Creating a learning organization is not just about training. In fact, training is just a tiny slice of the concept of creating a learning organization. Today, we will unpack some of the critical elements of a learning organization. My guest today is Khaled Naim, Co-Founder of OnFleet, an innovative logistics software company. OnFleet was ranked #124 in the 2019 Inc 5000 list. Khaled and his co-founders believe that learning is the foundation of innovation. Discover the strategies of creating a learning organization that has driven innovation for this driven company. We talk about the strategies that allow their employees to challenge the status quo.
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Breezy Griffith: The Transcript
Target Audience: Breezy Griffith is the CEO at SkinnyDipped. SkinnyDipped was a Woman-run startup founded by mom (Val) & daughter (Breezy). A better-for-you, ridiculously delicious dark chocolate covered almond!
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.
I think that you just have this belief and it’s so important as you grow that like the people that you surround yourself with whether it’s investors or insecure employees that they share that same belief in what you’re doing. And that has been a big learning lesson for us in the last couple of years.
[00:00:18].120] – 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?
[00:00:34].920] – Gene Hammett
Creating a culture of ownership is a technique that will actually grow your business. It goes beyond just having performance management and focusing on the numbers but having people feel like owners really is the key to your success. Why do I say this because I’ve had hundreds of interviews with fast growth leaders founders CEOs and they all come back to our people are so important that we want them to feel like they’re an owner of the company. We want them to feel like the money that they’re spending is their money. We want them to feel like the product they’re creating is their product.
[00:01:06].940] – Gene Hammett
Like the customers are their customers. I could go on and on and on but this sense of feeling of ownership really does drive a culture when you get it right. I found a company in my network that is really doing this and I want to share their story with you. It’s skinny dipped skate it is a healthy snack it is putting the glorious ness of an almond with great chocolate and then finishing it off with a great kind of a process that enhances the flavor. I’m getting hungry as I talk about it but skinny dip has grown so fast they reached number 32 on the INC list in 2019 with over 10 million and sales 25 employees.
[00:01:46].700] – Breezy Griffith
And I talk with the co-founder Breezy Griffith. Breezy is an amazing determined person she’s really driven hard. She wanted to create something that had never been done before and really innovate on this. This healthy snack product and she’s done that with the help of her team and she’s done all of that by creating a sense of ownership with a culture of ownership within your culture. Really does a lot of things that unlocks the employees to a new level. We’re going to unpack that inside the interviews I won’t tease you now but I will tell you it’s one of my favorite conversations I’ve had in a long time. Now here’s the interview with Breezy Griffith.
[00:02:22].770] – Gene Hammett
How are you?
[00:02:22].840] – Breezy Griffith
Doing well. Thanks, Gene. How are you?
[00:02:25].770] – Gene Hammett
Thanks for being here at Growth Think Tank.
[00:02:28].370] – Breezy Griffith
Thanks for having me. Very excited.
[00:02:30].580] – Gene Hammett
Well tell us a little bit about the company because I know I’ve already share with our audience about you personally and the growth. But tell us about Skinny Dipped.
[00:02:40].130] – Breezy Griffith
So Skinny Dipped It was my mom and I founded Skinny Dipped and it was hatched out of a time in our lives when we lost a very inspiring young man to cancer. And after that happened it really made us kind of take a step back and think about what’s really important in life and for us it was finding a way to spend more time together. And it was that coupled with the idea that like we love good food we love nutritious food we have a strong belief that everyone should have access to the kind of good food we’ve had our whole lives.
[00:03:16].200] – Breezy Griffith
So we really set out on a journey to create a snack that we craved that we didn’t believe was on the market which was this balance snack. We took the arm and we reinvented the chocolate covered almonds. And we thin down the layer and then we balanced the net with the chocolate and we dusted in all these really innovative finishes. So we had two co-founders that joined us Chrissy and Lizzie. So we’re a friends and family owned and run business and it’s been a great adventure so far.
[00:03:48].120] – Gene Hammett
Well a healthy snack is not a new idea. How did you say zero and on on almonds.
