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For many of us, spring means farmers market season. Now I know some of you live in places that have farmers markets year round, I'm jealous. But I do find that this time of year is when people who have been thinking about starting at a farmers market, bringing their handmade product that they make in their kitchen- could be a food, a beverage, pet treats, body care, anything you're making in your kitchen, you get that idea. And you're like, maybe I could, maybe this is for me. What if? Or if you're already at a farmers market but you're really wanting to make the most of it this season, I got you. I am putting on my Farmers Market Masterclass. I'm doing another live version. The last time I did this was two years ago, which is wild. And I would love to invite you to join me, it's totally free. You go to foodbizsuccess.com/masterclass. And I'm going to talk with you about what it takes to get started, what you need to know, what the investment is like. And then things that will help you be more successful at the market when you finally get there. Listen, farmers markets are a lot of work. And so I want to be sure that every minute you spend there is maximized. I want you to get full bang for your buck, for your time being there, and for you to bring in as many sales as possible. And maybe even have some fun, right? If we're going to do it, let's have fun doing it. So a lot of that comes down to knowing what to expect and giving you strategies that set you up for success. I would love for you to join me live. That way you can ask me questions at the end and we can make sure you are ready to go and you get all of your questions answered. It's live on April 25th. Register at foodbizsuccess.com/masterclass. I'll put the links in the show notes below as well so make sure you get registered and I will see you there. Welcome to your Food Business Success. This podcast is for early stage entrepreneurs in the packaged food industry ready to finally turn that delicious idea into reality. I'm your host Sari Kimbell. I have guided hundreds of food brand founders to success as an industry expert and business coach and it's got to be fun. In this podcast I share with you mindset tools to become a true entrepreneur and run your business like a boss, interviews with industry experts to help you understand the business you are actually in, and food founder journey so you can learn what worked and didn't work, and not feel so alone in your own journey. Now let's jump in! All right, everyone! Welcome back to the podcast. I'm excited to welcome Jeff Salisbury and he and I actually met at Fancy Food Show. We were both at the same booth and we were talking to an incubator program. And we just, between the three of us, we were like bing bing, like having this whole conversation and I was like, I need to know you. Let's talk. I want to have you on the podcast. So here you are. Welcome, Jeff.
Thank you. Thank you very much. Yeah, it was pretty serendipitous. We were talking to the same folks and I think we share a similar value, and that's curiosity. I think we were both just genuinely curious about what that organization did. I want to say it was the University of Oregon, but I'm not sure it was.
No, it was New Jersey.
New Jersey. Yeah. Oh, yeah. That's right. I had been in the food science lab. Yeah. So we were both very curious and it just, yeah. And it made sense for us to just connect.
Yeah, we ended up having a fun conversation there. And then you told me a little bit about what you did and how you help brands and like, let's bring you on, let's have a conversation. So in our pre conversation before, we were talking a lot about curiosity, and solving problems, and really just recognizing that we need who's, that Who Not How strategy in our businesses. So let's jump in maybe around that who strategy and why it's so important when you're starting out in this industry, to surround yourself with other people who have been through this.
Sure. Sure. Yeah, who is very important. One of my favorite books, who's actually called Who. And then there's of course is the book Who Not How. Well of course, business is all about people, right? You can't do it all yourself and you certainly can't know everything. And you know, I've been involved in packaging, food packaging, and other types of packaging for about 30 years. And just when I think I'd seen it all, there's something new around the corner, a new problem, a new challenge. And so, yeah, I've always surrounded myself with people who have already made the mistakes. People who have been there, done that. And I think that's really important to surrounding, as an entrepreneur, probably the most underrated skill is the ability to find people who have made mistakes and ask the right questions. And that's something people don't often do, we look for success. And we'd like to talk about success and hear success. But what we should be doing is looking for failures and learning about failures. Because in business, as I often say, it's always two steps forward, I'm sorry, one step forward, two steps back. And if you listen to the right people, maybe you can avoid some of the mistakes and only take one and a half steps back. So that's, I think, who is critical, working with the right people and reaching out and surrounding yourself with a network of the right people, whether it's an advisory board, a consultant. I'm a big fan of paid advisory boards, by the way. It was a game changer for me when I built an advisory board, it made a huge difference. Or fellow entrepreneurs.
Yeah, you can 10x, you can 100x, like you bring in all of those mines into your world and now you get everybody working on your behalf. And everybody's like, well, I know these people, I know these people, right? You like 100x your network and connects them when you bring in the right people.
People love to share, they love to share and they love to tell you were things went wrong. They really do. They love to tell those horror stories. And if you ask enough people, you'll find some commonalities in those stories and what you can do to avoid some of the mistakes that have already been made.
Yeah. So you have a long experience in packaging and supporting brands as they go through, as we were kind of looking at all of your amazing expertise, but grounding this conversation, I think around manufacturing, and ingredient, and packaging procurement because there's a lot that can go wrong in that area. And I think there's maybe not as many people, experts out there as like, people who just call themselves a general, you know, strategist or something. But that knowledge is so unique for this industry. So maybe you can kind of talk to us a little bit more about some of the problems, things that can go wrong in the manufacturing.
