Enjoy something non-work related together. — We’re all humans. And at BOMANI, we’re all working incredibly hard to make sure our company achieves its true potential. Those two reasons highlight exactly why it’s so important to share non-work-related experiences together! We have Aloha Fridays, where each of us rocks a floral button down on our daily wrap-up call. On top of that, we schedule monthly happy hours (via Zoom) to get our minds off work and just take some time to catch up on everything else we’ve got going on in our lives.
As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a large team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sam Madani.
Sam Madani is the co-founder and CEO of BOMANI Cold Buzz, an alcohol-infused cold brew and lifestyle brand disrupting the canned cocktail space. Born and raised in California to Iranian immigrants, Sam has witnessed the challenges his parents have overcome, as well as their successes, which have always been a source of motivation. This drive combined with his insatiable desire to learn has made him relentless in the pursuit of success.
After graduating from the University of Southern California, he moved to New York to work in investment banking. With long workdays leading into happy hour with colleagues or friends, he soon realized there was a glaring gap in the market for a delicious beverage that encompassed both natural caffeine and low-carb alcohol.
Returning often to the idea of creating a better-for-you alcoholic beverage alternative, Sam began to conduct research around the idea of marrying cold brew coffee and alcohol from sugar cane, two of the fastest growing categories in the beverage industry — later resigning from his full time job to pursue his vision of BOMANI Cold Buzz with his now business partners Amin Anjedani and Kai Drewry.
Launching BOMANI in March 2020, Sam and the BOMANI team are quickly redefining the RTD beverage space through the creation of an entirely new product category, defined by BOMANI’s top-quality ingredients, best-in-class flavor, and innovative branding.
As a natural-born leader and as charismatic as they come, Sam has enjoyed building meaningful relationships within the industry, which is evident in BOMANI’s immediate success. Throughout the development of BOMANI, he learned that his purpose in life is to find solutions for others that allow them to live passionately without sacrificing other aspects of their lives.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
I’m the son of two Iranian immigrants, and I’ve always been inspired by witnessing the challenges that my parents have overcome. Watching them grow to be so successful gave me the confidence to feel like I could achieve whatever I set out to do.
My mom will tell you that back in seventh grade, I pitched her on a business: I was selling ringtones to my fellow students on the school bus. I ended up getting caught by my mom after she found a number of dollar bills in the pockets of my pants. We joke now that this was my first entrepreneurial venture.
Before BOMANI, I worked in investment banking, where I learned a ton from my team (specifically my boss, Steve) and I enjoyed dissecting the nuts & bolts of various businesses. With long work days leading into happy hours with colleagues or friends, my co-founders and I soon realized there was a glaring gap in the market for a delicious beverage that encompassed both natural caffeine and low-carb alcohol.
We set out to create a top-notch alcohol-infused cold brew coffee, with 100% ethically sourced Arabica beans, only 110 calories, zero sugar, zero carbs and a 5.7% ABV. We chose the name BOMANI, which means “to have purpose” because we feel that we have discovered our purpose in creating a beverage that empowers our friends & family to pursue their purpose without sacrificing their social life or physical health.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Oh man, I could go on and on! Whether it’s innovating a first-of-its-kind product, building infrastructure to support demand, pivoting strategy on a literal weekly basis through a global pandemic, or any of our other adventures, I’m certainly not short on interesting stories.
I would say the most interesting story is about how I met Kai and Amin, who are the two other co-founders of BOMANI Cold Buzz. Believe it or not, I met Kai in Ibiza the Summer after we graduated college and I convinced him to move across the country to New York before he even had a job. We soon met Amin in a less glorious environment than the beaches of Ibiza — at a party in a mutual friend’s apartment in New York, a night that the three of us lovingly refer to as the worst party we’ve ever been to.
I could tell from the beginning that these two were going to be my friends for life. From the conception of the idea, it was no question that I wanted Kai and Amin to be my partners — they’re both wildly talented, dedicated, trustworthy, innovative, intelligent, and hard working. Most importantly, we make each other better — both personally and professionally. I’m thankful for a lot of things that have gone right with BOMANI, but having the honor of partnering with Kai and Amin tops the list.
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?
Absolutely. In hindsight, it was funny — in the moment, it was actually pretty tough. When we first had the idea for BOMANI, we planned to partner with a local brewer in the New York / New Jersey area. Let’s just say that it didn’t quite work out that way! We were shut down left and right; we were told that our idea was stupid, and some of them even belittled us for having the audacity to approach them.
We didn’t let it stop us. We combined strategic networking with hard work and ended up earning a contract with some of the largest and most talented manufacturers in the world! For us, this was a lesson in innovation — to succeed at the top level, you must innovate every single day, never allowing yourself to fall into being content with what you have.
Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers”. What are your thoughts on the best way to retain great talent today?
