Many high and low-level decisions are on data. Many organizations strive to be data-driven. What does it truly mean for an organization to have a data-driven culture? Today’s guest is Ray Lui, Co-Founder at Sprinly, which ranked #113 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list. Sprinly delivers organic plant-based meals. Although profit and revenue goals are important factors for driving business growth, try using the takeaways from this episode to build a data-driven culture. Data is beneficial for both external and internal company growth. Take a listen to create your best version of a data-driven culture.
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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.
I think that there’s sometimes a combination of things. I think that we built this culture around being very data driven since the get go. When we started four and a half years ago, that was a core part of what we’re going to do. So when we onboard it and recruit the team, they understood this, when we developed the team, now they understood this. So when it comes to addressing problems or forming specific initiatives, they know that as a company holistically, we’re thinking about what what is the data say? How can we use data to support a decision, and sometimes we’re not going to have the entire answer there. Occasionally, when we will go back to Hey, let’s look at a different way now, or occasionally where this is the best data we have. But we need to move quickly. So we can’t just wait for three months and make a decision you needed to do so we can’t do that we have and then have all that in place and make those decisions and work I would say.
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 [1:09]
When you think about your culture, would you say that your data-driven culture? Would you say that your people understand how to research and find out what they really need to be focused on next? Well, being a data-driven culture means people understand that we can’t just always operate from our gut instinct, gut is important. And it’s good to trust your gut. But you also want to be able to back it up with numbers, because numbers don’t lie. When you think about how your business is moving forward, you may not have as much interest in numbers as you could, or maybe you have a lot of interest in numbers. The key is to train your employees if you want to have a data-driven culture, to look at the numbers first, before they come to you with their problems. And this would be really helpful because it will help you sharpen exactly the direction you’re going to go, how we handle certain problems, how do we improve our campaigns? How do we improve our operations, whatever it is you’re focused on, will be improved by being a data-driven culture.
Gene Hammett [2:07]
Our guest today is the co-founder of Sprinly, they’re a plant-based meal service. And we’re talking with Ray Lui. Ray, and we’ll share with you some insights behind why they grew so fast. They were number 113 on the Inc list in 2020 means they grew really fast. What we talked about today is what is a data-driven culture looks like? What are some of the core elements of that data-driven culture? What does it look like in our meetings? What does it look like and leadership? And how do they hire people? And you really create a place where numbers are given a lot of emphases so that it guides the company forward. All that in this episode with Ray, before we get there, I want to kind of remind you that if you are a leader that wants to be more visionary, more strategic, even, that you’ve got to take the time for it. And one of the things I would love to do is offer you my services to sit down with you and look at where you’re spending your time, where there’s an opportunity for you to create more time to be the visionary leader that you want to, I can look over your shoulder, I can do this, all you have to do is go to genehammett.com/time, you’ll find some free resources there. But you also find free training that will help you really take it to the next level inside that training. It’ll give you some insight into what you could be doing to be a more visionary leader be more strategic. And all you have to do is go to genehammett.com/time. When you think about growth, and you think about leadership, make sure you keep thinking about Growth Think Tank. Now here’s the interview with Ray.
Gene Hammett [3:32]
Ray, how are you?
Ray Lui [3:34]
I’m doing great. Great to meet you, Gene.
Gene Hammett [3:36]
It’s fantastic to have you on the podcast. I appreciate it.
Ray Lui [3:40]
Yeah, definitely excited to be here. I’m excited about the conversation.
Gene Hammett [3:43]
Well, I would love for you to let our audience know what is Sprinly and can give us some context to what you guys are doing there.
Ray Lui [3:50]
Yeah, of course. So Sprinly, we’re an organic plant-based in your delivery e-commerce brand. And our entire mission is around helping our society eat more vegetables, and really change the way people think about healthy eating by offering something honestly healthy. And now we feel that and when we look at the health of our society and the grid, the biggest healthful impact possible really comes down to one thing and that is offering more vegetables and the more convenient, approachable way so that people could really enjoy the meals. And I think that there’s a lot of miseducation about what isn’t healthy these days. But the core of it is you know only about 3% of us are getting enough dietary fiber that comes from vegetables. So we’re working hard as a team to really change that.