Where do we start? So you know, I owned a label and packaging manufacturing company. So we did flexible packaging pouches, pouches with spouts, pouches with gussets, and labels, of course. So clear labels that went on jars and with bubble, packages that we delaminate because the wrong structure was used in a citric acid or something inside the product and ingredient would attack from the inside and delaminate a pouch. But the thing is, these things don't often show up as obvious as you as you expect. So something will be odd about it. So for example, no one can see this but I've got a tube here and this cosmetic tube, but I've had multiple clients. I've been called out to co packers where there was an issue with a label peeling off. And of course, they would say it was the label, the cohesive, something's wrong with your cohesive. And they'd say they use that technical term, it's not very sticky. And I would say, well, it's not, just add more sticky. And I would say, well, it's not a matter of sticky, it's a matter of compatibility. So let's make sure we have the right chemical composition. But every time there was an issue with the label coming off of a tube, what ended up happening, what we ended up finding was, it was actually something inside the two that was breaking down the tube where there wasn't a sufficient barrier in the tube. And the interesting thing is, and this is true of anything, every single one of those issues could have been avoided if the right homework had been done up front. But these folks, these people would buy from a broker, they buy from a packaging company and often in smaller quantities because they're startups. And the right homework wouldn't be done, the right compatibility testing wouldn't be done, everybody seemed to be fine. There was one ingredient in there that attacked the two and it would go in and it would leach through and interact with the adhesive and drive the label off. But the clients would always look at it from a label standpoint. Right, it's always the label, it's always the label. So it was really cool for me because I get to go to a lot of different co packers and see a lot of different processes. And that was amazing to me and I really get to help troubleshoot these problems. I had to, by the way, on those tube issues, the two manufacturer threw up their hands, the cap guys threw up their hands, everybody threws up their hands. And for some reason label guy doesn't get to walk away from it and so we had to solve their problem. So I was used to solving problems that other components created because otherwise it appeared to be the label. And so we learned a lot, my team and I learned a lot about these things, about compatibility and things like that. So very interesting. And that's why I became a consultant after exited that business because I knew so much about packaging and packaging problems. And it was, it was really fun to work on that again, that stuff again.
Well, you are probably, you're a handful of people in the world that probably really know this stuff. So thank you for being a great problem solver that can be brought into, you know, somebody's team. We were talking before we recorded about like induction tops and linings and things. And you know, I know one particular client who I'm sure will listen to this and who is rolling their eyes about like, ah, that's dang.
And everybody promises you that it'll be fine. It's no problem. And I think what this is, and I mean, you and I, you've had a lot more experience than I have. But I think what we've both done is just, we've gotten really good at solving problems and being really curious, right? And I think it can be just really challenging for an entrepreneur because they're so just like, they can't see the forest from the trees. And they don't even know the questions to ask.
That's the key. That's really the keys they don't know the questions to ask. And we know the questions to ask for several reasons. One is we've seen so much, you've seen so much go wrong. And we expect, you know, to be fair to the entrepreneurs, the relatively new entrepreneur expects that the packager or the component supplier, jars manufacturer expects that they would, well they would tell us what could go wrong. And they don't, they never tell you. So because you and I have seen it, we can go in. There's an example of a client, I won't mention who but I had a client doing a paste like product, great product. And she had chosen a co packer and they had given her a lot of confidence that they could do the job. And she was about to do the job and we talked and I started to ask a few key questions. Well, what about this? What about this? Have you asked them this? What's the process for this? What's this? And she went, oh, God, those are good questions I didn't think to ask. And I said, let me go out and sit with him for a few minutes and talk to them. I went out, sat with them for two hours and everything they told her was a lie. And it wasn't that I was an expert at asking questions. I just, I knew how to cut through the clutter. And I knew how to sort of look through them and say, well, look, let's not, don't bullshit me, I'm sorry for the language. But don't BS me. I have seen this, this has happened before and it's very likely to happen here. So what will you do to prevent it from happening? And that's when they just suddenly are disarmed and they go, you got us, you know what, it could happen. We've actually never done this type of product before. In fact, we've never done food before. And you know, and it was amazing. And I remember leaving, driving away for that meeting, calling her. She's in Australia and saying, let's get everything out of there now. They can't do it, they're going to practice on you because you're small, you know, you're relatively small, so there's not a lot of risk for them. They're not going to practice on a William Sonoma product. They have a new piston filler, they want to try it out. They have no idea what they're doing, what's going to happen is they're going to burn through all of your product and then they're going to tell you because of your components, there was a high scrap level, and it's your fault. And you need to give them more product and you're going to say, wait a minute, I can't get any more of this product. What do we do? Yeah, it's knowing the right questions to ask and really being able to see through the BS, really.
I know. It's so heartbreaking. I have a client who hired a co packer before we started working together and it was like, right when we started working together, she was going down there, like everything had already been arranged, and all of the things but it did not go well. And I was concerned, but you know, assure me everything was good. It was probably going to work out fine. All the things. And I don't want to be right about that. I mean, I wasn't really right. I hadn't consulted her on that. But it's like, these things don't always work out. Like I think people walk in with that very idealistic, right, there's nothing that will go wrong. Like, it's kind of like when you, you know, have an appointment across town and you know that in perfect conditions, it only takes you 20 minutes to get there so you leave exactly.
You're exactly right. You plan for the best case, you don't plan for the worst because you don't know what the worst is. You don't, and so using a consultant or at least, or team, or at least having conversations with people who've been there and done that before, helps prepare you for what could happen. But more importantly, I think is oftentimes, we'll get a quote, you know, you get a quote for something, for co packing and it's, it's simple, it's 20 cents and or whatever it is, it's this much to fill. And away we go. And I'll look at those quotes and I'll say, okay, let's talk about what happens if this, what happens if that, who eats it if the label goes on cricket, who pays for the rework? Is the label repositionable adhesive? What's that? Well, on this with their equipment, and with this product, we should probably have a repositionable adhesive because otherwise you're going to have, you know, 20 people, line workers scrubbing labels off the glass jars that you don't want them to throw away. Who covers that? So you know, asking all those questions and developing your terms and conditions, so that all those things are covered is important. But there's a caveat, I can tell you to develop all those things and you can go in strong with all of this, here are my T and C's, you need to sign off on these. And guess what? If you need 5000, or 10,000, or even 25,000 pieces, they're going to look at your T and C's and say, you know what, we're too busy. We can't work with you. So you don't have any, you don't have the credibility. So when somebody like you, Sari, comes in with the experience, you not only know the right questions to ask, you know how to ask them, and you've know where to push and where you can't push. So your credibility alone, our credibility really serves the client well there because they look at us and go, oh, well, this gal has actually seen that induction seal before, she knows it's a possibility. She knows that if it happens, it's on us because she's done her. Here's her QC process. So those are the types of things that a founder couldn't possibly know. And so asking the right people is really, really key, really critical.