At BOMANI, we are firm believers that the team is the single most critical aspect of a business. We believe that a team should be a group of individuals who feel empowered by one another; a collection in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
I believe a lot of our success in recruiting and retaining talent is a result of our culture of empowering one another. Everyone at BOMANI is comfortable admitting to one another when we either need support or can offer support for others. By normalizing honest & vulnerable conversations, we have built a culture with strong fundamentals centered around empowerment. We have learned that by empowering our talented people and rewarding their courage and creativity, we can retain our talent and continue to grow together.
How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?
I’ll echo a lot of what I mentioned in my last point — this all starts with building an ecosystem of support; truly understanding each person or party’s strengths and empowering them to lead their silo. A critical part of creating synchrony in this ecosystem is clearly defining the specific expectations of each silo and holding everyone accountable.
Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”. (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)
- Lead from the front — Produce the quality of work that you expect from the rest of your team. As a leader, you are responsible to set the standard for your team. There’s a major difference in being a leader vs. being a boss (and before BOMANI, trust me, I worked for both types). A leader supports and empowers their team, while a “boss” commands and micromanages. To me, the highest compliment I could receive is someone telling me that they’re better at their job because I did something to help them. Leaders show servitude, instilling the confidence into each individual that their ideas are valuable and will be taken seriously.
- Define measurable expectations & hold people accountable. — When you’re growing fast and working with a huge number of people every day, it’s absolutely critical that you make it crystal clear what you are expecting from each person and each team. We actually have a cultural pillar that mandates everyone at BOMANI to reiterate the expectations after a meeting and set specific, measurable goals. A beautiful benefit of having a strong team is that you can hold one another accountable. We view accountability as an opportunity rather than a chore — it is an opportunity for each of us to tangibly make the business stronger day after day.
- Listen to your people and understand the truth — Sometimes, when there’s a lot of excitement in a meeting, it’s easy to brush over the areas that need improvement. To make sure we’re learning the whole truth (including the hard truth, when relevant), we start all of our meetings with the bad news. The “bad news first” rule fosters an environment where everyone feels comfortable because they know that the rest of the team is here to support, however we can address the bad news. Listening to your people also allows your business to cultivate courage and creativity. It’s a hallmark trait of a stagnant organization when they’re comfortable reliving the status quo, ignoring any new ideas that may rock the boat. Oppositely, we encourage our team to go against the grain and share new ideas freely! The only way to create this ecosystem is to truly listen.
- Over-communicate — Every morning, our executive team has a call where we review our plans for the day to gauge how we can help one another and collaborate. We believe that this practice is largely the reason that BOMANI as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Over-communicating also gives your team the opportunity to have real discussions on the most important pieces of the business. Disagreements will always exist, but we’ve learned that so many times when people feel like they disagree, they’re actually more on the same page than not. This makes disagreements even more important to address when they do exist since you can actually confirm that you truly are on different pages — and that’s healthy!
- Enjoy something non-work related together. — We’re all humans. And at BOMANI, we’re all working incredibly hard to make sure our company achieves its true potential. Those two reasons highlight exactly why it’s so important to share non-work-related experiences together! We have Aloha Fridays, where each of us rocks a floral button down on our daily wrap-up call. On top of that, we schedule monthly happy hours (via Zoom) to get our minds off work and just take some time to catch up on everything else we’ve got going on in our lives.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Don’t be afraid to dive deep and identify the most relevant pain points in your business. I know that the hard truth can be intimidating, but I can promise you that you’ll thank yourself for focusing on how to consistently improve your business.
This is especially relevant when you’re getting a lot of good news. Even when it may be tempting to kick back and celebrate, look under the rug and capture the opportunities to make your business better tomorrow than it is today. To make sure we’re always living in this mentality, we adopted the “5-minute celebration” at the recommendation of one of our Advisors. When something great happens, take 5 minutes, enjoy the fruits of your labor, and then Get. Back. To. Work!
A critical piece of this goes back to empowering people — everyone should feel comfortable sharing the bad news with you first, because it is a chance for BOMANI to learn what we can collectively do better.
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.
One word: education. There is tremendous potential in everyone, and in entirely too many cases, that potential remains untapped! When I say “education,” I’m not necessarily referring to the traditional system we have today where individuals are taught to attend a specific university and pigeonhole themselves into a field that they aren’t passionate about. I believe the world will be a dramatically better place once we learn to adapt an education system that is focused on cultivating each individual’s unique talents.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Everything negative — pressure, challenges — is an opportunity for me to rise.” — Kobe Bryant
Growing up, I always naturally thrived under pressure. Even back when I was on the swim team in high school, I performed so much better during a race vs. during practice that my coach accused me of being lazy during our daily workouts. I’m proud to say that our team at BOMANI largely shares this trait, and it’s become more important than ever in 2020.
It’s no secret that 2020 has put substantial pressure on the business world, challenging us week after week — and I could not be more proud of how our team navigated these uncharted waters. We’ve expanded into 33 states (8 on-shelves and 33 online), earned key authorizations at retailers such as Whole Foods, Total Wine, BevMo!, Wegmans, Draeger’s, Lucky’s, and more, and most importantly, we’ve seen more and more people enjoying BOMANI as a complement to their other beverage preferences.