[00:03:55].000] – Breezy Griffith
So I think that I’m just a natural fit for us because we’re foodies in the sense that we love good delicious food but we also want to get the nutrition out of it as well. So for us almonds we’re just like a very natural fit because we believe that they can be delicious and they’re just the perfect thing they’re satiating they deliver on nutrition and then we realize that like wait what if you can make an almond less boring and you can make it exciting and you can make it fun to eat.
[00:04:25].470] – Gene Hammett
I love it. I love healthy snacks I love just a handful of almonds almost every afternoon. I really appreciate you being here. Your company has grown really fast so let’s just talk a little bit about that. What was on your mind to get to 10 million as fast as you did.
[00:04:43].960] – Breezy Griffith
I think that I guess it wasn’t that we had a specific goal I mean it was definitely that we’re going to grow the company but it was really just one foot in front of the next. I think as entrepreneurs we have you know sometimes we don’t step outside to take a breath and realize what we’re doing. So for us it was really just putting our heads down and building what we felt like the deepest you know kind of depths of our gut that we knew we could do that we had something that people wanted so that was really the driving force.
[00:05:16].620] – Gene Hammett
Were you when you started to get some traction. Did you have some idea that you would be one of the top 32 companies because you actually landed number 32 on the Inc list in 2019.
[00:05:28].020] – Breezy Griffith
So long ago and we started this business and my mom told me she was like kind of like X like explode a brand. I was like oh no we are we will. And so that drive and that determination and that goal has been there since the very very early days. And actually like my mom and I have this great balance between this tension between growth and then also just like mine mindful growth. Yes. So yes definitely from the very beginning knew that that’s what we wanted to do.
[00:06:02].390] – Gene Hammett
Well I interviewed hundreds of people just like you and you have that in common that drive and determination that says I know we can do this. I’m not exactly exactly sure how but we’re going to put together a great product great process and put great people. And that’s what you’ve done to be able to to get to this point of the company and it’s continue to grow from here. Right?
[00:06:22].350] – Breezy Griffith
Yes. No it is and you’re right. I think that you just have this belief and it’s so important as you grow that like the people that you surround yourself with whether it’s investors or like employees that they share that same belief in what you’re doing and that has been a big a big learning lesson for us for the last couple of years now.
[00:06:44].040] – Gene Hammett
One of the things that we talked about a few days ago when we were kind of getting ready for this interview was you know you have a nontraditional kind of leadership team and in fact you have co-founders that include your mother and some of your friends. So tell us about what that structure is and then I’ll kind of dive deeper into some other questions.
[00:07:03].510] – Breezy Griffith
Sure yes. So like I mentioned touched on a little bit earlier. My mom and I had this really amazing. We call it like a healthy tension. I think it’s actually part of why we are where we are today. A big part of it. So I am the accelerator pedal and the driving force. I’m go go go. And she’s kind of always got her hand on the emergency brake just so that we don’t go careening over the mountain you know.
[00:07:29].400] – Breezy Griffith
And I think because of that because of that balance we end up in a really great place. It’s like you know it’s like when you know you sit in a meeting and everyone agrees with each other. I think you don’t get to the best answer. Like if you were to challenge each other. So we inherently we’ve had to work hard at that but we inherently have that relationship. I’m very much so on the business side of things working closely with our president and CEO. My mom is the driving force behind all of our innovation as well as just like the kind of creative ethos of the brand the brand DNA who we are what we stand for.
[00:08:06].090] – Breezy Griffith
She has a really amazing set of skills in that way. And then our two co-founders Lizzie and Chrissy. Chrissy heads up. She’s a V.P. of Oliver alternative channel sales. So we have a lot of visibility in everything from tech campuses to schools to we would love to be a healthy snack that’s offered in hospitals where there’s not enough of that. And she’s just done an incredible job at growing that you know from the very early days. And then Lizzie who’s here. So was Lizzie’s amazing was has stepped into a new role which is I wish we had done so long ago because we didn’t I didn’t realize the importance early on of building culture. And so Lizzie is heading up she’s the V.P. of people and culture here. She’s all things you know H.R. and team building and it has been a game changer for us.
[00:09:03].630] – Gene Hammett
Well I’m really surprised when I see companies that are growing fast and they haven’t put the attention. I’m sure you have but you don’t have that many employees so you have what 20 to 25 employees.
