Develop trust and empower those around you. You can’t personally drag an organization from good to great.
Be righteous and have integrity in all aspects of your business. It’s contagious!
Deliver the vision, unite with the mission, establish the culture, and defend your cash.
As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Garrett Bain, Chief Commercial Officer at Kadenwood and President of EcoGen BioSciences.
Garrett is a trailblazer in the hemp and CBD space. He led sales and marketing for GenCanna from the early stages to one of the largest players in the global market. Achieving revenue growth of over 100m dollars in three years. His focus on integrating mainstream business practices into the hemp-derived CBD space helped to validate the industry and foster growth across multiple channels.
Prior to hemp, Garrett was a VP of Sales in consumer goods distribution, servicing the global leaders of big box retail and ecommerce. His execution-oriented, “lead from the front” style, can be attributed to his time serving as a Special Operations Team Leader with the 75th Ranger Regiment. He is a combat veteran who pursues the objective with a relentless commitment to his team and achieving success.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
After college, I joined the Army and served in Special Operations with the 75th Ranger Regiment. Upon returning home from Afghanistan, I transitioned out of the Army and into technology in the private sector. I spent 10 years in consumer goods distribution before moving into a consulting role in which I was introduced to the hemp-derived cannabidiol (CBD) industry. The wellness and agricultural aspects of the business were very inspiring. In 2017, I joined a vertically-integrated industry pioneer and led sales and marketing through the ups and downs of the evolving market. I joined a fantastic team at Kadenwood last year and we completed the acquisition of EcoGen in August 2020.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Transitioning from the military to corporate America was a significant challenge. Metrics for success are measured differently and I needed to adapt my approach to better align with the goals of my organization. My time in the military has helped me maintain perspective through very challenging times in my career. This experience taught me a lot about integrity, mental fortitude and teamwork. Never give up on yourself!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
When I first got into the sales side, I accidentally emailed a very large retailer the cost worksheet for a holiday deal that we were quoting them. Email recall never works so I replied to my own email with a “please delete!”, hoping that my relationship with the buyer would save me. I will never know if she reviewed our costing model, but they took the deal and we had a very successful year. Sometimes we move too fast and need to be more deliberate in our actions. “Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
EcoGen has an incredibly versatile team that enables us to innovate rapidly in response to changing market conditions. The hemp-derived products market is evolving, and customer needs are changing daily. Industry standards are inconsistent, and we have customers requesting many different specifications for a seemingly “standard” product. We see this “problem” as an opportunity for innovation. R&D, Fabrication, Facilities, Quality, and Production all collaborate to develop a product strategy that will provide the best customer experience in the industry.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Get to an organized fitness class in the morning! It’s painful, but you start the day with endorphins and a sense of accomplishment. Organized group fitness pushes you harder, has a social aspect, and keeps you motivated! Health has a major impact on my mood and performance. Go get it in!
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?
I am grateful for my grandfather’s example and guidance over the years. He was a family man, businessman and most importantly, a gentleman. If I could distill his influence down to a single word it would be integrity. Integrity is a virtue that is critically important and the fabric of our culture here at EcoGen.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
A good company meets stakeholder expectations from employees and board members to customers and investors. Great companies define an industry or category through a sustained cycle of innovation, assessment and adjustment. Markets move rapidly and great companies embrace this trend and develop a platform for learning and changing.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Employees will always follow leadership’s example. Set the standard through your actions.
- Create a mechanism for learning from your customers and the market. Your definition of great isn’t always shared.
- Develop trust and empower those around you. You can’t personally drag an organization from good to great.
- Be righteous and have integrity in all aspects of your business. It’s contagious!
- Deliver the vision, unite with the mission, establish the culture, and defend your cash.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
EcoGen BioSciences’ mission in the hemp industry is inherently purpose driven. We believe hemp is a viable agricultural commodity with many purposes that creates value and jobs, and we must be stewards of our environment and our local communities. We believe hemp-derived cannabinoids positively impact the health of people and our pets, so we are driven to provide global access to cannabinoids so everyone can benefit. Hemp is inherently a purpose-driven business for us.
What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
Businesses are living organisms, they evolve and grow, and can balloon up or become stagnant based on internal and external variables and stimuli. With this in mind, I think the most valuable parts of that “organism” is the collection of its parts — the people. Your team is a reflection of your business, and they are the source of inertia, so trust them — and challenge them — to take further ownership of the collective goal, and encourage creative risk and new ideas within the frameworks you’ve already built. If the whole team is rowing, the ship will never be stagnant.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Turn back the clock. Software integrations and strategic re-alignments don’t always solve what can sometimes be a simple problem — work harder. Digital campaigns are valuable and drive leads and revenues, but nothing beats rolling up the sleeves and making phone calls and burning the midnight oil.
In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Empathy. Even in the most ideal business, there are varied levels of buy-in from person to person. The CEO may eat, breath and sleep the company, but the third-year accounting manager may love the consistency of 9–5 and turning the phone off over the weekend. Empathy brings the human element of the business together, and great leaders I’ve worked with tap into it to communicate tremendously and understand personalities and workflows to better develop strategies and forecasts.
As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
Sell a truly great product. You can’t deflect away from that with salesmanship or craft forever. Find a team, a product that resonates with you and you believe in, and then use your best skill sets to tell an engaging story around it.
Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Consistency, reliability, honesty. Sometimes machines break at manufacturing facilities, bottles have bad seals, but consistent forward communication to adaptively level-set expectations with your customers and supply chain partners is important in building great working relationships. Deliver on promises, and don’t ever deviate from your quality standards and core brand promises.
Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
This is kind of the Golden Rule here — treat others the way you want to be treated. Your brand’s customer experience should be to a standard that you and your friends and family members would be happy to engage with. If something wouldn’t be good enough for your or Grandma, why would it be for a customer?
What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Chasing perfection. The “Fail, fail fast, fail faster” mentality is not just for garage start ups — it’s for all of us. Iteration, adaptation and constant challenging of norms has been an important value for me and the teams I’ve succeeded with.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!