Ups and downs are a part of the entrepreneur’s journey. One critical skill in leadership is knowing when to grip tight on your current strategy and when to let go. In this episode, we look at the importance of tenacity. Tenacity is the art of being determined and holding on tight. Today’s guest is Bryan Gerber, Co-founder and CEO at BHR Companies Inc. Inc Magazine ranked his company #604 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list. BRH International Inc sells a premium monthly subscription box of packaged goods that target smoking and cannabis enthusiasts. Bryan talks about why he believes in the importance of tenacity. He understands that fast growth for his company has required him to grip tightly through tough times. Discover why you want to double down on being determined and the importance of tenacity.
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Bryan Gerber: The Transcript
About: Bryan Gerber is the Co-Founder & CEO at Hemper. co. Bryan is just as meticulous as he is efficient. He adds tremendous value to any team project through his strong analytical skills in conjunction with his keen eye for detail. Hemper. co is the Dollar Shave Club or Birchbox for the cannabis accessory market. They bring in celebrities to curate these packages, so imagine smoking like Snoop Dogg or Seth Rogen for a month. Everyone does it, they just made it mainstream.
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.
Bryan Gerber: I’m always. You know, trying to invest in, you know, wellness stuff for myself, you know, like, you know, buying home gym equipment or getting a sauna or something. And, you know, I realized that you know, there’s always something that somebody wants that they think they can’t have a full bird or for some reason just dump, you know, they’re afraid to pull the trigger on. you know, I like to guide them to I pulled triggers. So unlike if you want something in life, let’s figure out how to get it for you.
[00:00:26] Intro: 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?
[00:00:42] Gene Hammett: Tenacity is part of the reason you are where you are today. When you think about the journey it took you to get here, all the knows, all the challenges you overcame, you had to bring with you a dose of tenacity. Another way to look at that is the persistence to create something that people said might be impossible. To align people together around very difficult things, even though all of the challenges that we’ve all faced. And as a leader, you have to do your best, not only to be persistent but also to share with your employees about what persistence is today. We’re going to talk about tenacity specifically from the viewpoint of the leader’s journey to create a company and grow fast. We have the co-founder of Hemper its cannabis appliances and, and all the paraphernalia that goes with the cannabis market, their subscription service, they have other products as well as they do, but they were on the Inc list twice in the last few years.
[00:01:40]64 in 2019 and 604 in 2020. I share this with you because Brian shares his journey of all he knows he got to raise money. What that did for him as a leader, how does he connect with, people? The one powerful question that he shares that I really love, I can’t wait for you to figure out what that is. When you think about your own journey as a leader, you want to make sure that you continue to evolve and push beyond the current challenges you have. One of the things I’m best at is helping leaders see what’s really right in front of them, even though they can’t see it for themselves. My job is to be the executive coach, to founders, CEOs, and their teams to activate more growth and to keep them growing over time. If you want to check out the free resources we have go to genehammett.com. If you want to schedule a call with me, you can start your journey. Just go on my homepage and you’ll find it right there. genehammett.com. When you think about your job as a leader, you want to make sure you continue to evolve. Now, here is the evolution and story of Bryan Gerber.
[00:02:43] Gene Hammett: Brian, how are you?
[00:02:44] Bryan Gerber: Good. How are you, Gene?
[00:02:45] Gene Hammett: I am fantastic. We’re here to talk about your leadership and journey of fast growth. Tell us a little bit about Hemper.
[00:02:52] Bryan Gerber: So Hemper started in early 2015 started the company about a week after we made my two co-founders graduated from college. It was initially direct to a consumer subscription box for Consumers in the cannabis industry. So anything related to you knows, rolling papers, you know, bongs, glassware, odor, eliminating products, things like that. And we put it into a convenient kit and for about, at the time it was 29-99, and we delivered over $120 worth of value for that 29-99.
[00:03:29] Gene Hammett: And you said that’s where it started. Is it diff the business model different now?