Yeah. And we didn't even talk about the actual product that's inside, right, which then there's a whole list of like, well, you know, what happens if it's overcooked or undercooked or too hot?
You know, it's funny, what I see a lot of is, besides that process part is that I see founders ship product all over the place. Oh, you think you can do this? Let me ship you some. And then I sit on it, not I, but the co packer sits on it for a while. We bug them and finally they tell us oh, yeah, you know what, we're just too busy, or we can't do it or whatever. And then we pull the product and we take it somewhere else. Let me do it again. And again. And again. We're moving product around. And there's a whole chain of custody here. And by the way, everybody's opening it up and looking at it. And is there any, you know, are they doing micro testing every time they open it to make sure it's not them? Do they have the right food safety certifications? You know, it's very dangerous for not just your brand but for your consumer. So those are things that need to be, processes that need to be developed as well. And you don't want to wait until you get a big recall or somebody get or a bunch of people get sick to do that. Because you're out of business if that happens. So these are the things that experienced people. You know, again, they've been there, done that. You want to ask about that. My favorite question that I advise people ask, someone who's been there before is: what were some of the biggest mistakes you made? What went wrong? What would you have done differently? Don't tell me what went right. Don't tell me how you succeeded. Tell me how you failed. Tell me what went wrong. What would you do differently? And people love to share that stuff. So if I were a founder going to a food show or something else, I would spend all, I wouldn't even look at vendors, I would spend all my time talking to fellow entrepreneurs who've been there. And just asking them about all the things that went wrong and how they would address that going forward. That's probably the best advice I could give.
That's really developing that curious mindset. And like we were talking about before is that humbleness or humility willing to be like, I don't know at all and that's okay. I mean, why on earth? Why people come into this business thinking that they know at all is just preposterous.
No, you make a great sauce, or a great cookie, or great whatever it is, and that's something I could never do. But you know, you've never packaged before. And so let's talk to people who've done it.
Right, and Google doesn't have all the answers.
No, you will see, everything I'm talking about, you won't see any of it on YouTube. Nobody takes YouTube videos of the things that go wrong in a co package business. And most of that stuff never leaves the walls of the co packer, only an insider, you know someone that gets to get in there a lot and help them because they'll call me for example, as a supplier. And they'll say we have this big problem. We don't want them to know about it yet. We need to fix it before they find out and they'll call me in and I'll go in and look at it and we'll fix it. Of course, what I always say is, look, I'm going to tell my client, I mean, it just I don't do that. I don't play that game. But we can fix it. I won't point the finger at you, I'll just fix it and say there was an issue, here's what it was, and it was a multitude of things.
Well, I mean, if there's anything that we can all agree on, well, maybe entrepreneurs don't agree with me, but is that we always have like people wonder like, when will there not be any problems to solve? I always say we have 10 problems all the time, the problems just get bigger.
Yeah, they do. You know, a lot of the problems do fall into in this, there are some similar categories, the Pareto principle does apply. And we can head off those big ones. But yeah, there's always going to be some new surprise, some new problem. And now with components coming from all over, coming from overseas, you just don't know. I had a client who told me she had an issue with their caps. And she has the, I forget what they call there's a built in sort of seal. And that seal was, that residue was getting into the product. And she thought, well, are they over tightening the cap, or, you know, it couldn't possibly be the caps because the guy who sold me the caps is, I won't mention the name, but it's a very well known supplier. And he's really dialed in on his sources. He does source from China, but he's really dialed in. And one of things is so interesting. It's just happened. And I said, well, I said, how many caps did you order? Well, we ordered 50,000. Okay, that sounds like a lot, and it is a lot. But for him, it's not a lot. So I wouldn't be surprised if he had a bunch of questionable caps in the corner somewhere and he couldn't take from another order. And someone said, what do we do? And he said, well let's just grab those ones over there, they'll be fine. It's just it's just 10,000 or 50,000. And they use those and he had an issue. Long story short, that was exactly what happened. He admitted it to her only when she confronted in the right way and in a non threatening way. And he said, yeah, you know, those were caps that were sitting, they were pretty old, that seal probably broke down. But he didn't do that right away. He pointed the finger at everybody else. So she spends an ordinate amount of time and money evaluating the cappers that the packages are using. And looking at torque, are we are we over torquing, or the jar doesn't have the right thread count. And so, you know, she's chasing all these other things when it was just that. That of course, I have seen that before. So I just said, hey, let's ask this question. And we did and it was, yeah, you're right. Well, first it was no, that's not possible. And then when we said well, can you please just poke around, just ask, get some retains, where your retains? And he did and said, well, oh, my God, you're right. It came from that lot. I'm sorry, I didn't think it would happen. But she wasted a lot of time. And she and she's on backorder.
She probably wasted a lot of product.
Product and money. Yeah. And sales, lost sales.
