Casting Vision and Navigating Change with Alexander Johnson at Mixt Solutions

Leaders must set the direction for the team. Part of that is casting a vision that alights the people to work. Casting vision will pull the people to overcome the challenges, add value to the company, and activate growth. My guest today is Alexander Johnson, Co-founder of Mixt Solutions. His company was ranked #260 in the 2019 Inc 5000 list. Discover why casting vision is essential to the culture. We look at how to effect a change in course as the company grows and shifts strategy. Alexander shares his journey of casting vision with confidence.

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Alexander Johnson: The Transcript

Target Audience: Alexander Johnson is a Founded Mixt Nutrition in 2014 in a basement initially selling supplements through our website. We built and sold from an initial launch of $1,000 in inventory utilizing our knowledge in social media.

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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.

Alexander Johnson
I say this all the time that leadership goes two ways. It doesn’t just come from, you know me as an owner and a partner pushing it down to them. It comes from me pushing it down with them also giving me the information that I need. So if everyone’s their own little business, everyone’s their own little entrepreneur, they’re running their own division, they’re taking ownership over what happens within their division, then we’re going to have more success as a company.

Intro [0:22]
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs of 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?

Gene Hammett [0:39]
Having a vision as an entrepreneur is not something that is nice to have. It’s a requirement, you must be able to cast a vision for what’s not created yet. You must be able to see it so clearly, that you can actually communicate it with others so they can see it too. How do you get there? Well, you want to make sure that you understand that power. Vision, when you communicate it consistently, that that really does support the organization. There’s another piece of this that I want to bring to light, it also changes. Sometimes the vision that you’re heading toward, must change. And so your job is to carefully look at the changes are ahead, have the time to do that, so that you can become the visionary for the business and navigate those changes because your job is to see what others can’t see. And to be able to navigate those changes across the organization, aligning people together to that. And we have a special guest today. He is the co-founder of mixed solutions. Mixed is a company that works in the world of Amazon, a very powerful space to help support brands that want to sell on Amazon at a higher level. But what we talked about today is his use of vision and the need for changing that vision over time as the company has evolved. It’s grown quickly. We’re gonna talk about this with Alexander Johnson. He is one that co-founder that says the vision is such an important piece to the success of the company, but also the ability to change it when necessary. Here’s the interview with Andrew.

Commercial [2:15]
Before we dive into the interview, I wanted to remind you that you can actually get a tool that I’ve been working with clients with for the last couple of years, I’ve refined this tool, it’s gone through several iterations. Now we have it completely automated, you can actually go online and fill out the leadership quiz. To get the leadership quiz. Just go to theleadershipquiz.com that’s pretty easy right? theleadershipquiz.com what you will get when you do that you will answer a few questions. You will see where you rate based on the core principles of fast-growth companies. If you’re ready to grow your company or you want to see where you are, then make sure you go to theleadershipquiz.com inside it you will get insight to where you are, understand where you want to improve and you will get them mapped into the 10 areas that are most specific to fast-growth companies. Again, go to theleadershipquiz.com And you can get that right now.

Gene Hammett [3:08]
Hey, Alexander, how are you?

Alexander Johnson [3:10]
Doing well, how are you today?

Gene Hammett [3:12]
Fantastic. We’re going to talk about vision and about your fast growth as a leader and as a company. I would love for you to let our audience know a little bit more about MCs solutions. So how would you frame that?

Alexander Johnson [3:27]
Yeah, definitely. So my name is Alexander V. Johnson. I’m a partner at MC solutions. We started in 2014. Really, with a very different concept of what we’re going to be we were just talking before we got on here about the name and what we really wanted to be was a food truck that would bend kind of supplements, whether it be at CrossFit events, races outside of gyms, that was a great business and it couldn’t fail because all you could ever find out is a location that didn’t work. But we didn’t really have any cash or capital. So we kind of started a website sold a little bit on that website started to do pretty well. But we had a rep kind of chirping our ear that he had someone doing half a million dollars a month on Amazon. And I was like, well, you mean half a million a year, he was like, no half a million a month. So that was a huge revenue for us at that point in time. So we got onto the Amazon platform, we learned some things we did certain things wrong. But new now what we’ve grown out to is kind of a full service. one-stop-shop for brands looking to leverage the Amazon platform. So if you would have a brand, we could help you take that brand onto the platform. So we have some shops that are small, they’re only in a couple of stores selling on the website, a couple, you know, thousand dollars revenue. And then we have brands that are you know, literally 10s of millions of dollars and 60-70,000 stores across the United States and international and everything in between. So we’ve been fortunate to find good partners that we can help utilize the Amazon platform and really maximize it.

