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Making lemonade from lemons: The role of client-consultant knowledge as the Limoneira Company goes global

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Abstract

At the onset of the global economic crisis in 2008, the Limoneira Company was considering an aggressive international expansion as a means to realize a quantum leap in sales. Already the largest lemon producer in the United States, pursuing such a goal would require significant organisational reconfiguration. To do so, Limoneira would also need to leave the powerful citrus grower cooperative Sunkist. Since the early 1900s Sunkist had been responsible for almost all Limoneira’s market access, and accordingly the vast majority of its revenue. To assist with evaluating Limoneira’s reconfiguration, the executive management of the lemon giant looked outward for help. MTI Consulting, a management consulting firm headquartered out of Bahrain was selected. MTI worked closely with Limoneira to assess the viability of leaving Sunkist, as well as establishing a global expansion plan from which the board of directors could weigh the risks of leaving their life long partner Sunkist. This case study reflects the client-consultant interactions of this consulting assignment. It focuses on the daily situated activities that constitute reality for the client and project consultants, and how frameworks for knowledge sharing emerged within this dynamic. It pays particular attention to how close personal relationships developed over the course of the project, and how such personal interactions facilitated client and consultant knowledge pools alike. This case illustrates that social capital and strong personal skills positively influenced consultant and client learning, and accordingly an array of project outcomes.
14 Making lemonade from lemons



Jason Cordier and Tahir Hameed

 !
"!#$
Cordier, J., & Hameed, T. (2017). Making lemonade from lemons: The role of client-
consultant knowledge as the Limoneira Company goes global. In G. Manville, O.
Matthias, & J. Campbell (Eds.), Management Consultancy Insights and Real
Consultancy Projects. London: Routledge
Executive summary
"%&&'(
)*+
,!"-.(
,+!
()
)(.!./&&(.
() 
)!)(*)
!(
,0(!
)).(
*
).!1
!
) 
(
!(
)) (
!
)1
( !
%
2 (   34      
#5!%&&'
    2 3(  34  #  
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-.!")
 )  )     
            
  89: ( 
;" ))
    )       
).(.!
 ))9(&&&   
     *)   ) 
    (    *) 
!
2
!" ,!")
**,
(( 
!*8: 
!
)))!
(*
!#) 
(!
6".7"<5%=(
%&&
8
#)!
,)!4
 )
!))))
> ()
>)
 ?
!@( ,
(
!
(
)*(
!(
 !
The Consulting Firm – MTI Consulting
//=2!.
(,*
!
*
!0%&&'2
0)A.(
#(0(7(0(-B!
0#4C0#4DA
0(!*)*
C(D 
!
E
0)
*!F
G0@)(
!
1()!

!"+(H
)>
IJKCF(%&&8D!
CD*)(
(*)
)
*)CL0
!(%&&:D!
Exploitative consulting practices*
(
(CL0!(%&&:D!)
)
!Explorativepractices,)
)C)(//8()!(%&&D!
))ambidextrous
,exploratoryexploitative . F
((
()
!)E&& E&%&&'(
)*
:
))!
E&>!)
>),
(0
*) .!
The Client - Limoneira
L "(
)(
'/8!HK#!
*/%&(,!
.
/8&!6
((
)()
-.!
()
(&&&!
)
!
Insert about here - Figure 1: Limoneira Timeline
Client’s distribution network - Sunkist
.
9(&&&CB(%&8D%-.
)!'/8C3)(%&ED
.@3*.
9
/:%C.(%&9D!) )
)
C@-)(%&9D!.)
) %&&=C.(
%&%D()-.
C#(%&&'D!-.
)
)C.(%&9D!.CB(
%&8D))()

5.C.(
%&9D!9&&1)
 !C.(%&9D!
.)*)

!)A6"
8-.C0(%&ED!@
+
>)!
.>$
M
"*)-.
*
)
Sunkist-Limoneira relationship
.
!..
=
*#M2B(
(B(.(N)
C5(//=D!
 .O)
!7()
!
Insert table about here -Table 1: Major Producers in the Global Lemon
Market
Insert table about here -Table 2: Major Associations and Cooperatives
in the Citrus Market
Analysis of US and global lemon/citrus markets
+9!/CD
%&&=!"(.((-
.!F3
MN!-.
+N(.("
3-.!"
%&&=-(."(
.>C.@%D!
Insert #gure about here –Figure 2: Global Fresh Lemon Consumption
-.C-.D98=('&&CD
(9(&&&*!
-.8:(&&&)
-.*(0+"!
'
Insert table about here –Table 3: 2007 World Lemon Imports and
Exports
Insert table about here –Table 4: EU 25 Supply Countries
.
,!N
,M(B
3!F
"(
PP
)!A


!
Insert table about here –Table 5: Lemon Substitute Products Overview
((O
C@8D!
(2(M
C2MD!
(=&Q,
C2MD8&Q
)!
Insert #gure about here – Figure 3: The Lemon Supply Chain
Challenge for Limoneira
F2334#
%&&8"*!2
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(!
5)!F"*).
L#()))
))
!"*
!)
+%/)(
H)
P
P)!K
.,()*))
*A
,
!@(N)
(+
!NN
>!0
)!
"2"*
.
!.>!
)*).
(
!2))
)(
!0
&
)()89:P
),
6"?)
!)(
)!

