You have likely heard that failure should not be avoided. You have heard that failure is part of the process. However, too many companies have a culture that is playing not to fail. This is dangerous in many ways. When you embrace failure throughout your culture, you have people that are innovating and pushing the boundaries of new success. A leader’s job is to embrace failure in such a way that the team embraces failure too. My guest today is Jeremy Delk, CEO of Tailor Made Compounding. His company was ranked #21 in the 2019 Inc 5000 list. Jeremy shares why you must embrace failure. He gives you specific examples of how failure has been the path to growth. Discover how to get your culture to embrace failure in this episode.
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Jeremy Delk: The Transcript
Target Audience: Jeremy Delk has been a successful entrepreneur since the early 2000s with a keen eye for innovative new products, technologies, and unexploited market niches. Mr. Delk used the business acumen he learned in the financial sector with Fidelity Investments in Boston and NYC to start Delk Enterprises in 2001. Initially, Delk Enterprises was a real estate development firm specializing in residential development. With the growth of Delk Enterprises, Mr. Delk made the decision to leave Fidelity, move back to his native Kentucky and focus on the growth of his company. Over time, Delk Enterprises diversified and invested in and managed other businesses.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
Just as knowledge and I think you know leadership is leadership right. So you have to you know you can’t just talk the talk. You have to walk the walk. So you have to like when I’m wrong and I’m like I mean it’s very easy to be that way. Let’s let’s do this. You know all the you know hype and excitement that put behind it. I mean I think you just have to learn. Passion is different than emotion. I think people have a challenge you know separate. It’s OK to be passionate. How about what you’re doing but you can’t be emotional about emotional is when you kind of start to have problems because you won’t see your failures and you just want to fight. You know we try and we try and try.
[00:00:36].210] – Intro
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs. The fastest growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammond. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
[00:00:53].710] – Gene Hammett
Giving your employees to fail. That sounds like a recipe for disaster right. Encouraging them to take risk and encourage them to fail is actually not a bad thing. I hear this all the time about companies that want to grow fast but they’re afraid to take the risk at the leadership level. So how are the people are able to take risks that they need to with the projects with serving clients with marketing with sales all of those things are required for you to understand your relationship with failure. I believe that you should be creating a culture of failure or a failure culture.
[00:01:30].980] – Gene Hammett
Failure Culture is one where people embrace the ability to look at something as a learning lesson. It’s not just words they actually go into projects intentionally knowing that this could fail and they’re going to measure for that success and then a change or pivot very quickly. A failure culture is one that you can actually do if you want to grow your company really fast and you want to do this because I talked to hundreds of ink level leaders and that relationship with failure is something not only at the top but at the culture level.
[00:02:03].960] – Jeremy Delk
All the team members are really embracing this. So who do I have for you today. I have Jeremy Delk with Taylor made compounding. They were number 21 on the 2000 19 list. They carried over 10000. No. Eight thousand percent sorry. With over 10 million in revenue. And so they were looking back at that or Jeremy specifically and said You know it’s because our tolerance for failure is so high and it’s baked in to the way we approach everything that we’ve able to grow so fast. So we’re gonna unpack that today in the interview. You’re gonna have a lot of fun listening to Jeremy talk about how his company has grown so fast through this failure culture. Here’s the interview with Jeremy.
[00:02:45].350] – Gene Hammett
Hi Jeremy, how are you?
[00:02:47].220] – Jeremy Delk
Doing great. Well, how are you doing Gene?
[00:02:48].480] – Gene Hammett
Fantastic. Great to have you here. I have already let our audience know a little bit about you as a leader and some of the accomplishments the company. But tell us a little bit about kind of the market you’re in and kind of what kind of company you created here.
[00:03:01].090] – Jeremy Delk
Yes sure. So the main company is Delk Enterprises probably which we were a very small boutique D.C. private equity group. It’s mainly my money and we co-invest with some colleagues. We’ve been in the health care space for the last 10 years and making large strategic investments. I mean besides that it’s been most of my day running tailor made compounding which is a compounding pharmacy. Sabrina integrate space more like age management or anti aging personalized medicine approach with cash pay pharmacy in Lexington Kentucky.
[00:03:39].240] – Gene Hammett
And you’ve made some tremendous growth over the last few years. You’ve just made the INC list number #21 right to 2019
[00:03:47].520] – Jeremy Delk
Yeah twenty one on the list and number four in health care. So something we’re really really excited proud about and we’re still going others in a number of stroke last year. So that’s 2018 we posted 10 million in that same growth will probably be similar spot next year will hit 25 million. For sure this year possibly 30 million. So it’s been fun trying to keep the wheels on is another challenge but it’s been it’s been a lot of fun.
