Be nice, even if it hurts — the old saying is “kill them with kindness…” — our lives and careers have twists and turns and help comes from the unlikeliest places many times. In an early business, one particular customer was unusually cantankerous and very difficult to deal with on any level. I went to extra lengths to accommodate his requests, smile and bite my tongue on many occasions and even said prayers. About 6 months later and without warning, he became the best customer anyone could ever have and one of my most vocal supporters. I still do not know to this day what caused it, but I’m very grateful for his friendship over the years.
I had the pleasure to interview Joe Martinez, RPh, PDE, CMS. Joe Martinez is the founder, president and chief commercial officer of Healthy Meals Supreme (HMS). Inspired by his own story, Joe started the company with the goal of making it easier for people to eat healthy and live a better quality of life. Joe is also a registered pharmacist, an insulin-using person with diabetes, a diabetes educator, a culinary medicine specialist and the former Medicaid Pharmacy Director in New Jersey, responsible for 900,000 people, the majority suffering from chronic diseases. Joe is a 2017 Academy of Managed Care Pharmacy silver ribbon award winner and his research was published in the April 2017 edition of The Journal of Clinical Therapeutics. He was selected twice for the PharmaVOICE Top 100 as a Mentor and Change Agent. Joe is a graduate of The Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University in New Jersey. He is also a former military cadet at the US Air Force Academy.
Thank you so much for joining us Joe! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
It was just before dinner. My father had just been diagnosed with diabetes earlier in the week and I was helping him to figure out how to test his blood sugar. I led by example and pricked my finger and then put the blood in the blood glucose meter. What happened next was a BIG surprise. My levels were skyrocket high, higher than my father’s even. It was at that moment I understood that I had diabetes and was catapulted on to another path in life. That was just over 20 years ago.
When life gives you lemons, make lemonade! Looking back on my career, it all makes perfect sense now. However, it is something that I could not have imagined when starting out on this journey. I’ve always been involved in the healthcare field and have always been pretty healthy. When I was diagnosed with diabetes, it was a wake-up call of epic proportions.
I looked for information online and was overwhelmed with the volume of data and also the range of facts, opinions and guidance. In addition, I realized that I needed additional knowledge if I was to successfully confront this challenge head-on. After becoming a diabetes educator and going on insulin injections with LADA-type diabetes, it was readily apparent to me that nutrition and food intake was a priority — whether other clinicians stressed it or not.
Not having the option of having two chocolate bars for lunch and two slices of pizza for dinner anymore, I knew an easy, quick and good tasting meal was the only long-term option for my busy schedule and my new health situation. But the kind of meals I needed and wanted didn’t exist. Rather than wallow, I decided to do something about it and created what I needed myself. And that’s how the healthy meals plan at Healthy Meals Supreme was born.
Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
Hardened in the furnace of life, get knocked down 7 times and get up 8 times. People love great ideas and want more information. At some point, you have to make a decision about how much time you’re going to spend dealing with certain people. One of the hardest things I’ve learned is how to ‘choose’ where and who to spend my time with and energy on. There are many dead-ends in life and business and it’s sometimes tricky to find the highway and super highways.
On personal journies I’ve encountered many false starts, people with differing agendas and general lack of responsiveness. Marketers talk about ‘marketing and conversion funnels’ and I like to think in terms of ‘life funnels”.
Beginning this journey, I talked with many family, friend and colleagues about my ideas, plans and goals. This led to networking and additional conversations that further fine-tuned the operational, logistical and marketing processes. However, for every 7 people I spoke with, only 1 was responsive in a meaningful way. Some others did not follow-up as they committed to do, were half-hearted or generally did not want to be bothered. Some were not interested and that’s okay too, if you let the other person know up front.