Those things are heartbreaking but I don't like to scare people away but when you start scaling up your product, you take it from your home kitchen to maybe a commissary kitchen and you're rock and rolling. But this business to really make the money, right? To make it go is a quantity game.You got to sell a lot of units. And now we need manufacturers, we need equipment, and we need human bodies who make mistakes as well and then. We are also relying on packaging that also comes in those conditions, being mass produced. So there's like a lot of points of potential problems. Did you hear that story? I'm sure you know the story, but for folks who never haven't heard that way back when Fedex first started so in the 50s or 60s, that they had this big warehouse, they were rock and rolling, all these people, machines going. And also everything stopped. Like eveything just shut off, went to a halt. And the CEO's there and they're calling electricians or something's comes in. He goes up to something, turns a screw, and everything turns back on. And the CEO's like, oh my gosh, this is amazing, thank you so much, what do we owe you? And he gives them a bill for $10,000 and the CEO's like, what, $10,000 to turn a screw? And the guy's says, he takes it back and rewrites it and it says, a dollar for the screw and $9,999 for knowing which screw to turn.
Well that's what it is. Yeah, exactly. Knowing which screw to look at and which one to turn and that happens a lot, right? When people come to my house and there's something wrong with the dishwasher and they'll come in or whatever it is and fix it like 10 minutes. I'm like, oh my god, I can can't believe you're going to charge me $500 for 10 minutes with the work, but the truth is, they're charging me $500 for their expertise because they have spent countless hours trying to find that screw at other people's plants, you should count yourself lucky that they knew where to look because you were up and running like that. It's no different than an attorney. So yeah, you're absolutely right. I love that story. And that's very common story told by consultants.
Yeah, but it is. It's making the investments. I do offer like just short strategy calls, you know, that people pay for and so it's 45 minutes, and these women came, they wanted to make these bars, they had all these questions, you know, they hadn't even started and in 45 minutes, they knew exactly if this was going to work, exactly what their next steps were, exactly, you know, what was kind of a startup costs and things to be on the lookout for. And I was just thinking like, wow, three years ago, I couldn't have had that same dialed in laser focused conversation. But because of all of the mistakes and learnings and all the things that we've seen, we can like cut through really fast and get people like with clarity, right, the gift of clarity, which is pretty cool.
That's right. Here's where the trouble spots are more likely to be and here are the things that probably won't be a problem for you. And helping you prepare for that is key and build that into your plan. Build that into your strategic plan.
I mean, just like the maker, right, has spent hours and hours, countless hours, I'm sure perfecting their recipe, right? So why, you know, that's your special sauce, literally. And then everybody thinks that they can be a specialist and all the things and go watch some Youtube videos. And I mean, I have a YouTube channel, and I'm here to help. But you know, you can't know every situation. So finding people, those who not hows, right? That people are going to cut through, get to the answers. And yes, there will be an investment. You know, let's not assume that everything's, you can just find everything for free. But if you're running a business, knowing you're going to make some investments,
And there are so few of those people, that's the interesting thing, you know, those people are busy working on their own brands or doing what, you know, most of those people aren't, are willing to or available to give back. And so you should find one, you really need to hang on to that person and utilize them as much as you can.
And we talked about some questions, I call it a pre mortem with my clients in Master Your Business. So tell us some of those questions or what that is, you know, we can give people some questions to think about for their own product as they go through this process.
There's a million but I would say the first one is really a concept and that scalability. You know, oftentimes people do in their own kitchen, they'll do something, and it's it's a wonderful product. And it's perfect, but it may not be scalable. So I think one of the things to think about is and ask yourself is how do I make this scalable? So yes, I make this perfectly I whip it by hand, I do this, that's great. But how will it be done at a commercial kitchen scale? How will a co packer do it with their equipment and not compromise the quality? Because, frankly, especially in this day and age, you just cannot labor so expensive. It's so hard to find. You're not going to be able to get 30 people on a line to hand whip it the way you do. So not just how do you automate but really, how do you scale? So that's one of the key questions. The other thing is, who are my key suppliers? One of the things that I talk about to my clients often is when we talk about strategic planning and strategy is something called the balanced scorecard. And that's their four areas of business, there are only four areas, everything falls into those four areas. And they are finance, customers, people and process, They all find that most clients are strong in one or two of those areas and a little weak in the others. And so finding people to help you with those areas, people who are strong in those areas is critical. But, you know, process is one of the things that I mentioned and people. So people isn't just employees, it's suppliers. We spend a lot of time trying to find suppliers who have the equipment or the ability to produce or fill our product. But we don't spend enough time evaluating the culture of the company that we're working with. Can we grow with these guys? Will they grow with us? Or do they have high integrity? We want references, we want to hear stories. You know, I can talk to one or two references from a co packer very quickly, ask the right questions, and ascertain how they're going to handle a problem. Are they going to point finger at you, when it's this, are they going to be collaborative? They can charge you back right away and put you at the back of the line, or are they going to call you when a problem occurs and keep you on the line? And try to solve that problem or get that answer. That happens all the time by the way, we're, you know, we think we're going to get a product is going to be well, it's going to be produced on Thursday. We're shipping on Monday, it's great. We're ready to fill orders, we make commitments. And then we call the co packer on Monday and say, where's the product? And they go, oh, yeah, there was a problem on the line. And so we pulled it. Oh, my God, why did you pull it? All you had to do was call me. Well, you know, we just didn't, and this is what happened. Building that relationship with your suppliers and understanding how they operate is key. So that's one of the things, one of the questions to ask. Again asking suppliers and co packers for horror stories. I know that sounds odd. But it's interesting, when you ask people about the problems they've had, it really expose us quite a bit. You know, so hey, this sounds like everything's always gotten great. But, you know, sometimes it's just conversational. So tell me a horror story. Tell me about a time when things went horribly wrong and what you did about it? Oh, my God, we had this one time we had this bad glass and here's what happened. And here's what we did and boy, did we learn from that. Oh, so what do you do going forward? Well, here's the new process going forward. Yeah. So that's, that's important, too.
