Being the leader of a fast-growing food company is truly a unique experience. Nothing really prepares you for the pace of decision making in an uncertain environment. I learned this lesson myself in running a food company that saw 30% year over year growth for 25 years.
When to be flexible and when to build structure? Do I hire executive talent or good executors? Do I make my products myself or use a co-packer? These are among the many questions that need to be answered as a leader of a fast-growing food company. The main challenge is not only that these questions are difficult to answer, but that the answers are also changing constantly.
Here are a couple of key concepts that may help: Continue reading
Often a Founder of an early stage food company gets so focused on raising money they lose sight of what they need to do to efficiently manage the funds an investor is putting in the company. You have convinced an investor in the value of your product, management team, and marketing plan. Now you need to hit your growth objectives with the funds provided.
There are a few simple tools that will keep you on track towards increasing your company valuation before an exit or the next round of funding without running out of money. They include: Continue reading
Developing an effective Sales Strategy to grow your company from its early stage $1,000,000 annual sales level to $10-25,000,000 and beyond is not an easy task. As you grow you will greatly expand the number of competitors while simultaneously entering new markets and channels of distribution that often have conflicting requirements. You will also be building out a sales and marketing function within your own company as the requirements in this area quickly outgrow your ability to manage them. Continue reading
A member of a prominent family who has bought and sold many companies over the years once told me that there are only two times that you should sell a business. The first is when you are not really trying, and someone comes to you with an offer to good to refuse. The second Continue reading
What drives valuation in an early stage, branded food company?
What does an early stage investor look for in a growing food company when they attempt to put a value on a potential investment? Many food entrepreneurs think it is the rate of growth in sales that drives valuation. That is partially true but does not tell the whole story. I have found the following to be the key factors in valuing early stage high growth food companies.
Managing your supply chain as your food company grows from early stage to mid-size is both complicated and a great opportunity. As your volume increases you can reduce your product costs as much as 30%. Purchasing raw materials at higher volumes along with production economies of scale drive this reduction. However, if not managed well your supply can kill your business quickly. Running short on raw materials, quality issues in finished products, and uncontrolled costs from out of code product are some of the many issues that can cripple a growing early stage food company. These issues can come up whether you use a co-packer or make the product in-house When planning your growing supply chain, you should consider the following:
As a food company begins scaling the organization required to run it changes dramatically. The external factors driving this are many. The most important ones are:
- Selling to larger more complicated customers
- Distribution going from local to regional and national
- Greater regulatory scrutiny
- More partners and increased financial reporting requirements
- Multiple production locations
- Aggressive growth projections
So, you have built your new food or beverage company from a start-up to over $1,000,000 in annual sales, with good margins and strong same-store sales. You have investors looking to finance your growth to the next level. You feel you are over the hump and on your way to long-term success.
However, you have just entered the most complicated stage of building a food company. That is scaling from the start-up phase to a fully staffed and well organized small business. This phase in the build out of your organization has led to the stagnation or death of many companies. The following are the most critical areas of concern as you build a food company from very small to mid-size and a few of the major tasks in each area:
Running a frozen specialty co-packing operation for nearly 30 years has given me unique insight into what makes up a healthy partnership between Co-Packer and customer. At Little Lady Foods we introduced over 100 new product lines for customers such as Nestle, Kellogg’s, Newman’s Own, Walmart, and numerous early-stage companies. Continue reading
For many growing food companies that process their own products, deciding when and how to expand processing capacity are among the most critical decisions they will ever make. Wait too long and risk missing growth opportunities or causing service issues with current customers. Move too quickly and without adequate planning and put the entire company at risk. Continue reading