Every business has a mission, but many of them don’t understand the power of a mission. When you create a mission-driven company, you get a multiplier effect. The company mission aligns people to the work will make a massive impact in many areas. Today’s guest is Farzan Dehmoubed, CEO at Lotus Sustainables. Inc Magazine ranked his company #144 on the 2020 Inc 5000 list. Lotus Sustainables is committed to social change that helps better the lives of our customers, community, and planet. Farzan shows how to create a mission-driven company to align your people. We look at the details in a mission that is often missed.
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Farzan Dehmoubed: The Transcript
About: Farzan is the Founder and CEO of Lotus Sustainables, an eco-friendly company on a mission to eliminate plastic from shopping. After launching its first product online with unprecedented success, Farzan expanded the company to retail. Lotus Sustainables eco-friendly products are now available in 15,000+ stores across the US and Canada, as well as on Amazon and Lotus-Sustainables.com. As the leading manufacturer of reusable bags and reusable produce bags, Lotus Sustainables has eliminated the need for over 500 million single-use plastic bags. In 2020 the company ranked 144 on the INC 5000 fastest growing companies in America.
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.
Farzan Dehmoubed: I think having a mission is super important, right? If you don’t have a mission, you really don’t have a way of showing your employees what your goals are, what you’re targeting, what you’re trying to achieve on a bigger scale. It may you know, as simple as, Hey, we want to have the most satisfied clients out there and whatever your industry is, but spending some time and creating your mission, I think is really important. No matter what industry you’re in. You’re going to use it at many, many different ways. And, and, you know, w we created ours early, but it took us some time to refine the language, take some time, and you got to put some time in and get input on that mission. It’s not just the one-and-done scenario. , but I think as well worth it. And I highly, highly recommend it to any visitor.
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 Hammett, I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett: You’ve probably no known the benefits of mission-driven companies, but you’ve probably made up an excuse that your company just can’t leverage the power of being mission-driven. Well, what I really want to talk about today is it’s not about creating just a company out there that does good in the world. But a company that stands for something, what do you stand for when you create a mission-driven company? You’re being intentional about what you stand for and what you stand against. And that is my friends is exactly the reason why you want to create a mission-driven company. For example, our company is about developing leaders and about being the best leaders possible. That is our mission. What happens beyond that? Well, there’s a lot of details that we use to align our employees, our customers, our marketing, and everything is Myth with intention. I bring all this up because I want you to think about being a mission-driven company and about what that does to align your employees and align innovation to the next level. Our guest today is Farzan Dehmoubed and he is with Lotus Sustainables incredible product. I don’t personally own this product, but I’m just looking at the impact that it’s making in the world to reduce. Plastic bags and all of our shopping. If you think about that, it’s a really noble element to eliminate plastic bags, but it really is more than just being novel. It’s about being sustainable about creating something that people can get behind. And this movement is exactly the reason why I think you should be looking at it for your business. Being a mission-driven organization drives growth, aligns people, and allows you to innovate even faster than what’s possible when you don’t have the mission behind you.
Think about how you could create a mission-driven organization for your company. Now, this whole episode is about you being the best leader you can be. If you want to find out, what’s really possible. Make sure, check out all the free content we have at Growth Think Tank. Do you be an extraordinary leader and you pushing the boundaries of what it takes to serve your people now,
Farzan, how are you?
Farzan Dehmoubed: I’m doing fantastic.
Gene Hammett: I’m excited to talk to you because I love talking about mission-driven initiatives and companies, but tell us about Lotus Sustainables.
Farzan Dehmoubed: So Lotus Sustainables is we’re a company, really on a mission to eliminate plastic from shopping. We, we created our product called the Lotus trolley bag about four years ago, from our own frustration to dealing with all that plastic bag waste in our house. And we really want to all in one solution and little did we know it would, go on to be the best-selling bag on Amazon and really just. Sell out in eight days versus four months. Like we initially thought our initial load. So it’s been a really exciting journey. And, and yeah, we’re all about creating solutions. So we created the Lotus crawling bag and now it’s an over 10,000 stores and a great seller. It’s an all-in-one kind of solution that, that sits upon the top of your shopping cart and spreads out like an accordion, a completely different concept to anything people I’ve ever seen. And it really became an all-in-one set of bags.