Yeah, that's great. I hadn't thought about doing that. But kind of like, when you're on a date, or if you're interviewing to hire somebody, like ask them like the horror story.
You're on a date, ask them about a bad day. Exactly.
And you'll learned a lot about the person.
You know, I used to do that when I interview often. I would ask them about their past employers and what went wrong and tell me about a situation that didn't go so well. And if they tell me the same story more than twice, it's not the ex employer, it's the employee. You know, and you'll find that, oh, he's got a problem with that he's got a problem with, I don't know, whatever it is. And it's the same thing with co packers. But again, for a founder who doesn't have the experience, it's hard to ask those questions to be taken seriously. It's hard to know what questions to ask. And so having the support of someone who's been there and done that, who's seen it, who can look someone in the eye and say, come on, I've been around the block, don't tell me that nothing goes wrong. I've seen lots of things go wrong. And specifically, you know, what's going to happen when one of your heads nozzles clogs or this happens? And if they tell me that never happens, I say, well, then you have been in business long enough, we both know what's happened, what have you done. And so that's where that experience really pays off.
You just don't know what you don't know. And the bigger you want to grow your business, the more you need partners, and to build a team, and outsource and find experts.
And you know, another part of it is outside of the co packing. So I had a client recently who called and they have a great product and they're really excited. And they came to me and I said, so what's your biggest problem? What's your biggest challenge today? And they said, well, we're really excited, because we just got a PO from Walmart to go into 10,000 stores. They should have been mortified and they were excited. And I said, well, tell me about that. Tell me what could go wrong? And well, it's going to be challenging but we think we can do it. And so, you know, what is the agreement look like? You know, are there potential chargebacks? Is there an out of stock agreement? What happens if you're out of stock and they charge you back? You know, there's something called never out of stock that Walmart likes to plug in. And I've seen many clients be put out of business by Walmart, Costco, and even Amazon. They didn't know what questions to ask or what to put in the contract. But also, they weren't funded well enough. They didn't realize how much it was going to really cost where they didn't have strong enough supplier relationships so they couldn't fulfill and Walmart charges them back. And then they're gone. They never get another chance. So those are some things to think about as well, not just the product and how you feel and the integrity of the product, but your customer relationships and how you'll manage those and your vendor relationships.
Yeah. Wow. Just thinking about. Why does anybody do this again?
Yeah, it's food is tough. Food is really tough. I always say I can often, I love walking shows, and I always say, after I walked food shows, I can kind of tell how long you've been at this by your your attitude. So if you're really full of life and energy and excited, you're just starting out, you haven't had enough bad stuff happen to you. If you're kind of dejected and frustrated, you're probably in year two or three. If you've got this sort of quiet confidence, you're probably kind of emerging from all of that. And you're in year four or five, you've finally realized that it is hard. And you finally figured it out, you know, and so I can kind of tell where you are and what you're what challenges you're probably having, based on how long you've been in business.
There's kind of a acceptance of like, yeah, let it be hard. Like who said this would be easy, right? Nobody. We're not entitled to it being easy. It doesn't matter how amazing your food is, your product is, we're not entitled to it just being fun and easy. And there are tools and, you know, I as a coach help people with tools to like manage their mind and not make it so personal and just become a really good problem solver. And you're just like, it's almost like a game. It's like a chess game and you're just like in it.
It really is. It's not will something go wrong? It's what will you do when it goes wrong? Because of course it will and have you empowered your people to be able to help solve those problems also, is it all you as the founder? We think it always has to be us but it doesn't, you can grow your people to help you with that. Absolutely.
And if you don't have a team of your own, like outsourcing, finding mentors, finding consultants, finding coaches that can help you on that journey. I cannot imagine trying to do this. I don't think it's possible for you to do it on your own.
I think the toughest business for the entrepreneur is the food business. It's a tough, tough business.
I think because it entices so many people who have never been an entrepreneur. I say, you know, food is so democratic, right? We all eat. We're passionate about it. It's our culture, it's connection. And there is kind of this myth that because it's easy. Because it's easy to make in your kitchen, it should be easy, quote, unquote, to food business, right? And like, most people aren't going into biotech.
Right. Right. Now, that's a good point. It sounds easy, it can be very rewarding and I've seen lots of clients make it. And it's very exciting. I can name, you know, a few dozen clients who was a big client of ours. And so we have several likes to work with a lot of small startups, small co packers because they love that story. John, you know, owned a farm and he would go out and milk the cows himself. And he would make this cheese from that milk. And he would, you know, do this and they love that story. And there's so much of that out there, that artisinal story. And I've seen a lot of those folks struggle but I've seen a lot of those folks overcome the obstacles and really blow up their own brands through William Sonoma and on their own. I've seen that a lot. So there is the potential for success.
Absolutely. I mean, we were about just that Expo and how many brands were there, 3,000? So many brands.
I love seeing the brands like Justin's Nut Butter for example, I love going to the show year after year and seeing the brands that were where a lot of my clients are today, you know, one person in a cobbled together booth in the back corner because that's all they could afford, you know, putting stuff in little Ziploc plastic bags for samples. And, you know, and then seeing them today, you know. Justin's a great one, I love seeing the line extensions, all the products they have and where they are. And I remember talking to them way back and how excited they were but how overwhelmed they were. And all of the problems and challenges that they had. And but look where they are today. And it's pretty exciting. I love seeing that, I love seeing those brands evolve. And I've seen a lot of people make it and you can make it. But why would you make the mistakes? Don't make the common mistakes, find out what those mistakes are and avoid them.
