The beliefs and thoughts that you have determined your mindset. The mindset for fast growth leaders is different from companies that tend to grow more slowly. Today’s guest is Benjamin Tietje, Co-Founder & CEO at Earthley Wellness. Inc Magazine ranked his company #599 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. Earthley Wellness is a manufacturer of natural health and wellness products, sold directly to consumers. Benjamin shares his mindset for fast growth strategies. We look beyond the traditional tactics that most people think drive growth. Discover the mindset for fast growth by listening to this podcast interview.
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Benjamin Tietje: The Transcript
About: Benjamin Tietje is an experienced Chief Executive Officer with a demonstrated history of working in the alternative health and pharmaceutical industries. Skilled in Leadership, Strategy Development, Database Management, IT Audit/Compliance/Security, and Website Development. Strong entrepreneurship professional with a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Computer Engineering from DeVry University.
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.
Benjamin Tietje: [00:00:00] Our goal as an organization is not to grow fast it’s to grow well. And what I mean by that is if you make it on the Inc 5,000 list, one time in the next year, you’re either not on the list or you’ve dropped a thousand spots. Then that means that you, you weren’t building something that was sustainable. You had an event that happened or a catalyst, or maybe you bought that growth or something like that with our organization. This is our six year in business and we had double every year, , and this year will be no exception. We’re sitting at a 99% growth year to date, and we anticipate a similar amount, , in the next year. And so from a culture perspective, that’s something that we make abundantly clear to everyone that works here. In fact, we oftentimes in interviews, try to convince people not to want. Because we want the people who care about the mission and care about what we’re trying to do and who are willing to say, look, I know this is probably not going to be the easiest job I’m going to have, but it’s going to be the most fulfilling. And that’s why I want to be.
Intro: Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the [00:01:00] 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: Today we look at the inner game of leadership specifically, what does it take to have the mindset for fast growth? When I talked to a lot of founders and CEOs, I realized that they think differently. They see the world differently and there’s many different aspects of that. But today we look at those with our special guest, he has Ben Tietjeand he is with Earthley Wellness. They were number 599 and the 2001 Inc list they grew at over 800% over a three-year period. And so what we could learn from Ben is really what does it take to have the right mindset? And how do you inspire others to have that mindset with you? What happens when things get out of alignment, but really the core of mindset here is about how you are working together and aligning around these things. We, we dive into that in today’s episode. It really is a powerful one. I look forward to sharing [00:02:00] it with you. And when you think about your own journey as a leader, are you absolutely sure. You know, and have the right mindset for growth? Well, I can help you figure out what’s getting in your way.
Sometimes it’s just a reframing of things. Sometimes it’s a little bit of a reset. Sometimes there’s a little bit of perspective shifting that we have to do, and all of these things may seem technical to you, but it really is. About you having a different conversation that you’re not having with your board, your executive team, your significant other to help you grow as a leader, you want to be the better leader, a real powerful, maybe even an extraordinary leader inside your organization. You see the value of that. I want to help you figure out how to get there. , this isn’t a sales call. This is a chance for me to serve you. Truly connect with you. If you want to jump on that call, just go to GeneHammett.com and schedule a call today. It will help you get more clear about where you are. Who you are and how to move forward. And that’s the key where to spending your time and energy as you are the leader of this fast growth organization, you don’t have to be on the Inc 5,000 to do this, but you do have to want to be different than you are today or grow from your level [00:03:00] of leadership to that next level. And if you want to sign up for that, just go to GeneHammett.com and schedule your call right now. Here’s the interview with Ben.
Ben, how are you?
Benjamin Tietje: I’m doing great. How are you, Gene?
Gene Hammett: I’m fantastic. Excited to talk to you about growth and leadership.
Benjamin Tietje: Likewise.
Gene Hammett: We’re going to dive into our topic today, but before we get there, tell us a little bit about Earthley Wellness.
Benjamin Tietje: Sure, so Earthley Wellness our mission is to change the way the world sees healthcare, which is a pretty big goal. , but something that we feel like is important. And if anything, the last 18 months has taught us, it’s that there’s a lot of room for improvement. And so, , we do that by making about 400 different health and wellness products, mostly in the natural and organic space, as well as personal care, skincare, soaps, and supports.
