Needed: good managers

A senior manager at a large market said to me the other day that market managers (MMs) “need to get out of their fancy offices and on to the market floor – that’s the only way they can get a real feel for what a market is all about”.

Well, well, I thought, I rest my case, because I’ve been saying this for years. Managing a market is a hands-on business and needs a manager to be on the market floor observing, interacting and building goodwill. But too many MMs stay in those ‘fancy offices’, out of touch with the reality of what is happening on the market. If they are not in their offices, they are probably at a meeting – always very important – at the municipal offices.

A rare breed of manager
How is it that the few MMs I know who do spend time on the market floor and keep their municipal meetings to a minimum manage to get it right? How can they run a market with a good measure of success while the others don’t cut it? The answer is that they transcend personal ambition and political expediency and focus on doing their jobs well. They are following in the footsteps of MMs from days gone by who understood the reality of a market, and they are a rare breed.

Many of their colleagues are best described as ‘political appointees’. Knowledge of the fresh produce sector and markets in particular does not seem to enter the equation. All the rhetoric about food security – and markets play a crucial role in this respect – becomes meaningless when the people at the top are either incapable or simply don’t do their jobs.

Their incompetence betrays the nation
Sadly, there are perfectly capable people within the markets, and even outside, who could do a great job. But they are not political animals, so they are ignored or overlooked by those who lurk in the corridors of power. If any of our markets were to collapse – heaven forbid – then a large portion of blame should go to incompetent MMs and their political masters. They would have betrayed the country by allowing a crucial facility to fail.