Inside the High-Performance Mindset of Serial Entrepreneur Max Baumann, CEO of BEAR POWERFOODS
If you walk around Ocean Avenue at 6 a.m. you might find Max Baumann sprinting up the Santa Monica stairs -- all 369 of them -- trying to beat his personal record. While many people would have challenges just walking up the stairs, this serial entrepreneur continues to challenge himself through professional, athletic and personal development endeavors.
Max didn’t plan on being an entrepreneur. In fact, his original goal was to become a professional surfer. After realizing this path wouldn’t be feasible in the long run, he decided to pursue entrepreneurship. At just 21 years old -- without having any previous business experience -- he found success by launching The Chill Group, Inc. the world’s first functional beverage designed to help reduce stress and improve focus. At 26 years old, he created Basemakers, a premier retail merchandising and outsourced field sales company, which has now grown over 1200% in the last 3 years.
Max -- who turned 30 this year -- is currently the Founder and CEO of the keto-friendly meal replacement shake brand BEAR POWERFOODS.
Often, entrepreneurs find success by solving a problem they’ve personally experienced. As he’ll explain in this interview, BEAR POWERFOODS solved a huge problem for Max. He's now in a position to help others as both as a founder and as an example of how we can all pursue becoming the best possible version of ourselves.
You’ve already started two successful businesses, which are continuing to scale. What made you decide to create BEAR?
As a busy entrepreneur with two startups, I was really strapped for time, and time is the rarest and most precious asset we have. I didn't really have time for breakfast in the morning or sometimes even lunch during the day, so I was eating five protein bars and a bag of nuts -- anything to really satiate me and keep me going.
What I was looking for was high-performance fuel, and researching all the different options out there. One of my ventures, Basemakers, involves me working with about 60 different food and beverage companies. I was seeing trends in the market of what type of foods were selling really well, and then I was also matching that with which type of foods were giving me the most vitality. I found a modified ketogenic diet was what I felt the best on.
Can you explain what the ketogenic diet is, and how it could be beneficial for other entrepreneurs?
The Ketogenic diet is consists of eating mostly fat, moderate protein, and extremely low carbs, designed to help you stay in a state of ketosis. Fat burns a lot different than carbs. Your body uses ketones from the fat for fuel instead of glycogen, which is produced from carbs. Eating a high-fat, low-carb diet helps to keep your body burning energy smoothly throughout the day. So instead of having a spike up and crash down, which a lot of people equate to that 2:00 p.m. feeling after lunch, you maintain your energy and focus. I used to have days after carb-laden lunches where I was like, "All right. I need a nap right now or about five espresso shots to keep working." Now I don’t have that problem.
So combing through the trends of what I knew business-wise was working well, like the meal replacement beverage category was growing at a 7.1% compound annualized growth rate to become a $12 billion dollar category by 2020, and mixing that with the ketogenic diet, which is the fastest growing diet in the world, I knew there was a massive addressable market for a low carb meal shake. These trends, coupled with my own personal need of quick high-performance fuel throughout my day running startups, and the fact that Basemakers is growing extremely fast (we just hired 7 new full-time team members the last 3 weeks), I had no choice but to dive into creating BEAR POWERFOODS.
I’ve been to your website and was subsequently retargeted with ads on Instagram and Facebook. I’m seeing some professionally produced content, but I’m also seeing a lot of user-generated content, especially on Instagram. Was this always the plan?
So, the first thing is prospecting. We actually do use the professionally shot footage for this to get to people to the website. Then, they're interested in the product, but maybe one of the barriers to entry is a concern like, "Okay, I can't just buy one unit? I have to buy a six pack and this is an expensive product. How does it taste before I dive in?"
One of the biggest things that we got back from doing the Indiegogo campaign -- the biggest objection that we didn't have a solution for -- was people wanted to know how it tasted. We were like, "How do we solve this solution in a credible authentic way?" Because the only thing we had with BEAR was content that we shot and people obviously knew that, "Okay, these were either our friends or people we knew." It lacked that authenticity. When we actually had the commercialized product, people started getting their order, filming their experiences, and showcasing how they liked it and what it tasted like. We started repurposing this content as ads, and that basically solves the objections, "How does it taste?" So we used that for retargeting the people who have visited our website before but haven’t purchased.
When people get retargeted with an organic user-generated video of someone trying it, and you can tell because the quality of the footage is lower quality, it almost feels like you're watching a friend's Instagram. We just saw great results with that both in terms of the metrics on the return on ad spend for the retargeting. I believe one of our highest was 474% return on ad spend at one point for one of the user-generated content videos versus one of our professional videos that we paid an arm and a leg for. We had still great results, like 200%, but not as well as the user-generated content piece.
Thinking about BEAR POWERFOODS and Basemakers, one obvious difference is the overall business model. Basemakers is a service-based company focused on sales for high growth brands at physical retail locations, BEAR POWERFOODS is a direct-to-consumer business. What other differences have you encountered and how have you adapted?
