What would happen if you gave everyone a seat at the table? I know from experience what happens when you don’t give your people a seat at the table. My guest today is Pete Maldonado, Founder of Chomps.com. His company was ranked #22 in the 2019 Inc 5000 list. Pete shares the benefits of everyone having a seat at the table. We talk about the fast growth of Chomps and why it is so essential for everyone to have a seat at the table.
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Pete Maldonado: The Transcript
Target Audience: Pete Maldonado is the Co-Founder and CEO at CHOMPS.com. Chomps has raised the bar for taste, quality standards, and consumer loyalty in meat snacks, a $2.5 billion category that enjoys strong sales growth and has evolved significantly since the days of iconic brands like Slim Jim.
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.
Building a culture you have to be intentional about it and think you have to be you know. It means talking about it all the time. It means documenting it. It means put you know kind of being repetitive about these things and then on top of it you need to be very very protective of it because if you start going down the wrong path especially with a company that’s as small as we are but it’s growing as quickly as we are. You have to be very protective and then when there’s you going on the wrong path to right size fast. If there’s something that doesn’t fit that culture you need to cut ties and move on.
[00:00:33].480] – Gene Hammett
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the 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 Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
[00:00:50].520] – Gene Hammett
Increasing the level of engagement with everyone involved in the company is something that a lot of people talk about but they don’t actually do engagements not really the goal engagement is a byproduct of having the right culture and one of the things I’ve learned is you want people to take more ownership of their work. You want them to feel like they have a seat at the table. So in my network, I talk to a lot of companies and leaders about what does it take for them to grow. And I found Pete Maldonado. Pete is just an amazing leader up chomps.com
[00:01:22].440] – Gene Hammett
It’s one of the meat sticks companies. They were number #62 on the INC list. They grew at over 4000 percent. Over 20 million in revenue. And they’ve done all this with 14 employees when how they’ve done it. Well, they want their employees to have this sense of ownership. They want them to take risks. They want them to truly be a part of the process and innovate and never let micromanagement keep them from growing as a company. Now we talk about what is it like to have everyone feel like they have a seat at the table what is it like to actually put everybody in that seat at the table. And that is what this interview is all about. So if you want to grow your company make sure you tune in to today’s interview with Pete Maldonado.
[00:02:01].440] – Gene Hammett
Hi Pete. How are you?
[00:02:03].260] – Pete Maldonado
I’m doing well. How about you.
[00:02:04].940] – Gene Hammett
I’m excited to have you here. GROSS think tank. I’ve already let our audience know a little bit about you and what your business is. But I’d love for them to hear it from you. So tell us about Chomps and just give us an overview.
[00:02:19].350] – Pete Maldonado
So Chomps is it’s a healthy meat that company. So what we’re doing is taking everything you can probably think of about the snack sticks or meat sticks that you probably find in a conventional store setting or a gas station. And we basically took all of the bad stuff out and put good stuff in. So if you can imagine taking out all of the cheap proteins mechanically separated chicken and pork and all these other types of cheaper non sustainably raised proteins and we’re using grass-fed grass-finished beef we’re using free-range APF Turkey.
[00:02:55].770] – Pete Maldonado
We have grass-fed grass-finished venison as well which is yeah. So we do it and we’ve actually eliminated a bunch of the artificial preservatives. So we’re kind of just cleaned everything up. So anything you think of that was bad. We made good and the product in the end actually tastes a whole lot better than what you would expect in a natural better for your product.
[00:03:18].990] – Gene Hammett
Well, Chomps has come onto the market pretty fast so it might help to give our audience some context. Where do you get the idea and then how did you begin to create this empire?
[00:03:30].300] – Pete Maldonado
Yeah, so the idea came from. Well first off I grew up eating way too many of those conventional brands that you could that I just mentioned and I loved. I mean Slim Jims I loved those rights I used to actually ride my bike to the grocery store to 7-Eleven to have would go buy a bunch and then I’d have a couple in my pocket. I’d be eating someone on the way home and I was a little bit of a slob in that way. But yeah. So looking back you know I’m not you know I always liked I think the format of the product.
[00:04:00].930] – Pete Maldonado
I liked meat snacks. I didn’t like jerky because every time I would eat it my jaw would kill me. I’ve got a headache. I like it there a little more. There were softer they’re easy to chew and I want to get a little older and I started I actually was a personal trainer in college and that’s kind of how I got through college and I learned how to start reading nutrition labels and once I realized what was actually in those things I had to stop eating I’m completely you know and I always kind of missed them.