The BIG lesson here is faith and commitment — just how much do you believe in what you are doing and yourself. Well, I committed to take the first step to develop the idea into a program that would help people live better lives. Sometimes the next step was not readily apparent and it was scary and I got that sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. And know what, that next step always appeared — right on time! Sometimes, having faith is exactly what you need.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My work career began as a milk boy with my father when I was 8 years old in Newark, NJ and continued with J&J Odd Jobs in high school. It’s so important to have a sense of trust in yourself and abilities. Also from my experience, when something is earned, it has more value.
I think back to my days delivering milk as a young boy on a milk truck with my father and brother. It was hard work, but satisfying being around family and friends. My father was my hero and I saw him build a small milk route into a large one, one customer at a time. He had a goal and a plan; and then took action. From seeing this I learned that you need to act on a goal with a plan. You will get results and if they’re not the results you wanted, change something and try again. You never fail until you stop trying. So the drive to continue is simply a drive to succeed and achieve the goals I’ve set.
So, how are things going today? How did Grit lead to your eventual success?
Things are going better than I ever thought. My belief is that your success is determined by your persistence and determination. I continue UNTIL I succeed, not if. There is no other option, nothing, period. We may need to make adjustments, and the road may wind; however, we can only change the future by doing something in the present.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Learning — don’t take yourself too seriously and it’s about helping others succeed. I never want to be the smartest person in the room because that means that I’m in the wrong room.
In the early stages of Healthy Meals Supreme, while on a meal photo shoot, the chefs and I had a very ‘spirited’ discussion about what the portion of salmon in our meals should look like.
What do you mean there are various shaped cuts of a salmon? Aren’t all salmon pieces rectangular in shape? Guess not. There’s a whole big delicious fish to choose from, rectangular-shaped or otherwise.
The Chefs now continually tease me about the rectangular-shaped salmons that are swimming in the water just for Healthy Meals Supreme.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Vision, passion and team work — They say that people follow a vision, not an operating plan; and I’ve found that a great team adds to the vision, drives through obstacles and achieves truly wondrous goals. At Healthy Meals Supreme we joke about what ‘hat’ we are wearing at any moment when discussing updates on our team calls — inspired people can do great things!
Our people and their commitment make Healthy Meals Supreme stand out. It was after a long day of meal photography when we were ‘breaking bread’ that it became apparent to me. Seated around the table were experienced people from all over the world, talking about how WE would help people to live healthier lives by eating better. They could have chosen to be anywhere else, with anyone else, and here they were genuinely discussing about how Healthy Meals Supreme would change the world, one person at a time. We had a great meal, dynamic conversation and lots of laughs. It was then that I knew we would be successful!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
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?
It actually takes a village to accomplish many goals in life, but my wife, Michele, has been my biggest supporter. She’s given me the hard feedback, even though many times I could not listen in an objective manner. She has a great instinct, a sharp wit and just really cares about people. My greatest life’s learning is that our conversations highlight what I need to work on next, whether personal or business.
Early on, Michele was a sounding board for all my ideas and goals. Her questions would help me to focus my energy and not get distracted. Also, her feedback was instrumental in working through the business of building a business and focusing on the customer. It’s all about serving another person.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’ve been very blessed with my marriage and family. I am always on the look-up for situations where I can be a mentor to someone younger. Many years ago, some lovely people took me under their wing and helped to guide me. The lessons I learned were invaluable and helped me to avoid both economic and emotional pain. I try to repay their kindness going forward whenever I have the opportunity.
What are your “3 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
For insurance companies and health benefits payers to cover medically tailored meals for patients with chronic conditions, i.e. diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, etc. There is much published documentation of the positive health outcomes by following the DASH diet including reducing hospital re-admissions by 16%, reducing hospital stays by 38 days and securing a savings of $74,925 per each Heart Failure hospitalization. In addition, there is an increase in the quality of life for the person AND a savings to the health care system that we all finance. Most people want to eat healthier but for various reasons are not able to. A lot of good can be accrued by addressing this unmet and very real need, sooner than later.