Gene Hammett [5:00]
Well, I have run into a few people through the ink list and through my own network of people that are trying to understand the Amazon, you know, environment, and all of the ways to sell on that. And I think what, you know, many of the companies here are doing is, is really just helping brands sell more.

Alexander Johnson [5:21]
I mean, you know, because when I tell people is really need three aspects of any, you know, product-based business, we retail, you need your website, and then you need Amazon Amazon really is that kind of the third channel. But because it’s kind of evolved so quickly, no one really had the time to adapt to it, especially kind of your older companies. You know, we do some business in the candy industry, candy industries, a lot of old school guys 1800s they’ve been kind of a mom and pop shop, but now they’re big businesses, but because of that kind of slower growth mentality. They don’t really know what to do on the Amazon platform. And, you know, that stretches out to some huge brands. I mean, hundred million dollar brands who are just a mess on Amazon, because they’re still moving so slow, they don’t understand what needs to happen and how to effectively do it. So we’ve been successful at picking up companies large and small and helping them transform that process and basically just being a strategic partner for their online sales.

Gene Hammett [6:19]
Alexander, I want to pivot a little bit into talk about vision. And one of the things that I have seen with fast growth companies is your job as is one of the key leaders there in the company, because I know you’re a co-founder, but is to have a vision out into the future, cast that vision, you know, very clearly and communicate that consistently to the employees. But why is vision so important to the success of your company?

Alexander Johnson [6:48]
Yeah, I mean, definitely, well, first, we have a very small team. So we do a fair amount of revenue with a small team. We’re really proud of that fact. But because of how much our company has changed over the last five and a half or so years. I mean, the vision has always been kind of growing on the fly, you know, because, in year one, we didn’t even really know what we were going to be. And in year two that changed. And in year three, that changed again. So it’s always been a situation where we’re adapting what we’re trying to accomplish to what’s working for us at the current moment in time. That’s one of the things that I really do attribute to our success on a major scale is we never fell in love with, hey, this is all we’re going to ever be. We’re only going to sell on our webs. I mean, if we were still selling on our website, we would have died out like bodybuilding.com died out. But we didn’t we saw where the future opportunities were. And we were quick enough to pivot on a dime and say, hey, look, that was our old vision. This is our new vision, we’re going to take and run with it. Even if the vision isn’t 100% perfectly clear.

Alexander Johnson [7:47]
We know that the vision is that direction. So we need to start pressing that way when I do credit our employees for kind of bearing with us through that process because, you know, we were a small company at that point in time and then we didn’t really have The revenue that we have now to be able to sustain at a high level. So them trusting us and us being able to, fortunately, build that vision clear enough for them that, hey, look, we’re growing, you know, growth cures a lot of things, you know, especially miscommunications and misunderstandings about what’s going to be the future of the company. But it’s like, Hey, I’m on the ground floor of a company that’s growing faster than any bank that I’ve ever worked at. This is something I want to keep on pressing forward with. And that’s how we got our chief operating officer. He’s working in a bank, and I told him like, hey, look, you know, that bank has 5000 employees, you’re probably never going to be one of the top guys. But you can be the third person in our company of, you know, to right now, and maybe someday you’ll be DC. So, you know, we’ve been very fortunate to have good employees that have kind of been with us through those pivots and understood that, hey, even if the vision isn’t clear, I can be part of the process and helping find that vision.

Gene Hammett [8:54]
So let’s put a spotlight on what are the steps you’ve taken to communicate division so that employees feel that sense of alignment that’s necessary.

