 16-piece Mini Office Basket every week. As the Metroplex is the home to so many large-scale operations, we’ve created options for everyone, such as our “Fortune 600 Special”. This helps us serve companies with over 1,500 employees.

Q: What do you do with any surplus fruit?

LONG: When we’re doing really well, there’s barely anything left over at the end of the week! When there is, we donate it primarily to two organizations: the Harvest Project, and the Samaritan Inn in McKinney.

Q: Tell us more about the Harvest Project.

BUCHANAN: Harvest Project is an amazing organization. It was started in 2014 by Danae Gutierrez, who has served on the DISD board and is truly an inspiring individual. It’s a community project that provides fresh produce to families in need at no cost. They’ll provide fruits and vegetables, give recipes and instructions where appropriate, even teach them to shop for bargains. Like Ms. Gutierrez, Harvest Project represents real, grass-roots action to promulgate positive change in Dallas.

Danae Gutierrez of Harvest Project
Danae Gutierrez of Harvest Project

Q: What do you suggest Dallas can do as a whole to stay more fit?

LONG: Eat more fruit, of course!

BUCHANAN: Yes. Beyond that, though, we don’t make nutritional suggestions. We leave the dietary recommendations to those far more qualified. Besides, there’s very little consensus and we try to stay out of the fray!

Q: Understood. That said, are there some more pragmatic tips you can suggest?

BUCHANAN: Some things are fairly straightforward. We did contribute a blog post to D Magazine awhile ago with some basic suggestions for how to stay healthy at the office, five minutes at a time.

Q: Along the same lines, how did y’all get involved with the Dallas Running Club?

LONG: That started in 2016 with one of our administrators, Leah Hinton. She’s friends with Erin and Sean Jett, who served on the DRC Board at the time. They were looking for a business willing to donate bananas to their races, and since we believe very strongly in the maintenance of a vital running community for Dallas, we’re happy to help! It’s a great partnership.

BUCHANAN: Yeah, the Dallas Running Club means a lot to us. My wife is an athlete who has logged more miles than I care to count and the whole history of the DRC, Tal Morrison, and White Rock Lake as a sort of “running sanctuary” are fascinating to me. It really feels like we’re part of something special.

Dallas Running Club Race
Orchard At The Office provides bananas for Dallas Running Club races

Q: What are the trendy fruits right now?

LONG: Avocados are the biggest trending fruit right now. Last year, America spent more importing avocados than any other fruit, including bananas. That is an entirely new development, and our sales reflect the popularity of avocados.  office avocado

BUCHANAN: Definitely. I’d also have to say that clementines, also known as “Halos” or “Cuties”, do extremely well. There’s actually several different varieties of citrus we conveniently call “clementines”, and they’re all delicious and have lots of mouth-watering appeal!

LONG: Chris handles our marketing, as you can tell.

BUCHANAN: Fresh fruit, y’all! Visit our website right now! ORCHARD At The OFFICE 

Q: What’s the most unusual fruit you’ve ever sold?

LONG: Durian!

BUCHANAN: Oy vey. Here we go…

LONG: He hates durian, but I love it. Durian’s an Asian fruit that looks like a giant pod – about the size of jackfruit but even more spiky – and when you open it, the edible fruit almost has a banana pudding consistency.

BUCHANAN: And there all resemblance ends.

LONG: It does have this very complex, powerful aroma. I get why people don’t like it, but I find it fascinating. Eating durian is an event!

BUCHANAN: So’s a tsunami. All I’m saying is that there’s a reason it’s banned on Singapore Rapid Mass Transit. It’s exponential: it starts off smelling like a field of chives, then comes the sulfurous essence, then what can only be described as a “rotting” smell kicks in. Then it’s like they all compete with one another to see which can fill the room quicker. And that pretty much describes the flavor.

LONG: Hey, I’m not saying everyone will like them. More for me, that’s what I say!

Q: Talk about the “seven banana myth”.

