Communication is KEY — The way we communicate within our family is already deeply rooted in who we are. That being said, there is overlap between family members and work members. This means you have to make open communication essential in your family business. Confront problems immediately, and don‘t be afraid of bringing in outside mediation or consultation to help with issues.
As a part of our series about 5 Things You Need To Run A Highly Successful Family Business, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Noll.
David Noll is the founder of Pacific Resources International (PRI), the brand known its extensive range of products from New Zealand and Australia, including genuine Manuka honey and gourmet honeys, pacific sea salts, and a wide range of fine foods, body care, and wellness products infused with the dynamic benefits of Manuka honey. David has had a lifelong focus on nutrition and healthy living due to numerous medical conditions and allergies since birth. He first discovered the flavor and wellness benefits of Manuka honey at the age of 21 while living in New Zealand, and upon his return to the U.S. 13 years later, recognized the opportunity to bring Manuka honey to the American marketplace.
In 1987, David and his family opened the Pacific Health Foods store, with half of its warehouse dedicated to PRI as an importing business. In 1989, he was the first to pioneer Manuka honey products in the U.S., and today still sources directly from primary producers to avoid unnecessary processing and ensure the highest-quality ingredients. With PRI, he continues to innovate new Manuka honey products, from chocolates to skin care. David and PRI have appeared in ThriveGlobal, Medium, E! Online, Parenting, Eat This, Bella, and Modern Mom, among other media. For more information on David Noll or PRI, visit www.ShopPRI.com or connect with PRI on Instagram and TikTok.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Funnily enough, most people have ambitions or dreams of what they eventually want to do with their lives — how they want to make a difference or what career path they want to go on. But I think in my case, this path chose me.
I didn’t choose to “go organic.” I had to do it for my well-being and livelihood. And after noticing how my family and I were flourishing from this healthier lifestyle, I wanted to share this knowledge, research, quality, and products with the rest of the world.
Can you tell us a bit about your family business and your role in it?
Although I am the founder of Pacific Resources International, my role isn’t just limited to the company’s everyday needs. I was the motivation behind its conception.
Born with birth complications, I actually had 23 different allergies and asthma. This made it difficult for my parents to find the right diet for me. However, my father, Chuck, had made it his personal mission to help me not only survive but thrive. He investigated better nutrition choices for the family to adopt a healthier lifestyle, focusing on both my and my family’s well-being.
Beginning with just honey and a plan, our family started PRI in 1987, with a 600-square-foot health food store, Pacific Health Foods. From there, we blossomed into an international business with a store five times its size.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?
I guess the most interesting thing that has happened since I began this career is the actual beginning of the career itself.
When my father decided to “clean” up my diet, opting for unpasteurized milk, 100% Stone Ground Wheat Bread, and 1000 mg of vitamin C three times per day, he started to see changes, and I started living better.
Later on, in my adult life, I found myself adopting those same healthy practices of my youth again. Who would have known that decision led to an actual business? After choosing to blend those healthy practices with the products of my experienced beekeeping friends from NZ, I concluded to take a chance on that healthy lifestyle and to move the business to the USA.
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 first starting to expand from our first 600-square-foot health food store (Pacific Health Foods) to our bigger manufacturing space, we were, for the first time in the history of PRI dealing with backorders, playing a guessing game of how many we would need in the near future.
Since the business had just started to take-off, I was feeling pretty optimistic about how the next steps would go for PRI, (hoping, of course, that it would be moving forward). I decided to fill out the orders for every item on our product list for our local producers.
When the shipment came in, to my complete surprise (and confusion), the workers kept loading in more and more of our New Zealand Sea Salt Bags off of the truck. Well, in all my excitement, I added all the necessary numbers before sending the order off and not having anyone look over the list before signing it away.
I refused to sign off on the bags until the workers showed me the extra “0” to one of the product lines that I failed to see when I checked the list. Now I know, never check your own work!
Of course, we ended up selling the extra stock, but I never sent off an order again that I haven’t had double-checked by someone else!
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
PRI has stayed organic in our roots, through and through. From its conception and humble beginnings to today‘s manufacturing process, directly with New Zealand beekeeping families, we have kept every product as natural as it can get.
Each high-quality, organic product has a unique story of how it goes from its most natural state to being shipped with a PRI label. From using natural trace elements of wind-and sun-dried sea salt to keeping additives out of our process, we continue to produce high-quality products from our world, giving the very best New Zealand has to offer.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We are continually looking for new, innovative ways to use what the world around us can offer to produce high-quality products that make a difference in our customers‘ health and lives.