[00:03:33] Bryan Gerber: Yes, we’ve created a very interesting business over the last couple of years. So initially it was this direct-to-consumer subscription service which we kind of use this subscription box as a, almost like a Trojan horse type of marketing tool for us. So we. Started developing our own products early on like in 2016. And what we do is, so we’ll come up with a new, you know, call it a stoner gadget of some sort. And we will pre, you know, pay for mold fees, create the product, and then we release it into the Hemper box and we get back thousands of consumer feedback within seconds. This community is very vocal. And so they basically tell us what they thought about the news. Product and whether we’re not, we get amazing feedback. We go back to our distribution partners and we start putting that in traditional retail. Or if we get kind of more negative feedback, we might take the product back.
[00:04:32] Re-edit the tooling and then rerelease it with features. So that’s. One aspect of the company. And then about two years ago, we actually so we’re in the ancillary side of the cannabis industry. So we’re non-plant touching and, you know, obviously, there’s a lot of boom around the packaging industry and vape hardware and stuff like that. So but one niche market, which is this thing called pre-rolled cones, which is basically actually had them right here. It’s essentially a rolling paper. Wrapped around a filter tip in the shape of a cone. Okay. And what we do is we produce these in India where RJ, one of the founders sits there for about, I’d say nine, 10 months out of the year.
[00:05:18]We operate seven facilities and we produce about 40 million pre-rolls per month. For the cannabis market and we sell those directly to packaging companies, processors multi-state operators. We even produce for a lot of the big tobacco companies in the space as well. And that became a massive portion of our company over the last two years. So now we have two very rich, diverse revenue streams. We have this B to C direct to the consumer. You know, we’re essentially almost like a, I call it like, we’re a. Proctor and gamble, but for this side of the market, and on the other side, we have this manufacturing arm that we’re producing, you know, almost a billion pre-rolls a year.
[00:06:07] Gene Hammett: So as interesting as all this is for those of us that you know, on the outside of this cannabis industry, because we were watching that growth and probably a little bit, some of us are a little bit jealous. Like I wish our product had that kind of demand, but we’re not here to talk about it. Cannabis and products and, and cones and things like that. We’re here to talk about how do you, as a leader, create a culture that can grow as fast as you have. So you’ve made the Inc list two times in a row. You were two 64, six Oh four last year. What, what are the core elements of creating a business that’s able to grow as fast as you, other than industry demand. Right?
[00:06:45] Bryan Gerber: So I think one thing that, to sum it up is we like first off, we’d like to call this a family business because that’s what it’s turned into. You know, we’ve had people that have been with us for, you know, one year, two years, three years, four years, five years. And these people, you know, our, our family, right? Like we are, you know, I started this company with my two, basically college, you know, random roommates. And you know, we’ve turned into literally blood brothers and there’s nothing that, you know, when we cumulatively come together, there is no crisis that we can’t figure out. There are no issues. There’s no money problems, nothing. It’s you know, we like to say the universe won’t let us fail. And, you know, we had that same mentality when we, you know, bring in people into the company, you know, we say like, look, we don’t want to, we want to invest in you. We want to make sure you’re happy. You know, I have, you know monthly meetings with most of the employees you know, just checking in on everyone, making sure everyone’s happy if you know, even things like I asked them a funny question in their personal life.
[00:07:46] I said, is there anything you haven’t been able to purchase? That you want. Right. And if someone says something to me that, Hey, I want a hot tub. I say, okay, let’s figure it out. You know, maybe we can build a bonus thing for you this year, or maybe we can do this. And you know, we’re just here. I like to say I’m one of the most flexible founders. I say, you know, you’re crushing life, you know, there’s, there’s nothing I’m going to say no to, you know.
[00:08:09] Commercial: Hold on for a second. Brian just talked about, we’re creating a family business here. No, every company I know has this idea of creating a family business. And as you grow, that gets harder and harder to hold on to. So don’t hold onto it so tight that you can’t see that you have to evolve as a leader and as a CEO of your family culture. Now, when you know everyone by name, you can certainly have a family business, but when you add that hundredth person, maybe it’s 200 where you start to break down and not know their names, not know who they really are at the personal level. Then you can’t have that family culture. So you have to figure out how to keep evolving beyond that. The best thing you can do is to understand that it’s coming and understand that you can evolve past it back to the interview with Brian.
[00:08:54] Gene Hammett: Brian, I really appreciate you sharing that story with me. That question. Did that something you came up with or did you, did you kind of figure it out through some, somewhere else?
