Heat, wind and rain: The sweet taste of resilience

One of the best things about my work is the people I meet. I get to speak to a wonderful array of business people, all striving to make their dreams happen.

As a digital marketing person, I often deal in quite abstract concepts. So it was very refreshing to venture back to the land, so to speak, and meet the farmers of Tropical Pineapples, a commercial cooperative of pineapple growers based in Yeppoon, on the Tropic of Capricorn in Central Queensland.

While I hope our conversations about the ins and outs of growing their social media presence and other related marketing activities were fruitful (pardon the pun), I know I definitely gained a keen insight into some of what it takes to be successful in the tough and competitive industry of Australian agricultural production.

We all know farming is no picnic but it’s only when you spend some time with the people engaged in it that you begin to appreciate the trials and tribulations they face in bringing the food we take for granted to our tables.

One phrase particularly stuck in my mind:

“Two heatwaves, two droughts, two floods and two cyclones over the period of a pineapple’s life cycle.”

In business, we often talk about the need for resilience in spite of adversity. Here was a very real and vivid example of that resilience embodied in the lifecycle of this tropical fruit.

This time last year the Tropical Pineapples farmers were experiencing another one of the extreme weather scenarios they regularly face when Cyclone Marcia hit. The cyclone was a category five storm that tore through Central Queensland, wreaking havoc on the region and creating major disruptions for agricultural producers.

Tropical Pineapples sales and marketing director Joe Craggs told ABC Rural at the time about the devastation caused by the cyclone and the impact it would have on their business.

“Some of the buildings are completely written off, some of the machinery is badly damaged, but I don’t yet know how severe the damage to the crops is,” Craggs told the ABC.

“But I would imagine we have a lot of pineapples which are due to be harvested in the next month that will have just blown over, and now they will be suffering from this heat we’re having.

“So if they haven’t been ruined by the wind, they are likely to be ruined by the heat once they’re laying on their side.”

Despite all that, despite the continuing struggles they might have, the company is still getting pineapples out to market and to their two big clients, Coles and Woolworths.

The other side of resilience

When we talk about resilience in business we often characterise it as a virtue that involves the old-fashioned idea of “grit your teeth, put your back in, and get it done”. This of course is an essential part of resilience, but then there’s the other stuff that maybe gets talked about less often: putting systems in place, using technology in smart ways, making sure your organisation has the right sort of culture to deal with whatever challenges are thrown into its path.

As well as sheer determination in the face of adversity, I saw plenty of that other, maybe more abstract stuff at Tropical Pineapples. The people who run the business know it’s not always going to be sunshine and sweet, there will be be rough bits to deal with as well.

Resilience is not only about what you do when disaster strikes. It’s also about what you do on a day-to-day basis in your business, in good times and bad. Build resilience into everything you do on a daily basis and when times do get tough you’ll be ready to face them, much like the farmers at Tropical Pineapples.

Disclaimer: Tropical Pineapples is a client of Bendalls.


Fi Bendall is CEO of The Bendalls Group, a business that leads STRATEGY: ADVOCACY: MOBILE, delivering the business acumen to drive effective positive results in a disruptive economy for the c-suite. Fi has recently won a Westpac/AFR 2015 100 Women of Influence award. See more at: http://www.bendalls.com.au/


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