Our primary purpose is to create an all-natural solution for digestive issues, which changes lives worldwide.
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?
You are absolutely correct: this was no one-person-show.
My family who supported me, colleagues who pushed me to sell the products and bring the company internationally, and my friends who believed in us along the way definitely kept us moving forward.
However, one of the most influential people would be Chuck Noll. Without my father, Chuck, this business wouldn’t even exist. He not only did everything in his power to help me live life to the fullest, but he formed the company with its primary purpose to help others do the same.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As I mentioned earlier, the sole purpose of PRI is harvesting through homegrown and all-natural. By sticking with the right organic ingredients, we can help customers worldwide who have digestive and other issues when it comes to processed foods.
We also stick with local and native ingredients, partnering with NZ Beekeeping Families and working with the purest, natural, New Zealand elements. This helps us stay true to our roots and continue to bring business to those who prize quality AND quantity.
Ok thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main parts of our interview. How do you define a family business? How is a family business different from a regular business?
A lot of people say, “don‘t mix personal with professional.” But at PRI, we‘ve found that perfect blend between having an experienced, efficient approach, with a close-knit, family touch.
A family business can be different from a commercial organization because we keep our values close, and the well-being of each of our employees closer. And just like you can be proud of where you come from, we‘re proud of what we present to the world here at PRI.
In your opinion or experience, what are the unique advantages that family owned businesses have?
At PRI, we keep it high-quality, organic, and in the family. Family-owned businesses, in our (slightly biased) opinion, provide an excellent environment for both employees and our customers.
In these businesses, you‘ll find trust, authenticity, and a more bonded, unified leadership — because blood truly is thicker than water.
Our business runs on loyalty, flexibility, and stability, with the company here at PRI handed down from my father to me, and from me to the next generation.
We have faith in our vision, which comes with long-term goals and next-generation ingenuity. This means, we‘re ready to keep expanding, keep growing, and keep producing high-quality products, from the comfort of our own “home”.
What are the unique drawbacks or blindspots that family owned businesses have?
We have been here at PRI for decades, and over that time, we’ve grown, learned, and evolved into the company we are today. Over the years, just like in other family-owned businesses, we had our own bumps and curveballs along the way.
Since it can be a tough thing to entirely separate family and business, family-owned-and-operated companies may experience turmoil from deep-rooted family conflict.
You may also be hiring within your family — giving your cousin her first job or your uncle a chance after getting fired from his previous job. This may lead to a lack of skills or experience in specific roles.
However, when done correctly, with that perfect balance between business and blood, you can really see a company thrive under loyalty and perseverance.
What are some of the common mistakes you have seen family businesses make? What would you recommend to avoid those errors?
In family businesses, it can be tough to motivate non-family employees or make them feel like part of the family, too. You want to avoid any favoritism or nepotism. Instead, you should treat all employees the same and keep them all to the same standards, based on merit, and not because of the family tree.
You also want to keep personal and professional problems separate. Disputes at work should be based on just business. You may want to consider hiring a mediator to keep those disputes professional if they arise.
Make sure you’ve planned who would take over — establish a pecking order, so to speak — beforehand. That way, you won‘t be blindsided with a decision that can raise some eyebrows when you need to replace an employee or after someone has stepped down.
You also need to keep your finances separated too. You definitely don‘t want to make big financial moves with your family‘s savings. There should be separate accounts for business and personal lives.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders of family businesses to help their employees to thrive?
Again, you may have the most loving family supporting you in the world, but some boundaries need to be set.
You need to establish clear meetings at work to discuss business instead of doing so at home. Try your best not to mix business, personal, and home life.
Every business member also needs to know (explicitly) their roles and responsibilities to help avoid conflicts.
No matter if they’re family or not, business relationships should also always be put into writing. This can help avoid miscommunication on compensation, ownership shares, duties.
You also want to avoid being the “last resort” for family members looking for employment. Make sure the hiring process is based on merit. It’s okay to give someone in the family their first job — but just make sure that level of necessary experience matches their experience.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean with a story or example?
Anyone can be appointed to a higher position on a business model. They can be handed a chart with tasks to oversee or be told to supervise a meeting.
None of those things make you a leader. I learned early on with PRI that being a leader of a family-owned business meant more than just directing weekly meetings and turning on the lights when we opened. It was more than just directing, delegating, and overseeing. It was more than just what I said.
A true leader leads through their actions, but not just their actions alone. You need a good sense of leadership to truly motivate a group of people — who might not have anything in common other than the company name on their name tag — to come together for a common goal.