Alexander Johnson [9:04]
Yeah, definitely. Because, you know, as I said, we grew and changed so much throughout the duration of our first couple of years, it was hard to identify what the strategic vision was, I mean, everyone knew, hey, let’s grow. Let’s, you know, do a bunch of revenue, let’s find good, exclusive partners, but like, what was the end goal? Or the catalyst? All of that, you know, what was that going to result in? That wasn’t quite always clear. So, you know, we put a lot of focus around goal setting. You know, we do goal setting by each week, each month, each quarter each year. And, you know, one of the things I think that we’ve done that have been really helpful, because I own a couple of different companies and you know, it’s really easy for me to incentivize sales reps, right? Like, you go out you sell you get a commission on that sale, and then it’s done and dusted. Our business isn’t quite like that. So it’s hard for someone to necessarily see hey, my actions result in this which helps the company Money which grows our revenue, which comes back onto, you know, my salary or my paycheck or my stock options, whatever it may be.

Alexander Johnson [10:07]
So we’ve done a lot to align goals that we set for individuals to how they are looked at for pay raises. And I think that’s been a huge benefit for us. Because, you know, I’ve always had trouble. You know, going through this pay, raise things just because like, Well, you’ve been with us for a long time, but you’ve done a lot of great things, but we still need to grow more as a company, you know, so one of the things I really wanted to do was make that less kind of gray and make it more black and white, here are your goals. Here’s the most important things for you to accomplish over the next six months if you can accomplish them. I know as the business owner, that person kind of pulled their weight and they say, Hey, I knocked everything out, man, like, I need to get a pay raise. I’m clearly helping the company, you know, build for its ultimate long term goals. So I think you know, as opposed to saying, here’s our 10-year goal, you know, we’re going to be the biggest company on Amazon. On, we’re going to sell 100 million dollars per year, I think it’s a lot easier for us to talk them into smaller goals, week by month by quarter basis. So we’re always working forward, as opposed to, you know, try and take big leaps at it in one year’s time.

Commercial [11:15]
Hold on for a second, Alexander just talked about goal setting. And specifically, the goal-setting was with individuals, because the company may have goals, the team may have goals, but if you’re not taking the time to actually figuring out how the individual’s goals are aligning with what they want to do, and how that aligns to the company, you’re missing an opportunity. I call these shared goals. I created a behind the scenes episode recently about it. So you could go back and find that episode or email me if you want to get it. It’s Gene at Gene Hammett calm. But the point is, your job as a leader is to not only set goals as an organization and as a team but individual goals and have everyone aligned to what that means get them to take ownership of the goals and the process along that journey. Now, back to the interview.

Gene Hammett [12:00]
What else besides goals go into that vision.

Alexander Johnson [12:06]
I think just an understanding of the team that, you know, again, I know it sounds cliche, but they’re on the ground floor of something that’s really big. And if they stick with us, and they stay, you know, as we continue to become bigger, better, more successful, then it could change their lives. You know, like, it’s hard for a lot of employees to think like, oh, if I worked for this company for 12 years, five years, eight years, you know, it’s gonna change my life. But, you know, the way that I look at everyone in our company is as their own little business owner, and that’s hugely beneficial. That’s something I took from having sales guys is everyone’s kind of their own little business owner. And as a business owner, you have to take responsibility for everything that you’re doing. I say this all the time, that leadership goes two ways. It doesn’t just come from, you know, me as an owner and a partner pushing it down to them. It comes from me pushing it down with them also giving me the information that I need.

Alexander Johnson [12:59]
So if everyone’s their own Little business, everyone’s their own little entrepreneur, they’re running their own division, they’re taking ownership over what happens within their division, then we’re gonna have more success as a company. And I think some of the things we’ve done had a really good capacity are putting frameworks in place for those people to do that. Then on the flip side, they being able to take the reins and say, Hey, I get what Alex’s expectations are me for this. You know, I know no matter what he’s outlined, what the most important six things are for the next three or four months. That’s what I’m going to work on. That’s when I’m going to help the company push forward it comes.

