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Photo courtesy of Natalie Sexton

Tips From a VP for Navigating Economic Uncertainty

​3 min read
Business

As the Vice President at Natalie's Juice, it's been a challenging process navigating these times of uncertainty, but I've learned a lot and wanted to share these tips for others.

We value our promise to the community to produce clean label juices and to only use the highest standards of sourcing ingredients

Tip #1: Be Transparent

Company transparency internally and externally is key. It is important to give our team a voice and integrate their opinions into our decision making process. We strive to provide our team with key training and resources to grow their opportunities at Natalie's Juice. Team building and training keeps our staff motivated especially when faced with unforeseen challenges in production or day-to-day operations. Equally important is transparency among our loyal customers and fans. In fact, it is the heart of our overall mission. We value our promise to the community to produce clean label juices and to only use the highest standards of sourcing ingredients. At Natalie's, we hand select fruits and vegetables and squeeze the juices in small batches to assure freshness. Each juice is gourmet and pasteurized at the minimum temperature, for the minimum amount of time to retain quality and nutrition. Additionally, we take pride in the fact that the full line of our juices contains no preservatives, concentrates, flavor packs, GMOs, or artificial ingredients.

Tip #2: Stay Nimble

The beverage industry is rapidly evolving and we constantly remind ourselves to stay nimble. In a competitive beverage environment, our goal is to react quickly to market changes and find new opportunities to innovate. For our customers this means responding quickly and providing exceptional customer service despite the circumstances. Our ability to flex different resources allows us to put customers first, regardless of the cost, as their passion for our juice keeps us incentivized to grow. Additionally, we value our relationships with our suppliers, retailers and most importantly our growers. We want to keep our commitments strong and uphold our agreements. We speak with them regularly on how to aid them through this challenging time as we've naturally seen retail shifts and citrus demand rise. At Natalie's, our diversity in the types of distribution partners allows brands like ours to keep shelves stocked and serve our customers quickly. Our strategic ability to pivot allows our brand to continue promotions at retail outlets and satisfy the consumer demand for nourishing products.

Tip #3: Retain Vision and Creativity

When my mom set out to start this business, she had vision. While she had the world's best fruit at her fingertips, the sole initial intention was to provide her family with a fresh source of juice. Thirty years later, Marygrace's vision has turned a local business into a national recognized premium juice brand that has seen on average 20% growth each year over the past five years. My goal is to continue to drive the business forward with the same vision and intention that is rooted in quality, customer service, innovation and family. That is why I aim to provide the best product as I remember the simple days when I was just a child being pulled through the orange grove. Simplicity is still rooted in our mission today.

In a competitive beverage environment, our goal is to react quickly to market changes and find new opportunities to innovate.

As I've grown alongside the business, I've had the opportunity to shift some of our sales and marketing tactics to satisfy new customer needs and trends. For example: a year ago we launched a cold-pressed juice line as I was witnessing a rising demand in functional beverages with ingredients that benefited the consumer's busy lifestyle and provided added value to improve the mind, body. and soul. It was then, our holistic line was born with flavors like "Resilient" and "Relax" that are packed with nutritionally sound adaptogens, superfoods, and herbs. However, isolation has shifted consumer behavior and we've seen a natural consumer shift back to the basics — or, in our case, citrus. As consumers look for clean forms of nourishment, our core products like orange and grapefruit juice experienced a huge increase in demand. We then had to creatively adapt our marketing tactics to suit the product that started it all.

Tip # 4: Manage Finances Thoughtfully

At Natalie's, we've been fortunate to have seen on average 18% growth year over year since 2017 and our market share is gradually increasing. But we recognize the importance of growing methodically and keeping financial control as the company expands. Consumer demand for fresh, functional juices exploded in recent years so we dramatically expanded our production and warehouse facilities in 2018 to keep up. This decision also enabled us to launch new products like our next generation of cold-pressed, holistic juice. We believe in growing Natalie's organically, so we avoid working with investors and taking on any debt that is not manageable. Finally, it always pays to be resourceful. You can be very smart when you take a moment to consider what's easily accessible to you that can be used to achieve a certain goal. When my mom first started the company, she borrowed a butcher's refrigerated truck to deliver the first pallet herself.

Tip #5: Uphold Expectations

Our strategic ability to pivot allows our brand to continue promotions at retail outlets and satisfy the consumer demand for nourishing products.

When you're operating in a crowded category, you have to consistently offer your customers the quality and flavor profile they have come to expect. We select the finest fruits and vegetables available and they're squeezed fresh every week to ensure product integrity. Within the business, we also expect internal team members to excel at producing only the best products - each orange is checked before it's squeezed. And that unwavering and uncompromising commitment to excellence extends into all facets of our business from sales, to production, to accounting, etc. As a business leader, defining expectations can drive a business forward strategically and can help differentiate you from your competition. Natalie's has been built on a high expectation to deliver only the top product for our consumers and this is directly reflected in each component of our business operations.

How to Learn Much More From the Books You Read

It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.

Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.

Read with a Purpose

Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.

Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.

Pre-Read

When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.

Highlight

Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.

Speed Read

You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.

Quality Reading

Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.

Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.

Summarize

If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.

Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.