[00:04:18].640] – Gene Hammett
Well that’s one reason why have you here. Because people tuning in are people that are growing fast or want to grow fast and they’re kind of looking down the road. So you’ve been through quite a bit of this other than just the sheer growth numbers which come with revenue and whatnot. What are the things that you’re really proud of when it comes to this company.
[00:04:35].200] – Jeremy Delk
Yeah. There’s a lot I mean I think the the first and foremost you know I think a lot of people realize that health care is just truly broken and that’s much more than you know a tagline for you know a plateau and kind of say health care is really broken and there’s so much of a gap of what we understand and think about health care.
[00:04:55].570] – Jeremy Delk
So what we do in the market we serve our physicians who really want to help you know fix that and take this you know WellCare approach of integrative medicine looking at you as a patient Gene and spending an hour with you to understand where your history is what your goals are etc. as opposed to the old model which is the sick care model where because of insurance reimbursements and how things are are are situated you know they can spend three or four minutes so they’re not really able. It’s impossible to give effective care is truly going to work.
[00:05:26].080] – Jeremy Delk
So that’s probably the biggest complaint that we’re able to have a very small role in helping a lot of people get well and stay well. And then I think the team right. I mean the team that we’ve built we’ve got a young growing vibrant team it’s a lot of fun. We’ve got a really cold culture. It’s chaotic. I think that’s kind of what makes it makes it special. So that’s always fun as well kind of seeing those and celebrating those victories with the team.
[00:05:52].360] – Gene Hammett
How big is the team Jeremy?
[00:05:53].220] – Jeremy Delk
So I couldn’t tell you exactly right now but you know we’re probably 70 something 75 or so.
[00:06:02].990] – Gene Hammett
So it’s a big enough team where you’ve got culture that’s kind of running through this. And we talked last week about the culture and what makes you guys grow so fast. You’ve embraced failure in a different way.Tell me about why that’s important for you as a leader.
[00:06:18].690] – Jeremy Delk
What’s important and we spend a bunch of money and time doing it because we have to. I think people are ingrained in my opinion the wrong way. I mean you know you raise your kids a certain way you ever I mean you know failure is thought to be it’s a bad thing. I want to do better I would I feeling like I think you know I got some advice from a mentor when I was younger he told me I didn’t deserve to have any money in the bank until I was 30 years old.
[00:06:43].130] – Jeremy Delk
And I’m like it’s kind of a dick thing is they have some very nice and I never said what he meant. And then he went on elaborated he bases it. That’s the time in your life when you need to be taking as much risk as you can. You don’t have a Y job the kids you know we’re six here you pack up your stuff and go home the mom. Right. But you should be taking a doubling down and making every bet you can to figure it out when you’re 30. Then you can start taking some chips off the table after that.
[00:07:07].620] – Jeremy Delk
And that took me to be honest with you. Couple of years to really embrace it fully understand. But that’s what I try and do with the team here and we’re getting kids right out of college some with graduate degrees some you know just a little bit of college and not even undergrad degrees and that culture is completely reprogram that we’re trying to unplug him and fix them like hey listen you know we can we can track and look at metrics on and just let the numbers just speak for themselves. Just try it.
[00:07:43].670] – Jeremy Delk
No one knows right. You can have a plan and you can have a whiteboard and you can have all these theories of what I’m going to work. The market will speak it’s binding. It will either work or once and into a theorizing which is gonna go and do it. And that’s been something that we really try to do and they have fun with it. It’s kind of fun. Yeah. That’s something that we really push is failing fast.
[00:08:06].110] – Gene Hammett
Is so natural and that’s entrepreneurs to embrace risk because we know that’s that’s what it takes us to get uncomfortable and move forward. But when someone comes in to get a paycheck it may not be quite the way we want it to be. So what is some of the steps you take to get people to see failure as a the way forward for you just as knowledge.