Commercial [13:34]
Alexander’s talked about, he wants everyone to think like it’s their own business. What does that really mean? Well, you want to make sure that people feel connected to the business so that they feel like the CEO of their projects of the clients that are working on and have the whole experience that they’re trying to create for the company. If they don’t think of like they’re the CEO, then that really owning that experience. The converse of that is they need to be micro Manage or you feel they need to be micromanaged, which is very dangerous because it doesn’t empower them to share their ideas to make decisions, they wait for you to make the decisions for them. And that’s not a good place for either one of you, because you’re not growing, and you actually get caught back into the day today. Your job as a CEO is to let others believe that they’re the CEO of their own work. Back to the interview.

Gene Hammett [14:25]
I got a smile on my face because I certainly didn’t guide you to say the word ownership. But across my research and hundreds of founders, I used to ask this question, don’t ask it as much anymore. But I used to ask the question, how do you get employees to take responsibility for big growth goals? And the founders would say, you know, it’s not really about responsibility. It’s about ownership. And when you get people to have that spark in their eye of ownership, there’s something completely different about the way they show up for work, the way they approach problems the way they innovate inside their room. roles and the way they treat the customers. How do you keep that? You know, first and foremost as a part of the culture of the company?

Alexander Johnson [15:10]
Yeah, as we mentioned, I’ve owned ran a couple of different businesses. And one of the things that I can absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt tell you is going to build a bad employee is if they don’t feel like they have ownership, you know, there are 100, different things that create a great employee. There’s one thing that I know for a fact will create a bad employee, someone who doesn’t really believe in what you’re doing. And that’s if they don’t feel like they have ownership over what they’re doing. If I come in, and I’m just telling you, hey, do it this way, do it this way, do it this way. Eventually, anyone’s just going to get worn down by that. And I’ve seen that from other partners that I’ve had. It’s just like, individuals don’t want to be in that environment. Even if they’re making a ton of money. I’ve had people that are making a lot of money at a company and they’re just like, this is no fun. I don’t enjoy this.

Alexander Johnson [15:57]
This is not something I want to keep doing. Because it’s Kinda like a daily beat down. On the flip side of that, to provide them the opportunity for ownership. You know, one of the things that I’m really proud of it mixed and I don’t even know if we did it on purpose, or we kind of fell into it. Everyone takes a lot of seriousness about what we do they take a lot of pride in doing what we do at a high level. I don’t know if that’s something I’ve said my business partner said or just the company culture that people are really serious about what we’re doing and they want to perform at a high level. And whether that’s because we set incentives up for people, or if there’s kind of just this camaraderie like, Hey, you know, we only have six people here working in a 10 million-plus dollar business.

Alexander Johnson [16:41]
Everyone is vitally important, you know, like, I just did a survey. If you feel guilty, taking days off, that was one of many HR questions. And people said, I don’t feel guilty, you know, because I know you tell me all the time, take my time off. That’s no problem. But I know that I’m really important when I’m in the office, so I need to make sure that unless I have a serious reason for not coming in, like I’m there, and I’m contributing to the company. And I don’t know if that’s just because again, we’re a small business, and we have, you know, limited physical resources of people. Or if we did something along the way to build that understanding that, hey, every piece is important. But it’s definitely evident in our business. And I think that’s one of the things that keeps us glued together. And it keeps everybody serious about what’s happening. Because you don’t want to just say like, Oh, you know, hey, I had a bad day yesterday, I’m going to come in, and I’m going to give it a half-hearted effort, like everyone understands, like, while you’re in the office, the expectation and I don’t even know if it’s necessarily an expectation that we’ve set. It’s just an understanding among the guys and gals is like, Hey, we’re going to be serious while we’re here, you know, because we do feel like what we’re doing is important, and I think that’s partially empowerment, partially just the team nature of what we have here.

Gene Hammett [17:55]
You had mentioned that you’ve had to change plans and change, change vision. It’s changed the business model of the company. How have you communicated with those changes? so that people know to see that change is good? Because a lot of people resist change.

Alexander Johnson [18:12]
Yeah. And I think, you know, partially it’s even been an experiment for us as owners, because, you know, as we take flyers on certain situations, we don’t necessarily know is this going to be like our primary driver of revenue? You know, our primary driver of revenue, we thought initially was going to be a mobile supplement business, then a website, and then selling other people’s products on Amazon then selling our own products on Amazon. And then now we’re consulting and we’re still building off of that model even now we’re like, Okay, well, how do we take these dollars and invest in new brands and build our own brands throughout that and you know, we’re also invested in real estate now and we’re looking at investing in software and technology.