Gene Hammett [4:32]
I can tell you that my trainer put me on to a vegetarian thing and I felt lost. I was so used to what I’ve been eating and the week before I did a complete juice diet. And that was much easier because I was just like grab the juice but when they said go plant-based was it was hard so I could see how a meal service around this for those that that really want to understand this to eat more vegetables and I’m gonna say this because I can look at the pictures. It looks like it’s delicious.
Ray Lui [5:05]
Yeah, yeah, no, I completely agree with you. I think a lot of people that, you know, try Sprinly or just try plant-based for the first time. You know, they’re wondering what that actually is. And you know, it’s one of those things that we’ve done in house, we make everything in house from scratch. And we want to make sure that it’s approachable for people across all different diets. So serving omnivores, pescatarians, vegans, vegetarians, we’re very happy to be able to make meals that are approachable, all types of different diets to really open people’s minds. How delicious and healthy, you know, plant-based can be?
Gene Hammett [5:37]
Well, I absolutely love it. So we had you here, Ray because my team does research on the founders and CEOs of fast-growth companies. And one of the things that came out in our conversations with you and your team is around the need for focus and the right kind of being data-driven as an organization, those themes, those two things are quite different. So how did they fit together as it relates to the growth of your company?
Ray Lui [6:02]
Yeah, that’s a great question. I think that you know, when it comes to focusing, you know, when starting any business, you know, the odds are somewhat stacked against you, right. And, you know, when it comes to really build a business, we want to make sure that we’re using focus and using data to really drive successful growth and grow quickly, but then also making sure that it’s growing sustainably as well. So, you know, growing up myself, when it came to focusing, being disciplined, being data-driven, and all that stuff, and I worked incredibly hard school being disciplined. I played football as captain of the track on the wrestling team, very disciplined along the way there. But you know, I really feel that when it comes to translating that focus, discipline, and using data to drive decisions in the business when it comes down to is being able to understand what is working, what isn’t working, and in the market as big as food. And in something in food plant base growing as rapidly as it is. There are all these different opportunities that arise. So you know, we need to be smart about what to say yes, when I say notice or opportunities.
Ray Lui [7:07]
Now, whether it is different distribution channels that arise, you know, people reaching out, and companies reaching out about partnerships, customers are constantly asking about launching new product lines or serving specific ingredients in our meals, just selling them our boneless beef burger or selling them or plant balls, things of that nature, we need to make sure we look back at the data, it doesn’t make sense to really invest in this area when these opportunities arise. And really understand when it comes to focusing. Now we need to make sure that time is our valuable asset. So as we think about what to do when things arise, looking at data on being smart about that, what’s driving how we’re able to continue growing quickly, and really grow in a smart way too. So I think that’s how we sort of combine that data and focus to make sure that we’re making the best use of our time.
If you happen to be listening to this episode on your phone, then I want to remind you that we have free content over there on YouTube, just go to genehammett.com/YouTube. There’s some content there in video format, of course, that you can only get on YouTube. And if you go there to subscribe, you’ll get some insights around being a visionary leader that your company needs to survive. Again, go to genehammett.com/YouTube.
Gene Hammett [8:18]
So a lot of companies would say they’re data-driven, I’m kind of curious, what would we see inside of your, your meetings or inside of your conversations that would really tell us that data is such an important piece to the growth of the company?
Ray Lui [8:30]
Yeah, I think that when it comes to being data-driven, you know, give you a few examples. You know, when we’re looking at marketing, reaching out to new customers, new channels, things of that nature, you know, instead of having a brainstorm session around, hey, what let’s put our budget in different allocations, you know, we ask the question, well, what is driving the fastest payback period was driving the longest lifetime value of these customers. And when people come to our site, we know how they’re getting to our site.
Ray Lui [8:59]
We know how long those customers stay on for when they make that purchase. And we do that by really analyzing all the data that we have with different tools, but also some proprietary models we built in house in, you know, different software’s and things like that, to make sure that when we are driving our growth, we know where we allocate our spend, and by using that data allows us to do it in a very sustainable way as well. And I think on top of that, you know, by being Daydream in that sense, we’re able to also understand, you know, things like people who are not looking to lose weight actually stay on longer know, people are interested in sports to tend to order more meals over time. And knowing those different data points, looking in the surveys, looking at the data, we’re able to really be you know, thoughtful with how we change our brand messaging, how we change our targeting, and how we adjust all of that based on channel and understand how all that works together holistically as well.