Gene Hammett: Love that. You know, I think that healthcare is one of the biggest challenges I think we have as a country, other than the division in politics, , which is very much related in my perspective, but are we, aren’t doing enough preventative and wellness work in my opinion. So I appreciate what you guys are doing then when [00:04:00] you. Your company was recognized for growing really fast, over 800% growth in three years. And that takes a certain level of mindset to be able to lead that growth and mindset that actually you’re hiring people that are willing to move at that pace. Would you say, what would you say about the mindset of a fast growth company?
Benjamin Tietje: I mean, our, our goal as an organization is not to grow fast it’s to grow well. And what I mean by that is if you make it into Inc 5,000 list one time. And the next year, you’re either not on the list or you’ve dropped a thousand spots. Then that means that you, you weren’t building something that was sustainable. You had an event that happened or a catalyst, or maybe you bought that growth or something like that with our organization. This is our sixth year in business and we have double every year, and this year will be no exception. We’re sitting at 99% growth year to date, and we anticipate a similar amount, , in the next year. And so from a culture perspective, that’s something that we make abundantly clear to [00:05:00] everyone that works here. In fact, we oftentimes in interviews, try to convince people not to work here because we want the people who care about the mission. And care about what we’re trying to do and who are willing to say, look, I know this is probably not going to be the easiest job I’m going to have, but it’s going to be the most fulfilling. And that’s why I want to be.
Gene Hammett: I’ve had a few people recently talk about convincing people not to work here. I know there’s some famous companies out there that will pay you at a certain point through the process to leave a company because they truly do want you to leave early or not how are you at all? , what would we see inside your organization that we could learn from?
Benjamin Tietje: So we don’t do anything to that degree. I actually we’ve talked about that. Zappos is a famous one. They used to pay people a thousand dollars to leave. And it’s more about just the way that we interact with people, meaning that it’s not a formalized structure, it’s a cultural thing. And we’ve all been to, you know, to a dinner party or something where you just instantly read. I don’t fit in with any of these people here, right? Where, where you, you want [00:06:00] the culture to speak for itself. And so the, the people that like what you’re doing, they’re going to be attracted to what you’re doing. And people that don’t are going to kind of naturally not want to be a part. And so we don’t, we try not to formalize it too much, , where, you know, like either Zappos or you take like the GE example of what we’re going to fire the 10% of lowest performers every year. I feel like those kinds of things, they put a lot of negativity around it. Our goal is to find the right people and support and encourage the things that we want to see. And then the people who naturally don’t fit, they’ll just kind of drop away on their own. And it’s a very amicable thing rather than they forced for it.
Gene Hammett: I want to take us back to mindset. I’m going to start with you first. Have you always had this mindset for growth that has contributed to the success of the company? Or is it something you learned along this journey?
Benjamin Tietje: So I, I certainly always had the desire for that. Our, our first couple of years when we were the smallest. That’s actually, when we grew the slowest and our fastest growing year was last year. And so I think once we [00:07:00] realized that we were kind of sitting on a rocket ship here that was really making an impact and word of mouth alone drives probably 25 or 30% year over year growth for us, we just have started to lean into it harder and harder as it’s gone on. So I think like many entrepreneurs, you know, best laid plans of mice and man. Some of those things, you try work great. Some of the things that you think are going to be great or terrible, but when you find something that works, you understand why it works, how it works, how to encourage more of whatever that is to, to accelerate that process. And that’s every year we just try to get better at those things.
Gene Hammett: I have in my notes here to ask you about, you know, how do you wrestle with this whole limited resources versus unlimited capital? First of all, explain us what that is, and then explain to us how you wrestle with it.
Benjamin Tietje: Yeah, absolutely. So, , so for the S and P 500, how many of those companies do you think don’t have debt?
Gene Hammett: How many don’t have debt? I don’t know. I, I would think that they all do in some form.