((
C4(%&&'D!)
,
(),*(
,!@+
)A
,(.)(
)
),!"**$
A supply side controlled group [Sunkist] was taking a piece of the pie and
dividing it up; and in a cooperative you have to be ‘fair.’ Here you are
saying a person who puts out a poor quality [lemon] box - both in terms of
aesthetic quality and holding quality - are going to get the same
percentage share as us; that is not an incentive! That discouraged us and
other large quality players… essentially the Sunkist system only teaches
the class up to the level of the lowest level kid in the class.

N
*
,)!2)(
*
()
()(

!3(
(,*)
G)!
M.
(,!
((
.(,)
!R(
,)!:
%!:!.*,$
"*
).
( 
").
"))(
*
(!
3
"*$
For us, as we spoke and we could all agree, from a general knowledge
position across all the growing areas and sectors in lemons, from timing,
from the intricacies of the industry, we were very knowledgeable.
However, when you make a strategic move, to have third party
veri*cation on the strategy is essential, not only to check your own ego –
which is always a good thing to do – but also politically with your
ownership and your board of directors. It is very worthwhile to verify and
critique the plan as you are always missing something.
MTI’s Approach
*))) (
 ()*
 !2) 
3423*
%
2"(A
#
!)

!
,)!"*
 )! “You give two people a good [drink]
and they will learn a lot… MTI is trying to get information, human nature for us is
to hold back. By the same token when MTI is telling something we could be
thinking ‘yeah, but what are they really missing.’ [A strong personal relationship]
that is social breaks down those unwritten rules.”
@*2)
 
! 
!")
)
 ( 
),!2Hthere can be
a belief that consultants are fountains of knowledge that ride in and magically
have intelligence that the client does not… we resist the urge to imply we know
more than the client in their domain as a means to justify our value and fee, as
we don’t. They know their business! We deliver our value by working side by side
with the client.
8
" !H

,()S
)!F
)!6*

!K
Business intelligence and knowledge management in consulting
projects
C0D 
!

(!2)(
0+*!3*

((((!
 !
*)(*
)!0*
*+
*!*
**(*
+)((
!
E
0*(6C//ED
+)
.3$
! .+$!!
)()(!
%! 3*+$3*!!
)(
8! $3*3*!!(

E! +$3*!!
()(
6C//ED *+)
)))!F*+(
+)+(
+)
())!
3C//'D +>
P
P)C#.@D
))!B(()))
))*,
)(++!
" ) >
()(
**
C2(%&&8D!
F(*
*>*(

:
) 
 !(+
+)C6
C//ED.3+)D
)+
C.!(%&&'D!
Insert table about here –Table 6: A Simple View of Knowledge
Management Activities in Consulting Projects
MTI’s consulting project plan and implementation
 ,)!
.((+*
"L""03((
(((!
@  )
'H'.
#.K C@9D!
**
)(((+(
!
Insert #gure about here – Figure 6: MTI Consulting Project Model
@ (PlanScape
nucleus!
) 
C
D !
9
C0D,!(
 0)(
,,C!!*)*)D(
),0!.
)C6D(C7MD()C@LD(*C34D(
C.MD(C@57D()C40.D(
CFD!*
)*)*)!"(0
,?*
)(C@57D()C40.D(
)*C3T#D!@E*P
 
)!2()C7LD 
,
!
Insert #gure about here –Figure 4: MTI Project Nucleus
"6)(
, ,(
!"6
 ()) 
!F(
), !40
(
*(*!
@:>)) 
*
!"()C6D
=
C3DC@%@D)!
(
)*
!
Insert #gure about here –Figure 5: Primary Research Conducted on the
Client
Project key success factors
+ 
9!
)!
Insert table about here –Table 7: Summary of Project
F 
))0(
(!*0
)(
)!
*
!(
)(
,!*
!4
() 
(
'
>)!
G(
)*)!M(
 (
*
!
.*)
G 
34.L#
+(
(
,*)!

*)(*)
=:Q23
34%:Q
)!" 
!HWe knew almost nothing about
lemons… we leveraged Limoneira’s good relationships to [develop] open
forums… from here we applied our cross-market learnings and we came up with
a means to address the complexity. None of this could be done without the
client’s interaction and their knowledge.”
F 
()
!
))*
/
(>)!
*)()
 !
(
!
A,)
*
!
May 2010
342
!"H).KC2(
%&&D !34
236".7"<
*).
6)!))
/Q)!"
(2#5!
21 
,.!F
(
*)!*
.P)
))!
*))())
%&
!
*)!"(

).!"
*)
>
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!
( 
?(2 )
>)2(
);
()
();
2)*
;F)
)) )*
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)>
>;
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References
0(7!%&E!Aquaculture Cooperative Established and Management Guide!
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::8@!C"$%%&9D!
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Primary Research Client I-J$(.
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@)!%&9!Sunkist Growers Inc. History I4J!")$$OO
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)!European Journal of Innovation Management,9,:/=%!
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Aquaculture cooperative established and management guide. Ames, IA: Agriculture Marketing Research Center
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