Bruce Peterson and the importance of being mentored

Jim Prevor

Originally published on The Perishable Pundit


Our piece, Bruce Peterson, Founder Of Wal-Mart Produce Program, Will Urge Industry To Rage Against Mediocrity, Value Experience Over Education, And Merchandise To Wow The Consumer At The London Produce Show And Conference, which we also published here on Produce Business UK, continues to bring in letters.

We dealt with some in a Mailbag titled, Pundit’s Mailbag: Bruce Peterson Hits ‘Nail On The Head’ When It Comes To Retailers Hiring Credentials Over Experience, and followed up with a piece titled, Pundit Mailbag — Praising A Forum Where The Industry Can Make Itself Better, but Bruce had an impact on many and a number of personal salutes came in as well, such as this letter:

I had the privilege of working for Bruce at Wal-Mart for a number of years. I saw him recently and realized I never told him how much I appreciated his leadership, so I did. I think I said those years were some of the best years I had at Wal-Mart.

I learned a ton from him traveling and looking at my business through his eyes. And working for Bruce, it was my business. He applauded my success and rightfully criticized mistakes, all for my development.  

Of course, he deflected the compliment and put it back on the people with whom he worked. Just like Bruce. Reading the article today was both a step back in time and a look forward for me.

Thanks so much for doing it.

—John Butler
Premier Concepts LLC
Bentonville, Arkansas

P.S. A BIG congratulations to you and your team on the award for your Lifetime Achievement in the industry from the Eastern Produce Council, the Jesse A. Neal Award for best editorial, commentary and opinion, and on the first place for Best International Event for The London Produce Show and Conference!

A Triple Crown! Clearly well deserved!

The letter reminds us of the other side of Bruce’s argument: If one is going to value experience, that experience will vary enormously depending on the quality and willingness of mentors to teach and share.

Bruce has always been focused on this. The very first time we were swimming in Bruce’s pool in Bentonville, he asked the question: Who were the people you learned the most from in your life?

Our sense is that the willingness of people to mentor has declined. Part of it is the mixture of sexes in the workforce, combined with increased fear of litigation.

The National Journal did a study and ran an article titled Why some Male members of Congress won’t be alone with female Staffers:

In an anonymous survey of female staffers conducted by National Journal in order to gather information on the difficulties they face in a male-dominated industry, several female aides reported that they have been barred from staffing their male bosses at evening events, driving alone with their congressman or senator, or even sitting down one-on-one in his office for fear that others would get the wrong impression.

It is not only male/female, it is not even only at work. We know one young man who wouldn’t coach children’s sports because someone might make a false allegation against him.

There is just a general sense today that allegations can be made and that companies will take them seriously and that one is better off maintaining distance.

This is a big loss for young people who don’t gain the knowledge that is often communicated through informal interaction.

It is also a loss for older people who can’t play the important mentoring role they could derive great satisfaction from.

We were lucky and had a highly intelligent and deeply knowledgeable father. For those without that good fortune, it is a tougher world than it used to be.

Of course, John Butler and the Pundit were also fortunate enough to spend time with Bruce Peterson.

Of course you can too! He is heading off to The London Produce Show and Conference — come and let him share some wisdom with you as he has with John and the Pundit.

You can learn more about the London Produce Show and Conference right here.

This is a small brochure we created that showcased the event from last year.

Please register at this link.

And, remember, we have a great “better-half” program; you can learn about it here.

You get the most out of the event by staying onsite at the headquarters hotel. It maximizes networking and thus the value you take out of participating. Get discounted rooms at the headquarters hotel right here.

We still have a few booths left if you want to participate as an exhibitor, so please let us know here.

And sponsorship opportunities allow you to position your company as a leader; find out about opportunities right here.



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