Troy Pearley of Divine Chocolate: “Inspect what you expect”

Inspect what you expect. Just because you completed your task that does not mean a job is done. Something may have fell through the cracks unintentionally. Follow up is an especially important step in executing the plan. As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of […]

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Inspect what you expect. Just because you completed your task that does not mean a job is done. Something may have fell through the cracks unintentionally. Follow up is an especially important step in executing the plan.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Troy Pearley.

Troy Pearley is a Consumer Package Goods expert with more than twenty plus years of experience. He has used his various experiences working for fortune 500 companies to become a thought leader in the confection industry. Troy has helped transform Divine Chocolate from a small chocolate brand to a serious competitor in the premium chocolate market in North America.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

In 2010 I was the lead trade marketer at one of the world’s largest chocolatiers in the world. The work had suddenly became routine, draining and lacked meaning. I was at a trade show in Chicago listening to the VP of Sales argue with an event representative about coffee not being in the room. The VP at the time even commented to me how impressed he was with my professionalism and calmness in resolving the issue. I then said to myself even if I was to become the CEO of the company the job was not for me. I needed to make a difference. Specifically, be a catalyst for positive change for the voiceless and disenfranchised people. Not just evolve into a boss in a nice-looking suit, especially if the pressure of being a key decision maker was going to be so intense that I would become upset over a coffee machine.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I was traveling to Ghana to work and meet with Kuapa Kokoo the cocoa co-operative that co-owns Divine Chocolate. My luggage was lost and did not make it to Accra and filling out a lost luggage ticket was not an option as I had additional travel that was taking me to a remote area not easily accessible for luggage to be dropped off to. All the professional training I have received during my career and the schooling my mother and grandmother sacrificed for me to obtain could not help me fix my problem. My current work experiences were not of use either. Playing sports in High School and College taught me not to panic. Growing up in my community taught me how to quickly understand my surroundings. I was able to negotiate with someone at the airport that once my luggage arrived it would be held and then given to one of my colleagues traveling through Accra in a couple of days. Now this experience has nothing to do with day-to-day business but probably shaped my thinking and decision making the most as a father and business leader. Solutions are not always conventional or structured from a corporate perspective. Life is not always black or white, most of the time circumstances will have you operating in the gray area. Effectively getting the job done without negative repercussions is always the proper option. Do not feel pressured by what people may think or feel. At the time my colleagues thought my solution would never work and did not give me a vote of confidence. All mentioned taught me one thing, do not be afraid to be authentic. Do what works for you. I now know that is typically the best option.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?

I started my career as a sales rep and was scheduled to work with the company’s vice president on a Monday. We agreed that the meeting spot would be determined on the prior Friday. When I was provided the location, I recognized the area despite never going there before. Despite me leaving an hour earlier than needed I was nearly late because I initially went to a location with a similar name.

Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It is good to be confident but you always need to double checkand re-confirm business matters. Lack of attention to the smallest detail can result in a disastrous situation or best case can cause unnecessary heartburn. Take a brief moment to lock in and make the process easier.

Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?

I am pleased that Divine Chocolate is a Fairtrade Chocolate company co-owned by Farmers. The business model is placing the Farmers/Producers in the driving seat. Being Fairtrade also requires that the Farmers receive stable pricing for their cocoa regardless of the commodity prices rising or declining. Our Producers are paid the highest price per ton and a Fairtrade Premium of a few hundred dollars in addition to go towards their communities.

As a social enterprise, Divine Chocolate is a B Corp Brand. The B Lab evaluates us on several things including work environment diversity, employee programs, third-party relationships, our environmental sustainability initiatives, etc. We are giving a score that is published with other B Corp Brands. This not only breeds a working environment of transparency but it also gives us things to look at for improvement.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

The producers and farmers of Kuapa Kokoo cooperative in Ghana are co-owners of Divine Chocolate. They benefit from the sales of Divine Chocolate and the overall success of the Brand. Divine Chocolate also dedicates some proceeds to be used for projects that Kuapa Kokoo would like to run in their various farming communities. One of the projects name is Adult Literacy Program. This program helps to provide additional learning skills to their membership based on their needs. Mercy Zaah a member of Kuapa Kokoo visited the U.S. and gave a presentation to Whole Foods Market. During that presentation she explained how the Literacy program helped her become a better business owner by strengthening her reading and writing skills. Mercy has become a leader in her community and an example to men and women business owners. When I visited Ghana; I saw her in action. She is an inspiration to our Team.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

1. Non Governmental Agencies (NGO’s) — Need to explain and amplify how chocolate (cocoa) is sourced. Specifically how producers typically do not make enough money to live on and are living in poverty. An issue can not be addressed if not understood.

