Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Leadership in the peanut industry. It's awesome.

While I was home, I wanted to take full advantage of it and interview someone significant and particular to the region. I ended up gaining the opportunity of interviewing the owner of the Hancock Peanut company, Daniel Cartwright. Mr. Cartwright has been the owner of Hancock Peanuts for 14 years now, and has held a hand full of nut related responsibilities. Mr. Cartwright's duties are plentiful, and make him an important leader in Southampton County Virginia. Here I will recreate my conversation as best as I can with him.

Arlen: What are some of your responsibilities as a CEO of a peanut company?

Daniel: Well, I have to manage income, taxation on production, intake of peanuts, output of peanuts, payment of staff, travel costs. Lots of stuff. It's not easy to sell peanuts. You have to be diligent and respectful. Respectful not only to others in the business but also to the product itself.

Arlen: The peanut?

Daniel: Yes, the peanut. It'll beat you up in this business, some years the yield is great, some years it isn't. Despite the yield, you have to try and work with what you got. God gives you lemons, make lemonade...except in this instance he gives you peanuts...and were not really making peanutade. Imagine that wouldn't taste too dandy. Don't get me wrong though, the peanut can be made into lots of products you use everyday.

Arlen: Do you feel your work then makes some sort of difference, whether in the community or more abroad?

Daniel: No. Not really. The peanuts here get shipped off to other countries, and we here in America get our peanuts internationally. Tell me that makes sense. I really don't see how nuts in general change the world, protein for vegetarians I guess. But no, I don't see how my work has influenced the world; maybe I've helped cured world hunger a bit...

Arlen: But you provide jobs for the local community

Daniel: Yeah I do, in that sense yes, I do see a change. Folk around here appreciate labor, and the fact I've helped provide that is nice. Good to help plain folk out. Without this business I manage, can't fathom they'd have much around here to do to feed their families.

Arlen: Then do you see your role as leader of this company, though small, as important to striving communities like ours?

Daniel: Well I don't want to take all the credit, really a business like this functions the way it does by trust in the employee and employer. This trust builds a better work ethic, and therefore produces more. So, yeah, I suppose the fact that I organize and manage funds and shipment helps, but that's only to grease the axles. The engine of my company is the people, the employees here feed themselves, clothe themselves. I just give them work.

Arlen: What sort of things would you like to see change here?

Daniel: More peanuts. More money. I'd love a gumball machine in here, but my wife says it'd look unprofessional. I looked online; you know you can only buy the machines that you have to put quarters in for it to work? Why would I buy a product that requires its users to pay for it again in order for you to use it? I think that's the most unprofessional part of the whole idea, making my guests pay for gum in my office instead of it being available to them for free seems stingy to me.

Arlen: So that's it? Just a gumball machine, money and more peanuts?

Daniel: Um, just about. Honestly, we're a simple operation here. In all honesty I would like to see a change in global economics. I mean, this whole buying from cheaper sources deal has got not on Hancock Peanuts under the weather, but all of the U.S. It has been an issue for a while now, but that's kinda out of my hand. So even if I sound like I'm kidding, those few things are really the only changes I want and can do anything about.

Arlen: Would you say time management and public speaking skills, if those are areas you feel you are fluent in, help keep things tuned in the factory?

Daniel: Yes to time management. It is very important to be sure everyone is here on time, that shipments are exported according to schedule that payments are made on time. Time really is money in this world, and if you can't keep up you go under. That's why I keep a personal calendar and that big one yonder back there to keep track of important dates and events. Before, I never carried a personal calendar, some people thought it was nerdy, but now I know the true value of managing my time. As for public speaking, can't say I'm the best with words. Ain't no Shakespeare or nothin'. You study all that at school right?

Arlen: A bit

Daniel: Yeah never could wrap my head around those fancy verses.

Arlen: Well I don't mean you have to be a poet, by public speaking I mean how well do you feel you can engage a group of individuals, how well do you communicate to groups of people.

Daniel: Yeah I gotcha, I donno, just always thought of people who spoke to large groups of people to always have some sort of profound long speech.

Arlen: Not necessarily

Daniel: Well I gotta know something. I sorta just go into staff meetings with an agenda of what I want to say. Say it. Discuss any matters that need discussing. Then we go our marry old ways. But that helps, the meetings, and being able to get straight to the point and addressing company issues goes along with the whole time is money thing. That's why I do the whole agenda thing, planning what to discuss and having it prepped in my head keeps my speaking skills fit. But, yeah, being able to speak to people is very beneficial, communication is key to any businesses function I suppose.

Arlen: Okay, and for my last question and it is more of just a curious one, how do you feel your position of leadership has altered you as a person.

Daniel: Makes me grumpy. Stressed. I suppose accomplished, but 'round here ain't no one really more successful than the other. I just make things run smoothly, and that's a rough job. Leadership, which I guess you could say I have and is the reason for why I am able to do what I do, is about the one tactic I have making sure everything works like it should.

1 comment:

  1. Arlen, thank you for sharing your interview. I can visualize the scene of you interviewing Mr. Cartwright...I appreciate his view about time management and running a meeting. He seems like a man who values his employees time and does not want to waste it with weasel words.

    On a personal note, I find the concept of exporting peanuts and the US importing peanuts from other countirs fascinating. I would love to explore what the philosophy of the US is on that one.