[00:09:03] Bryan Gerber: I think I came up with it. I think it’s, you know, I’m always, you know, trying to invest in, you know, wellness stuff for myself, you know, like, you know, buying home gym equipment or getting a sauna or something. And, you know, I realized that you know, there’s. Always something that somebody wants that they think they can’t afford, or for some reason, just don’t, you know, they’re afraid to pull the trigger on. And I, you know, I like to guide them to pull I’m I pull Traegers. So I’m like, if you want something in life, let’s figure out how to get it for you. Right. And I, and I always tell them, I’m like, guys, you got to manifest your destiny. Nobody’s going to give you anything in life. And I do this constantly throughout the office. Like all, you know, if I’m talking to big customers, something, you know, I’ll just be like, I’ll like to show my creative director and be like, this is, you know, I just reached out to this as a customer and he’s like, Oh, manifesting.
[00:09:54] I see. You know, you know, it’s just like you start talking about these things and you start realizing that it’s way more attainable than, and it happens so much quicker than whether you’re just sitting there in a corner being like, oh, I can’t afford that. Or that person would never talk to me. Or, you know, you know, I shoot out a million LinkedIn requests weekly and I get responses pretty quick, you know?
[00:10:14] So, you know, I want to get in dispensers. I hit up the. You know the product guy at Spencer’s. He accepts my LinkedIn requests. We’re in communication with sensors. Now. It’s like, that’s the type of thing that I like to have with, you know, the guys here. It’s like, if there’s something in life that you want, let’s figure how to get it there. rIght? Whether it’s material or whatever.
[00:10:31] Gene Hammett: And let me ask you a question about this because one of the things that we saw in our research to have you on the show is you have tenacity. That is really one of the highest levels I’ve ever seen. You were sharing with me that you had, you were turned down how many times for, to raise money for your business.
[00:10:50] Bryan Gerber: At least 300 investor calls over about, I call it 16 to 18 months.
[00:10:56] Gene Hammett: So let me ask you a question on that specifically, you get told. No, probably you get told maybe most of these people don’t mince with their words. They’re like, I don’t get it. It’s not for us. And I get your industry probably gets turned down, but they took the meeting for some reason.
[00:11:11] Bryan Gerber: So how did you manage yourself and your own energy as you get told? No. Someone. So, one thing is that I never get discouraged. You know, just because someone doesn’t see something or someone doesn’t value, something that does not mean that it does not exist. And so one thing that I’d like to say is I’m probably one of the most persistent people that, you know, especially in this industry, you know, where there’s a lot of. You know, we call them can have clowns. But specifically on the investment side, you know, when you hear as a founder, like, Oh yeah, you don’t know what you’re doing or you’re doing too much, or I don’t get it. Like, what are you? You know, it’s that person’s issue. And so beauty is within the eye of the beholder right.
[00:11:57] Value similarly. So if someone doesn’t see it, that’s okay. They are, it’s their loss. It’s not yours. You don’t want to work with that person regardless. Right. So, and you don’t ever close bridges or anything like that. You just say, look. You know right now is not the time. No problem. Do you want to, you know, follow back up or we can revisit this later? So, you know, I think as a founder hearing, you know, people talk about my baby, like, Oh, it’s not what I think it is in my head. You know, I don’t turn into this huge asshole. It’s more like, You know, Hey, they just don’t get it. That’s cool. Let me move on to the next guy. And, you know, eventually, you know, and I’ve talked to all the, you know, funds in the cannabis industry, and surprisingly, you know right now most people are looking for nonplant touching entities, which is us.
[00:12:45] So, fortunately, we got a, I went in for a meeting. With this marketing agency called talent resources, that’s owned by a guy named Mike Heller. And Mike was like, Lindsay Lohan is his manager an average Levine’s manager. And so he was this, you know, old Hollywood guy. And so we go in for a meeting just to talk about marketing stuff and we bring in some of the products and they end up, you know, geeking out about all of these little gadgets. And they’re like, I love this. I love that. And so Mike goes, you need to be my money guy. And so I’m like, okay, cool. You know, and I, I, a lot of people talk and a lot of people promise things and you never know what’s going to come to fruition or not. So we come in next week for this meeting. And we sit down with this guy named Greg Smith and Greg’s looking at the products.
