5 Business Lessons from KIND Founder and CEO Daniel Lubetzky
“How many of you have ever tried a KIND bar?”
Hands shot up.
“How many of you have never tried a KIND bar?”
Some hands raised.
“Keep your hands up,” he instructed and turned to his publicist off stage. “Please call the police.”
Jokes aside, if you haven’t tried a KIND bar, it’s likely you soon will. The growth of the nearly 11-year-old company has been primarily over the last seven years, when private equity firm VMG Partners invested in the company in 2008.
Lubetzky, the son of a Holocaust survivor, has been leading the movement on social entrepreneurship as the founder of PeaceWorks Inc., a specialty food company that works to unite businesses on opposing sides of political conflict, and KIND Causes, a program that awards $10,000 every month to an organization or individual with an idea to improve the world. This, all while leading a company that hit over $1 billion in sales last year.
Far from being your typical entrepreneur, Lubetzky, who touched upon the tenets from his book Do the KIND Thing (Ballantine Books, 2015), extolled his belief that kindness and entrepreneurship are not mutually exclusive.
“Empathy is one of our greatest tools of business that is most underused,” he says.
To learn more about what makes Lubetzky such a unique success in leadership and in life, here are five lessons to get you started.
1. Greatness can come from darkness.
KIND, Lubetzky regaled, was born during a difficult time in his life. It was the year his father died and his speciality foods company, PeaceWorks Inc., had just lost a $1 million client due to a manufacturing change.
It was after that, he decided to create a company that created products with wholesome and healthy ingredients people could pronounce. Today, KIND products are sold in more than 50 major chains.
2. Find out what your purpose is.
It wasn’t surprising when Lubetzky said, “At KIND, our purpose is to spark kindness.”
His tenet radiates from the top down -- in addition to offering full-time employees the option to own shares of the company, he hands out “#kindawesome” cards to reward people engaged in acts of kindness. The cards can be redeemed for free KIND bars and a #kindawesome card to pay forward.
“You have a deeper purpose that drives you,” he urged. “You have to talk to yourself about what that purpose is. If you run through like a hamster to chase fame or money, you might end up wasting your life away. You find what drives you and gives you energy.”
3. Focus on where your investment is most worthwhile.
As a young man, Lubetzky was all about grit. However, “without strategy and focus,” he said, “grit can you in trouble.” He went on to share a story about how he’d wasted a lot of energy and time as a younger man, hitting up every store in New York City to carry his speciality food products, determined to make a sales even if the store wasn’t the right fit for his product.
“Sometimes I was in the wrong store. I would walk into a convenience store, and they were carrying toilet paper, and I was selling speciality food products.”
His grit resulted in sales but not return clients. In one case he sold to a store, the owner simply wanted Lubetzky to go away.
“But then I visited that store again, a week later,” he said. “None of those jars of sundried tomato spread had sold. And two weeks later, none had sold. One year later, none had sold.”
To succeed in sales, particularly in the beginning, you have to cultivate a segmentation strategy, sell to the right stores and focus on core accounts. When Lubetzky started KIND years later, he focused on selling to health food stores, then expanded to specialty food stores and grocery stores.
4. Keep it simple.
“Try to keep things simple in the way you execute things -- and the way you think about yourself,” advised Lubetzky.
Lubetzky recounted a story about the expansion of PeaceWorks product line. “We expanded from three spreads to seven spreads.” He recalled the pressure he felt from people who’d advised him to keep adding products to his line, which he did.
But it all got too complicated. A flavor called sweet and spicy teriyaki pepper spread -- which bombed -- taught him the valuable lesson that it’s better to keep your product simple than to disappoint and lose your customer.
“I keep it on my shelf to remind me of my mistakes,” he said.
5. Thinking with “and,” not “either/or.”
“Very often we skip through challenging conventional wisdom,” said Lubetzky. “It is about sometimes making choices. Bringing two opposing tensions and make them live in harmony.”
Lubetzky, who works with bringing unity between countries of political conflict in the Middle East through PeaceWorks, said that the decision doesn’t have to be “either/or.”
“Make a product that is wholesome and easy to carry. Economically sustainable and socially conscious. Nutritious and delicious. Why are you assuming that you cannot achieve both?”
Bonus: Make mistakes and succeed by not forgetting those mistakes.
“I’ve been doing this for 21 years and made 11 years of mistakes,” he said. “I think KIND’s success is not forgetting about those mistakes.”