Gene Hammett [9:50]
Is a lot of this data in the house through the teams and the technologies that you have put together or do you go outside to get data to?
Ray Lui [9:58]
We do all Basically house, I would say, um, so, you know, when it comes to understanding all these different components, it’s a combination of talking to customers doing customer surveys, but then looking at the data that comes through, you know, our website and all the software and tools that we use in the house. So we’re not going out buying different data sources and information about customers or things like that, we’re really the people come to our site and understand what’s working, and then really iterating and a B testing and a fast and rapid pace to continue learning more.
Gene Hammett [10:30]
Ray, I want to kind of switch gears a little bit here, because we’ve been talking about this concept of being data-driven. Now, I want to look at you as a leader, when you are, you know, working with your team members, your executive team, and anybody else that you’re working with on trying to figure out a problem. Are you encouraging them to bring you the data to that problem? Or do you have to send them back consistently to go get the data? Or is it something else that we haven’t put a spotlight on?
Gene Hammett [10:57]
That’s an interesting question. You know, I think that there’s sometimes a combination of things, I think that we built this culture around being very data-driven since the get-go. When we started four and a half years ago, that was a core part of what we’re gonna do. So when we onboarded and recruit the team, they understood this, when we develop the team, now they understood this. So when it comes to no addressing no problems or performing specific initiatives, they know that as a company holistically, we’re thinking about, well, what is the data say? How can we use data to support the decision, and sometimes we’re not going to have the entire answer there occasionally, when we will go back, and hey, let’s look at a different way now, or the case where this is the best day that we have. But we need to move quickly. So we can’t just wait for three months and make a decision, we need to do the best we can with the data we have, and then have all that in place and make those decisions and move forward, I would say.
Ray Lui [11:50]
Hold on for a second. Ray, talked about creating a culture of being data-driven. Well, all these centers around the values of the company. And if you have those values, front and center, then you can actually recruit people who see the power in data. If you want a data-driven culture, you want to make sure that you are having questions that allow you to understand if this person willing to go find the data, they’re willing to create the necessary systems in place to collect the data? And are they willing to use it to make the best decisions, if being data-driven is important to you, you want to make sure it’s a part of the values, not just something that you put on the wall, but actually something that you live by, and you recruit by and lead by back to Ray?
Gene Hammett [12:31]
Now, I know a lot of leaders pride themselves on having a gut feeling for this. Is that something you are able to tune into with the data? Or do you just trust the data and kind of just moving from there?
Ray Lui [12:43]
Great question, I will always lean on data first data doesn’t lie. So I will lean out first, instead of going with a gut instinct. But again, there are times where you have only so much data. So then you have to bring your intuition into play, bounce ideas from different perspectives of people on your team, and really make the right decision for you know, what’s best for the team overall. So definitely lean on the data more, I would say.
Gene Hammett [13:06]
This I think is related to what we’re talking about. But we’ll see where it goes. is being data-driven a part of your values as a company?
Ray Lui [13:15]
Yeah. So you know, in terms of being data in terms of values. Now, one thing that we have in terms of core value is no, we have incredibly high standards. As a team, we have sound judgment. And that’s a big core value for us. and another one is a continuous improvement. So when it comes to all that combined, no, I think data really drives a lot of that. Now we use a sound judgment that comes into play, where we don’t have all the data in place. But also part of sound judgment is using the data to drive that decision making. And by having and being data-driven, no continuous improvements, how we continue getting better by looking at data, tracking our metrics, and then seeing how do you get better from here. And then that really high incredible standard bar is the thing that we’re always trying to reach as a team. And it’s always a work in progress. But I think that’s a big part of know-how we make sure we differentiate our business as well to continue performing at a higher level.
