The Lettuce Diaries is a business memoir of Xavier’s years scaling up a food business in China. His failures and successes ultimately cause him to shift to a different style of leadership, one that is based on learning-it-all rather than knowing-it-all. Xavier created a coaching program to help people apply what he learnt, navigate the treacherous path of scaling a business, and get closer to what he describes as a Complete Leader.
"The Lettuce Diaries is a story of where China has been, where it’s going, and why it matters to all of us." —Leslie T. Chang, author of Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China
ABOUT THE LETTUCE DIARIES This is the story of a snobbish French executive who arrives in Shanghai with his expensive shoes and ties, expecting a short career-boosting posting before returning to Paris. Instead, he ends up deep in China’s manure-soaked fields, buying and selling vegetables, all because he has convinced himself that he can singlehandedly drag China’s agriculture into the 21st century. It didn’t quite work out as he planned. The Lettuce Diaries is a revealing and humorous memoir of being an entrepreneur in China, doubling as a primer for all seeking to do business there, and explaining things the French executive, Xavier Naville, only learned the hard way — things like humility and listening to what people say, and how China and its economy are both totally different and a huge opportunity.
"In this astonishing, soulful, moving, and often funny memoir-cum-business-primer, Xavier Naville tells the story of how he traded the boardrooms of Paris for the agricultural fields of China, along the way building one of the country’s largest fresh-food companies. Word by word and acre by acre, Naville learned how to speak, and to operate, in Chinese. The Lettuce Diaries traces Naville’s journey from the industrial kitchens of Shanghai to the red-baked earth of the Inner Mongolian plateau as he encounters hostage-takings and an attempted coup, food-safety scandals, fraudulent suppliers, cutthroat rivals, loyal colleagues, and spends many hours in the vegetable fields of China with the farmers whose traditions and practices shape the food we eat every day. The Lettuce Diaries is a story of where China has been, where it’s going, and why it matters to all of us."
—Leslie T. Chang, author of Factory Girls: From Village to City in a Changing China
"Bite into a chicken sandwich at a KFC in Shanghai today or buy a bagged salad in a supermarket in Beijing, and there’s a good chance the operation Mr. Naville launched supplied the lettuce inside. Mr. Naville offers sound advice about doing business in China: Westerners must listen, listen, listen” and be willing to fine-tune their business models, not just to local needs and tastes but to rapidly changing political realities and supply lines."
—James T. Areddy, The Wall Street Journal
The Lettuce Diaries released August 31, 2021; published by Earnshaw Books