2. The foreign affair department in conjunction with all of the chocolate companies operating in the United States need to develop producer programs in the various countries where their raw materials are source. To no surprise our government typically operates benevolent programs and or trades with many of these countries. i.e.- Aid for Africa

3. Poverty is the root cause of many issues within the global food supply chain. From a community perspective children can learn in school how food is sourced. What foods are grown domestically, globally, where and how? How is pricing determined? Who benefits the most? I think if this is done properly people from a very young age will understand the issues farmers face and possibly come up with solutions that can be implemented domestically and globally.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Willing to pitch in and take on task without being asked or reminded to. Taking the initiative to make the team better and ensure a project is executed. A willingness to help others become better and providing solutions when needed. An ability to listen, learn and implement. A leader’s actions should inspire the team and keep them motivated during difficult times. Being able to effectively communicate uncomfortable things and showing empathy when needed is leadership. Solid leaders give clear direction while providing associates an opportunity to make decisions. Hence an environment of accountability and collaboration is formed. Anyone can give orders. Leadership is defined by your actions not words.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Inspect what you expect. Just because you completed your task that does not mean a job is done. Something may have fell through the cracks unintentionally. Follow up is an especially important step in executing the plan.
  2. It is great to know who the key decision maker is but more important to know the key stakeholders in the process. Mainly because they are responsible for the program’s execution. For example, the buyer may approve a program but there are typically three or four other people executing it. Know those people so that you are providing the buyer information in the format that works best for his/her team.
  3. Make a positive impact on all your relationships. Be patient and treat folks how you would like to be treated. I have established many good connections based on how I have conducted myself. People have extended their time and sometime resources just because of my professionalism. I have seen young associates work extremely hard to get their job done and miss this totally.
  4. Just report the facts. Your supervisors and peers will gain respect for you long-term. You will be viewed as impartial and objective. Typically, this will lead to the broader Team supporting your efforts. Early on in my career I did not want to offend anyone or to be viewed possibly in a negative way. Circumstances presented themselves for me to speak up and provide candied feedback. I did not. Silence can be worse and may result in supervisors viewing you as unengaged.
  5. Mistakes and shortfalls are key learnings. It is part of the process. Especially in non-life-threatening fields management teams should explain the overall growth process in addition to providing best practices.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

All effective movements have one thing in common. They are supported by the youth and/or younger adults. History has show that the youth are catalyst for positive change. We need to educate our children on how food is sourced and who are the folks making the most money and why?. I think over time this would result in people being more conscious of what they purchase and who they do business with. At the very least this would make companies carefully examine how they do business.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

“Be careful what you wish for you might get it.”

Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Having the privilege of becoming a father, husband and a leader at Divine Chocolate is truly an honor. A humbling experience overall. The responsibility that comes with it is to be taken very seriously. The actions I take impact folks’ lives: children, spouse and employees. Good or bad. Good intentions mean nothing. I must be mindful of what I say and do. It has taught me that the things you desire have hidden cost. My life lesson quote is not negative. It is the complete opposite. It has given me clarity and has encouraged me to examine things with my eyes wide open.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.

Madam Secretary Condoleezza Rice. She has lived through the civil rights movement as a child in the then segregated South to becoming the Secretary of State in the Unites States. I’d like to get her viewpoints on past civil rights movements versus the ones going on today: similarities and differences. Also, what are the top three things that needs to be done to improve the lives of disenfranchised peoples? How did she do it?

How can our readers follow you on social media?

IG: thereal_pearlharba

Twitter: @TPearlharba

Facebook: Troy Pearley

LinkedIn: Troy Pearley | LinkedIn

Email: [email protected]

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