“Empower those around you to create a fantastic work culture” With Josh Wand of ForceBrands and PIÑATA

Empower those around you. When it comes to sharing ideas, I encourage everyone on the team to participate. Whether you are an intern or are leading a department, it’s important that everyone feels empowered to share their thoughts and perspectives. I host office hours for anyone who is interested in catching up. They can schedule […]

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Empower those around you. When it comes to sharing ideas, I encourage everyone on the team to participate. Whether you are an intern or are leading a department, it’s important that everyone feels empowered to share their thoughts and perspectives. I host office hours for anyone who is interested in catching up. They can schedule time with me to connect one-on-one. It’s always exciting to hear team members come forward who want to help carry the ForceBrands flag in a positive new direction. I’m all ears.

As a part of my series about about how leaders can create a “fantastic work culture”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Josh Wand. Josh is the Founder and CEO of both ForceBrands and PIÑATA. He founded ForceBrands — with industry-specific divisions BevForce, FoodForce, BeautyForce, and HerbForce that offer executive search services, board of director assembly, and a digital job board — in 2007 with the understanding that people are a company’s greatest asset. ForceBrands works with brands to build their teams and helps people at all stages of their careers. After years of working and building relationships with companies of all sizes, Josh found that not only did clients need help building their internal teams, they also were looking for a better solution to their external field staffing needs. Founded in 2016, PIÑATA is an experiential marketing platform transforming the way brands create and measure activations. Through this custom technology, PIÑATA provides brands with the tools and insights they need for growth. Over the last year and a half, PIÑATA and its growing team of 10 have connected thousands of brands, agencies, and freelance ambassadors across the country.

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

It all started with a mojito.

I played an instrumental role in running a rum company in the early 2000s where I built deep industry relationships from my experiences hiring my team, managing business development, and running a national sales and distribution network.

The idea for ForceBrands can be traced back to the conversations I had in 2006 when I was promoting our brand at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival in Miami. I was making mojitos with my feet in the sand when someone from a champagne company approached me and asked, “I’m looking to hire a Regional Sales Manager; do you know anyone?” It was the question that started it all. A few minutes later, I met someone from a different champagne company who asked me, “I’m interested in changing jobs. Do you know anyone who’s hiring?” And just like that, my professional matchmaking career was born.

It was this simple interaction that cultivated within me a desire to fill a specific need in the market that didn’t exist at the time: high-quality recruiting for the beverage industry. The few recruiting firms that did exist in the space were either traditional agencies with a limited candidate pool or big firms that knew nothing about our specific industry, emerging brands, or entrepreneurial companies. I knew there was a better way to connect great people to great jobs. In 2007, BevForce was launched and ForceBrands was born.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

The first thing that comes to mind is the incredibly fascinating people and entrepreneurs I’ve met along the way who’ve built some of the world’s most powerful food, beverage, beauty, and cannabis brands. But perhaps what’s most interesting is that I didn’t set out to create what is now ForceBrands — I was mindful to stay tactful and strategic in my approach to remain niche and focus solely on the beverage industry when I started. Because at the time, in 2007, there weren’t any recruiting firms for the beverage industry that approached hiring the way that we did: a high-touch service delivered through a human lens. I saw a unique opportunity in the market and took it. Then in 2014, we launched our second force, FoodForce. This was a natural evolution of our services as there are so many synergies between beverage and food companies and the talent they require to succeed. From there we launched BeautyForce, and most recently, HerbForce, our specialized cannabis division. I am so deeply humbled to lead ForceBrands. It’s a truly multidimensional company that’s as dynamic and energetic as the industry it services.

Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We started off 2019 with the official launch of HerbForce, our specialized cannabis division that follows in the footsteps of BevForce, FoodForce, and BeautyForce, offering executive search services, board of director assembly, and a digital job board. The launch of this new division turns over an exciting new leaf for us as a company and as a team. The budding cannabis industry continues to gain momentum and we’re fortunate to help play a part in building the teams that grow the brands. For us, it’s an incredible opportunity to leverage our skills and talents as ‘people for a hire purpose’ to connect world-class talent with thriving cannabis companies as we’ve done in beverage, food, and beauty for the past decade. But although cannabis is a new space, we’ve been immersed in it for the past four years. Since 2015, fast-growth cannabis companies have trusted ForceBrands to find the right talent to power their brands to scale.

Other exciting projects include our sister company PIÑATA. It’s fun to see how it’s revolutionizing the experiential marketing universe and gaining a unique foothold in the industry.

Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the U.S. workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?

There are a lot of benefits of working in ‘the people business’ of hiring. You learn a lot about what makes a great team; how to keep talent engaged; the importance of a strong work environment; and so forth. There are a lot of elements that go into creating a successful and productive workplace where employees feel valued and happy, and a lot of that boils down to culture. And I don’t mean culture that’s defined by fun perks like beer taps and ping pong tables — culture is about the overall employee experience and how everything from career growth and management training to succession plans and flexible working hours come together to create a positive and productive environment. Unhappiness among workers is often a reflection of the employer being unable to fulfill the needs of its employees. Like any healthy relationship, employers and employees must work together so that the needs of both parties are being met. Based off of data from our 2019 Talent Market Report that analyzed hiring trends across the CPG industry, benefits and compensation packages are the most important factors to retain and attract talent. Today’s benefits and compensation packages are complex as they need to cater to the changing demands of the multigenerational workforce, but those employers who can listen to and identify the needs of their employees will be most successful in maintaining a happy and productive workplace.