Go find the really cool problem.
Yeah, how do I make this better? Yeah, components. By the way, you know, components really are the root source of many problems in co packing, the components. Whether it's a bad cap or a bad jar, the label, a pouch, the wrong pouch structure. There's so much more to components than meets the eye. And so you know, working very closely with your co packers getting a really good strong solid supplier. A lot of people don't believe in this but a lot of you like to direct to the source. But I'm a big fan of smaller brands going to packaging brokers for components that are going to Berlin packaging, for example. Because they can do all the testing, and they've seen so much. And they're important to their supplier and you're important to them. If you went to their supplier directly and order 10,000 jars, you're nobody. To Berlin or someone like that it's you know, to your rep, your Berlin rep or whoever it is, you're important. And they're important to their supplier. So you're going to get the right, you're going to get the right quality of component rather than the 10,000 jars that were capsule, we're stuck in a corner somewhere. Let me just give him to this person, they're small time. So I really do like brokers in the beginning stage, and they can offer a tremendous a lot of value. I'm not a broker, but I do think that brokers in this business can add value.
Oh man, I'm sure you know a lot of people though, like people who are like, yep, go use this, go do that, like go find them. All about that Rolodex in your head, right?
The relationships. That's huge, right? So you're right, because I might say, here use a broker. And so, you know, Jenny's chocolate sauce might say, oh, Jeff says go use a broker. So I'm going to Google brokers and find one. Well it's a little different. What I'll do is I know exactly the person that would make the most sense for you to work with. So when I'm saying he's a broker, I'm thinking, oh, this one's not a fit for you. You know, I know the fit for you is. It's this person. And I've spent 30 years building that network, that Rolodex and I can put you two together and you'll make magic together. But if you find the wrong one, or one that's not a fit for you, not the right fit. You'll make a disaster together. So yeah, it really is about knowing who the right fit is.
When I think about your client that you went in and two hours later, you know, you realize like, this actually isn't the right fit. I mean, that has to be hard for her to be like, oh, I thought we were so close. I thought we were ready, you know. And, you know, there is that disappointment, but in the long run, right, saving her so much more heartache, right, on the backend and the time and the money. It can be so hard to be like, we got to stop this. But we need people who will tell us the truth, right, and to try to help save us from ourselves. Because I think, what I see is a lot entrepreneurs are in a rush, and they think it's magic. They think like, oh, this co packer says they can do all of this. So this thing, you know, this equipment or whatever it is, and they just think it's magic, and it's all going to work out perfectly. And you know, in two weeks, they'll have their product. And you know, having somebody that says, okay, we need to actually slow this down. I was just telling a client that I know you don't want to hear this. But this needs to slow down. And here's what we need to ask first.
My dad had a phrase he used to say, you know, there's never enough time to do it right the first time, there's plenty of time to get it right the second time, so we'll rush it through and then mess it up, or they'll mess it up and then we'll go back and do it again. And that's when we'll take our time. And if we could just take our time in the beginning, we would have gotten the right result, and we wouldn't have to do it again. I guess it's there's never enough time to do it right the first time, there's always plenty of time to redo the job. And that's unfortunate.
I'd much rather not have to redo it, right? It's the measure twice, cut once.
Which is why the importance of planning and strategic planning is, strategic planning is so important. And that's one of the things I see a lot of clients not doing. I see plenty of business plans. But I don't see strategic plans and strategic plans really encompass all that goes into building your business. And that's one of the things I work with my clients on is a strategic plan. A process, and this is not something that you're building for the bank or, you know, an investor, although it's nice for them to see it. You're building this for you, this is a roadmap for you and how you'll handle things. And it's really critical. And I find that clients invest the time in building a proper strategic plan, scale faster, and have fewer issues, fewer problems, and they can make better decisions. That's really what it is, is a decision making tool.
It is and I do that a lot with my clients too is we create a vision and then we create the strategy backwards. And we're doing that pre mortem, right? You're asking those questions of what could go wrong, and you're stopping and being more thoughtful and intentional about it. And when you plan for what could go wrong. You're ready for it.
That's right. That's right. Part of the strategic plan is a SWOT analysis. Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. And I always ask clients, have you done one? And if they have, I like to look at it. If they haven't,I have them do it. It's pretty simple. But the first time out of the gate, the SWOT is very, it's the strengths and opportunities boxes are really heavy. The world is my oyster, the sky's the limit. And I could do anything but weaknesses and threats are very small. And so I like to run them through a process where I asked a series of questions that exposes other threats and weaknesses, not to talk them out of doing this but on the contrary, to help them shore up those weaknesses and let's build a plan. And by the way, as an angel, I've also been an angel investor and I, sometimes I'm hired by VCs to work with entrepreneurs. And so I listen to a lot of pitches. And pitches for investment are always very rosy. No one ever talks about what could go wrong. And that's one of my favorite questions as a potential investor. Okay, so tell me what could go wrong? Nothing, that it's good things, it's going to be great. I always tell them, I'd rather invest in someone who tells me oh, there's a lot that could go wrong. But the top three things that are most likely to go wrong are x, y, and z. Now, let me tell you the plan, the strategy that we've employed to mitigate that problem, if and when it happens. That as an investor, I'm very confident in that founder. You know, just watch Shark Tank and you'll see the same thing. Very rarely do you see that founder on Shark Tank tell the sharks what could go wrong. You know, they ask about competition and the answer is always there is no competition. There's no one who does what we do. Well, competition is not just someone who makes a fudge, you know, similar to yours, or low glycemic fudge. Competition is anyone, it's defined as anyone who is getting the dollar now that you want. So where's that consumer spending their money and you want that money? Your competition could be apples, I mean, so. So when we think well, nobody makes a product like this. Yeah, but that doesn't mean people are going to buy it. They have only so much discretionary income. They're going to spend it on certain things, how do you appeal them away from what they were going to spend it on yours? That's the true definition of competition. And we need to identify that upfront. So it's more than just co packing properly, and blending right, and all of that stuff. It's really about understanding the threats and the weaknesses, and the competition, methodically working through that, so that you've got strategies to.