[00:13:30] He’s looking at the pitch and he was the first person out of this 300, you know, this 18 month run of raising money to ever say to me, I love what you’re doing. I see the vision. How can I help accelerate it? And the conversation flipped. I wasn’t pitching him. He was pitching me to come into my company. And that’s when I knew they were the right person, the right group to bring it.
[00:13:52] Gene Hammett: So we got a good understanding of tenacity for you. And, and the role that that’s played in you building this company, how has it helped you create the pace of growth across the culture? Because it’s not just you being persistent it’s, it’s your people too. Right. So how, how have you been able to impart persistence to them?
[00:14:11] Bryan Gerber: So I think the idea of soap, you know, kind of breaking it down to, let’s just take my sales guys as an example. So you know, I tell my sales guys, you know, one, you can’t. And get discouraged ever. Right? The sales process is such an interesting thing because I believe that it’s so relationship-based, and it’s not really what you’re selling or what your value prop is. It’s who you’re talking to and you create a relationship with them or connection with them. And do they genuinely want to talk to you? Right. And if you can get that over the hump, then basically you can get them to buy anything from you. Right. So I think that in terms of our sales team, you know, it’s not getting discouraged when someone tells you no it’s working around it, you know, finding something else out about the situation that you can leverage on the customer service side, you know going out of their way.
[00:15:08] And if customers call in and they’re seriously complaint, or seriously some issues going on with the order, just pick up the phone and call them. You know, just, call them. People love to hear from people. You know, and that’s a big one, I think, on the customer service side and then on the product development side, you know, I tell the guys, look, not every product we come out, it’s gonna be a hit. Right. It’s just a matter, it’s just a fact. And whether or not we got to, you know, take the product back in and edit the tooling or the design or whatever it is, you know, don’t get discouraged because we didn’t sell a billion dollars worth of this one skew in a day. That’s not reality, you know, and. I think, you know, people in the high growth startup culture, you know, think that you know, just cause we had one when everything’s a winner, right.
[00:15:53] That’s not how it works. So I think that you can just keep everybody, you know, in a positive mindset where, you know, we, I try not to. Talk about negative stuff. You know, we, we just try to keep everything very positive and keep everybody, you know, morale super high. And I think that the persistence of, you know, one, you know, seeing everybody else get it done, kind of creates the culture of like, I want to get it done too.
[00:16:19] Commercial: Hold on for a second. Brian just talked about a positive mindset. Well, you probably think that you have a positive mindset and you probably do. You probably don’t think about all the frustrations and the stressors that you have around you. It’s not bad to think about those frustrations and stressors. In fact, I think it’s actually pretty healthy for you to put a healthy amount of time and input into what is frustrating you, what is stressing you out? It’s not negative to think about the negative, but if you dwell there, it absolutely can be very negative. But what have you done about these frustrations and stressors? Well, I recently put out some content and had a conversation with a client about some of the things that he was tolerating inside his own leadership and culture. And we, he, when I say tolerating, he’s like, you’re not that big a deal than just kind of things that I don’t like, the way that you’re going. And so he ignored them. Overtime. He figured out he needed to tune in to some of those things that he’s tolerating. Because when you think about the tolerations, they begin to suck energy away from you. And so tuning into them, it’s just a chance to like, to really wrestle with them and say, is this a big enough deal to have a conversation with what is that missing conversation? And there’s probably a lot of things out there that you’re ignoring that need a missing conversation. That’s all they need. They don’t need you to do anything about it or solve it. We have a conversation that allows someone else on your team to solve it for you or the company. Back to the interview with Brian.
[00:17:39] Gene Hammett: Brian, when you think about your journey as a leader what’s a mistake that you’ve kinda can look back on and say, you know, that was something I really had to learn from.
[00:17:47] Bryan Gerber: I think one of my issues as a leader is that I have a very sink or swim mentality. Right. You know, nothing’s handed to you, you got to go get it and you can’t be babies. And if you have to sit there and baby somebody, you know, they’re probably not the right person for the position. Right. You shouldn’t be micromanaging people all the time. Right? You should have faith in the ability that your team can execute and you can sit there and run, you know, the higher levels day-to-day stuff. Right. So I think for me you know, being more available to the team, you know when people need it I think that you know, I tell. You know, the certain, you know, I told the team, you know, during the day, think of me like your Google, right.