Based on your experience or research, how do you think an unhappy workforce will impact a) company productivity b) company profitability c) and employee health and wellbeing?

Productive, happy employees who are engaged and feel valued are the crux of any successful company. They are the engines that power thriving businesses. An unhappy workforce negatively impacts a company’s productivity, which in turn will affect business profitability, and the overall morale of a company. An unhappy workforce is like an unhappy family — it creates a toxic environment. A collaborative environment is key to fostering growth and achieving business objectives.

Can you share 5 things that managers and executives should be doing to improve their company work culture? Can you give a personal story or example for each?

1. Lead, don’t manage

Leadership is a company’s greatest asset. Senior-level managers who understand the difference between managing and leading make all the difference in an organization. We ensure leaders connect directly with their direct reports on a regular basis. We encourage check-ins, leading by example, and I encourage all employees to take advantage of my open door policy and monthly office hours to stay connected.

2. Be transparent

One of the best things a company can offer its employees is transparency. We host regular company-wide meetings to align all our business objectives across all departments. It’s so important that all our functions are working together toward a common goal.

3. Listen

Today’s workplace is extraordinarily complex, especially when you consider that millennials make up one-third of the American workforce and Gen Z is about to usher in nearly 61 million new employees — the largest working generation in our country’s history. With all these changes come new demands. Employers would greatly benefit from listening to the needs of the multigenerational workplace — whether it’s instituting more family leave policies or offering more flexible hours, there’s a lot that can be improved if companies simply listen. Based on data from our 2019 Talent Market report, some of the most popular benefits that will be offered in 2020 include off-site social opportunities and meetups and more flexible summer hours.

4. Be unique

Culture means so many things, and to so many companies. I always encourage our leaders to lean on their own unique strengths as individuals as everyone has something special to offer. Diversity of thought makes a unique culture. I like to use the example of ForceBrands and how we give new employees a plant that we call a ‘money tree’ on their first day at work. It’s something that’s uniquely ForceBrands and is a symbol of our ethos — how if you nurture something as simple as a plant, growth will spawn. Perhaps it’s a larger metaphor for what we do as we nurture our relationships in our community to help grow world-class teams.

5. Empower those around you

When it comes to sharing ideas, I encourage everyone on the team to participate. Whether you are an intern or are leading a department, it’s important that everyone feels empowered to share their thoughts and perspectives. I host office hours for anyone who is interested in catching up. They can schedule time with me to connect one-on-one. It’s always exciting to hear team members come forward who want to help carry our flag in a positive new direction. I’m all ears.

It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but it seems like we have to “change the culture regarding work culture”. What can we do as a society to make a broader change in the US workforce’s work culture?

Because culture means so many different things, it’s difficult to quantify. In its simplest definition, culture is the ethos of a company — the mission, values, and collective heartbeat of a team. To ‘change the culture regarding work culture,’ it comes down to thinking about culture differently, because no two company cultures are the same. Changing team cultures requires changing how we think about it from the highest level. What are the goals we’re trying to accomplish with our team? How will our team drive that success? Start to think about culture from a high-level business standpoint. Set your goal, and then focus on how you can drive your team to achieve it. Identify what motivates and engages them. What do they need to be successful in their roles to meet that goal? Employers should feel empowered to think about culture in this way.

How would you describe your leadership or management style? Can you give us a few examples?

I have the privilege of leading two exceptional hiring companies: ForceBrands and PIÑATA. Both offices are headquartered in neighboring buildings in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood, which makes it easy to be accessible to both teams as much as possible. I often think of myself as a ‘Motivator in Chief’ to both teams. I love grabbing coffee with team members or catching up with them during company retreats and outings. For me, it’s all about being present and in the moment. I’m so incredibly proud of the people I get to work with who bring so many unique talents and ideas to the table. I consider myself very lucky to share in their successes.

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?

My father-in-law is definitely someone who has helped me get where I am today. When I married my wife, I also found a new mentor and best friend in him. It was a win-win. He comes from a very entrepreneurial family and is an entrepreneur himself. He guides me spiritually, professionally, and helps me think about growth in new innovative ways. He is a true mentor to me and has made me a better leader. Above all, he’s taught me the importance of doing things with integrity.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

From a young age, I’ve always been fascinated with people and learning about what makes individuals tick. Fortunately, I’ve been able to turn this passion into a career where I help people leverage their unique skills and talent to build some pretty incredible brands that change the world. That to me, is pretty impactful. Helping people land their dream job feels great and can change the trajectory of their lives.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Absolutely. I’ve always believed that there’s no such thing as failure, there are just opportunities to develop as a human. I’ve revisited this idea throughout my career, and it’s helped me become the leader I am today. I’m enormously grateful for the challenges that present themselves when you build a business from the ground up. It’s a humbling experience that has taught me that you truly grow through what you go through.

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. 🙂

We like to believe we’re ‘people for a HIRE purpose,’ and ‘go HIRE’ is our mantra. I don’t mean this from a career sense, either. I take great pride in encouraging those around me, particularly team members, to tap into their own unique skills and purposes. If everyone took the time to leverage their personal strengths in a positive, productive way, I think that would be an inspirational movement. Who doesn’t feel inspired to ‘go HIRE.’?

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