Benjamin Tietje: So it’s actually eight, eight of the S and P 500 companies don’t have debt. And so [00:08:00] it is, it is very much abnormal thing in this day and age. And especially if you look at fast growing companies while Inc itself doesn’t have any data on that, that I’ve been able to find most of the companies that are the top of that list are growing grew spending cap. Right? So like, , to pick an example in our space. The honest company is, is a company that’s very similar to us. They’re natural and organic company. , and they spent $500 billion to get to $350 million in sales. Right. And so that’s very much the way a lot of people grow organizations. My wife and I made an initial investment in our business of $35,000. And we have never put a dollar in since then. So. So everything that we’ve done has been self-funded. And in a lot of ways, I feel like unlimited capital makes worse decisions than limited capital in the sense that when you have unlimited capital, you’re not forced to make tough decisions. You’re not forced to make innovative decisions. You’re just making decisions. You feel like are good decisions.
And many of [00:09:00] those decisions are going to be bad and you’re going to end up paying a huge cost for that. So to tell one quick story, , that I heard a couple of months ago, so when, , when red bull was getting started, they were also a self-funded company. They had very limited resources and they had to figure out how do we get people to switch to drinking our energy drink. And the idea that they came up with was they hired models, men and women to go to nightclubs, drink a red bull and stand next to a trash can where they had put 10 or 20 empty red bull cans in the trash can. And the idea was that as you walk by and just attractive person caught your eye, you saw them drinking the red bull. You threw away whatever you were drinking and you instantly would go what is, what is this? Clearly this is popular. A bunch of people are drinking this, and it was very much this viral thing that they did for several years before they started doing a lot of paid marketing and things that they do today. And that story really, I think, resonate with me because that’s what we try to do. We try to figure out what is [00:10:00] the, what is the best decision? What is the most cost effective decision? Not just what is a decision that we can make that might move.
Commentary: Now Ben, just talked about having unlimited capital, how hard that is to grow business. In actual terms, you may feel like having those blank checks around would be easier, but it actually can be a difficult thing because it doesn’t require you to be as innovative and think through some of the things you can just go hard. , I remember having one of my clients talk about their PE company, , private equity, one of them to spend more money and not make any profits. And they wanted to scale out faster and it really is. You know, something that they really do push you to do because they want you to scale so fast. But maybe that’s not the best thing for you. If you’re thinking about bringing on money, if you think about the pressure you’re going to have and the decisions you have to make, when you do have a lot of money and what risks that comes with it now, in some cases, it works out beautifully, but, you know, we just want to be careful about how you’re moving forward with it. This is just some of the things I see in my world is an executive coach back to our today’s interview.
Gene Hammett: I love this whole idea and concept around innovation as it relates to not just having unlimited [00:11:00] capital. And it really is a mindset shift that you guys have done, because I think a lot of people do bring in money and they bring in, you know, strategic partners because they feel like they want to grow faster, but you’re a Testament to you don’t have to do that. But Ben, when you think about the mindset of others, I know that sometimes we as leaders. I have to catch people in their own worthiness or their own limited view confidence or maybe it’s imposter syndrome. Have you ever had those kinds of conversations with your team?
Benjamin Tietje: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, my, my team actually calls them Ben stories because I very much believe that sharing a decision with somebody without sharing why you made the decision, you might as well not share the decision at all.
Gene Hammett: Yeah.
Benjamin Tietje: People need to understand why you’re doing what you’re doing so that they can learn to think the way that you think. And, and so I have a gratuitous use of stories and parables that I use to try to explain thought process. And I, , I actually had a leadership meeting with my team a couple of weeks ago. And one of the things that I said was my [00:12:00] goal is that you always feel. A certain degree of discomfort. And it was in the context that we, we actually just launched a new products last week, which is a brand new line that we’ve never done before. And it was a very brutal, complicated process that caused a lot of stress. And we wanted to pull the plug on it probably 20 times in the last year that we’ve worked on it. And I said, but the reason that you feel that discomfort is because you’re doing something that you’ve never done before. And for me as a leader, this, the company every day is the biggest company that I’ve ever been.
And I feel discomfort because I have to make sure that as a leader, I’m growing faster than the organization that I’m meeting, otherwise I become a lead that constrains the growth of that organization. And likewise, you should feel a certain amount of discomfort because it means you’re being stretched and you’re growing as a leader and as a manager and what we’re doing as an organization. And as long as that stuff doesn’t become overwhelming, then that’s right where I want you to be. And so we, we try [00:13:00] to keep that in the culture, but also understand that you’re, you can raise your hand anytime you need help. And I’m going to be there immediately. Whatever you need to give you that support so that you feel confident taking those risks and trying to do things that we’ve never done before.