[00:18:32] Just type in a question type in a comment, you know, ask me anything, complete open door policy. And I try to really drive that home where it’s like, look, you’re not bothering me. And I think a lot of people think that they are bothering me. And genuinely, I try to really say like, no guys, as I trust me, I everyone’s got a million things going on.
[00:18:51] It’s not bothersome. I want to hear from you. I want to understand if you’re not happy. I want to understand if you think we should change a process or a system. And, you know, I really tried, you know, creating this open-door policy. And also, I think another thing for me is giving praise. You know, I come from this like, Oh, you should just do it. Right. But I think a lot of people genuinely need to hear, like, you know, Either, whether it’s from me or someone from the executive team, like, you know, great job, like that, was awesome. Like good shit, you know, and I definitely need to get better at that as well. I, I think that you know, I don’t do it enough, you know, but I, I like to say I give credit where credit’s due, but it it’s kind of this constant battle between the sink or swim mentality and giving praise where I think it should just be automatic.
[00:19:39] Right. It’s you’re just doing your job, you know?
[00:19:42] Gene Hammett: Yeah. I think I’ve, you know, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about that. You know, why would we praise someone for just doing their job? But what you’ve probably figured out is it’s pretty easy to say, you know, that you did a great job here and the smile you get from someone and the confidence that gives them probably goes a long way. It May is not something you need, but maybe they need it. You probably had to learn that as well. So I want to give you one more chance here, you know, as the company has grown fast we’ve been talking about tenacity and persistence and talking about, you know, the people being so important. What else do you think plays a final, you know, a big role in the growth of your company?
[00:20:18] Bryan Gerber: I think that you know, one thing that plays a massive role in the growth is, you know, in tying it back to the tenacity and persistence is just never giving up. You know, and I think that, that this, you know, we were talking earlier about the millennial founder mentality. It’s that constant hustle, it’s that it’s 24 seven, you know, and it’s the idea of like, people want something to belong to or care about, you know, I think, and I think that’s missing in a lot of people’s lives.
[00:20:57] And fortunately for us, you know, Especially during this whole pandemic situation, we didn’t lay off anyone. We were hiring the entire time. And I think that you know, not having to worry about that, you know, being laid off or furloughing yourself for, you know, not taking a cut and having that security and understanding that going back to the this is a family business and we take care of our people, whether they need it in their personal life or whether they need an, a professional life.
[00:21:27]I think it’s just. Creating that mindset of like these people care about me. I’m not a number. And I want to deliver for them and I want to deliver from my peers. And I think that that’s been a major role in the growth. And I think that you know, coupling that with, you know, we’re just all young and we wanna make it in life.
[00:21:49] And we’re all kind of figuring it out together. And as kind of, you know, I was telling you earlier, it’s like, you know, I’m one of them, I’m probably the second, you know, the oldest, one of the oldest people at the company at 29 and most of my guys are 25, 26, 24, 23, 22. And, you know, while they’re looking at me to figure out life, I’m there guiding them through life.
[00:22:11] And I think that they feel. We both feel, I guess, a sort of, it’s almost like comforting knowing that we’re all figuring it out together and nobody’s higher than the other person. And nobody’s more important than the other guy. And just knowing that it’s we got you, you know, I think that’s really what it is.
[00:22:33] Gene Hammett: Well, Brian, I really wanna appreciate you being here, sharing your journey of leadership and growth of a company like a hamper, which has made its Mark continues to grow beyond where it is today. Thanks for sharing that piece of us with this audience at the growth think tank.
[00:22:48] Bryan Gerber: Totally. Thank you so much for having me.
[00:22:50] Gene Hammett: So let me up this up for you guys tuning in here. Thank you for listening to me. You know, these stories of leadership and growth being persistent is something that we all must be able to attach to and really healthy respect for not giving a damn in the world. Probably is a really good thing if you want to make your dent in the world.
[00:23:11] And if you’re a leader, It is pushing the boundaries of your own growth. You’re ready to evolve to a new level. Make sure you check out the free content and genehammett.com. We’ve got free resources for you. We’ve got some absolutely free training, but if you want to get on the phone with me, you can actually schedule that for no cost.
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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