[00:04:28].020] – Pete Maldonado
And then in 2012, I started doing cross-fit and eating pet the paleo and learning a lot more about reading labels and not necessarily just the macronutrient profile but now looking more into the ingredients list. And once I started doing all that I again just cleaned up my diet even further but then I was always like Why doesn’t someone just make a healthier version of those meat sticks. I mean I want them. So that’s really where the idea came from. And you know to go a little further like starting a business I was I was actually at it crossed cross the Games in 2012 in Carson which is the Granites out of L.A…
[00:05:09].010] – Pete Maldonado
And I remember walking around. There are thousands of people at these cross tech games and they’re just incredible. It’s in such good shape. I mean there are like six-packs everywhere everyone walks around with their shirts off of course. Right. So is that gonna show it off. But you know I sort of thinking to myself like Man these people are so diehard. You know I knew just being in the business that I was in what it takes to maintain a body like that. And just knowing that all these people were doing it and I saw that wow this is an opportunity to sell a product some products into this community here and I think they would take off like wildfire. So that’s really where the idea came from. And that’s where the initial community and that’s that was going to be my core focus when I launched it. And that’s what we did.
[00:05:55].070] – Gene Hammett
So now you’ve got a CO Packer that takes care of a lot of the production of the business for those that don’t really understand what co-packing is going to explain to us.
[00:06:06].650] – Pete Maldonado
So we outsource so we don’t own a manufacturing facility. We outsource that to a third party. So it’s a third party that actually you know that’s all they do is manufacture for other brands. And so they’ve got you know when you’re sourcing one of these co-packers specifically for like meats that need sticks you have to find you had to find a capacity that’s got the capabilities and the manufacturing process and the equipment already in-house typically to start even working with them. So in this case is we actually partnered up with. It was a very small coal Packer in Missouri and a little farm town and he had one little Smokehouse and which is like with the little ovens that we actually cooked the product. And back then it was in the back of like a little market. And fast forward till today. I mean it’s a massive plant. And he’s making products for you know a whole bunch of different customers or one of their largest now and I think the largest. And then it’s just been a great partnership to be able to kind of grow our business and their business has grown as well.
[00:07:19].900] – Gene Hammett
And I didn’t go into the details of this but you know little over 20 million in revenue last year over 4000 percent growth. So you were. What number were you on the INC list?
[00:07:31].440] – Pete Maldonado
Sixty-two overall. And number three in food and beverage which was. That was a good one for us. A big one for us the year before actually landed on the Inc list. We were one hundred and twenty-four overall. And number four in food and beverage. So move it up in those ranks.
[00:07:49].990] – Gene Hammett
Well, I can totally appreciate that because I talked to a lot of people that are growing fast but you have a core team that you really have to operate efficiently and that’s something that you value really importantly what is this operating efficiently to you.
[00:08:06].190] – Pete Maldonado
It’s everything. I mean so if you look at like this year for instance an hour hour and I’ll be pretty transparent with our reach goal is around 40 million dollars in revenue and so we’re looking to just about double year over year right now. And we’re doing that. Right now we have 14 full-time people on staff and you know just to put it into perspective I think you know in this industry for most other food and beverage or CPG companies around this size the real thing I think is somewhere around him one employee per million in revenue.
[00:08:40].360] – Pete Maldonado
So if you took that rule of thumb we’re operating with about you know somewhere like 30 percent or something like that of what we should be in terms of staff. So for us to be able to you know we have to be operating efficiently and get maximum output for our little team to hit the numbers that we need to hit.
[00:08:59].190] – Gene Hammett
And one of the things that you really value because we talked last week about this was everyone has a seat at the table. And I don’t want to make assumptions. But what does that mean to you?
[00:09:13].440] – Pete Maldonado
So it’s huge. So basically what we need to be able to do is make sure that every single employee on this team can work independently. But then also collaborating with the rest of the team. So there needs to be a lot of cross-functional collaboration and at the same time, every single one of these employees needs to be innovating. They need to be thinking outside the box. They need to be taking calculated risks you know. And we as leaders Rashid and I and some of the other leadership team we need to be you know encouraging that. And so it’s investing in it you know putting your money where your mouth is and encouraging people to have really to take risks and to push things forward.
[00:10:04].980] – Pete Maldonado
Otherwise, you know if we’re not doing that there’s no way for us to scale with the size of the team that we have right now. If we’re sitting there having a handhold and micromanage we’re not going to get anywhere. Right. So for us, it’s a big deal.
[00:10:18].750] – Gene Hammett
When I talk to companies that have this kind of values usually they have them pretty well documented. Have you taken the time to document the values of the company?
[00:10:29].250] – Pete Maldonado
Absolutely yes. So we write out we’re very intentional about the culture that we’re trying to build and we’ll have like full-on you know culture strategy sessions which really it’s all hands on deck. We’ve got the whole team you know all. It doesn’t matter who you are or what your seniority is or you know if you’re a junior new junior or entry-level employee that just started with us. You know everybody’s there and it’s all hands on deck talking about this stuff. And the thing about for us. And you know I think with any business and building a culture you have to be intentional about it.
