Scott Sensenbrenner of Enzymedica: “Good company is one that is financially strong and has a solid portfolio of existing and new products”

In my view, a good company is one that is financially strong and has a solid portfolio of existing and new products. A great company is composed of a synergistic team that is focused on the core mission and values with a longer-term approach to what success looks like. Furthermore, great companies are able to […]

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In my view, a good company is one that is financially strong and has a solid portfolio of existing and new products. A great company is composed of a synergistic team that is focused on the core mission and values with a longer-term approach to what success looks like. Furthermore, great companies are able to maintain the core focus, but also pivot when they see the market is going beyond a trend to consistent reality.

One of my favorite examples of a company that was once upon a time great and eventually fell from grace is the Hostess company. We all grew up with Twinkies and Wonder Bread since those brands dominated. But in the early 2000s, their leadership team felt the trend of low carb diets was a fad, so they didn’t adapt their portfolio. As sales plummeted and their critical mass engines failed, they lost control of what was once a great company — leading to the depths of bankruptcy. We should all learn from their mistakes and know when to stay the course and when to pivot, since sometimes trends truly are fads and not worthy of a strategy shift.

As part of my series about the “How To Take Your Company From Good To Great”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Scott Sensenbrenner. He is a natural products industry veteran with a career spanning more than 20 years. He has been the driving force behind Enzymedica as President & CEO since 2009, where he expanded the Florida-based natural digestive health brand to be in more than 30,000 retail locations and online worldwide.

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?

As a child, I grew up in a household of five children and from an early age, we were taught that if you wanted something in life you had to earn it. To put some color around this early lesson in life, I remember around the age of 12, on a hot summer day, my friends asked me to join them at the neighborhood pool. So, I ran in the house and asked my mother if I could have 1 dollar for the entry and another 50 cents for candy. Rather than simply giving me the money, she walked into the garage and handed me a large bucket and said once I had filled it up with acorns, she would give me the money. I remember being very disappointed as my friends left and went on to the pool without me. Meanwhile, I stayed back and filled that bucket to earn my day in the sun.

I share this story because it was a lesson of learning the value of each 1 dollar and in today’s world that is often forgotten. But beyond the 1 dollar itself, my life and career was built on filling “one bucket of acorns at a time!”

After I graduated from high school it was time for college, and because I had to pay for my own education, I started at a community college. I later transferred to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh to complete my degree. Looking back, I took my education very seriously and worked extra hard for every credit — since I was the one paying for it.

From that humble beginning in Wisconsin, I never lost my focus moving forward. I intuitively knew that I would continue with that same work ethic by earning my own way in an effort to achieve the best life possible.

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?

Always having to earn my own way, there have been many times that I thought about taking an easier path. The greatest challenge was when I left big business and took an entrepreneurial route with Enzymedica, my present position as CEO, which at the time of my joining the company was a very small family-run business. My ego, at the time, thought I could apply best practices from what I had learned in my prior corporate experiences and quickly ramp up the company. What I didn’t appreciate was how difficult it was to take a company with very few resources and support staff and bring it to the next level. It seemed every time I was dealing with a large challenge that represented another mountain to climb, a recruiter would contact me with an amazing opportunity to be CEO of an even larger organization. It was very tempting, at challenging moments, to return to the safety of leading a company with critical mass, but I was committed to the challenge Enzymedica presented. Beyond the internal motivation of building the company, I felt a strong calling that consumers needed to learn more about the healing power of enzymes for their digestive health.

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?

In the early years of Enzymedica, we needed to raise more capital to fund our growth. Therefore, we hired a banker and started doing road shows with potential investors. After several meetings we became very frustrated because each firm wanted too much control. Then finally we met a private investor, whom I was very excited to meet because he was coming from the natural products industry. When we walked into his office nothing felt right and I couldn’t pinpoint why. Just as the meeting was about to begin, he asked us not to speak as he needed a moment of silence. He then turned around and saluted to nine photographs of generals — some of whom you wouldn’t be proud to have on your wall. The rest of the meeting was learning about his success and ego.

