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Lawrence Holland: “Don’t pay people to tell you what you already know”

Don’t pay people to tell you what you already know. Furthermore, be leery of getting advice from those who’s knowledge is based in books, rather than in real world experience. As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lawrence Holland, CEO of LonoLife Inc., […]

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Don’t pay people to tell you what you already know. Furthermore, be leery of getting advice from those who’s knowledge is based in books, rather than in real world experience.


As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lawrence Holland, CEO of LonoLife Inc., has been a food-industry veteran for more than 20 years, as the President of San Diego Coffee, Tea & Spice Company. Broadening his food industry experience, Lawrence is also a founding team member and CEO of LonoLife, the brand behind dry, high-protein bone broth, collagen and other healthy alternatives for on-the-go eaters. Lawrence quickly scaled the brand to $4 million between 2015 and 2018, then to $10 million in 2019. Based in Oceanside, California, the brand has plans to continue to expand with new innovations that meet consumers’ demands for healthier, immune boosting meals and snacks.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was running a coffee wholesale company for a while before a friend showed up with the idea for a K-Cup soup. At the time, we had recently purchased a K-Cup production machine. However, we get proposals for new business ideas and partnerships every month — most of which we don’t explore, due to a number of reasons. This time, we explored the offer, which would eventually turn into LonoLife.

Not only did this friend want us to become brand partners, but he also wanted us to take the concept and the brand and run with it. From there, we launched LonoLife from the ground up. In the beginning, we differentiated ourselves by making K-Cup soups with big, robust flavor. It was only later that we transitioned to specializing in bone broth, which we did because the concept of bone broth (and flavorful broth from a K-Cup) was just emerging in the market.

Can you share one of the major challenges you encountered when first leading the company? What lesson did you learn from that?

Very early on, through unusual circumstances, LonoLife attracted some strong talent we certainly didn’t deserve. However, as a serial entrepreneur, the tendency to micromanage is always present. Letting our team do what they do best, and not having to be so involved in every decision was a challenge.

I had to learn that my role was to point them in the right direction, then trust that they would be able to execute. The level of trust that was built was gradual, as our team demonstrated over and over again that they could operate at a very high level.

What are some of the factors that you believe led to your eventual success?

Plain and simple, we don’t make anything that doesn’t taste good. LonoLife was a quality product from the start, and with each innovation we’ve undergone, quality and taste have been at the forefront.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO”? Please share a story or example for each.

If your team has the bandwidth to learn a specialized skill themselves, take the time to allow them to learn it, rather than outsource it. One of our team members took it upon himself to become extremely proficient in graphics software. Today, his ability in that area has allowed us to be nimble, whether making a minor tweak or rolling out a whole new package size change. At the end of the day, it saves us a ton of time and money.

Don’t pay people to tell you what you already know. Furthermore, be leery of getting advice from those who’s knowledge is based in books, rather than in real world experience.

Being the CEO of an early stage company means you’re working 24/7 and there is no task or chore that you will not do, at some point. I’ve spent quite a few afternoons running pickup truck loads of packages to the post office to make sure they were delivered on time, as promised. (Also, you should never tell anyone that you own a pickup truck.)

What advice would you give to your colleagues to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

It’s important to always be inventing, evolving and developing. We consistently try to improve our best-selling SKU’s, not resting on our last success.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

In my first real job, I had a boss and mentor who was about 40 years my senior and who had about 40 years of experience on Wall Street. Working with him, I heard non-stop war stories and had access to excellent business examples. Two of the most valuable (and time-tested) lessons he taught me are: (1) greed will kill all deals and (2) time ruins all deals. If you see a good opportunity, move quickly because success favors speed.

What are some of the goals you still have and are working to accomplish, both personally and professionally?

In my personal life, I feel fulfilled — I’m happily married with a couple great kids, everyone is healthy and happy. You can’t ask for more than that. Professionally, we’d like to put LonoLife in every backpack and in every pantry throughout the U.S.

What do you hope to leave as your lasting legacy?

I find that this question is less helpful than focusing on the impact each of us can have, day-to-day. If I’m only considering my legacy, I’m not necessarily focusing on how I can help to further our work and overall impact today.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would enhance people’s lives in some way, what would it be? You never know what your idea can trigger!

I would encourage everyone to travel outside of their home countries. Travel is such an eye-opening experience that teaches us about ourselves, other cultures, how other people live and about how to operate more compassionately in this world.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on Instagram, and you’ll be there to see my very first post — when/if that happens. But otherwise, follow me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/lawrence-holland-5212262a/

You can also follow LonoLife on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter.

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