Alexander Johnson [18:54]
So it’s a little bit been, you know, experimentation process as owners even kind of just telling me in individuals around us like, Hey, you know, you see what’s happening on a day to day basis on Amazon just like we do, you know, where are their opportunities for growth? In the second half of that, I think is that the individuals in the business we give a lot of transparency to, so they know what’s going on. It’s not like a secret, hey, this is really difficult for our company to do. And I think that just the guys and gals are smart enough to understand like, Hey, is there a better way we could do this? Like, is Amazon always gonna allow us to do business in this particular way?

Alexander Johnson [19:30]
You know, everyone’s kind of grown and adapted, you know, we thought, hey, we’ll cut our teeth in the sports nutrition industry, and we’ll be the biggest consultants in sports nutrition. And then we landed a couch cover company, that’s like killing it for us. And we’re like, maybe we need to get into home goods, you know. And then we started doing business with chocolates, the opposite of sports nutrition, and that’s been an awesome market for us. So, you know, because I think people have the opportunity to see what’s going on. I think they understand on an intuitive level as they will Maybe if we made a little shift, this would work. And, you know, I would say they give us even like pressure like, Hey, we, you know, what, what are we going to do here? Do we need more brands like this? Is this going to be beneficial for us? So, you know, I think that camaraderie comes into play majorly, because people feel like they have the opportunity to speak up. They also feel like if they speak up, they give us good ideas. It’s going to be some of this benefiting them in the long term.

Gene Hammett [20:23]
I would imagine what you have created there and the kind of business that you have a healthy relationship with failure, meaning you’ve encouraged people to try things, make some decisions, see if it works out test it. Am I accurate in saying that?

Alexander Johnson [20:38]
Most definitely. Yeah. I mean, I could spend the next couple of minutes detailing all the issues that we’ve had the failures that we’ve come across, exclusive partners that didn’t work out, you know, everything. But it hasn’t ever deterred us because I think one we’ve always found the best situation for ourselves or at least a good enough situation to keep ourselves moving forward. And then we’ve learned from all those failures. So, you know, when I talk, like on sales calls to potential exclusive partners, I pretty much know all the things that are going to work and all the things that aren’t going to work because we’ve really been through them. It’s like, hey, that works, that doesn’t work, you’re gonna have issues with this, Amazon sold your product at one point in time, you’re not going to change those listings, you know, and people are just like, oh, okay, well, you know, they don’t necessarily know if I’m being truthful or not. But we’ve seen all those things firsthand over the last five years, and five years on Amazon is like 50 years in any other type of business because it’s just so fast. So we’ve kind of done all the mistakes that we can, I mean, they say, you know, an expert is someone who’s just made all the mistakes they can in a specific field. And I really do feel like we’ve done that on Amazon. We’ve made all the mistakes. But every step of the way, we figured out Hey, this is going to work if we see this again.

Gene Hammett [21:54]
Well, that’s been a great kind of way to look at you know, casting vision and navigating change with you, Alexander. I really appreciate your being here on the podcast.

Alexander Johnson [22:04]
Yeah, absolutely very appreciative for you having me on.

Gene Hammett [22:08]
Great interview, I love talking about vision with someone who has created something just from an idea and been able to change the vision of that and align all the people together. That’s an important piece to this whole conversation of vision and navigating to a place that’s never been created before. Now, when you are the visionary for your company, you are able to connect the dots, you’re able to take time to think about these things. I talk about these over and over because I just see so many people that aren’t creating the time they don’t like they haven’t let go of the day to day and that really is a problem if you’re the leader who is expected to see the vision communicated and navigate through change, and do all the other stuff too. So your job as a leader is to be that visionary.

Gene Hammett [22:58]
Today, we had a very good question. With Alexander about what that means, and how that’s helped him in the organization. Hopefully, you’ve learned from it. If there’s anything you have questions about your own confidence, courage for the mentality it takes to actually be the leader that you want to be. Make sure you reach out to me at [email protected]. I’d love to serve you. As always leave with courage. We’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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