And then, , once that became a bestseller, we said, well, where else can we make a big impact? And that was the produce section. So we created reusable, eco-friendly produce bags that can be washed and reused hundreds of times. So that’s been what we’re up to. And the mission is a huge part of what we do every day.
Gene Hammett: Well, I know mission has a lot of different forces inside the company. It’s not just something that aligns you to doing something big, but it really aligns the people. So you’ve got about 17 employees. Is that right?
Farzan Dehmoubed: That’s right.
Gene Hammett: When you think about mission, are they coming to be a part of this eliminating plastic bags or they come in just to get a job?
Farzan Dehmoubed: Yeah, that’s a front and foremost, you know, if, if they’re looking for a job, this is not the place for that. Right. We really put mission right up at front. And mission is really an incredible navigational tool, right? Like not just for founders and the company, but for the employees, your mission helps your employees. They see the meaning and the purpose behind their work. It really gives them a clear reason for their job, that benefits a larger goal. And I think that’s so important in everything people do. You know, I read an article that said. That mission-driven workers are 54% more likely to stay for five years at a company.
And 30% more likely to grow to high performers than those who arrive at work, just, just to get a paycheck. Right. So I think those numbers can be low too. Yeah, it is lower than definitely what I’ve seen. , you know, and in so many cases, high-performance organizations are linked to mission-driven companies, right? It’s just, they’re so linked together. The reason beyond the mission is so important.
Gene Hammett: Now, before we dive into some of the details behind this, I’m kind of curious, what would you say to leaders that are in an industry where they’re not trying to eliminate plastic bags are not trying to change the energy, you know, sustainability of this. They have more tried and true kinds of businesses. Would you still encourage them to be mission-driven?
Farzan Dehmoubed: Yeah, definitely. I think having a mission is super important, right? If you don’t have a mission, you really. Have a way of showing your employees what your goals are, what you’re targeting, what you’re trying to achieve on a bigger scale. Yeah, it may, you know, be as simple as, Hey, we want to have the most satisfied clients out there, whatever your industry is, but spending some time and creating your mission, I think is really important. No matter what industry you’re in, you’re going to use it in many, many different ways. And, and, you know, w we created ours early, but it took us some time to refine the language. Take some time and you’ve got to put some time in and get input on that mission. It’s not just a one-and-done scenario. , but I think it’s well worth in my highly, highly recommended to any business.
Gene Hammett: This input you’re talking about was this internally, externally, or both?
Farzan Dehmoubed: Totally. Both. You know, for me, I’m the kind of guy that wants input from every which way. So. It was pretty much, you know, everybody that walked into our house from family and friends, you know, I was running these things by them. Hey, how does this sound to you? How does this resonate with you? Did you, can you relate to that because you gotta think this is going to be used for every new person that comes into your organization. You’ve got to see how that reaction is. So we went to our advisors, we went to our, you know, our friends and family. , we went to our other colleagues. You really want to get a lot of input? Our mission statement used to be very long. We really compiled the down to something people can really relate to yet in one or two sentences and really understand the greatest scope of these.
Gene Hammett: Now, If, if I asked you honestly, would you be able to say that everyone would be able to give you back the mission? Maybe not word for word, but the core essence of it all 17 people.
Farzan Dehmoubed: Yeah, yeah. In our company, for sure. For sure.
Gene Hammett: That’s fantastic.
Farzan Dehmoubed: You know, we’ve really re really weaved it into many different aspects. And I think that’s the key, right? When you make your mission very long and intricate and have too many aspects, people forget it. Right. They don’t, they don’t remember it. , but when you have a mission like we’re on a mission to eliminate plastic from shopping, it’s simple. It’s digestible it’s to the point, but yeah, it takes a few, it takes a few tries at it to get it right I think.
Gene Hammett: Well, let’s go into some of those aspects where you’re weaving it in. I know you talked about hiring. Do you have specific questions that allow you to bring in the right people that are mission-driven?