BUCHANAN: OK, I learned about this from Karl Pilkington…and when I say “learned”, it was clearly some sort of nonsensical urban myth. The idea was something to the effect that if you ate more than six bananas in a day, you’d have a lethal potassium overdose. It’s been thoroughly debunked in a number of studies, of course, but like Twinkies or zombies, misinformation has no shelf life – it’s always staggering back from its grave to eat the brains of the living.

Q: From a delivery standpoint, what’s your favorite building in Dallas?

LONG: I’ve always liked delivering to the Comerica Bank Tower. The freight dock is efficient, the security staff is courteous and professional, and the entire building is very attractive and easy to get around.

Orchard basket with Hunt Bridge

Q: Are there things you’ve learned about Dallas as a result of delivering fruit here that you didn’t know before?

BUCHANAN: Well, I’ve certainly gotten to know all the local structures and the business that dwell within them. I used to go to Klyde Warren Park, for instance, and I’d look around and think “oh, there’s that cool new building with the blue glass, and there’s the one with the D Magazine logo” and so on. Now I’m thinking of the building names, and exactly which business is in there, and which ones are our customers and which ones will be.

Q: What kind of music could we expect to hear at ORCHARD At The OFFICE headquarters?

LONG: That totally depends on who’s in the office! You could hear everything from ambient to metal. I like to have music going to keep the brain’s alpha waves going. But every once in a while, I’ll mix it up with some Tool or Van Halen.

BUCHANAN: I gravitate toward jazz fusion or any music that Outcry Theatre might employ in one of their amazing shows. I love the music of Tori Amos and Sigur Rós, and that sometimes creates problems as I find myself listening to it a bit too much and getting all emotional and weepy.

Q: Sell me fruit. Right now.

BUCHANAN: Our fruit really sells itself. Quite often, if we make people aware that there’s this office fruit delivery service in Dallas, that concept generates interest.

LONG: Everybody loves fresh fruit. “Would you like a banana?”

BUCHANAN: I would, actually. Let’s go eat.

LONG: Sounds good.

fresh fruit basket
Premium-quality fresh fruit for Texas offices

Eating healthy is…addictive?

banana_PNG845

One of the biggest challenges to adopting a healthy lifestyle is kicking the junk-food habit, particularly morning sweets. Donuts and muffins are sugary and full of carbohydrates, but without the added nutritional power, your energy will fade fast and the natural tendency is to grab another “quick-fix”.

It’s like keeping your car running by putting a gallon in the tank at a time.

Over the course of time, many report what was once a mere sugar craving devolving into an obsession, not unlike addiction. Obviously, this is detrimental for those fighting to acquire or maintain a healthy lifestyle. A host of health issues, from diabetes to depression to simple obesity, can result from a sugar fixation.

Fortunately, this is where the ORCHARD At The OFFICE solution proves invaluable. Having fruit handy when sugar cravings hit makes it so much easier to avoid temptation, as certified addiction specialist Judy Chambers, LCSW, CAS points out in an article published on WebMD entitled “13 Ways To Fight Sugar Cravings”. You’ll get all the natural (low glycemic) sugars from the fruit, as well as the vitamins, fiber, and of course the flavor you crave from a morning or mid-meal snack. Just 2-4 servings a day of fruit will significantly reduce sugar cravings.

It’s also handy to remember that fruits, especially bananas, work as a natural sugar substitute. So if you bring cereal or yogurt to work, you can quickly slice up a banana supplied by ORCHARD At The OFFICE.

While kicking the sugar habit takes time, it doesn’t take as long as one might think! Some studies suggest that you can convert yourself from a processed sugar habit to a healthy food habit, including the fruits provided by ORCHARD At The OFFICE, in just a couple of weeks. Nature abhors a vacuum, as psychiatrist Dr. Charles Raison points out, and the tendency to replace one habit with another is natural. Why not make the switch to a healthy alternative?

This is not to suggest sugar should be avoided completely, of course! There is a difference between the occasional sweet for pleasure and the habitual consumption despite obvious health risks. Our mission at ORCHARD At The OFFICE is to supply wellness, and we hope the information provided here gives you an incentive to take a step in that direction.