Academy Helps Managers Tackle Disruptive Marketplace

By Torrie Ward, Communication and Marketing Specialist, Purdue University

Sharp business acumen and advanced leadership skills are essential to thrive and overcome future challenges in this competitive and shifting landscape. At the 2020 ARA Management Academy, ag retail managers, agronomists and sales professionals will come together for a powerful program that provides opportunities to examine and discuss current issues alongside industry peers. These discussions will focus on how managers contribute to organizational and customer success in an ever-evolving industry.

The 2020 academy will be held from Jan. 28 to Jan. 30 in Tempe, Ariz. It is led by Purdue University’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business in partnership with the Agricultural Retailers Association and the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University (ASU).

Learn more and register for the 2020 ARA Management Academy

The Shifting Marketplace 
Rapid-fire changes in technology, consumer demand and new target demographics require long-term strategic thinking as new and existing competitors change the rules of the marketplace every day. Previously, supply chains were able to focus on delivering standardized commodities at the lowest cost. Due to changes happening across the industry, supply chains are now being forced to shift their long-term strategies and examine how to realign differentiated customer needs and an organization’s value proposition.
Just as quickly as the supply chain is being altered, technology is revolutionizing the way farmers interact with suppliers. For example, growers now have access to tools and technologies that allow them to manage individual fields with sub-inch accuracy. Farmer-customers are considering high-tech investments that promise large payoffs, but few are adopting when a steep price is involved as they sprint to keep up with the tech treadmill.

Similarly, many ag retailers are sprinting along beside them. These disruptions have the ability to impact retailers’ daily operations, and they are influencing the industry on a global scale. As farmers adopt new technologies, ag retailers have the opportunity to examine the role of digitization in the future. How the market plans to utilize digitization to innovate its own culture can transform an organization from being disrupted to being the disruptor. These innovations create an opportunity to reposition, gain advantage over competitors and analyze a firm’s ability to be innovative.

As the agriculture and food industries continue to wrestle with an increasing number of innovative disruptions, managers need to become more adept at assessing the balancing act of when and how to react. To think about the changing environment that an ag retailer must navigate, Allan Gray, professor and executive director at Purdue’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business, will lead an opening session on marketplace disruptions. Participants will have the opportunity to explore impacts for their businesses and the industry.

Service Blueprinting: Visualize Your Services from the Customer’s Point of View 
When a business and customer interact, a service takes place and presents the potential to resolve a customer pain point or yield another positive outcome. Service blueprinting allows us to take customer service, define what excellence looks like and establish a plan to meet or exceed customer expectations. It provides an opportunity to dive deeper into issues within an organization and choose what processes need modification to increase efficiency and decrease internal pain points.

Through blueprinting, organizations find that though tasks are getting accomplished, there is often no clear ownership of responsibilities, or they find various people doing the same task in different ways. It also shows how each task impacts the entire process. This guides companies to initiate effective conversations focused on determining specific actions to increase customer satisfaction.

Doug Olsen, associate professor at the W.P. Carey School of Business and Thunderbird School of Global Management at ASU and faculty director of the Service Leadership Institute, hones in on service blueprinting to clearly visualize service processes from the customers’ perspective. He will lead a hands-on session that will generate a blueprint for a specific process in participants’ own organizations. During the session, attendees will identify potential gaps and plan next steps to bridge them while driving improvement and discussing how to integrate blueprinting into their organizations.

The Academy
A key benefit of the program and its location is that it brings together retailers from various segments of agricultural production all the way from commodities to produce. Attendees will have the chance to interact with retailers who have different experiences and perspectives. 

For example, retailers who serve farmers growing crops closer to consumption—such as peppers—have been dealing with challenges of consumer preferences and sustainability longer than those working with commodity producers. Two such large-scale growers from the Southwest will join the academy for a discussion about managing their operations and how they work with suppliers and distribution channels for their products.  

In addition to Gray and Olsen as presenters, participants will hear and learn from faculty members including Scott Downey, agricultural economics professor and associate director at Purdue’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business; Michael Gunderson, agricultural economics professor and director at Purdue’s Center for Food and Agricultural Business; Mark Manfredo, professor and director of the Morrison School of Agribusiness at ASU; and Suzanne Peterson, associate professor of leadership at ASU’s Thunderbird School of Global Management.

Learn more and register for the 2020 ARA Management Academy