Tag Archives: Growth

Managing a High Growth Food Company

Building the Organization

At New Food Strategies we focus on food companies that are growing rapidly, from early stage to mid-size. We offer experience and knowledge in managing a high growth food company at this important moment of expansion.  A brand in a sales range of roughly $1M in annualized sales, which is primed to grow to well over $100M, is at pivotal moment.  This is where a company transitions from a highly flexible entrepreneurial one, to a sustainable, long-term organization.

Companies entering this stage have a product that has been accepted in the market, a marketing plan geared for rapid growth, and funding to support it.  However, there is often not sufficient attention paid to the most critical element of all, which is building and staffing the organization in a way that can effectively manage a company through a challenging scale up process.

When New Food Strategies works with companies entering this stage of growth, we have them focus on three primary areas of organizational development.  These are People, Process and Planning.

People

When bringing people into a high growth food company there are a number of critical characteristics that will allow them not only to survive but actually thrive in a high change, high stress environment.  Some of these characteristics are as follows:

  • Someone who is challenged by rapid change and the fast pace of decision making
  • An individual that can be both highly collaborative and independent when the situation calls for one or the other
  • Someone who has a good idea as to how to build out the structure of their department for the long run, while fighting fires in the short run
  • The ability to function at a high level without a lot of structure and process in a very hands on manner
Growth over time.

One way to screen for these behaviors is to designate current employees who are successful in a high change environment and use them to screen job applicants for the cultural attributes desired.  They often can pick up on those individuals who say that want a high change environment but really do not understand what it requires to be successful in such a company.

Process

The amount of change and keeping up with both internal and external demands in a high growth food company makes highly detailed operating processes both difficult, and in some cases counter-productive.  However, this does not mean that everyone goes off in their own direction with no way to coordinate their activities.  It is critical to develop a regular structure around the internal communications of the company.  In its early high growth stage, Dell had a weekly video conference for all senior managers at the same time each week.  No excuses were accepted for missing it.  At this call, each manager was asked the three same questions each week.  They were:

What is new? Where are you stuck? and How can we help? 

A manager in a high growth company in almost every case has a job too big for them to do on their own.  They need to coordinate internal and external resources to make sure tasks they are responsible for occur on time.  Regular communication with their team members is critical to keeping the rapid pace controlled to a reasonable extent. In these situations, trying to cover up the fact that you are falling short of a target is the worst thing you can do.  Needing help from time to time is expected and raising your hand to ask for it is encouraged.

Planning

In a high growth food company the planning cycle is highly compressed.  Looking out more that 18 to 24 months is not a very valuable exercise in most cases.  It is necessary to have a general picture of where the company is headed long term, but the execution plan is often no more than 12 months.  90 day, rather than annual objectives, make more sense in this environment, with a new set of objectives being created on a quarterly basis.  12-month financial budgets do make sense here, but they must be updated on at least a bi-annual basis, if not quarterly.

planning is key

Building a food company from an early stage to a mid-size company requires skills that are not generally found in the average person.  The ability to deal with ambiguity, while at the same time making decisions with limited information or resources is as much an art as a science. There is not a check list you can pull out and follow to ensure success.  However, by hiring the right people, maintaining a regular communication structure and planning often and for short time frames will give you a great chance for success.

These three keys, People, Process, and Planning, can set you on the right track for rapid growth in the food industry. Subscribe to our newsletter or contact John directly for more tips on growth in the food business.

Scaling an Early Stage Food Business – Part 4: Financial

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

Scaling an Early Stage Food Business – Part One: Organization

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

Continue reading

Tips for a Great Co–Packer Relationship

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

Strategies for Increasing Food Processing Capacity

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

Venture Capital Increases Risk for Founders

Venture Capital money can be very enticing – a tool to help founders quickly scale and achieve their wildest dreams – but it can also limit founder’s choices and increase risk.

Read more on article from Crunch Network: Venture Capital is a hell of a drug

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Cotton Is a Fruit & Prepare for Gen Z

September 2016

New Food Strategies just celebrated an anniversary! Two years ago, I made a commitment to put my 30 years of food industry expertise to work helping leaders of startup to mid-size food companies make the best decisions to support their growth. I discovered that these leaders have access to extensive resources in marketing and finance but very few to help an organization scale to meet a market opportunity.  New Food Strategies fills that gap. Continue reading

GeekWire Article: Stop being a founder, and start being a CEO

The article Stop Being a Founder, and Start Being a CEO by Marc Barros on GeekWire reminded me of my own experience in many ways – how tough it is to make the transition from Founder to CEO.

I have had the experience of building a food company from start-up to over $250m in annual sales with 1000 employees. During those years, I traveled the road of the transition from Founder/Leader to CEO. I confronted my own limitations and voluntarily stepped down, experienced a failed transition to an experienced CEO, came back in to try and right the ship with only limited success. Continue reading