[00:09:16].380] – Breezy Griffith
[00:09:18].070] – Gene Hammett
And you what higher was she. She was like very early because she’s a co-founder. So this was like three four five.
[00:09:26].050] – Breezy Griffith
Oh yes. So it was me and my mom and Lizzie joined us when we were still in the kitchen dipping nuts one at a time. And Chrissy joined us a couple of months later and she moved from New York and we all moved in with my mom and my parents and lived under one roof.
[00:09:41].670] – Gene Hammett
Well I love the story of how this has been developed but diving into this culture. What would you say have been the core tenets or principles of the culture that have made you guys work well together and grow so fast.
[00:09:56].220] – Breezy Griffith
Yeah. So it’s been a it’s been a really interesting journey for us because you know our roots are that we are a friends and family business. That’s how we were. We were born and people say all the time. Oh my gosh you went to business with friends and family that’s like a double whammy you should never have done that. But I like to think of it the other way it really has been a strength for us and what we’ve done is we’ve grown. And as the business has needed us like we’ve really we’ve needed to turn the business into a performance based business but without losing our roots and the things that make us who we are which is this kind of DNA and the way we treat people which is very friends and family based like you know we have a strong set of values we believe that we should you know kindness is everything.
[00:10:47].820] – Breezy Griffith
So it’s it’s like it’s kind of this magical place now because we’re able to be this you know we’ve transitioned into this performance business but we saw those underlying roots that are really really helped to drive us forward and help to make sure that people want to be here and they want to come to work every day that they feel proud to work at Skinny Dipped.
[00:11:08].310] – Gene Hammett
This for our audience listening in and out. And I’m not even quite sure what you mean by performance based. I’m sure it’s kind of like metrics and what else isn’t including inside that performance based?
[00:11:19].280] – Breezy Griffith
Yeah I just mean like you know I think like for so long when you grow a startup right like it’s just the wild wild west it has because all you’re trying to do is keep your head above water and make it to you know make it past the next obstacle right. And then at a certain point you go wait hold on. Now we need to put some structure in place and we’ve done that in a variety of ways some of which is like the hiring of our team. We brought you know we knew that it’s time to bring some experience on board and very that kind of experience with our gut and instincts and everything else. And so I think we’ve landed a really good place where we have this diversity among our employees.
[00:12:01].970] – Gene Hammett
Now you have put all this attention on culture. What are the things that we talked about was the desire to have kind of an ownership culture in your words how would you define what that is.
[00:12:16].310] – Breezy Griffith
OK. So I think that it’s so important. I think that’s like one of the most important things because to do what you have to do to be you know a rapidly growing company just their sacrifice involved their sacrifice and the amount of hours that are worked in the time you spend with your friends and family. So you really want people to buy and you want them to feel like owners. And so for us we’ve done that a number of ways. For one we foster a collaborative environment. We make sure that everyone’s voice is heard and it certainly doesn’t mean that everyone’s idea is always used.
[00:12:52].200] – Breezy Griffith
But we always support them bringing that to the table for discussion. We worked really hard to be transparent about some of the challenges that the business is facing so that so that people don’t feel in the dark they feel part of the team they feel they understand it’s not this divide between more junior roles and more executive or leadership roles. And then we’ve also just having an all hands on deck mentality is very important. So like I mean even just this morning we had a big delivery of boxes that came to the office and everyone our CFO our accounting manager co-founder.
[00:13:29].480] – Breezy Griffith
Everyone’s down there just you know unpacking the boxes. So it’s really just that we help each other in that way. And then I think finally the other thing is like just also like leading people with like this kind of like like helping to educate and mentor so that you know one day when people go somewhere else they’ve kind of grown this skill set this like robust set of skills. So even being able to experience some of the business that might be outside of their actual roles and responsibilities so they just leave with kind of like this whole new experience.
