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Leading A Company That Improves Lives

An Interview With CEO Robert Craven

Can you tell us about your journey to becoming CEO?

My background is primarily rooted in the natural industry — it’s an area that’s seen a lot of innovation over the years, and I am constantly amazed by how brands within this space continue to reinvent the wheel. Over the past few decades, I’ve developed extensive experience in supplements as the former CEO of Garden of Life. Prior to that, I partnered with Jethren Phillips, founder of Spectrum Organic Oils, to successfully build a high-growth organic ingredients business. I also did a stint with Procter and Gamble, where I learned more about the world of CPG, and briefly worked in healthcare at Boston Scientific.

When I was offered the position at MegaFood, I felt like I found what I like to call my “sweet spot.” Working at this company gives me the opportunity to not only tap into all of my prior experience, but leverage it for a company that strives to make the world a better place. From the world of supplements with MegaFood and the work we do with farmers, to working with INNATE Response, a brand that targets healthcare practitioners, it continues to be an incredibly enriching and rewarding experience.

My goal when I became CEO at MegaFood was to utilize my experience and talent to establish not only a profitable and growing company, but a company that was purpose-driven and all about improving people’s lives. We’ve made great strides in transforming how MegaFood earns the trust of consumers, and we’re constantly working towards becoming a dynamic proponent for positive change in the supplements industry and beyond.

What is your definition of success?

Success to me is all about making a positive impact. Yes, building profitable businesses is important in so many ways — but equally important to me is serving my wife, kids, community, employees at MegaFood, key stakeholders, retailers, consumers — you name it. When I meet my maker, I aspire to have people say things like, “He made a difference in my life,” and “The companies he was involved with are making a difference in the world.”

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

Wow — well, I certainly know the most embarrassing. Early in my CEO career here at MegaFood we had a Town Hall meeting where we share results with all employees, honor success corporately and individually, learn from our failings and take real-time questions about the business. The theme that year was “rodeo” so of course I was dressed up like a cowboy and I rode into the meeting on a small, tractor-like toy. As I stopped to shake hands with someone in the crowd and then revved back up to get going to the podium, my tractor flew right out from under me and I landed flat on my back with a very heavy thud! This was in front of the entire company! Well, dust off, limp to the podium and complete your talk… I think this was fate as it showed the company we could have fun, laugh at one another — even the CEO… This really supported our core values of having fun and enjoying the journey.

What failures have you had along the way? How have they led you to success?

I have been truly blessed to be the CEO of three, purpose-driven organizations. During my first CEO assignment when I was in my mid-30’s I found myself at the helm of an organization that was growing like a weed! We were hiring 20–30 people a month and there was no end in sight to our growth. Well, we hit a bump along the way and we had to make the tough call of pulling our #1 product off the market for several months; this happened to be the #1 product in the market as well. This led to a situation where we were forced to lay off approximately 50 people from the organization. After sorting the entire organization into two large rooms, our CFO informed the employees who were not being laid off while I had to inform those who were losing their jobs. As I admitted our mistake of over-investing for the future without adequately weighing the risk I literally broke down and sobbed. I cared deeply about these people and felt the full brunt of responsibility for the current situation.

This event taught me so many lessons including being smarter about investments in growth, truly discerning when to bring on new employees and ensuring financial security as a hedge against catastrophic events. While we did pull out of our mess and hire many of the people we had to let go back, I will never forget that feeling of letting them go and the meaningful lessons learned.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

MegaFood is different because we are the first and only supplement brand to have our entire line certified Glyphosate Residue Free by The Detox Project, an independent research and certification organization dedicated to testing consumer goods and food products for toxic chemicals (not in our products means not in your body). Beyond that, all MegaFood products are non-GMO, tested for 125+ herbicides and pesticides, gluten-free, vegan or vegetarian, kosher, dairy-free and soy-free.

Another major differentiating factor is our Big T Transparency platform. It means we give everyone we work with, from consumers to retailers to partners, visibility into the company’s operations. We operate our own production facilities, which help us guarantee the highest level of quality control, safety, and potency in our products. You can even view our manufacturing process on Live Cams 24/7.

We’re also starting to get involved in policy on the state and federal levels in an effort to drive positive social impact, specifically within the agriculture industry as it’s so closely tied to our mission of nourishing the world. More on that below.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?

We recently rolled out a new mission to “nourish a world in nutritional crisis.” We understand that, due to the destructive farming practices in the U.S., our soil is depleted, meaning it’s producing food with less nourishment. This directly impacts big agriculture as well as all consumer packaged goods; consumers are not getting the same nutrient rich food that we did even 30 years ago and it’s resulting in a multitude of health and diet issues. In an effort to inspire and drive positive change, we’ve begun development of a global verification standard for food grown in a regenerative way in partnership with The Carbon Underground and Green America. This initiative is expected to result in improved soil health, improved human health, and a reduction in the threat from climate change.