And we can't see our weaknesses as well, right? Even as me as a person, right? I'm like, tell me, you know, it's good to go ask somebody like what, tell me what you see. And it's going to be like, be a little hard. But having somebody a little bit outside of you, because you see all the positives, but you're not necessarily seeing.
And you need to as an entrepreneur, you need to be positive. So I don't want you to think negatively and think of all the bad stuff, that's my job. My job is to go, hey, this is what could go wrong. But here's what we're going to do about. Here's what's going to happen with the co packer, this could happen, any one of these things, but so that's why we're going to add this line to the terms and conditions. That's why we're going to get them to sign off on this. That's why we're going to, we're going to make sure that this happens. I mean, another thing I see often with founders is the smaller startup expects that the co packer is going to call them and tell them when we're on the line so they can be there. You're your co packers worst nightmare. They don't want you there. They don't want you there at all. So I've had people say to me, we had they agreed to call me. And I said, well, here's what's probably going to happen. They say they're filling on Tuesday, right? Yeah, well guess what? They're going to fill on Monday, and they're going to tell you, they had an opening, and someone was pulled off, and they had a shot, and they just did it. And you're going to say, well, I wanted to be there. And they're going to say, we didn't have time, we had to pivot. And so I've seen all the games and all the strategies. And so if you're able to, I'm able to go to them upfront and say, oh, by the way, I'm an hour away, or whatever it is. And if you get if somebody gets pulled off the line, and you have an opening, I need you to call me and text me. And I'll be there within the hour, I'll have somebody there within the hour. So then if they do that, they don't have an excuse anymore. They can't say, oh, we have a slot is I can say, well, we talked about this and so there's a penalty for that. So, you know, those are the kinds of things knowing the kinds of things that go wrong in the games that some of these folks play. And getting it all spelled out upfront is really key. So you have to kind of know what's what could go wrong before you can do that.
What would you say to an entrepreneur? Because I think it's easy for us to say like, yeah, hire a consultant, or find a who and help, right? That I feel like if I put on the other hat of being an entrepreneur, it feels like everybody's trying to sell you their services, everybody's got the answer. And you know, if you just get a broker, and you just get this, and you hire this consultant, and then you need this, right, and there's all these services. And I don't know, I know, you know, I know how hard that can be on the other side of wondering, where do I start and who's the most important? And you kind of just want to throw your hands up and be like, well, I'll just figure it out myself, right? Because I don't want to worry, I don't want to be the one that got taken for a ride at the end. And I'm the chump who, the sucker who like paid the big consultant and nothing happened.
And you're so right, I see it, I see it very often. We see it often. My advice for any founder is to think about building an advisory board. I'm not talking about a board of directors, and I'm not talking about a team of advisors, I see lots of pitch decks and those decks have all the faces of a bunch of advisors, and they're usually pretty impressive. But I know what those are, that's your uncle who works at Microsoft. And he said, call me if you get stuck. That's someone else who put in $50,000 and you can call him. But a true advisory board, a well put together advisory board that is paid, meets regularly is paid to hold you accountable. And by being paid. I'm not talking about a lot of money. And these are seasoned professionals who do this not really for the money. They do it because they love it. They want to see you succeed, they want to give back. There's nothing more powerful than then an advisory board. There's a book that I love called Game Changing Advisory Boards. And I read it and called my coach by the way, I've had a coach, I still use it. I've sold my business and I still meet with my coach. I pay him and I meet with him every Monday, and I have for the last 19 years. Yeah, it's wonderful.
Oh my gosh, I love it. Get a coach. I have a coach too.
Get a coach, absolutely. And if you hire, if you're going to hire a coach or consultant, never hire a coach or consultant who doesn't have a coach. I know guys, Rich, who's you know, his engagements are like $100,000 a year or more, he has a coach that he pays even more than you're going to. Right, some people have several coaches. So, but that advisory board is so key, people that you can trust, maybe give them some skin in the game. Sometimes there's fractional ownership, you can give them quarter percent or something and only on exit. So if you don't succeed, they don't get any of that. There's many ways to pay them. But the biggest thing I think is before hiring anybody to help. And this goes for anything really, get references. But the key to references is not just getting the references. The key is in how you asked for the references. The questions, you ask those references. We often just go, oh, yeah, can you give me some references, we look at their references, and we go, oh, well, these are big names. So and I don't really have the time to call them. One of the tricks that I use that I learned from the book, Who, that I love is, this is a game changer for me, is I'll say so Sari, I'd like to get some references from you. And you'll say, great, I'll send them over. We'll, I'd like to just write them down now. And so you say oh, well, there's there's John at XYZ kitchens. Okay, John, what's his last name? And I'll painstakingly spell out the last name. And you're thinking, why is Jeff taking this so seriously, I usually just send up the references, and you start to realize just actually going to call John. It's just the way you say it. But instead of saying, if I were to call John, what would he say about you? This is a great interview tip by the way too, instead of saying if, you say when. Okay, so when I call John at Ken K kitchens, what's he going to tell me? When I asked John and Ken K kitchens what are some of the things that went wrong in your relationship or when he started packing for you, what stories is he going to tell me? And guess what? You're sitting there going, oh, shit, he's actually going to call John. Well, I better tell him. Well, he's going to tell you that we had this one time when the product went bad. But we worked it out. You know, it's gonna go great. And guess what, by the time you're done with that, you don't need to call references because you've just gotten the real story from the person who gave you the references. But calling a reference is important. And when I call a reference, I'll first thing I'll ask is, what would you have done differently with this co packer, this supplier this consultants. So ask. Ask for consultants, references, call the references and then ask them the hard question. Say, hey, I know relationship's not perfect. You work with Sari, I don't want to hear the good stuff only the bad stuff. What went wrong? If you hear nothing, nothing went wrong, she's amazing. Hire that person. But even if you hear about problems, at least you know what to expect, right? Because what you really want to know is not what went wrong, but how did you recover from that? And then ask, you know, how did Sari save you time and money? Because that should happen, a consultant should save you time and save you money. Did she know what I'm using you but anybody, you know, did she know what screw to turn? Or did she try a whole bunch of different screws. And so that's really the key, using the right people and figuring out how to hire the right people, whether they're consultants or employees or co packers, whatever it is, that's really the key. And you don't have to hire everybody but it's important to have a good quarterback and a good advisor to help you through the process.