Commentary: Ben just talked about. He must grow faster than the organization. Maybe you’ve said the same words you’ve got to get ahead of the team. You’ve got to get ahead of the strategy, headed the vision. And that is absolutely true. You want to make sure you’re doing the work and you’re going deeper into the personal issues and the inner issues and the inner game of leadership so that you have the right mindset. This whole episode is about having the right mindset. And my big question to you. Are you doing the work? Could you be a better leader if you truly worked on what it takes to be the best leader, to really look at the blind spots that are getting in your way, let’s go back into the interview right now.
Gene Hammett: Given the fact that you’re growing faster, I’m sure you’ve made a few stumbles and mistakes or lessons learned across this journey. What do you think would help us most as you reflect back on some of those things that you’ve overcome?
Benjamin Tietje: It’s a big question. A lot of what we do [00:14:00] is every, every idea that we have that we think has a chance of working is something that we try obviously, very limited resources. , we, we don’t spend a lot of time and effort, , on things when they’re new, but as soon as we see any kind of traction with those ideas, Then we just start run with. And, you know, just to give you one example. So we, we suffer very much from the same problem that apple computer did in the eighties and nineties and Tesla motors is good example in the sense that we make a project a product that’s very different than, than what is conventionally available. So education becomes a big part of what we’re doing. Right. If you go to a store shelf in the 1990s and you see an apple computer versus an IBM, why am I buying this Apple is three times as much as this IBM computer. I don’t understand the value of. And so that education component was something that was very important to our success. And at the beginning. It was something that we didn’t spend a lot of effort on.
And once we started investing in that, investing in the content and the [00:15:00] education, that’s when it really took off. And so like, as an example, we respond to every single comment that’s left on our social media. I have eight people who’s full time job. It is just to respond to social media comments because I want every customer to feel like we care about them as an individual. We care about their health and their wellness and what their family’s going through. And we want to be that support for them. And even if we’re recommending that they buy from somebody else, because we’re not the best fit for them. I know that they will keep coming back to us every time that they have a question and over time they will become not only customers, but, but brand ambassadors or super fans who are sharing our stuff than others because of that care and support that they receive. But that was something that took us a long time to figure out we had a lot of stumbles and struggles, especially in terms of paying for that because it, it’s certainly a very expensive to offer that level of support.
Gene Hammett: That was my first thought there about the expense of it. And part, my business is similar because a [00:16:00] lot of people think they don’t need a coach. They don’t need someone to outside their current industry and organization to help them see the things they can’t see in the blind spots. But that’s exactly the reason why they do do it. And so it takes a lot of education. We create a lot of content. These interviews are a part of it, but it is, it is expensive, but it does work. Yeah. It does help change the minds and behaviors of people. And that’s, if you’ve got a product based on wellness that is different than others, I imagine it’s probably a little bit more expensive because we’ve got better ingredients. You’ve got things that are safer. You got all this stuff that requires, you know, it’s not just apples to oranges. Is that fair to say?
Benjamin Tietje: Yeah, absolutely.
Gene Hammett: When you step back and look at your, your, your journey of leadership. And I know we’ve been talking about mindset here. What else do you think has been an important factor in creating a team that is aligned and really bought into the mission of this company?
Benjamin Tietje: So, I think one of the, one of the things that has been really helpful for us is there isn’t a single member of our leadership team that didn’t start an entry-level positions. And, , that is a very [00:17:00] deliberate thing that we do. I remember, I forget when it started, , maybe 10 or 12 years ago went undercover, boss Aaron for the first time. And I was actually working in retail at the time. And I remember, you know, like many of us, we laugh at the ineptitude of the boss who doesn’t really understand how things are working at the individual store level. And I just remember this thought of, so if you’re the CEO of a you know, an electronics company, like best buy or a grocery store like Walmart, you haven’t been in the store enough to understand what the store is like. That, that you’re so confused by everything that’s going on. And that was something that really stuck with me. And so we make, we make very deliberate decisions to grow and develop leaders rather than pulling people from the outside. And we also ensure that those people, no matter how big the company gets, I personally do customer service at least a little bit every single week.