Beyond our social impact initiatives, we never want to forget our roots. MegaFood owes its growth and continued success to our natural retail partners, and in an effort to support those partnerships we’ve announced the introduction of an exclusive Zero Out-of-Stock program for natural retailers. Launching as a 90-day beta test with a planned rollout this Fall, the program aims to help natural retailers better serve their customers in the event MegaFood products are out-of-stock. In an omnichannel world where consumers are looking to make more healthful and sustainable choices, MegaFood’s new Zero-Out-of-Stock program will benefit natural retail partners by ensuring they have access to inventory of MegaFood supplements at all times, thereby helping them retain customers and securing in-store sales on demand.

Can you tell us about the initiatives that your company is doing to become more sustainable? Can you give an example for each?

Earlier this year we announced that MegaFood is now a Certified B Corporation. The certification underscores MegaFood’s mission to nourish a world in nutritional crisis through education, community and conscientious farming practices. As a Certified B Corporation, MegaFood is now primed to become a driver of change in the creation of meaningful jobs, the improvement of lives, and the application of best business practices. In addition to promoting greater alignment with employees, retailers, vendors and consumers, this certification also helps MegaFood benchmark and improve its social and environmental contributions over time. While the MegaFood brand has always aligned with B Corp social impact standards, the company began its formal certification efforts in late 2017. We have implemented the following strategic initiatives to support its B Corp certification:

· Revised corporate bylaws to include social, environmental and economic diligence, ensuring the company stays on course, regardless of short-term and/or financial factors.

· Established its Farm Fresh Partner program, a network of local farmers from which MegaFood sources its whole food ingredients. MegaFood envisions working with partners within this network to implement farming practices that better align with the principles of regenerative agriculture and ethical sourcing.

· Began development of a global verification standard for food grown in a regenerative way in partnership with The Carbon Underground and Green America that results in improved soil health, improved human health, and a reduction of the threat from climate change. This work builds upon the Regenerative Agriculture Initiative that has over 150 companies, organizations and scientists as signatories (mentioned above).

· Became the first supplement brand to obtain Glyphosate Residue Free (GRF) certification for its entire line of products. The certification was granted by The Detox Project, an independent research and certification organization, after MegaFood submitted its products to an independent, third-party laboratory for testing and was found to have met The Detox Project’s stringent standards (also mentioned above).

· Integrated social impact as a crucial role in company-wide performance evaluations (more details below).

· Initiated a formal strategy for improving MegaFood employees’ well-being by offering richer development opportunities through self-leadership and providing high-quality comprehensive benefits packages, including compassionate personal leave programs, competitive salaries and bonus opportunities. The company has also committed to ensuring that employees are paid at least 25% above the published living wage rate in its local recruiting area.

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

Two things. One, establish an inspiring purpose. At MegaFood ours is all about nourishing a world in nutritional crisis — much bigger than just making and selling products. Make sure your purpose comes straight from your heart and then motivate and inspire your company with vulnerable, authentic and personal stories that will help bring that purpose to life. Second, be transparent in everything you do. Make big, bold, scary promises to your employees, customers, stakeholders and to the marketplace. Promise transparency inside and out. This will do more to help you make great decisions day in and day out than anything else you can do. You will have to make a lot of calls as a CEO or founder that will be in the grey area — the earlier you set the boundaries for those calls the better.

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?

I often tell the story of my dad’s cancer when I was very young and he was very young. He was informed that he only had two years to live and so he decided at that point to impart all of his wisdom into his six year old son before he departed. Three things he poured into me: make a difference, be bold and do it right. I think about these words of wisdom every day and he is my hero as he went on to beat cancer and make a huge difference in this world himself with his commitment to Hospice and grief counseling; especially for children who have lost a parent.

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

I’d like to think I’m leveraging MegaFood’s economic influence to achieve real change. Our social impact strategy and achieving B Corp status are important steps towards that long-term goal. We’re taking big stands on important issues, like glyphosate, regenerative agriculture and nutrition, because they’re real problems we need to address for the sake of future generations.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why?

· Commit to your personal purpose before deciding what you want to be or where you want to work

· It’s equally about relationships, not just results

· People won’t buy into your big vision unless you are bringing in Friday’s payroll

· You aren’t responsible for making every decision — in fact, if you spread those decisions around to the people you have hired that are smarter than you, success will come easier and quicker

· It’s hard, but nothing builds trust like vulnerability — share personal failures and learnings, take your 100% responsibility and share your genuine gratitude with those around you early and often

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.

If I could inspire a movement, it would be to end nutritional poverty in our lifetime. It’s a big undertaking — making sure everyone on the planet is truly nourished. Poverty is a big word with big impact — whether you are young or old, male or female, poor or rich, we all experience the effects of nutritional poverty. Our goal at MegaFood is to cure that issue in our lifetime. I believe that with new technology and new ways of thinking, we can solve this crisis worldwide in the next 50 years.

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

I have a daily ritual where I look at several meaningful quotes every day, but I have to say the one that has been most impactful in my life is from the book of Proverbs in the Bible, “many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” This quote serves to keep me humble and remind me that I am on this earth to serve a higher power. When I get into times of stress, this reminder always keeps me grounded. I tap into that higher power whenever I find that I am putting too much on myself and this brings peace and clarity.

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