Cultivating Efficiency You Can Count On

In a nutshell, Maria De La Torre-Sabir in West Pak Avocado’s Grower Accounting department pays growers for their fruit. Sounds simple enough, but the weight of her position in much more than that. It’s about balancing customer service to hundreds of growers at any given time and making sure they and the harvesters are paid. Maria is the contact whose action translates to literal dollars in the bank for many people.

Grower Accounting has a relatively small staff, and a lot of things go through the department; however, payment-wise, everything goes through Maria. She is the person who makes sure pack-outs and payments are processed correctly and promptly posted to the company’s website where growers can access their information. “We have an online accounting system where growers can log in and look at their pack out and their statements to make sure they’re getting the emails they are supposed to be getting,” Maria mentioned.

When asked about a typical grower accounting process, Maria explained: “Every time drivers pick harvested fruit up from a grower, they create a ticket. That ticket gets emailed to the grower, the fruit is packed and then they receive another email with their pack-out. Next, payment is processed and they get an email saying, ‘here’s your statement, and your money is coming.’ The harvester can also go online to confirm what they picked so they can bill me for their services.”

“The growers depend on online accounting a lot: they can run statements, look back five years or whatever, they can look at when they’re going to get paid, etc. There’s also an online chat, so they go into online accounting, login, and ask questions. For example, if (a grower doesn’t) see their pack out, they might message me. Or they’re looking for their payment, same thing. The system answers a lot of questions for them.”

With almost everything done online, even electronic payments, it’s much easier than it was when Maria was first hired 20 years ago. The company didn’t use email for growers back then and would have to fax pack-outs. With Maria’s help to design the functionality of the accounting system, now the growers are notified electronically of every event.

More Than Payment Processing

Many growers may only know Maria as the person who processes their payments. The reality of her Grower Administration position goes well beyond just accounts payable and into a problem-solving role for many parts of the company.

As the administrator for Famous, the company’s ERP system, there’s always a need for Maria’s time. She’s the one who creates new users and helps others figure out how to search for information, generate a report to suit a specific need, and so much more. She’s the company’s go-to for many issues. Luckily for West Pak, Maria thrives under pressure and is quick to tap her superpower.

“Normally there’s always somebody needing help. That’s okay because I love it when it’s hectic, and it’s crazy. I thrive on that stuff. I like the chaos, and I also like to create you know like when there’s a problem, and I get to fix it,” said Maria. “It’s also in my nature to try to make things easier, to simplify things, so people aren’t doing it twice, or doing it manually. I hate when people have to do things manually. I’m always asking, ‘how can we automate this?’ “How can we make this better and faster?’

On any given day, you’ll find Maria trouble-shooting her way through each inquiry, all while keeping things humming along on the grower accounting side. She is naturally terrific at balancing everything but she credits her two decades of experience for her success.

In her off time, Maria enjoys spending time with her family. She is also known for her crafting ability. “I like to make things, like, for example, one guy was telling me that he didn’t have a mask, so I went home, found a pattern, and made him one. I eventually ended up making around a hundred masks.” It turns out that Maria’s pretty resourceful at home too!