[00:11:04].860] – Pete Maldonado
And I think you have to be you know it means talking about it all the time. It means documenting it. It means to put you know the kind of being repetitive about these things. And then on top of it, you need to be very very protective of it because if you start going down the wrong path especially with a company that’s as small as we are but as growing as quickly as we are you have to be very protective and then when there’s going on that wrong path to you to right-size fast. If there’s something that doesn’t fit that culture you need to cut ties and move on. So and that’s what we’ve been trying to do the best job that we can. And we’ve learned some valuable lessons.
[00:11:46].230] – Commentary
Now hold on there for a second. Pete just talked about the value of being intentional. Now you may not be surprised but a lot of companies really run their businesses not based on being intentional but being reactive and in fact many companies I talked to are reactive to the point that it causes stress anxiety frustration all of those things because they’re not taking the time to truly be intentional about their work creating strategies creating redundancy creating something that will really help them move forward. Now if your business is struggling in this you want to make sure that you be honest with yourself and reflect on how much time you’re spending being reactive. How much time you’re spending being intentional you may not get to 100 percent intentional because things do happen but if you’re less than 50 percent intentional you’re probably feeling that pressure right now. Now back to interview with Pete.
[00:12:38].390] – Gene Hammett
Pete how many values do you have core values you talked about.
[00:12:42].300] – Pete Maldonado
Yeah, it’s that’s a good question actually. So so I could go through some of the words actually. So our culture looks more like if get to write it out. It looks more like those keywords that we like to hang our hats on. OK. Those keywords and this is one that I will talk about all the time it’s about being scrappy which is being resourceful and working with what you’ve got. And that’s literally how we’ve gotten to this stage. Right now in this business and we’ve been that way since day one so receipt and I when we were running this thing by ourselves for you know six-seven years ago and up until now we’ve never lost that that scrappy ness and you can’t you know I think once you start when you do lose that and you start thinking a different way and you’re no longer thinking outside the box. I think you lose that a lot of that strength that we’ve got as a tight team here.
[00:13:42].570] – Gene Hammett
How do you get others to think scrappy?
[00:13:48].500] – Pete Maldonado
A really good question. So I don’t know if it’s unnecessary. Us making people think that way other than setting as much of an example as we possibly can. But it’s about how do you hire. Right. And so we’re very intentional also about our hiring process. There are different tools that we leverage to make sure that we’re searching for certain strip traits in people those things. So we actually want the things that we did this past year we actually hired a leadership coach. Her name’s Laura Greenberg she’s in Chicago with Verdi associates. And right here and right in Chicago.
[00:14:28].160] – Pete Maldonado
And so one of the things that the tools that she’s showed us are these desk profiles and previously we were using something called active Max and they’re both basically like personality assessments. And it really allows us to learn a lot about how we’re pre-wired. But the biggest thing about it that that helps with is teaching us how to communicate with each other. So I’m learning so much about Rashid and over the years you know we butt heads a lot because he’s we have two totally different communication styles. I’m more of like the dominant.
[00:15:04].570] – Pete Maldonado
This is, by the way, I’m not calling myself that that’s actually in the desk profile it’s dominant. And then he’s the see the conscientious one. And so we just like. So first off like that type of personality when you have a dominant type personality sometimes you rub people the wrong way. Right. I could be very direct and whenever there’s you know certain things like that. Like he’s now realizing that I’m not just trying to be a jerk and that the things that he does are he analyzes things to a T a lot.
[00:15:36].080] – Pete Maldonado
Right. So I might be like working on something and he might go up and tell me like well what about this. What about that. What about this. And he’s just pointing out things that he finds as flaws in my idea. And to me, I might get frustrated and upset about it like why is he just got to pick apart my work and then I’m realizing you know when you get into this these profiles you realize it’s just the way he is and he’s not doing it to to be mean or start a fight. He’s literally just it’s just these pre-wired to do that way to be that way self for both of us. It’s actually helped us to communicate with each other. And it’s almost like marriage therapy. You know it’s like it’s marriage counseling. We’re in love. Now we understand. And we’re working well together and now. But that’s it’s really how it isn’t and it’s the same thing with all of our other employees. You know you have to know what you’re dealing with and how these people are pretty wired to be communicating properly.
[00:16:31].730] – Gene Hammett
Is there anything specific you’ve done to ensure that everyone feels that sense of their they have a seat at the table?
[00:16:39].330] – Pete Maldonado
Yeah. Well absolutely. So again going back to those strategy sessions that we have again it’s all hands on deck. So one of the things that we think is really cool we tried in one of the sessions was Sessions was having a call like a lunch and learn. So we all had everybody was kind of just eating lunch and during that we had two people come up and they actually did an Excel and excel Microsoft Excel training session for everybody. And so you kind of we kind of thought about it like let’s just test and see how that works.
