Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success: “Do the right thing every day” With Stephen B. Richards President & CEO of BetterBody Foods and Phil Laboon

Do the right thing every day. Each day you will be presented with options — in some instances the option that provides a short-term gain may negatively require a slight adjustment to your integrity or sense of right and wrong. Do not make this mistake. Do the right thing every day and it will stir a sense […]

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Do the right thing every day. Each day you will be presented with options — in some instances the option that provides a short-term gain may negatively require a slight adjustment to your integrity or sense of right and wrong. Do not make this mistake. Do the right thing every day and it will stir a sense of courage and commitment within you that good things will come your way, even in the face of prospective and imminent disaster.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephen Richards. Stephen Richards is President & CEO of BetterBody Foods, a natural and organic foods company that he co-founded in 2007 with Steve Birt. Prior to founding BetterBody Foods, Mr. Richards worked in various fields: lawyer with Latham & Watkins; Private Equity with Banyan Ventures; Investment Banking with Roberston Stephens; and Business Operations with CIGNA Healthcare. Mr. Richards graduated Summa Cum Laude from Brigham Young University with Juris Doctorate in 1989 and received his B.S. in Business Management, Accounting Option from California State University, Los Angeles in 1985.

Q: Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path

A: There is no specific story but a culmination of life events that led me to start BetterBody Foods. I always wanted to own my own business and have always been very interested in health, nutrition and cooking. My grandparents on both sides of my family, including my mother, had diabetes and witnessed the debilitating effects of the disease as they grew older. I also personally struggle with my weight but am committed to avoiding adult onset diabetes through diet and exercise. All this came together when I discovered agave nectar — a low glycemic index sweetener that was delicious, saved calories and did not impact blood sugar levels. I really thought I could save the world with this product and committed to get it to market at an affordable price. Agave became the basis of BetterBody Foods’ business model, which is “to bring healthy alternatives to the foods we eat every day to market at a great price.”

Q: 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?

A: There were many challenges from day one. I had to leave an investment firm that did not believe in the concept, did not pay myself for several years, struggled with the right way to bring the product to market (home parties, internet, traditional retail), charged all expenses to my personal credit cards to the limit and was on the road constantly performing in-store demonstrations of the product to the point that I developed plantar fasciitis.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

A: I started the business when I was 45 years old and knew this was it for me and my family. It was all or nothing, I took the same attitude Caesar did when he invaded the British Isles. He burned the ships behind him and told his troops that it was conquer (i.e. success) or die. I had no option but to succeed and was not going to have any regrets regardless of the outcome and was committed to leaving nothing on the table.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

A: I learned that through shear grit, determination and persistence, and by doing the right thing every day, that I would ultimately prevail in the end and be successful.

So, how are things going today? 🙂

A: Things today are fantastic! The business is thriving, profitable and growing with new opportunities being presented daily. We have 125 employees that are incredible, committed to the business and to their personal professional development. It is a joy to work with so many great people — I almost hate the weekends!

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

  1. Do something good for someone each day. This can be either big or small but be conscious and committed to making the world a better place for someone each day. Put positive energy out each day and you can rest assured that it will come back to you. This will keep you permitted to persist.
  2. Recognize that setbacks are temporary and that you will learn from them. We all have set backs in our personal lives and in our businesses. By understanding that it is temporary and that you will learn from the setback and be better for it, is a an attribute that all entrepreneurs must develop. No personal pity parties. Be thankful, and yes, even grateful, for your setbacks and the learning experience that will make you better and stronger.
  3. Do the right thing every day. Each day you will be presented with options — in some instances the option that provides a short-term gain may negatively require a slight adjustment to your integrity or sense of right and wrong. Do not make this mistake. Do the right thing every day and it will stir a sense of courage and commitment within you that good things will come your way, even in the face of prospective and imminent disaster.
  4. Keep at it with the understanding that, eventually, things are going to come your way. I never developed any business sitting in my office. I had to keep at it even when it seemed that my efforts were in vain. I am always pleasantly surprised at where success comes from when you are committed to “keeping at it.”
  5. Belief in your vision. You will not be able to persist, or exercise grit, if you do not believe in yourself, your ability to ultimately succeed or in your vision. Many will tell you that you are wrong, that it cannot be done, or tell you how you would do it. Make sure to look at the source of advice.

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 you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

A: I have had a lot of help along the way from many great people. The one instance that sticks out in my mind is when we needed $50K for inventory for a specific opportunity. My cards were fully charged, the line of credit was fully drawn, and we were selling more product than we had cash to buy inventory. I called and spoke to one of my investors/board members who was later at my door that night with a check for $50K without any strings or terms attached. He just knew that I would take care of him and trusted me to do so. I have and am still committed to making that trust he showed me is shown to others and never broken with him.

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

A: We are first committed to our employees and making sure that they are competitively compensated with a good base salary, bonus potential, medical, dental and matching 401K. Second, we are committed to making the world a better place. We have supported both financially and with our employees time, a medical clinic in the Dominican Republic. The clinic was developed by one of our board members and provides medical, dental and optometric services. Our relationship with, and support of the clinic, has now turned into several potential business opportunities that are under development. This initial investment of time and money is now turning into some great economic opportunities for us as well the people of the Dominican Republic!

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

A: Yes, we are working on several exciting new projects. We expect to launch at least 4 new products per year and will be making major investments in equipment for entire new lines of products that we believe will take us to the next level. One economic investment is going to be in the Dominican Republic where we have been investing in humanitarian efforts for the past two years. To use a Disney phrase from Lion King, I like to think of it as the “circle of life.” We contribute to the people there, and by contributing we discover economic opportunities which create jobs and profits that permits us to make further contributions — both economic and humanitarian. Very cool concept that our company is benefitting from in so many ways. I am not yet able to divulge what we are doing, but will be able to do so in about 6 months.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

A: Give your employees the tools that they need and the trust and latitude to perform. You will be surprised at how great your good employees are. And for those that do not fit or perform, move them out quickly.

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. 🙂

A: The biggest game changer in my life was to do at least one good thing each day for someone. I cannot help but feel that the world would be a different place if everyone would commit to do one good deed for someone else each day. This would be the movement that I would like to start.

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

A: I have two quotes:

  1. Calvin Coolidge:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”

  1. Admiral Stockdale and the Stockdale Paradox from the book Good to Great:

Admiral Stockdale was imprisoned under brutal circumstance during the Vietnam War and when asked about the experience he said:

“I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event of my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.”

Having that type of faith in the outcome as an entrepreneur and appreciating the experience is critical.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

A: Instagram @BetterBodySteve

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