(Dec. 21) Nashville-based Produce Alliance is making a move from being a good company to a great one.

The company is building on Jim Collins’ bestselling book Good to Great to continue its decade-long growth. The book is about enacting change that will take an average company and make it outstanding. Every one of the company’s 32 employees read the management book.

Russ Wingo, director of sales, marketing and distribution for Produce Alliance, said the company had already taken the first step by getting “the right people on the bus,” as Collins would say.

Wingo said that the alliance was in the early stages of change, according to the book, but there already was a noticeable difference.

In a decade, Produce Alliance has grown from a produce brokerage with one supplier to a nationwide produce services management group with 33 member distributors that cumulatively have more than $1 billion in annual sales.

But there were bumps along the way. Six years after the company’s founding in 1996, the company had grown to about 50 members. Management decided to go in a different direction. The company headquarters moved from Chicago to Nashville, and a set of guidelines was instituted that members had to follow.

The guidelines included food safety procedures, liability insurance, third-party inspection and refrigerated trucks. About 40% of Produce Alliance’s member distributors left the network after the change because they did not see the need to invest in their companies as the alliance did, Wingo said.

The alliance has been building membership by carefully selecting companies. The process of becoming a member can take anywhere from three months to a year, and it includes an inspection of the facilities.

“Members represent us in the field. If you don’t have good ones, it will hurt us more than it will benefit us. One weak link will affect the chain,” he said.

The most recent addition to the Produce Alliance network was Memphis, Tenn.-based Charlie Sciara & Son Produce Co. Inc. It became the 33rd member distributor in October.

Sciara has been in business about 64 years, operating out of its 50,000-square-foot facility in the Memphis area that employs a microbiologist on site.