As much as we needed him as an investor at that stage of the business, we didn’t pursue the partnership because the culture match simply wasn’t there. Looking back, that was one of the best decisions we ever made. We ended up with investors matching our beliefs and overall culture of not compromising in anything we do. It’s important for anyone who owns a business, and is considering bringing on investor partners, that they look beyond the money and also focus on ensuring that they are the perfect fit for the mission of your enterprise.

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

As with every business there is a sea of competition, but what makes Enzymedica stand out from the crowd is our absolute commitment to our People & Planet philosophy. This begins with our core mission of searching the planet for natural solutions to support digestive health & total body wellness that represent the highest level of efficacy, quality and purity without compromise. As we discover nature’s answers to good health, our purpose continues via our commitment to help educate the world so that people can make informed choices to support their journey of good health as they advance throughout their lives.

Going beyond our products, we support several non-profits which are dedicated to making the world a better place. For example, our Aqua Biome Fish Oil brand was formulated to not only be the best in the world, but for every bottle we sell, we donate to Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium — specifically their effort to restore reefs which have been devastated by environmental factors.

This is Enzymedica’s ongoing purpose — to leave a legacy to the world that will extend beyond the individual lifetimes of our team — we are committed to our mission of People & Planet. This philosophy helps us stand out to consumers as they also seek to make a difference in their own health and simultaneously a commitment to the planet. We’re also able to recruit top talent because so many people are tired of being just a number in a company and want to have a purpose that goes beyond the paycheck.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

The key I’ve learned from my experience in building Enzymedica, is to never lose focus on your core mission and make sure that you take your time in hiring the right team. In the early 2000s, my professional philosophy on management changed dramatically when I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great. During those few hours with him, he redirected my mind on the importance of recruiting the right team as he said that too many leaders look at themselves as being the answer to problems.

To this day, we relentlessly follow his advice in that we take a bottom up servant style leadership approach and seek out candidates who are driven to succeed. It’s the job of the manager to support team members and ensure that they have all the resources needed to thrive versus telling them what to do.

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?

In the course of my life I have been blessed with many mentors who helped me along the way. The biggest influence came from Bob Roskamp. He has been both an inspiration on how to live an amazing life and also in his partnership as an investor in Enzymedica.

Early on in Bob’s life there was a family tragedy that placed him on a course to make a difference in the world. This ultimately led him to build a very successful business in developing long-term care facilities across the US, along with a host of other enterprises. What makes Bob standout is he has given back to so many by humbly sharing his wisdom and by personally donating a fortune to establish several nonprofits, with the most well-known being the Roskamp Institute. It’s led by a team of world-class scientists seeking to find solutions to healing the diseases of the mind.

I cannot say enough about how much Bob has influenced me and I consider him almost like a father. The greatest lesson he taught me was his own philosophy in life, which is that many of life’s challenges come disguised as opportunities. It’s what you do about them that makes all the difference! That quote from Bob is displayed prominently in our conference room and I cannot tell you enough about how often we reference it in our team meetings and dozens of visiting CEOs have taken pictures of it to share with their own teams.

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?

In my view, a good company is one that is financially strong and has a solid portfolio of existing and new products. A great company is composed of a synergistic team that is focused on the core mission and values with a longer-term approach to what success looks like. Furthermore, great companies are able to maintain the core focus, but also pivot when they see the market is going beyond a trend to consistent reality.

One of my favorite examples of a company that was once upon a time great and eventually fell from grace is the Hostess company. We all grew up with Twinkies and Wonder Bread since those brands dominated. But in the early 2000s, their leadership team felt the trend of low carb diets was a fad, so they didn’t adapt their portfolio. As sales plummeted and their critical mass engines failed, they lost control of what was once a great company — leading to the depths of bankruptcy. We should all learn from their mistakes and know when to stay the course and when to pivot, since sometimes trends truly are fads and not worthy of a strategy shift.

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.

It all begins with what is your “purpose” as a company and organization? Too many companies will waiver on purpose and lose sight of the very reason why they exist. This lack of focus in many cases will cause a business to deviate so far from their core that the unintended result is that the team itself becomes confused. This leads to a divided purpose, as individual team members will go off in different directions based on their own interpretation of the mission of the company as opposed to acting as one team with one goal.