Gene Hammett [14:06]
I found that a lot of the fast growth companies put a lot of emphasis on core values, not just as something that they would have on a corporate wall or somewhere, but they really live by them day in and day out, is that something we would see across your organization is the true living the values.
Ray Lui [14:22]
Definitely, before we even start the business, Mary and I put down our core values on paper. And we thought that was super important because we want to want us to be on the same page of what we’re building and what we feel is important. But we need to make sure we have that before we even start thinking about recruiting a team and building a team. Because the core values really drive how we recruit and really drive how we develop the team and measure their performance as well. So it’s definitely incredibly important. It’s really has been since the very beginning, and we definitely don’t see that changing at all.
Gene Hammett [14:54]
Well, I want to kind of go a little bit deeper with all this rain and really keep the spotlight on you. In your journey of leading this company through fast growth, you’ve probably had some mistakes. Does one stand out? is teaching a lesson that you could share with us today that you feel comfortable opening up?
Ray Lui [15:13]
Yeah, no, I’m sure that I’ve run into a number of many mistakes in the past, growing, and buildings friendly. You know, we bring up one specific mistake. And I would say that you know, when we first got started, um, no, we probably waited too long to start hiring people onto the team. You know, Mary and I, we’ve always been very scrappy, we still are very scrappy, we always will be. But when we first started, no, I called almost 100 different kitchens in the area, to see where we can kind of, you know, pay partial rent user kitchen, the middle of the night, midnight 1 am, to prepare the meals that really start locking this thing, preview, launching the very limited savings. But then at the same time, man ever doing everything.
Ray Lui [15:57]
Now we were building the website, doing the finance, doing the legal work to get incorporated, we were actually developing the recipes, preparing the meals in the middle of the night, and delivering. So we’re doing everything ends to end and now taking customer service calls at 2 am, when people call randomly. And it’s one of those things where we wanted to make sure we did that. So we understood every part of the role in order to understand how to build the team. But because we were doing all that, and because we continue to grow being data-driven, running marketing campaigns, things started to roll quickly. And pretty soon, we saw that no, about six months into starting speedily. Now we were sold out for two months after our marketing campaign. And it was one of those things where we’re like, Whoa, we got to actually put a pause on this. And is one of those things where no, we should have hired faster at that point. And no, we didn’t do that, because we didn’t know exactly the levers in the business. You know, since then, no, we’ve been able to understand what were the levers of growth in this business? And how do we forecast out not only the growth but the people that we need to be hiring?
Ray Lui [17:02]
So I think that’s a really good lesson in terms of, you know, who we need to hire when we need to hire them. And really understanding also that in the early days, no, we need people on a team who are smart, no great work ethic drove to do a little bit of everything. But as we’re scaling and scaling faster, no, this is when we need start bringing on you know, certain individuals and roles where they have life experience. So then we can scale faster and more efficiently. I’m also lucky for me, you know, my parents opened a restaurant when they came here to this country. So they were able to help a little bit when we were sold out. And in the early days, you know, helping cut the vegetables and all that stuff as well. So that was actually a big, big plus, and really appreciate that.
Now hold on for a second rageous said we should have hired faster. Now, I’ve seen a lot of companies make this mistake before they really killed themselves because they want to control the process. They’re not sure who to hire. And if they did hire people, that they wouldn’t do it as well as they did. Well, here’s the reality, if you want to grow your company, and I talked to a lot of companies that have, you know, 20 employees, 50 employees, 100 employees, 600 employees, 1000s of employees. And every person that I talked to says we wouldn’t be where we are, if we didn’t hire the right people. So it’s not about, you know, you being scared to hire someone, it’s about you learning to let go of the processes and knowing that building the team around you will allow you to grow even faster. I say this from experience, because I run multiple companies, I coach a lot of companies that have had the same problem. And I just share with you this idea to really rethink about this, you know, can we afford to hire someone, and maybe we’re already have five people or 10 people. But when you’re listening to this podcast, it really talking directly to you. If you feel overworked, then maybe it’s time to look at hiring someone else. If you have any questions about why you should do that, and what your next step is, sometimes I can sit down with a CEO and help them put up their finger on exactly what’s going on and what their next step is. So if you want to do that, just go to genehammett.com and go to start your journey. And you can book time with me to talk about what your next step is, inside your journey of leadership, now back to Ray.