[00:08:28].760] – Jeremy Delk
And I think you know leadership is leadership right. So you have to you know you can’t just talk the talk. You have to walk the walk. So you have to like when I’m wrong and I’m like I mean it’s very easy to be that way. Let’s let’s do this. You know all the you know hype and excitement that put behind it. I mean I think you know you just have to learn. Passion is different than emotion. I think people have a challenge you know separate. It’s OK to be passionate. How about what you’re doing but you can’t be emotional about emotional is when you kind of start to have problems because you won’t see your failures and you’re just going to retry and retry and we try. So what I do is I try to own it myself. Hey guys this way I think was I do and it’s going to work. And then you show them the the benefits. There’s nothing that you can’t learn from a failure ever. I don’t care what it is. If it’s big failure small you will always learn something if you don’t learn. That’s the problem right.
[00:09:21].630] – Jeremy Delk
So we’ll kind of go through and say hey listen this example of me. This was my idea. I’m from the team. Let’s buy 100 with an and to this and try and roll it out and it doesn’t work. Cool. What did we learn. We should probably start with a lower rate we should put. You know it’s a different parameter there’s different rules in there and that allows them to kind of create their own value sets in their own little risk tolerances as well. You know they had to take you know I’m taking a lot bigger risk than they’re probably right to take straight away.
[00:09:48].140] – Jeremy Delk
But the good news is I encourage it. It’s not their money that they’re gonna get a paycheck regardless but they can go through and have. And I encourage you to have opinions. I mean you’ve got to you know I would try and it’s difficult with with especially younger younger staff to seek approval. I think it’s another problem with how we’re raised and we’re having we would kind of get reinforcement or get a another sense of hey is this OK where I try to redirect them like well what do you think. And OK that makes rational sense I understand your logic.
[00:10:22].610] – Jeremy Delk
Try it. And again it goes back to. It will either work or it won’t. And if it doesn’t work then you’d kind of pivot. The only time I ever get upset if someone makes the same mistake twice they just learn from it and then reapply that into a different scenario. And I think when they see that and they see that it’s a safe place to do it it’s good when you can see like no one knows everything. Right. That’s the biggest because like don’t come to with all the interest. I don’t have my there I’ve got more experience maybe and I’ve made some of the same mistakes but no one has all the answers.
[00:10:53].490] – Commentary
You said just previously Jeremy was talking about walked the walk. Right. You’ve got to lead by example. You cannot be the leader that you really need to be and must be for your team. If you’re not walking the walk. This is not where you can say do what I say not what I do because they need to see that you believe that they need to see that this is the path forward. They need to see it over your history. So as you have told your story are you really aligned with what you’re trying to do. If failure is your thing then you’ve got to look back and tell the stories of when you learn something from a failure and you tell these stories over and over it will really begin to repeat itself within your culture and strengthen who you guys are. So you must lead by example and back to the interview with Jeremy.
[00:11:39].170] – Gene Hammett
Well I appreciate you sharing a little bit of that with us. When you think about failure now and trying to get a team to look at a project is there any way you look at and kick that off or is it something that you just baked into everything you do?
[00:11:54].730] – Jeremy Delk
yeah. Well so I mean I talked a little bit about being emotional and I think when you’re in it it’s very easy to be emotional right because you’re like now it’s hair and how we keep going. So what we try and do is set up you know what our stress test is or what is Go or no go with it a new project. So some parameters on it depending on what it is right. If it’s a software dev that we’re doing for consumers or for our doctors or if it’s a new product launch depending on what the project is it does vary but we’re always going to put a couple pieces they’re always consistent.
[00:12:34].180] – Jeremy Delk
A budget right. A dollar amount that we’re willing to invest. You know the minimum is ten thousand. The maximum is fifty thousand dollars to test something. The second is the timing right. How much time are we going to be able to do. And the third and the most important piece that’s hard but why you have to set it up front is what do you measure success. Now before you start because when you’re already in it you can really convince yourself of a lot of stuff. Oh well if we just do this and we talk about it we give it more time.
[00:13:07].330] – Jeremy Delk
Whatever you have to set up what is success and what’s not beforehand. And if you do those three things you just save yourself a lot of time because there’s always opportunity. Always new project X but if you get these pet projects as a lot of entrepreneurs have done how many times it hasn’t happened. You start this thing he comes through and then it’s still something that Jim’s working on. We don’t always go in but of course we’re all working on you have to kill those things because I want other cancers but their time killers.
[00:13:36].460] – Jeremy Delk
And you’re still in a band with away from your team to kind of go through and the unemotional piece and I think the team is he. We do that as well. I’ve had what I still think some of the great ideas ever. The market was ready for the fine. Great. Oh and just be done. So you have to understand like you know there’s a line you know men what men lie women lie numbers don’t lie. Right. So it’s either going to work or does it. And you set the rules and then you move on. Doesn’t mean you can’t you know revisit it in six months or you took that lesson and now you’ve got a new thing or a new product or a new development and then you can bold it on. That’s where the learning and always applying that historical knowledge comes into place.