Farzan Dehmoubed: Yeah, for us, definitely. And you know, a lot of that is hard to tell and, and you really have to ask questions that are. Sometimes not related to work, you know, that are open-ended questions. You kind of wants them to talk about it. So, you know, for us, it’s, it’s kinda like, tell me, tell me how you and your family practice sustainability, you know, keep it open. What does sustainability mean to you? You know, do you believe in global warming, you know, things like that, that, you know, are not necessarily work-related, but it really opens the door for them. To discuss it openly and just to get their little bit of a viewpoint on it. Yeah, open-ended questions go a long way. I think
Commentary: Farzan just said something really interesting to create open-ended questions. I really find that a really powerful way to connect with people in the hiring process. But here’s the support that I’d love for you to think about because you want to systematize everything you can. My job is to make your job easier. So inside the company, if you have questions that you want to ask, you might want to create a library of questions. That library questions will be something everyone could use. They could pull from. They don’t have to use those exact questions, but they could use these templates and the structure to make it a little bit easier for people, but also make it easier for people to, create, systems and structure when they’re hiring people. And they can talk about things the same way. If you have values. My recommendation is for you to have questions that align up with the values, just to make sure people are truly turned tuned in naturally to those values. And those questions can just sit in a library that people can use. That’s my tip for you.
Gene Hammett: So hiring as a part of the weaving. I think a lot of people miss the opportunity to onboard people. Do you have a specific onboarding kind of around the mission and sharing data and sharing the story behind this? What would you tell us about onboarding people?
Farzan Dehmoubed: Yeah. Onboarding is really important, you know, setting an actual package. That people can one, you know, read more about your company, a little more detailed, why this mission is important. You know, articles around this outside media sources around this. We like to weave in, you know, links to videos, also something to keep people entertained a little bit. Right. Everybody’s got short attention spans even in onboarding and you don’t want to give them a packet with you know 10 15 pages. You, you want them to see a few different types of links? So we even have a podcast in our, in our presentation, which talks about the importance of, sustainability and kind of the huge effects of plastic pollution on our, on our earth and climate, and environment. So I think, yes, definitely having a series of things to educate them around the mission, letting them know why it’s important to the company, what the goals are outside of that one line. Very very important.
Gene Hammett: Now I will tell you the right employees will seek out this podcast and others like it, to be able to feel how the entrepreneurs and leaders. See the business and if they want to be a part of it, it’s not a bad thing. Do you think to be able to put this out front and center and put out content to attract the right people?
Farzan Dehmoubed: Yeah. Yeah, no, definitely. You know, you want to speak about it early and you want to speak about it often. If the person is not aligned with your mission, no matter if they’re, you know, the best employee and you think they’re amazing. , you really are shooting yourself in the foot long term because you know, culture is so important in a company. And once you get a few people that don’t fully believe in the mission or back, it really spreads. And I think that there’s so many costs to that. That’s why hiring is slow, making sure you have multiple interviews, making sure you really understand the core of that employee and what their goals are. And this is very, very important.
You know, we, we go through a rigorous employment process and, and really try to understand if they’re looking for just the job you can get anywhere. This is, this is not us. And we’re pretty straightforward about that. This is not just another paycheck we want, you know,
Gene Hammett: I love that Farzan. I’ve dedicated my life to create content for founders, just like yourself, who believe in a mission-driven organization. And some of them. You know, professional service companies that aren’t trying to fix the sustainability of the world, but what you’re sharing with us is really important to understand how important mission is to the overall culture experience. You talked about weaving in, what other areas are you weaving in mission as your companies are working there, or your employees are working there? Excuse me.
Farzan Dehmoubed: Yeah. You know, for us, we’ve, we’ve really attached our mission, , to the OKR and the KPIs also. You don’t really changing the way your metrics are given out to your company and even the outside, , your outside customers. But for us as example, you know, it’s not a matter of, Hey, we did, you know, a million dollars last quarter. It’s Hey, we helped eliminate over 150 million plastic bags last quarter. So that was a piece of advice we got from one of our, my advisors is to really connect your OKR and KPIs. Around the mission and those metrics around the mission, not just dollars and cents or customers or open rates or whatever that that metric is.
