Each of your employees are different. It is crucial to understand what motivates your employees and what ultimately makes them happy. I speak one on one with all employees regularly to ensure their relationship with Oats Overnight is beneficial for everyone involved.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Tate, Founder & CEO of Oats Overnight. After twelve years as a professional poker player, Brian disrupted the oats category in 2016 with an innovative solution to a convenient, healthy breakfast packed with protein and superfoods. Under Brian’s leadership, Oats Overnight has grown from a fledgling startup to a successful business that has seen 10x growth with no outside funding and has plans for continued expansion and innovation.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
During my twelve-year career as a professional poker player, I was constantly traveling and looking for quick, convenient ways to maintain my fitness and health routine. I needed a product that could fuel a workout with minimal prep in the morning and saw a gap in the market — after creating my own blends of overnight oats at home, I decided to embark on the journey of founding Oats Overnight.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I began developing Oats Overnight at my home in Los Angeles. When looking for locations to manufacture, I quickly learned that LA prices were out of the price range for the bootstrapped budget. I found Arizona to be much more affordable and climate appropriate due to the lower humidity, so it was an obvious choice. Not fully understanding what was ahead of me, I planned to live in LA and travel to our Arizona facility only when necessary. A few short months later, I was forced to move to Arizona full time to operate the business. It was a change I never expected to make, but I’m happy I did!
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?
When we were just starting out, we had the opportunity to participate in an expo event and printed a simple banner outlining the three step preparation instructions. The day the banner came back from print, we were so excited to see it. We were horrified to see that it was printed backwards once we opened it up. This banner hangs in our office today as a light hearted reminder that mistakes are okay. It’s important to acknowledge and understand them, and always move forward.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
One of our key differentiators is the ability to “drink” our oats; we use a unique preparation technique that uses a Blender Bottle, so consumers are able to toss a drinkable, ready-to-enjoy meal into their bag on the way to the gym, work, or wherever their busy lifestyle takes them. We also strive to make the product as nutritious as possible — we pack Oats Overnight full of protein and superfoods (such as maca root, cacao, chia and hemp seeds) and are releasing flavors that contain caffeine for an all-in-one breakfast.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are currently working on expanding our plant-based line, which is also gluten-free and has nut-free options to cater to different dietary needs. We continually are innovating to create the best products possible with the best ingredients possible to fill the need for a convenient, ready-to-enjoy meal that caters to busy lifestyles.
What advice would you give to other C-Suite executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Always reward creative thinking and innovation at all levels of your business. At Oats Overnight, we have created an atmosphere that allows our team members to contribute their creativity in everything from new flavor development to marketing campaigns. Giving employees venues for expression and growth will always improve attitudes, and consequently, quality of work.
How do you define “Leadership”?
During my career as a professional poker player, it was always about crafting on-the-fly strategy and being able to read the situations you’re in — which are traits that have translated into my position as Founder & CEO. Being a leader requires innovation and big picture strategy, but it also requires being observant to how your team is handling the pressure of accelerated growth. In order for our business to thrive, we must also provide and encourage leadership at all levels.
What advice would you give to other C-Suite executives about the best way to manage a large team?
In my experience, managing a large team is done best through a strong line of communication and empowering leaders within smaller teams. Additionally, as a company leader, I strive to make sure each and every team member knows I’m accessible, so it’s leading through community rather than seeming removed from the day-to-day operations. I like to remind myself that this whole venture started in my kitchen to remain humble.
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 about that?
When the need arose for early team members, I looked inside of my network to find rational and motivated individuals who would be eager to take on the opportunity. One person in particular, Cesar Gonzalez, was excited about the opportunity. We sat down for lunch to discuss what his role would be, and he told me flat out “Brian, I would love to work with you on this, but have no experience in food or digital marketing.” I had a lot of faith in Cesar’s ability to learn quickly, make great decisions on the fly, and problem solve in a rational, thoughtful manner, so I told him to trust me. Cesar is now a top performer as the Director of Business Development at Oats Overnight.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Oats Overnight adds value to our customer’s lives by providing great nutrition and saving them plenty of time each morning. From the start, we knew that we wanted to develop offerings that can be enjoyed by all people, regardless of schedule or dietary restriction. We have shifted to an entirely gluten free product, as well as integrated an amazing plant-based line that doesn’t break the bank. We are now working on fully sustainable packaging, including the use of post-consumer resins and fully recyclable packaging.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Business does not sleep. If you are offering your product for sale 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, you also need to provide support to those customers when needs arise. We pride ourselves on social media engagement and customer service. Our internal team handles questions and concerns around the clock.
- Each of your employees are different. It is crucial to understand what motivates your employees and what ultimately makes them happy. I speak one on one with all employees regularly to ensure their relationship with Oats Overnight is beneficial for everyone involved.
- Culture is key. Similar to the point above, it is necessary to maintain a friendly working environment where everyone feels valued and free to express themselves. Especially with rapid growth, it is easy to fall off track here with the addition of new teammates. We always make time to assess new hires in a collaborative way.
- Take time for yourself. When running a company, there is always more work to be done. While all-nighters and long days are often necessary, it is important not to make this the standard. My time as a professional poker player taught me a great deal about managing schedules. I personally turn to hobbies like piano and regular gym sessions as a release. Find yours!
- Always take time to find a plan B, C, and D. As CEO, the buck stops with you. If a plan does not work out and the business is on the line, you are responsible for the backup plan. This takes great foresight and planning beyond the scope of the normal day to day operations that employees oversee. I focus a great deal on networking and establishing relationships that ensure the continued growth of our company.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire 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. 🙂
Consumers have learned a great deal in recent years about their health. We have seen a shift away from sugar-packed breakfast cereal, but the convenience of a drive through breakfast is often impossible to avoid. I look forward to the day when home prepped meals and healthy products completely replace fast food convenience.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
I often apply the 70% rule. Almost all decisions are made with imperfect information and subject to a lot of variables that are impossible to calculate. It is important to continue moving forward with your best shot, rather than freeze. This applies mostly to small day to day decisions, but often to large ones as well. The decision to leave a successful career in poker and begin Oats Overnight was not one that I took lightly. However, due to the rapidly evolving landscape in food and retail, the idea wouldn’t have been as viable a year or two down the road. Trust your instincts and the data you have available.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
I have been following Gary Vaynerchuk long before he became the celebrity he is today. His thoughts on efficiency, management style, and time have always resonated heavily with me. We have a similar early childhood experience of buying/selling trading cards for profit, which led to many amazing things. I think we would have a great conversation!
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