[00:14:17].140] – Gene Hammett
Is there anything you do after a failure like as a recap or looking back that you feel like would be newsworthy?
[00:14:26].170] – Jeremy Delk
It’s a good question. Yeah. I mean obviously there is but informally we have formality in setting up the budget at the time and what a success. But it’s probably more informal. The component of looking back and I think it’s actually a really good. It’s a really good point. I think that that innately happens as you encourage us to do more and more and more and then you know you can you hear it in the dialect of the other team. Oh yeah. Remember what Twilight did this remember that. So you become acronyms and verbs of past failures so you learn it you know tribally but having almost like an exit interview of a of a failure and a success is probably good. And we do it you know innately and intuitively but not a performance. So you get a good idea.
[00:15:16].670] – Gene Hammett
I wrote an article about this for Inc once and really it comes from the whole military is you know a mission recap success or fail. What did we learn from this. So you probably do it informally but the structure behind the military is everything we do is a chance to learn and then.
[00:15:37].550] – Commentary
Now informally looking back at your project and really recapping that is really important. But I think we can do a little bit better with that. I think you can add more structure so that people have a set way to look at the projects that have failed and how you learn from them. And we can learn from them as a group as opposed to just individuals that were on the project so you can have some accelerated learning if you’re willing to create some frameworks around that. One of the things one of my teams did is after every project good or bad they were able to create that mission recap and they were able to store that learning inside a knowledge base so that other people could go look at it they could go back and look at details of what happened what didn’t happened and that really does provide a framework for you to move forward. It allows the team to come together to learn together and it really does add more value to. So back to the interview with Jeremy.
[00:16:34].510] – Gene Hammett
Speaking of that Jeremy you know you’ve done you’ve baked this into the culture like this is something that has allowed you guys to grow fast. Right now you must be getting better at it right. You don’t just continue like sometimes things are changing from a time frame you’re learning quicker. What’s not the right path. Is that fair to say?
[00:16:53].090] – Jeremy Delk
It is. I mean I think that’s very fair to say. A year ago I was I could tell when the sales teams and one of the one of our minority investors I was like Listen under zero circumstances. Am I growing this thing over twenty four million dollars like we were training there last year with this impose a 10 million to us 18 year but we’ll hit 20 for next year and I’m done. I’m not scaling anymore. It’s just chaos. There’s just no more bandwidth we have space but we’ll have it. And obviously I said it tongue in cheek because I knew I would. I knew I would do it. I kind of said to myself as a dare. But you got to just kind of push through because there’s something to it. When you strike a chord in a new business or an old business that’s really kind of scaling.
[00:17:40].250] – Jeremy Delk
You have an obligation to serve that market right. There’s there’s a definite need. You have an obligation ethic think you think of it in that manner that it’s your duty to be able to do or you have to supply the supply the demand the market. So I really do feel like sometimes it can’t get worse. I think life happens. I think they’re just events. I don’t think it’s how you how you react and deal with it was what matters. Good news bad news it’s just news how you choose to react and is all up to you and that’s a big state of mind thing which I’m kind of big into.
[00:18:14].150] – Jeremy Delk
So we’ve invested heavily into technology and understanding and talking to the team. It’s so important that I think you know I’m a small business guy and have been for the last 18, 19 years. I had the big corporate world before and I think there’s so much value in being agile in this small business component because you can cut out the layers but you can listen to the people on the line who’s willing to tell you that’s what that’s where the juggernauts are. That’s where the challenges are.
[00:18:45].580] – Jeremy Delk
And if you could solve their problems and solve the team’s problems by processes or technology we took a technology road with developing our software internally and externally to do a lot of these things then you know we can do twice the revenue that we did a year ago and it’s quiet. So we’ve got Ben with the double again. We post 50 60 million next year. So just push through and if you’re stressed about having too much business it’s a good stress to have is the alternative so figured out and step back now we look at things how can you look at something a different way.
[00:19:20].960] – Jeremy Delk
There’s a lot of value that you would use analogy a lot working in the business and on the are to two different things. You have to be able to do it. We have three conference rooms at our office here. We probably once a quarter go and read the hotel room with a conference room just to get out of here phone’s off and just talk what’s going on. What’s our problem. What we go through and then have an executive level team. How about division managers and then having regular guys on the line. It’s really critical.