[00:17:10].880] – Pete Maldonado
And I think everyone might be able to benefit from this. And it turned into like this really cool again. It was a cross-functional collaboration. Everyone was chiming in asking questions. Everyone walked away from it learning something new to very two junior employees that we have come and put this little training session on and they killed it. You know I walked away from it wondering a lot of things actually. So for us like that, was really cool to be able to do that. And now we’re gonna be doing those Lunch and Learns just on an ongoing basis and might just be in the normal course of a week and just kind of you know bring lunch in to have everybody you know kind of working and listening in while somebody does a presentation.
[00:17:52].450] – Pete Maldonado
And so with those what we plan to do is it’s more of like almost a good day in the life or something great. Like so you think you can dive in and whatever your role is and if it’s somebody that maybe it’s our our our Amazon lead and maybe she’s up there just telling everybody what’s like for her and the wins that she’s recently had some challenges and opportunities and going through those and then getting some feedback from the team.
[00:18:15].320] – Gene Hammett
I love that idea. Because when you give this example of letting them share their skills it really does help them really create a place that their ideas are valued. Especially for one of the founders of the company you go oh I really like that and they’re writing down and taking notes like you’re totally engaged. Yeah. It probably makes them show up to other meetings feeling more appreciation.
[00:18:43].040] – Pete Maldonado
Exactly. And you know this is actually something that one of our junior employees brought up and it was like You know what is your you know in terms of a leader what are you looking for. By the way, so leadership coach one of the other things that they’ll do is 360 feedback right. And so they’ll go and ask all the individual employees how what is what do you feel about your leaders what do you feel about their leadership style what they keep can they do better. And it’s like and they provide honest feedback.
[00:19:11].970] – Pete Maldonado
And this is all the anonymous feedback I got there. They’re not going to go and get thrown under the bus by this you know by anybody and so when we hear this stuff it’s like you know we’re getting honest brutally honest sometimes feedback and we can learn a lot. So some of the things that that we’ve learned and heard are that you know leadership is is not just like Oh we did this team-building exercise or we did this you know whatever one event at this time you know whatever it is it’s not one thing.
[00:19:39].770] – Pete Maldonado
It’s a combination of like day after day. It’s walking in the office and saying like how is your weekend and actually listening to the response like the littlest things like that just add up time over time. And just truly caring about your employees. I mean you can’t hide that. You said something you could fake. And so for us, it’s something again that we were very intentional about and making sure that we would do our best. Right. I mean we’re not perfect but we’re humans and we’re running a million miles an hour at all times. So for us specifically it’s challenging to always always be on point with us.
[00:20:16].090] – Commentary
Pete just talked about caring a lot of people think that you care about your employees because you give them a place to work. Well if you took the time to truly ask them about what’s going on in their personal lives you have a much better sense of who they are as people. And they would feel better understood. Really listening to someone feels a lot like love really listening that someone feels a lot like they could actually do anything for you. They would run through walls for you. So if you spend all of your conversations and 100 percent on work you’re probably missing the opportunity to build a little bit more connection. And I find a lot of leaders that are hard-driving on themselves don’t take the time to really listen to their employees to talk about their families talk about you know what’s really going on with their children what’s going on in this stage of life that they’re in because there’s a lot of pressures there may be some common bonds that you guys can connect over and that makes them feel heard that really does go a long way in being the kind of leader that you really want to be a back to interview with Pete.
[00:21:17].390] – Gene Hammett
Well, I really appreciate you talking about the need to have a culture where everyone has a seat at the table and some of the details you’ve gone through that. Where would you point our audience to if they want to get more information about chomps?
[00:00:00].000] – Pete Maldonado
Chomps.com. It’s very simple. And that’s our weapon rapidly. Before I got on this we were looking at were in the maintenance mode right now about to launch our new Web site. So super exciting I’m working on this for months now. It was a long weekend actually getting some work done so we’re ready to rock and roll launch that really soon here. Check it out Chomps.com.
[00:21:53].120] – Gene Hammett
Perfect. Well, thanks for being here at the Growth think tank.
[00:21:55].910] – Pete Maldonado
Thanks, Gene. Appreciate it.
[00:21:57].440] – Gene Hammett
Wow-what a powerful interview I really love some of the details we talked about there some of the things that you can take away from this are how do you get your junior employees to provide value back to others. Well if they have special skills and you want to make sure they can actually come in and do simple lunch and learns or anything like that where they’re sharing and they will also create more ownership in the meetings that they show up for. So if you really value getting all of the people to feel like they have a seat at the table then that really is the episode for you to tell your team about. Let’s talk about this episode. Listen to it together. If anything else I can do for you here it goes. Think tank just let me make sure you let me know. My name is Gene Hammett as always lead with courage. I’ll see you next time.
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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