What’s the final goal of, of what those OKR really represents, and it’s worked great. And really people resonate with that so much better than him. $600,000 last month versus, Hey, we achieved a much bigger goal and that’s the reduced plastic pollution by X amount, CO2 by X amount. You know, whatever those metrics is for your company. It goes a long way. And at the end of the day, that’s what they care about. They’re there, if they’re there for the right reason, they’re there for the impact. And if they’re there for the impact they want, they want to know the reportings for that impact. And, you know, putting that back into your weekly meeting. But the group with the company, with the, you know, your advisors constantly reporting on that is such an appeal important, important piece to it.
Gene Hammett: What have you learned about a mission-driven organization? Maybe it’s a mistake that you’ve had to overcome or something that you could help us with and understand.
Farzan Dehmoubed: You know, I think the hiring process is just so tricky as a whole. You’re kind of guessing, right? You’re guessing this person is little. You know, I’ve made the mistake of, hiring too fast and maybe not checking references and that’s come back and bit me in the butt a couple of times. And I think the references are super important and having, you know, really a set of questions for the references rather than just the employee is so important, you know? And you want to understand kind of why they left their last roles, right? Like, did they leave abruptly? Did they leave? You know, w we had an employee we were about to hire. And this was for an accounting role. She just knew everything. She knew everything I was at. I was thrown at her very mission, focused, very aligned.
I went on LinkedIn. I pulled up her last company or last two companies ago. And I just reached out to the CEO on LinkedIn and I said, Hey, I’m interviewing stolen. So just curious what your thoughts were. It seemed like she worked for you for a year and a half. And he came back to me and said, listen, a CEO to CEO. I think she was a great employee. She left without any notice. And I was like, okay, that’s it, it’s a telltale sign. Especially if you’re in accounting, you get up and leave your company without any notice. That’s not the right type of person we’re trying to bring on. So, you know, and you don’t get it. That’s that sort of thing from the references they give you. So, you know, that’s something I’ve been doing is just getting on LinkedIn and connecting with the founders. Don’t go off the references. They give you, they’re going to say nice things about them. I think that that, that was a great experience. And, it’s worked fantastic for us.
Commentary: Hold on for a second. Farzan talked about references. Now a lot of people do references that entirely the wrong way in a one to put a spotlight on because I think what Farzan talked about was really intelligent that the references that someone gives you. Well naturally be good. They’re their friends that they’re buddies they’re, they’re kind of tuned into it. Can you find references that they haven’t given you? Can you go beyond what is just right in front of you that they give you? Maybe it’s a little bit of work, but I think it will pay off the example that Farzan talked about, about an employee that didn’t get noticed. She certainly wouldn’t have given that reference, but it gave him a signal to what really is going on. And do I want to make that investment in employees? Nope. I didn’t ask the question, but you probably figured out from this story that he was able to avoid that hire and find someone that was a better fit. So your references are not just what they give you. Look for references beyond what they’re talking about with you, so that you can find out what’s really going on in the heart of that employee. And you can make a decision from that perspective.
Gene Hammett: Farzan I want to make sure that we get a full picture of what you’re doing there and the kind of company you’re creating. So beyond mission-driven. And what would you say has really driven the success of your company?
Farzan Dehmoubed: You know, it’s really providing a solution. Right. We, we set out to create the ultimate bag that replaces all other bags in your home. If you create something with quality, something that could last hundreds of times, you know, our trawling bags. , it’s an all-in-one set that spreads out in the shopping cart. As I said, kind of like an accordion, it’s got specialized pockets for your eggs. It’s got specialized pockets for one bottle, so you never break them. It’s got an insulated cooler bag. It’s got a removable rod. So you can use the bags at a picnic or the farmer’s market. Or you can do a quick trip to the store. It’s really an all-in-one bag. And if you provide proper solutions that are high quality and not just the commodity, that’s where I think true success comes. And that’s, what’s worked for you. Even with our produce bags, you know, we had the option of producing much thinner mesh material that still works, but maybe after it does, at times, it might rip on you. We, you know, we’re, we’re in the, in the industry of to reduce waste. That was the last thing we wanted to do.