[00:14:06].120] – Commentary
Hold on for a second. Breezy just talked about the voices being heard. Here’s the thing about people working inside your companies. Whenever you have a top down structure when you have the best ideas and you want everyone to execute on it you feel like that’s the best way. And I’ve been there as a leader. But what I’ve seen from fast growth companies that the best way to do this is give everyone a voice. You go last in in the meetings where you don’t have to share your best ideas you don’t have to be put on the spot but you give others a voice to be able to share their great ideas. And when they have a good one you recognize them for that. Let them feel heard it goes a long way in creating a great culture for them to feel appreciated and that you are listening and when they have terrible ideas which they will then you want to make sure you appreciate them too because they’re sharing their ideas. Not everything is going to be a home run. Not every idea you’ve had has been a home run. So think about that well back to the interview with Breezy.
[00:15:08].870] – Gene Hammett
I’m not trying to pick on you here but there’s one that you’ve missed out on that’s really apparent. Can I put a spotlight on that for you.
[00:15:15].770] – Breezy Griffith
[00:15:16].290] – Gene Hammett
If it’s having a common mission like a snack thing creates a sense of ownership. Tell us about how that works.
[00:15:26].410] – Breezy Griffith
Yes. So that’s been something that the four of us writers founders and co-founders have like you know kind of inherently all the one along the way known in our gut and it was really exciting it started. Could all of these things on paper Michigan or values so that we could share them with all of our employees and for us the ability to be able to help make a difference in the kind of nutritious and delicious food that should be accessible to everyone not just to the people that could say you know shop at inexpensive natural food store.
[00:15:57].530] – Breezy Griffith
That is I think people then feel like they’re inspired. They feel like they’re building something. They understand why they’re working the extra hours. It’s that and you know and we also have you know a mission around really supporting women in particular mothers domestically and internationally. So you know there’s a lot of things that we’re doing there whether it’s volunteer days and things that bring our team together that we’re all working towards the same mission. And that’s been huge.
[00:00:00].000] – Commentary
Hold up. Breezy just said mission driven company. And I know I asked a question about this but when you think about a mission trip company what do you think of it doesn’t have to be some social impact that you’re doing something for you know giving someone shoes or giving someone eyeglasses as some famous companies have done a mission driven company just has to be something clear enough that others want to be a part of something that has to be something that really kind of pulls at their heart and soul. And if you do the work to create your mission driven company you can align others together so increases that sense of ownership. Now I share this with you because if you want to create a fast growth company do some of the work I do is helping people come up and being very clear what that mission is so that we know how to use it throughout the company. It’s not sloppiness. It really is a driving force in the company. Now back to the interview with Breezy.
[00:17:24].850] – Gene Hammett
Now a lot of cultures are companies shall I say are afraid of this ownership mentality and they’re afraid people might get too territorial or they may credit create silos inside the business. Have you had to address that or has it just not been an issue?
[00:17:41].940] – Breezy Griffith
That has not been an issue for us. I mean I feel differently I feel like we would not be here if we didn’t foster that kind of mentality. And I think the more we grow the more I realize the importance of that because it really comes down to the people that you bring on board. Those are the people those are the people that are going to help you make it across the finish line.
[00:18:04].020] – Gene Hammett
Do you have a set of core values that you align around the business. Is that something you guys have taken the time to actually think through intentional is one of them around ownership or is…
[00:18:17].530] – Breezy Griffith
So one of them is kind of like underneath with buckets like an act like an owner make decisions like you’re an owner whether they’re financial or they’re in the way that you treat people. You know that people are essentially they’re a reflection of the brand and everything. So it’s not a direct selling but it’s certainly the way that you know where we’re explaining to people how decisions should be made.
[00:18:39].140] – Gene Hammett
When you think of other companies that want to grow fast and they don’t have core values what’s the first thing that comes to your mind as is their likelihood of actually getting work where they’re going.
[00:18:51].140] – Breezy Griffith
Yes. So again that was something that for us when we were really small was just us and a couple people. It’s like we knew those right but they still weren’t on paper. And now that they’re on paper it puts you in this place this powerful place to because now you kind of have this like this moral compass to go back to when there’s something that’s in question. So like if someone has an issue and they’re like hey you know I don’t I didn’t appreciate like how so-and-so spoke to me or whatever. You have some way to go back and say well you know kindness is a value for us. And this is not in line with our values. And I think without having that it’s really hard to have some of those conversations.
[00:19:30].770] – Gene Hammett
Well I’ve seen that’s where it’s really powerful. I appreciate you sharing that with us. You know you’ve grown fast. I know this hasn’t been a perfect journey. You’ve probably made a few mistakes. Is there one mistake that you feel like was really worth making because it allowed you to realign the company to where you are today.
