We are very excited to bring you our next installment of the “DV Employee Spotlight.” This time we are featuring the hard-working, dedicated, and detail-oriented Paula Arango. She has a very unique role with the company and serves as our Farm and Logistics Coordinate out of South America. This position includes many different responsibilities and we couldn’t be happier to have someone like Paula fill this role.
You can read the full interview with Paula below. It provides some great insight on how we interact with our farm partners and the coordination involved with getting flowers from South America to Miami.
On a side note; Among the many accomplishments Paula has made over the years with DV, having the opportunity to name the “Shy” rose variety is at the top of her list (pictured at the bottom of article).
How long have you been working for DVFlora?
I started back in 2006, so this is my 12th year with DVFlora. I have some experience under my belt and yet a lot more to discover and achieve.
Tell us a little bit about your role with the company?
It all started with a position working with suppliers and buyers of our beautiful and challenging product. 60% of the flowers we buy come from Latin America which is the area I currently represent. I pretty much have visited all of our vendors and know personally our account managers. Basically everything starts with understanding the production process and the individuality of each crop. Then making sure the vendor complies with all quality specifications and requirements to ship our flowers. For instance; I train our growers on being able to access our web platform to offer flowers, explain and motivate them to offer them in the correct programs with assertiveness, pack the flowers in our custom DVFlora boxes, label boxes with specific requirements and guarantee they follow all the exporting processes, among many other things. Of course when all goes well, we just smile and say “job well done.” But when there are quality issues or any difficulties, it is my job to mediate so we can maintain our goal of building long term relationships with our vendors. Through all of this, I guess one of my favorite parts is when a farm calls to thank me after a big holiday success or when they call requesting recommendations on how to grow or increase our business. That is what makes it rewarding!
How often are you on the road visiting farms?
When I first started it was a weekly task that included meeting all of our vendors, learning about the product and pointing out improvements on the quality of the crops or any processes that needed to be changed. Now we are lucky to have QA inspectors in charge of everyday visits.
This task has been reduced to pre-holiday visits, programed visits to new farms looking for opportunities, and routine follow up visits with our vendors. Also, I´m in constant lookout for new varieties and flowers, so I go to the open houses hosted by breeders that are used to showcase their new varieties. Then every 2 years there is a show hosted in Colombia, called Proflora and another in Ecuador, called Expoflor where we visit farms along with DVFlora teammates.
What are some of the topics you might discuss while there?
I’m always motivating farms to give us feedback as to how we can provide more and better tools to expand their business with us. I also like to hear from them on what their expectations are regarding new business opportunities and what they see in the short, medium and long term plans. We sometimes talk about new and exclusive varieties, consistent quality and commitment from farms, which are the fundamental pillars in our relationship with farms. We strive to strengthen the relationship every year with an open channel communication strategy and active listening. Letting them know how important they are to our business is key.
On a more operative basis I walk around the fields to see how the crops are doing, reinforce quality specifications, check that packing standards are being followed and go through variety lists and availabilities. We also discuss future programs like seasonal assortments, their market share participation with DV and tough subjects such as pricing and quality claims. When farms hire new account managers I take the time to walk them through our software and policies.
Who is your favorite farm to visit and why?
Going to farms for me is a delight. I take them as field trips… there is always something new to learn and someone new to meet. By the way, I have to say that I absolutely adore flowers, and that makes me a very lucky person.
It would be tough for me to pick only one favorite among the many that we buy from. However, I have to say Elite has a special place in my heart. Every time I visit, they make me feel at home. Of the many things I value, the most is knowing they care about their people. The Elite Foundation provides so many opportunities for the children of employees that they otherwise would not get to experience. It’s always an emotional experience when I visit the school.
”Going to farms for me is a delight. I take them as field trips… there is always something new to learn and someone new to meet.
I hear you also work closely with the cargo agencies in Colombia, Ecuador, and Costa Rica. Explain a little more about what you do.
Indeed… when I joined DVFG, Northbound cargo logistics were overseen by one of our sister companies. When that operation was sold to a third company, we started contracting those services. 7 years ago, we decided to take control of that portion of the business again. Luckily enough I was involved in the process of selecting and organizing the protocols to manage the transportation of our flowers from origin into the United States. To legally consolidate, transport and import the boxes, we legally require a cargo agent to act on our behalf. Normally, companies tend to fully delegate the selection of the airlines, negotiation of rates and allocation management to cargo agents. We have decided to take a more active role in this decision-making process. In addition to the legal and operative tasks, technology in a perishable business like this is key. We believe it’s important to be able to fully track and trace your orders. It not only adds value to the chain, but gives us the advantage to have better control of our inventory. Together with our cargo agent we have created an information gateway where we transmit all of our purchase orders, so vendors can confirm the orders, book the space (it’s like getting a seat for the boxes), generate a commercial invoice with all Customs requirements, as well as print labels (like getting a boarding pass for the plane)…all in one web site. As you can see, I’m passionate about logistics!! This role is challenging, but also motivating. It keeps my head spinning for continued improvement.
What are some of the challenges you run into with the airlines and how do you get around them?
Same as in passenger flights, airlines tend to overbook their planes. Allocation management or prebooking the amount of space you require on a daily basis can be extremely tricky. Basically, you take a crystal ball and start your projections based on last year numbers, then factor in current production and weather patterns, and finally, you can look at last week’s numbers to get either 50% above or 30% below your actual needs. In both scenarios you are in trouble as you may be leaving behind your “Royal Wedding” order, or end up paying for the space you did not use if the market is too tight. So, having a more active role implies that you require the ability to shuffle cargo around from one airline to another to guarantee that you are indeed complying with the specific timetables of each order.
Ok, on more of a personal level now….what three words best describe you?
Passionate, Sociable, Detail Oriented
And your two little girls are absolutely ADORABLE! They both must have daddy wrapped around their finger.
OMG, where do I start…well yes, Camilo, my husband, is under their command. Emma, our oldest, will turn 11 next September and she’s all about sports and arts. Not sure how you can mingle those 2 activities, but she does it with grace…she can be playing soccer in the morning, a tennis semifinal in the afternoon and painting a beautiful canvas in the evening. Alicia, our youngest, cracks our world with her genuine personality, sense of humor and style. In her own words, “elegance is always first.” She enjoys gymnastics, math and roller skating.
We are a close family and really enjoy spending time together, especially outdoors and playing sports. We all love music and have a family Spotify joint account. It gets really tricky to get us all in the same music mood. Our 80’s music is too old and wacky for the girls and the soundtrack to the Zombie movie is too annoying for us! We all agree on Reggeaton, so at this point it is our most selected genre. Some of our family traditions are Saturday Pizza night, which was stepped up a level last Christmas when Camilo gave us the super Hamilton Beach pizza oven.
Favorite Food: I’m a food lover, frustrated master chef.. I’ve been chopped!!! LOL – I really enjoy eating, so it’s incredibly hard for me to pick one favorite.
Favorite Band: I’m a Madonna, P!nk and Lady Gaga Fan GIRL POWER!!! Music is so important to me; I always try to have music on, it’s my ground, fills my soul.
Best Vacation Destination: any destination where food is featured. I can enjoy anything with good family company and a nice Spotify play list! From Paris, to New York to a nice paradisiac beach. Not sure about camping though!!!! I’m not a “survivor” type of person…Glam camping maybe?
The Shy Rose, aptly named by Paula, will be available late 2018.