Not because I have to, but because the only way that I stay connected towhat the customer is actually [00:18:00] saying is by being involved in, and my wife is actually at our business right now, physically making products along with the rest of the production employees, because the second that we become disconnected to it, we start making decisions. And we’ve all seen the outcome of that. These big companies who make these pronouncements and everyone’s just shaking their head, like, how could you possibly do this? It’s because they don’t have the information. They don’t actually understand what’s going on. And so that’s something that we try to bake in to every layer of leadership.
Gene Hammett: Ben I want to wrap up with this. You mentioned something about we deliberate decisions about growing people and the leaders around you, what would we see in an organization with 40 employees? It’s growing really fast? Cause I think a lot of people rationalize, well, we’re growing too fast. We don’t need to invest in people. Would we see formal training or more informal stuff? Do you have coaches? How do you, how do you look at that investment?
Benjamin Tietje: It’s very, it’s very informal and it’s very personalized. I was part of a fortune 20 company, , that had probably hundreds of millions of. They spent on leadership development and that sort of thing, but it was all [00:19:00] very cookie cutter and very little of it actually applied to your specific situation. And with us, we try to shore up the gaps for each individual person, whether that’s a, you know, they get angry too fast or they make short-term decisions set a long-term decision, or they don’t understand how to read a P and L because they’ve never had to do that before. And that’s something that’s important for them in this role, whatever that shortcoming is, we try to customize that support for them. And in terms of the core of your question, you can’t afford not to invest in your employees. I mean, especially, especially in this kind of hiring climate where it’s impossible to hire people, get people at whatever price you can afford them at the bottom and develop them into great leaders because not only will they not only will you probably get them cheaper than you would have hired somebody from the outside, but you get somebody with all that institutional knowledge and you get somebody who values you as a company.
Right? Everybody on my team [00:20:00] knows. That as the company grows and as we develop more layers of leadership, those positions are theirs to earn if they want. And so there is very much a support for what we’re trying to do rather than people dreading it, because they know, Hey, if we go to the certain level, I’m going to hire, you know, a COO or something I’m just going to put in above them. And all of a sudden they’re going to have a boss that they’ve never had before. They know that position is their to earn. And so when we’re a hundred person company or 200 person company, and so you get excitement around that process rather than dreading.
Gene Hammett: Love all of this Ben, you’ve shared a lot of insights around the mindset of leaders, of fast growth companies. So I really appreciate your time today.
Benjamin Tietje: Absolutely. I’m glad to do it.
Gene Hammett: Here’s my chance to reflect back what I took in from today’s episode. Ben is someone who understands how important people are. In fact, you know, the fact that they. Investing in people and everyone of the executive leadership team is grown up through the ranks, understands the aspects, built [00:21:00] relationships and respect and trust across the organization. And they have career paths moving forward. It’s a really strong sign to others and organization. I think the mindset that we talked about here is such a powerful piece that people just don’t think about it. They think about, you know, getting the work done and meeting deadlines. But you got to develop the way people are and how they’re showing up for work. And that starts with you first. And then you can translate that down into the employees of Ben has proven that he’s evolved as a leader, probably continues to evolve and push himself and challenge himself as he works really hard. I don’t think he mentioned the fact that he’s got six kids too and all this. So really impressive too, to be able to have him on here to share his insight.
You may be thinking, you know, how do you create this kind of same space around your company, where you might be wondering, what is your next step? I want to help you figure out what that is. My job is help you figure out the blind spots, what gets in the way of your leadership, so that you can be an extraordinary leader.
You can drive growth, you can have the mindset and you can have kind of the things that Ben was talking about. It’d be really great to talk to you about these things and many more and help you create that plan. And that [00:22:00] next move, just go to GeneHammett.Com and schedule your call. I’d love to support you and grow to become the leader that your team deserves.
Just go to GeneHammett.com and schedule your call now. As you think of growth and you think of leadership, think of Growth Think Tank as always lead with courage. Will 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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