[00:19:50].850] – Breezy Griffith
Yes there was one mistake for sure. So when we started to grow very quickly there was this you know there’s becomes this pressure right to fill all these roles and fill them quickly and invest in your future and everything. And what happened for us is that out of all of that rush and everything we didn’t and partially because we’d never done it before we didn’t take the time to slow down and do our due diligence not just on if someone could fill their roles and responsibilities but also if someone was a good cultural fit. Also if someone could make the transition from a big company to a small scrappy startup that is sometimes you know which for a lot of people is hard.
[00:20:38].070] – Breezy Griffith
So for us we learned a big lesson when we went out and we hired a lot of people and we did it very quickly and we were able to mesh kind of the two teams. And so I learned like well first of all people are the most important thing to our success but they have to be the right people. And so now we’re very thoughtful in our hiring process. We’ve made a lot of changes. We’ve put a process in place about who speaks to who and why and what we discuss. And are we aligned when we speak to someone and that’s made a world of difference. But that was a big hard learning lesson because we functioned without it. But you know we’re about short of half of our team for almost a year.
[00:21:26].510] – Gene Hammett
Breezy, you said something in there I want to kind of put a spotlight on just for a second. You mentioned people as being the most important piece to the business and I don’t wanna interpret for you but I have talked to hundreds of founders and CEOs just like you fast growing businesses and they put such an emphasis on their team that they actually believe that the team is more important than the customers. That’s something you can kind of relate to or.
[00:21:53].280] – Breezy Griffith
Absolutely. And only because you know now we’ve learned and we’ve been there and it’s funny because it’s not just I think what makes a team a team is the diversity that you have in the people that you bring together. And I think that if you can play to that that becomes a strength. And that’s something we worked hard on is not having everyone that comes out of a big company but not having everyone that’s only been in startups and not. And so yes absolutely and I think no one is everyone has to be a believer. They have to believe in what they’re doing and they really have to want to be there.
[00:22:30].540] – Gene Hammett
Well I really appreciate you saying that. I’m glad I picked up on something that you know that I’ve glossed over but it’s a very important fact because a lot of companies believe that growing fast means you focus on the numbers which that performance based stuff. But at the core foundation I think the reason skinny dip has grown so fast that because you have put such an emphasis on the culture and the people.
[00:22:54].570] – Breezy Griffith
Yeah. And I think that like when you when you push you know based off of the numbers it’ll take you so far. Right. But then at a certain point those pieces will catch up with you the people the culture and that’s what we got to. Then we had to kind of go back and go oh gosh OK there are these really important foundational pieces that we need to put in place so we can make it to the next step.
[00:23:20].160] – Gene Hammett
Perfect. Well breezy thanks for being here at Growth Think Tank sharing your journey of founding a very fast growing companies can adapt as an impressive product impressive people behind it. So I really appreciate you sharing your wisdom and insights.
[00:23:34].590] – Breezy Griffith
Thank you so much. Gene this was an honor to chat with you today.
[00:23:38].100] – Gene Hammett
Wow great interview. Really love how she really talks about the power of ownership inside the company creating a culture of ownership is the key to your fast growth it is going beyond responsibility you’re really creating this feeling that everyone can share together. You don’t have to have profit sharing. You don’t have to give them stock options and all of this stuff they can do it because they feel connected to the mission because they feel empowered because they’re you’re listening to them you care for them they can feel like they’re part of that if you give them a voice in the company.
[00:24:10].920] – Gene Hammett
Now I know I just put a lot of things in there but I share this with you because I’m so excited to be able to talk about this sense of ownership. I do this on big stages all the time. I work with clients to enhance their sense of ownership across the culture so they can continue to grow and accelerate. So this is just one example of sort of a case study of why ownership matters inside of a culture.
[00:24:32].810] – Gene Hammett
Well I’d love for you to share this episode with those that you feel like want to be better leaders and create fast growth companies to make sure if you think of one person right now when I say this that you talk to them today about this podcast this episode or another episode that has maybe an impact on you as a leader as always lead with courage and we’ll see you next time.
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