You need to be able to put the company, employees, and strategy first before yourself. An appointed leader may portray a sense of authority, but a true leader commands respect through their actions.
For me, it was extremely important — especially in a family-owned business — to show that I meant business. I did so early on through my actions. Even though the company was founded in our family name, I wanted to earn my spot at the top. I committed to showing up first and being one of the last to leave. I dedicated my time, energy, and focus to the company, and the more respect I showed to my peers, the more they respected me. When a problem would arise, I’d be the first in line to try and help solve it. I showed my commitment to the company, which led to helping me lead them, too.
Here is our main question. What are the “5 Things You Need To Run A Highly Successful Family Business”? Please share a story or example for each.
Running a business is already challenging, and although there are benefits to having family support you, running a family business comes with its own challenges.
With all the years that I‘ve experienced in my family business, I‘ve learned my share of life lessons that have helped us overcome, improve, and succeed.
All families have a unique dynamic that is completely their own. And although there are a ton of business models out there to follow, there are unique businesses, too.
There have been five things that have definitely stood out to me to share with your readers on how they can get better as a business (and as a family).
1) Communication is KEY — The way we communicate within our family is already deeply rooted in who we are. That being said, there is overlap between family members and work members. This means you have to make open communication essential in your family business. Confront problems immediately, and don‘t be afraid of bringing in outside mediation or consultation to help with issues.
2) Branch outside your family tree to hire — And make sure they either feel like family, too — or treat all employees the same. You need to be flexible enough to recruit non-family members for both regular staff and leadership positions. You can‘t just rely on cousin Jim to step up. You may need to look elsewhere for better-qualified workers.
3) Don‘t mix personal and professional finances — As I mentioned earlier, even though your career may be your passion project — and your whole family believes in it — be careful not to invest your family‘s life savings into a business idea. If your business isn’t doing well, that isn’t a sign to up the ante or risk with your own money.
4) Define boundaries and set succession standards — Setting very rigid boundaries when it comes to multigenerational family businesses can help you maintain success. You should establish a very clear distinction between family and business — with family problems out of the boardroom and work issues out of the home.
5) Plan for now, and the future — You NEED to be able to set out a path for your business for the next few weeks, months, and even years. Creating family business succession plans (long before you need them) is crucial for continued success. You should also consider identifying talent in employees early — both within and outside of the family. This can help invest in the future of your business.
You also want to consider the longevity of success. Changing with the times is essential for any business. Make sure you evaluate your business for an introduction of fresh faces, new options, and an evolution in technology.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote would have to be, “Quality means doing it right when no one is looking.” — Henry Ford
When starting out as a small company, it can be easy to cut corners, figure out how to sell bulk for cheap by providing less quality, cut costs on the packaging, etc. There are so many different ways to figure out how to not invest in quality from the beginning. You can also justify it by saying that you‘ll “fix the wrong” later when there‘s money.
This can go one of two ways: 1) You can either make a quick buck or 2) it can be a business flop. Either way, you lose. If you found a bit of success with a cheap product, you might think, “Hey, it‘s working — so, if it ain‘t broke, don‘t fix it,” and you continue to sell cheap quality.
If you‘re not going to be investing in quality when you have nothing, then you definitely won‘t be doing it when you have something either.
So, just like with every little thing in life, whether running a business or eating healthily, aim for quality, even when you‘re just a nobody. Quality can get you somewhere. It can lead you to success. And if you still fall short, at least you haven‘t cut any corners along the way. You can be proud of what you‘ve put out there.
We are very blessed that 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 🙂
If I had the opportunity to have breakfast with someone, I would have loved to have breakfast with New Zealander Peter Molan. I, unfortunately, cannot due to his passing a few years ago. He was the scientist who was behind the study of the medicinal value of Manuka honey.
Before he came along, beekeepers were giving away Manuka honey due to its strong taste. Now it‘s a great addition to kitchens everywhere.
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. 🙂
I don’t know what it is about getting the most “bang for your buck” that allows people to compromise quality. And although I love a discounted item on sale as much as the next person, more inferior quality of food, nutrition, and sacrificing what you put in your body is just not something that I would compromise to save a buck or two.
If I were to inspire a movement, it would be to ONLY serve quality food. I would allow only real, whole ingredients sold globally. If there were preservatives, fillers, and ingredients with names I’m not able to pronounce, they’re not allowed. These food items are prevalent in our society and are sometimes even the most affordable food that a family can afford. I find that 100 percent incorrect.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can read more about our story here at PRI, our blog, and view all of our products at: https://www.shoppri.com.
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.