I would say too like, maybe focusing first on that strategic plan. And I like, I know we both do that, or I do a vision strategy session.
Mission, vision, values. Yeah.
I mean and multiple, right? We're creating whatever that you got to have an endpoint like, what are we going for? But put it in the GPS.
Covey says that, you know, I love Covey The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People. It's the first book I recommend people read and for your listeners, I absolutely recommend reading that if you haven't I read it. My coach reads rereads it every couple of years. I reread it every year. But one of the things Covey says is begin with the end in mind. You need to know where you're trying to end up. So paint that vision, what does it look like? What does it look like in three or four years, and then work backwards from that.
So I've been doing, like a 10x vision with the work of Benjamin Hardy, but like, what's that 10x vision, you know, three, five years from now? Now the path becomes a lot clearer. The access stuff falls away. And then you actually know who you need to hire. Right? Because I think what happens is entrepreneurs are just throwing a lot of shit at the wall, hoping one of these consultants, coaches, service providers will magically fix their problems but they are not going from the end in mind. They're just trying to like, it's so short sighted.
That's right. And by the way, it's important in the people box of the balanced scorecard. Everyone needs to understand your vision. It's your job to paint that vision and it has to be realistic. I've seen especially food founders tend to come in and go, oh, my vision is, this is going to be in every Costco, it's going to be in every table. Instead of ketchup, they're going to be using this every table, it will be in every household and every restaurant. Well, that's not realistic. So having a realistic vision, one that you can measure, attainable is important but then communicating that to your co packers, your potential customers and prospects, your consultants, your employees or prospective employees, your investors, it's critical that they buy into that. And they're not going to buy into a vision that is lofty or unrealistic. And so, vision work is important work. There's a right way to do it. It's not just dreaming something up. There's a process for it. I'm sure you work with people on that all the time. I know I do.
Well, this has been such a great conversation, Jeff, I really appreciate you having this with me and being here. So where can people find you if they want to look you up, I'm sure there are people listening. They're like, oh, my gosh, I've been looking for somebody like you.
Probably the best way is through my LinkedIn profile. And literally googling or, you know, going into LinkedIn and searching for Jeff Salisbury. But I'll also send you a link to my profile that you can share with folks here. That's probably the best way because then you can see my experience. But more important than that, I think is looking at the references. And seeing the variety of clients that I've worked with. And hearing their stories about how I have helped them is probably more powerful than anything I could say about myself. So that's all there. And you know, they can look through that. And we can have a conversation and see if there's a fit.
And I love that you are willing to work with small brands, startups.
I love startups. I love the enthusiasm. They're infectious. My job by the way I feel when I work with a startup or a new client is I could very easily come in and tell them all the things that could go wrong and beat them down. And they'll walk away dejected. And guess what? Then they'll just hire somebody tells them what they want to hear. But my job is to keep that enthusiasm going. It's to channel that is to help you focus, hone that enthusiasm. And by the way, get you in the lane that you need to be in, get you doing the thing that you're best at. And then having me help you find people to do the things that really, you're not great at. Let's not shore up our weaknesses, let's, let's build on our strengths. Let's focus on our strengths. So I get excited right along with the client.
Well, thank you, Jeff, for being here. It's been a pleasure.
Thank you, Sari.
Wow that was so fun. I hope you guys see why I wanted to have Jeff on here. His knowledge of this industry, and how to problem solve. And he's just got such a specific niche and expertise that I hope that this has been helpful just listening to him. And of course, if you feel like, oh my gosh, that is the guy. I need to talk to him, please reach out to him. He is just incredibly generous human and I've had a lot of fun getting to know him. Next week I'm going to talk more about this Who Not How strategy. And I am going to be opening up Master Your Business for a new cohort. We just wrapped up our last one, the very first one and it was amazing. The transformation that these 13 brands went through was incredible. And it really does go into this Who Not How strategy of skipping the line and really taking massive exponential leaps in your business rather than just these like little tiny steps. So get yourself on the wait list. You can go to masteryourbiz.co and people on the waitlist will get a very special bonus only if you're on the waitlist. So go check that out if you've been thinking about really taking your business, your existing business to the next level. All right, until next time, have an amazing week! The smartest thing you can do as an entrepreneur is to invest in a who to help you with the how to speed up your journey and help you skip the line. When you are ready for more support and accountability to finally get this thing done. You can work with me in two ways. Get me all to yourself with one on one business coaching or join Food Business Success which includes membership inside Fuel, our community of food business founders that includes monthly live group coaching calls and so much more. It's one of my favorite places to hang out and I would love to see you there. Go to foodbizsuccess.com to start your journey towards your own Food Business Success.