Doling out the charm
James Dole, a Harvard graduate who sailed to Hawaii to try his hand at selling tropical fruits, began his pineapple empire by canning Hawaiian pineapples and selling them to the mainland early in the 20th century. By 1922, Dole was successful enough to purchase the entire Hawaiian island of Lana'i. Dole's Hawaiian Pineapple Company was later acquired by Hawaii agricultural firm Castle & Cook, a company that has recently changed its name back to Dole Food. Since the 1960s, Dole has opened pineapple and banana farms in the Philippines, Africa, and South America. The company currently operates fruit and vegetable plantations on five continents and runs vast distribution networks via ships and trucks.
Stick with what works
In the early 1990s, Dole announced that it would stop producing fruit on Lana'i, and instead, focus on its two resorts there. The plan failed, however, and in 1995, Dole sold its resort and real estate businesses to focus on the production, transportation, and sale of over a dozen fruits and two dozen vegetables. Attempting to gain a foothold in the organic produce market, the company bought Made in Nature in 1994, but sold it back again a year later to focus on its core products--fresh fruits and vegetables and other goodies, including salad kits, peeled mini-carrots, and salad dressing.
Slipping on the banana peel
Just when Dole thought that bananas were its only safe bet, the fruit fates decided to play a prank. Amid the 1998 collapse of Russian demand, banana prices plummeted. Although Dole expected to earn 47 cents a share, the company announced that its third-quarter earnings had declined 35%. In other troubling 1998 news, Dole announced that it would close its main citrus plant in Sueca, Valencia, and obliterate 262 positions. After Hurricane Mitch destroyed much of its banana crop, Dole has had trouble recovering. It laid off 9,000 workers in 1999 and has retained Goldman, Sachs to look for prospective buyers. Recent cost-cutting measures in its banana division have shown early signs of boosting Dole's sagging bottom line.
"State your goals during the interview," one insider advises, "Let them know where you want to go." Dole's job hotline lists job openings in various corporate departments and provides contact information to which resumes can be sent. These positions are most often located at Dole's Westlake Village, California headquarters. Dole considers only those resumes submitted for a specific opening.
Dole has eliminated 9,000 jobs over the course of its most recent downsizing, and employees say that they are worried that their "workplaces are turning into museums." Others note that some departments, especially marketing, have "big turnover rates." Many employees say, however, that the "most drastic cuts" are "behind the company" and that the "future looks brighter than the past." One Dole veteran reports, "Dole has given me all the career opportunities I have wanted, through the good times and the bad times, it has been a good experience." Dole's salaries are "competitive" when compared with industry standards, and the company offers a "solid line" of medical and retirement benefits.
We are the world
The company's workforce is almost as diverse as its list of exotic locales. One notes, "We operate in 20 countries, so we have a wide selection of nationalities in our staff." "I have not seen any type of discrimination at Dole," one insider reports. Moreover, "there are many women in top executive positions, and many different cultures are represented." Though dress varies, business formal is typical at most corporate locations. A notable exception-- employees at Dole's Hawaii facilities enjoy the "casual" atmosphere of "muumuus and aloha shirts."
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