[00:19:52].000] – Gene Hammett
So you mentioned something about the mindset of the leader and I’m with you right there because I think a lot of people underplay mindset but how do you transfer your confidence to your team. Is there something you’ve learned that has allowed you to do that with ease because as you were encouraging them to fail they’ve got to have confidence to share these like crazy ideas and push forward through resilience and everything. How do you how do you share that?
[00:20:19].300] – Jeremy Delk
You can’t tell anyone anything right. I mean it just it just it just words. You have to show it. Right. So I demonstrate it. I try to practice it. I do try to rub their nose in the face a little bit and I’m joking but I do try to reiterate a point of the face. Hey listen this is what it is. And when you have that mindset the way I do it and you kind of go through you just have fun with it. Right. I mean and you can we do a lot of. Personality like you know like discourse. We use disk. You know there’s Myers Briggs different ones. So if they’re so accurate they’re so much fun. I encourage everyone to teach you to do. But it’s a great tool on understanding you know how someone’s wired and how you need to communicate his we had different communication styles. If you don’t do that could be a huge thing. You could be on the same page with your communicate the right way. But it’s so funny to see my mentality is yeah let’s just do it. I’m not a how guy. Right.
[00:21:12].790] – Jeremy Delk
I don’t know if it’ll work. I promise and that there’s a certain set of minds that they have to figure out how they might not that way but I promise we’ll come together you do that enough times they believe you and they could you’ve demonstrated so I can talk about it in theory and show them. But just showing them that that creates this level of confidence in the team and me selves that you just kind of go do it and have fun and laugh about the failures. I mean that’s something you can’t get upset about.
[00:21:42].130] – Jeremy Delk
And that’s why I’m a big fail fast. Not only do I encourage you know learning from failure but don’t waste your time. That’s why we set up those rules for just to be done set up a time period. You should be to know. Like if you have a budget that’s easy to set. But you’ve got how long do I want to be to do it and what kind of success or not you have enough time then just be done because you have more things that are coming through that you don’t get bogged down to just a quick answer here.
[00:22:08].770] – Gene Hammett
Is there anything you use to set up those time parameters or is it every project has a completely different kind of.
[00:22:17].130] – Jeremy Delk
So it’s every party is pretty is pretty different. I mean we own a digital media business as well. Those are easy. So that’s making our is basically ten thousand dollars. We put ten thousand hours into whatever the test product is and then we will do that usually three months. We try to you know our models I mean where does a lot when there’s a digital media. But we try to you know spend at least 20 or 30 thousand hours in ad spend the first month and hopefully get a chunk of that to we’ll lose money second month.
[00:22:51].030] – Jeremy Delk
Well we’ll hopefully break even in my third month. We’ll see what kind of scale we’re getting and we’ll see reorders and returns and then that will kind of say that’s a go or I’ll try and scale it up to a few hours a month and spend. So those are easy. Every new product we have. We have a template of hey what do you need to go to launch. So you’ve got your jeans new X you need this this this this is this this. That’s the that’s the pack it going. It takes four weeks. Then go to launch.
[00:23:20].260] – Gene Hammett
Well Jeremy I really appreciate you being here agro think tank sharing some of your insights and I really appreciate you just sharing what it takes to actually create this what I heard you say is it’s lead by example. If you value failure then you’re going to approach things with a little bit of risk and put boundaries in and really take care of that. I really appreciate you sharing your story here.
[00:23:45].540] – Jeremy Delk
My pleasure. Thanks for having me.
[00:23:47].040] – Gene Hammett
Wow what a great interview I love talking about this because it’s really runs contrary to what most people think. You don’t want to have failure in your business if you want to grow fast. Well the reality of that is you’ve got to fail but you’ve got to fail fast fail the right way learn from those mistakes and keep moving. If you are so safe if you play it safe you will not have the chance to grow at the pace you could grow. You won’t take the investments that you can take.
[00:24:14].610] – Gene Hammett
You won’t spend the time to really find a better more innovative path. And that’s what we’ve been talking about today. So I really appreciate Jeremy having his insights on the show for you so you can learn to create more of a culture of failure or a failure culture. Well my name is Gene Hammett. Happy to help you any way I can and help you with you improve your leadership and help your company grow fast. As always we encourage. I’ll talk to you soon.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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