Friending Your Customers: Q&A With Anthony Stevenson

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Anthony Stevenson, international wholesale sales representative from Johnny’s Selected Seeds, shares about working with international customers and how his customers have become his personal friends.

SW: Favorite podcast or audiobook?

Anthony Stevenson: I often drive long distances for work, and “Serial” and “This American Life” make the time pass faster.

SW: One thing you never leave home without?

AS: My sunglasses.

SW: No. 1 travel destination?

AS: Southeast Asia has always been my favorite. The culture, the food and especially the people are all incredible. I pay particular attention to the food; I try to bring back unique vegetable or herb items to trial, and sometimes add to the Johnny’s assortment for American farmers to grow for their market.

SW: How did you become fluent in Spanish?

AS: I learned English and Spanish at the same time. My Central American family prefers to speak Spanish in their day-to-day lives, so it was easy to stay proficient in both languages as I got older. It’s an invaluable skill. So many farmers’ and workers’ first language is Spanish and communicating with them in their preferred language ensures that we can supply them and help them have the most successful farm possible.

SW: What countries do you work with most?

AS: Most of our international business is conducted in Europe: the United Kingdom, France and Germany, in particular. Much of this has to do with their similar latitude to Maine’s, where we conduct variety trials and where our breeding program is based. Johnny’s is known for our own jack-o’-lantern breeding, and Halloween has steadily grown in popularity in those countries.

SW: What problems do you face in shipping products worldwide?

AS: Various import regulations can complicate the process. Many countries require specialized testing, inspections and/or treatments that are costly. Some countries restrict or prohibit the importation of certain species — nightshades, for example, which are a tremendously popular family of plants. Shipping rates and time to delivery can be challenging, but dedicated growers worldwide continue to come back and work with us.

SW: What’s the best part about working with your customers?

AS: I’ve worked with many of my customers for more than 10 years now, and they’ve become personal friends. The best part of working with them is helping them be successful in their business. Something as simple as working together for a few years, trying to find one particular product that will work in their environment or fit their growing method, and then finding the one that “hits,” is immensely gratifying.

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