Gene Hammett [19:13]
I want to look at one of the pieces that happens often with companies and maybe you didn’t have this problem, but I’m just kind of curious. When you were you know, doing everything. And that’s with your wife, right?
Ray Lui [19:25]
Gene Hammett [19:26]
Yep, yeah. Okay. So you were doing everything in the early stages, and then you started hiring people and you started building these small teams and now you’re up to about 60 employees. What are the inflection points, you know, from doing it all to where you are now that you’ve had to work through? Do you know what I mean by inflection points?
Ray Lui [19:47]
Gene Hammett [19:48]
So when you look back at it, what were those and a headcount, what were you experiencing and how did you get through it?
Ray Lui [19:54]
Yeah, no, I mean, there’s a lot of different steps along the way, I would say when we first started Again, it was married myself. And my parents would help here and there. But as we started building out the team, we started having to understand how does each person really fit in the organization. So in the very beginning, we were hiring a coupon team that we’re now preparing the meals, doing a little bit everything from cutting veggies, washing dishes, to delivering meals alongside with us. And Mary and I are in there as well. Now, we did that for over a year before we even stepped out of the kitchen. And it’s one of those things, you know, when we were in the kitchen, no, we were doing everything, everyone’s doing the same thing. We have to kind of take a step back because it was only after all the work, that we were able to step back, get back to our computers and really think about how do we build this organization now, now we working 120 hour easy weeks still work 100 plus hours a week right now, but you know, different things.
Ray Lui [20:50]
And you know, we needed to step back at that point, understand. Alright, so now we have a core team, that’s apparently meals, what else do we need to be hiring for? And how to continue being their organization? And how do we start, you know, stepping away a little bit what little by little, make sure this part of the rotation is good. Now many folks on this part in this part, alongside have just grown the company quickly. So you know, that was definitely a key inflection point when we kind of made that transition from doing everything to delegating. But then, you know, as he started building out more of the corporate team as well, then we started thinking about, well, how do we communicate knowledge across you know, different teams?
Ray Lui [21:23]
How do we make sure that everyone knows what’s going on, and the important goals that we’re setting, and things of that nature? So then we start setting up different team structure, team meetings, work structure, and all that kind of stuff to make sure that, you know, we’re communicating and really being an open communication across the team. Also making sure that nothing’s falling through the cracks along the way, as well. So I think there’s a lot of steps along the way as it pertains to growing the team. Um, and I think it’s a work in progress that, you know, one core thing that we continue to work towards improving upon.
Gene Hammett [21:52]
Well, it’s a never-ending process, as you’ll realize because what you’re experiencing at 50, you know when you get to be 100 employees, it’s a whole new realm of focus on culture and team development, leadership skills, and all those things. You’ll, you’ll get there soon. Yeah, Ray, I really appreciate you being here and sharing the story about, you know, creating a data-driven culture and how that drives focus for the organization. So thanks for being here.
Ray Lui [22:18]
Yeah, definitely appreciate it. definitely enjoyed it.
Gene Hammett [22:21]
So this wraps up another fantastic episode without the founder of a fast-growing company, one of the things that I think you can take away from this is, you’ve got to be very intentional about the kind of company you are. It’s not just about your business strategy, and how you’re going to get customers and how you’re going to make $1. But the kind of company that you’re, you’re talking about race, talked about a data-driven company in a culture, and everything laid into place after that. And they had to figure out how to create this data. If you haven’t created that kind of theme for your country. Sorry for your company, you want to make sure you actually go back and get really clear about it, because it will be something that connects everyone together. In your journey of leadership, you’ve got to continue to evolve. And some of the things you have to pick up and fix that weren’t done in the first place.
Gene Hammett [23:08]
So hopefully this has been helpful to you. If you want to continue to evolve as a leader, make sure you check out the free resources that we have on genehammmett.com. You can get an actual call with me if you want to talk about your business and leadership. create a plan for yourself. It’s absolutely free. And I’d love to help you. When you think about growth and you think about leadership. Think of Growth Think Tank, as always. Lead with courage, we’ll see you next time.
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