The role of a market manager

Being a market manager (MM) on a fresh produce market is a hands-on business and not about skulking in sumptuous offices. Unfortunately, far too many of our current crop of MMs seem to prefer the latter option.

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Naturally, there are exceptions, and you’ll find those markets are generally more efficient. The converse also applies – markets where the MM is holed up in an office all day are the ones crippled by inefficiency and poor standards. I can think of a few examples where precious money was spent on upgrading market admin offices – and especially the MM’s ‘little palace’ – while cash sorely needed for infrastructure improvement and other vital requirements seemed to be ‘scarce’. Doing the ‘nice to haves’ before doing the ‘must haves’ shows a complete lack of understanding for the dynamics of a fresh produce market and the basics of good business management.

Engine room
There are many reasons why this state of affairs exists on most markets, but one salient point applies to every market – the necessity for the MM to be on the market floor at least three mornings – preferably more – of every week. And I’m talking about arriving at 5am, when the market is at its busiest. Hours spent on the floor are worth ‘gold’ in management terms.
The market floor is the ‘engine room’, the place where it all happens. The difference between a market floor and ‘normal’ places is the products on sale – they’re perishable and must be moved quickly. Holding over can only be for a limited time, otherwise the products deteriorate and become unfit for human consumption.

Sound decisions
This ‘perishability factor’ influences not only prices, but also handling and storage. The implication is clear – decisions have to be taken and they need to be taken now! The MM ensconced in a cosy office upstairs instead of walking the market floor can’t make sound decisions if they don’t have a ‘feel’ for what’s happening on the sales floor.

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Hopefully, they’ll have competent staff to assist them, but there will be times when the MM’s final authority will be needed.
And decision-making isn’t the only reason why the MM’s presence on the market floor is so important. It’s also about VAC – visibility, availability and credibility. More about this next week.

Contact Mike Cordes at 
[email protected]. Please state ‘Market floor’ in the subject line of your email.