I'm moving from an expensive retail launch model (for Just Chill) where marketing attribution is extremely difficult to measure to a direct to consumer (DTC) business where I can calculate exactly how much it costs me to acquire a consumer and how much they will spend with us over time (Customer Lifetime Value). This go-to-market strategy allows me to be nimble and impactful with investor dollars while seeing significant results more quickly. Its an investor’s dream to be able to see a dashboard for growth, for the company to deeply know your customers' needs/wants/interests. When your sales numbers look good, it's almost like a money machine backed by data. Numbers don’t lie.
You're clearly well versed in how to quantify and analyze success metrics to build a business. I know you're currently in Wharton’s Fellowship program, but can you speak to a few mentors who have inspired you or helped you throughout your career?
Yeah, absolutely. Two of the biggest ones that come to mind. One, An De Vooght, who was the former CFO of Red Bull North America and helped the company scale from half a million dollars to $1.8 billion in revenue. And then she left Red Bull for Beats, where she was originally brought on board to do the IPO. Within two weeks Apple approached them for the acquisition, so she was part of the largest acquisition in Apple's history at that point in time.
She helped me understand at a young age really how to look at numbers and data, and what different metrics to look at, and how to synthesize the reporting workbooks that we were using in a way that would allow the management team to quickly see what's working, what's not, where you're spending money, how can you be more capital efficient. All that really sunk in over the years and allowed me to create a second business -- with $4,000 and no outside investment -- and grow it to a company with over 60 employees. Capital efficiency and really learning how to use that sort of financial modeling is so important in entrepreneurship.
The second mentor would be Dr. Mike Gervais, who is one of the best high-performance psychologists in the world. He's the high-performance psychologist to the Seattle Seahawks and to multiple Fortune 100 CEOs and C-Suites. He and Pete Carroll have a business together called Compete To Create. He's also got an amazing podcast called Finding Mastery. He really helped me understand that you can build and create your own confidence in yourself and your team members through an actionable set of tools and frameworks, and about rooting yourself in your own personal philosophy. Why are you here? What is your core motive for being here? And what do you want to get out of life? That was what grounded me, and on days that are rough I can go back to some of the things that he has taught me, like mental self-talk and reframing to get myself into that better emotional state, so I can be a better leader for my team.
You're touching on something that I did want to discuss and I think it's pretty important because unfortunately, one issue that plagues the entrepreneur community is physical and mental health challenges. This can be the result of working too many hours, not eating properly, lack of exercise, you name it. You're very busy, you have these two companies that you're actively running, so how do you practice self-care?
That's a great question. There are four major components to self-care. One of them is sleep. Sleep is when the body and brain recover. What the data shows is about seven to eight hours of sleep is really essential, more on eight-hour spectrum ideally if you're working out because your body requires more recovery.
The second is movement, typically in the form of exercise. I make for sure I wake up around 5:00 to 5:30 a.m. every day and go to the gym. That gets my endorphins firing so that by the time I get to the office at 8:00 I'm ready to go, and I'm ready to be the best version of myself because I already got the dopamine flooding through my brain.
The third one is nutrition, and oddly enough my new venture, Bear Powerfoods, is all about ensuring that you're getting all your vitamins, minerals, probiotics, healthy fats and the MCTs to really fuel yourself. Even if you don't have time for that particular meal that morning I always start my day out with Bear. And then post workout, I have grass-fed whey protein isolate and grass-fed collagen for muscle recovery and repair. Nutrition is really key.
The last one is mental training. Within mental training, there are a lot of different tools and techniques. I mentioned the mental reframing. When you find yourself going into a negative self rut, this is how you shift that around. Another one is gratitude. Every morning I wake up and I think about three things I'm really, truly grateful for. There's a lot of science around it too, it's not just a spiritual thing. There's deep-rooted research behind the high-performance link of practicing gratitude. That's something that I've been doing, and it's something I've learned from Mike Gervais. When you start your day out with gratitude you don't feel like, "I gotta rush. I gotta do this, I gotta do that." You just take the time to be present and content.
Meditation is also something that I do, and I do it in a different fashion than just sitting down, and closing my eyes, and breathing for 10 minutes. I take periodic moments throughout the day whether it be two minutes, one minute, 30 seconds, close my eyes, take deep breaths, and wiggle my big toes and feel the feeling in my body, so it really roots me back into the moment. There can be so much information flying at you left and right throughout the day, so it's important to be grounded in this present moment.
When you combine all those things together -- sleep, exercise, nutrition, and mental training -- you're going to have the energy and the ability to overcome emotional hurdles and mental obstacles that are in your way.
Final question: If you had 30 days to take off and learn anything without any consequences to your personal or professional life, what would you study?
I would go deeper into the study of emotional intelligence. To pull back the curtains for everyone reading, I was engaged to be married, and it didn't work out. It was a really hard time for me. I beat myself a lot for it. I remember sleeping in a friend’s guest room when we first split up because we lived together, looking up through the sunlight and feeling really crappy. There are a lot of things that I could have done better -- I'm not saying the relationship should have worked out, but I'm saying there's a lot of things that I could have been better at. A better fiancé, a better friend, a better overall person to her than I was. Now I feel like I have evolved a lot since then. I believe it's really important in life to treat other people as good as you can treat them and that you're the best version of yourself. That you're lifting people up as much as possible whether they're your teammates, your friends or family -- whoever they are. Learning how to better read people, control my own emotions and how my behavior is going to affect the behavior of others would be the three main points of focus over those 30 days.