We didn’t want to put something out there that created junk, and that’s why, you know, it’s become such a best seller on Amazon. If you look up reusable bags or Lotus trolley bags on Amazon, we’re one of the number one listings of over 4,005-star reviews, and it’s because of the quality and the focus on, Hey, we’re not just selling a product, we’re creating a movement and you’ll see, once you try this product, why this is such a game-changer, but for us also, the industry has been very fortunate. We’re very timely. The industry is going towards obviously plastic-free, but also scan bag and go. So that’s the new concept that Amazon go came out with where you literally, when you go to your grocery store, you pick up your cell phone and you scan an item and you throw it in your bag. You’re doing the scanning right on your phone. And in some cases, you don’t even need to do the scanning. The shopping cart does it for you, , with the Amazon go technology. So our bags are perfect for that because they’re spread right out. You grab your product, you throw them in the bag. You’re organized as you go and you just pay on your phone and you walk right out and everything’s bad for you. So that’s been really successful for us. And I see that as the future of grocery shopping is really the scanning go technology, which our product works perfectly for.
Gene Hammett: I’m going to ask you a question on this because I’m not familiar with the bag. I haven’t used it specifically, but we did some research on being a mission-driven company, but it also sounds like you’ve been an innovative company. Has your product changed over the years to be able to, to, to be where it is today?
Farzan Dehmoubed: Yeah, we’ve definitely, come out with different versions of it. , we’ve continually upgraded it. We have seven patents around the price. And it’s really become a leader in the category and really changing the way people do shopping. This is not just another reusable bag. It’s an all-in-one system, right? So when you’re checking out, you can check out in half the time because your bags are upright and open. If you can’t imagine this concept, just Google Lotus trolley bag, but you’ll quickly see that this is far different than anything else you’ve ever used. But the great thing is the whole reason behind our success has been the word of mouth. When you see this bag in the store, every time our customers use it, it’s almost like clockwork. Five people stop them. What are those? Where did you get those? Those are cool. Those are different. And it really has become a billboard for us at the grocery store.
So we really haven’t had to do any paid advertising thus far for years, we’ve hardly had to do any paid advertising to fuel the growth. And we feel very blessed is because the product kind of speaks for itself. The what the word of mouth. And once people get the chance to use it, they naturally talk about it. You know you want to let your friends and family know about something. That’s not only helping you but helping the environment and making your life easier. So those are the three things we try to touch upon. Whenever we’re creating a new product line is really helping, helping the customer or the person and the stores.
Gene Hammett: Farzan, we’ll wrap up this interview, but I have one question around us. We talked about being a mission-driven company. we talk about 17 employees. And I know a lot of the ideas probably come from you because you’re so passionate about this. But, are some of those employees adding to the innovation? Because they’re also passionate about this product?
Farzan Dehmoubed: Yeah, it’s funny when you say that we just, last Friday, we had another session innovation session with our entire company. So our entire company contributes to every product we come out with. So it really is a whole team effort. And I think that’s, that’s the key, right? Like when you have people that are passionate about it, as much as you are. They can really create some great things and we don’t try to be no at all. We always go back to our team to try things out, to give us their opinion. And that’s the beauty of, having a company, with people that are really driven around the same cause.
Gene Hammett: I appreciate you telling us that story because I have this theory, I’ve seen it happen with my own clients, but you putting a spotlight. On all employees involved with innovation is just another reason why mission-driven companies are taking the world by storm. And I really appreciate you being here Farzan to share your wisdom.
Farzan Dehmoubed: Hey, thank you. I really appreciate it.
Gene Hammett: I want to kind of wrap up a little bit here. I know Farzan is listening in, but if you are thinking about what you could do to find your mission, you want to make sure that you include not just the executive leadership team. Those people that are on the frontline, you know, get their input. You want their inclusion in these ideas because they will help you shape something. I’ve had many clients who have gone through this process and it really does help bind people together because those that are able to create this new messaging have more of a connection to it, more ownership in it. And so if you’re really trying to refine something, that’s my tip for you. Farzan talks about the importance of mission-driven in the hiring process, but also in the metrics, and talking about the OKR really great way to think about how to keep people aligned to this future. If you’re looking at how to involve your company and takes it to that next level.
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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.
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