At Enzymedica, our purpose is clear, and that is to be a world leader in searching the planet for the most efficacious natural solutions to digestive health and total body wellness indications, along with our commitment to being a good corporate citizen of the planet.

Once purpose is defined, it is then important to evaluate your existing team and put in place recruitment strategies to ensure that you are retaining and attracting the best talent. At Enzymedica, a core part of our management philosophy is to look beyond the resume of skills and hire employees who share our passion for natural living. More specifically, we look for people that have had a life-long commitment in their own lives that matches our company values.

This leads to company culture that authenticates the purpose of the organization. Culture itself, in my opinion, is oftentimes forced and unnatural in companies. Instead culture should be like a river — it simply flows throughout the organization and through each of its team members. Within our organization you can literally feel our culture as you tour the company. It’s demonstrated by all of our employees and throughout our working environment. As I mentioned earlier, being a natural health company means that we not only produce products from nature but also are a certified carbon neutral organization. This is demonstrated from our roof top solar farm producing power for our headquarters, to the smallest of details like our water fountains that fill reusable cups so that we mitigate the plastic bottle usage. Just the other day I was in our production facility and drank from one of these fountains. As I did, I noticed the digital meter on that fountain recorded that we had saved over 1 million plastic bottles.

As the team and culture become established, you have to look outside your own internal world and determine how you define and produce meaningful innovation to differentiate your brand from your competition. This is easier said than done because anything that is different from the marketplace can be called innovation. At Enzymedica, innovation is well-defined since we focus on finding ingredients which have been scientifically proven to be the most efficacious. We then use third-party testing such as The Clean Label Project and other testing providers to ensure that our products are meeting all of our stringent quality requirements.

Finally, the greatest hurdle of success is being able to master both internal and external communication. This has been an ongoing challenge for us since we are a very dynamic company and we’re constantly adapting to the changing marketplace, which requires active communication. When we noticed this communication issue, we made it a company priority to define personal communication strategies and goals. In addition, we hired a leadership consultant who first worked on the issue with our executive team, who then defined our communication needs, and we extended the training and communication goals to the rest of our employees. We continue to focus on the importance of communication since it’s a never-ending commitment to improving ourselves.

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?

I cannot stress enough how valuable a purpose driven strategy will be to your enterprise. We have found that it helps us to retain our employees, increases our ability to compete for better talent, and provides us with a clear advantage over our competition in the eyes of consumers who want to purchase from brands which are committed to making a difference beyond their products.

For Enzymedica, our purpose-driven approach is ingrained in our culture as an organization. It’s important that if you take on this strategy, you make sure there is authenticity in what you are doing as an organization to make a difference. This needs to extend not only to how you innovate your products or service, but also into making sure that your team is engaged and the organization keeps its focus on this critical mission.

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”?

Over the last decade we have consistently outperformed our marketplace, but this has come with an intense effort of staying on top of what is or is not working in our organization. In some years we have had less-than-expected results due to a variety of unplanned issues.

As you look forward, it’s important to build your business so that any part of it is designed to fail. Why? Because no one has a crystal ball and you cannot anticipate what you do not know. This year is a great example. No one could have anticipated the impact of COVID. For us this resulted in both positive and negative trends in the various channels we sell to.

For example, our retail marketplace experienced considerable declines in consumer traffic, while our online and international business outperformed. It was this forethought years ago, in diversifying our business model, that has created numerous growth engines — each capable of driving growth and/or making up for areas that are experiencing challenges. This does not happen overnight. If you take on a new channel or segment make sure that you have the resources and are committed long term to making it successful. Otherwise, you can extend your company too far and all segments could fail. The key is to implement one area at a time to ensure the foundation for success is in place.

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?

As I mentioned earlier, I grew up in a fiscally conservative family that influenced my core to be financially responsible. I’ve taken the same approach to my professional life by ensuring that before we take on a new initiative, we are in a financial position to fully fund it. This doesn’t mean we do not take financial risks — we often do.

Speaking to financial stability, this year presented its own unexpected issues related to COVID. Early on we focused on building our cash reserves in the event that the economy will take longer than expected to recover. This required an internal review examining what areas are driving revenue versus what is considered a “nice to have”. As we made certain cutbacks, we also increased investments into accelerating key growth engines. So far this has paid off. We are growing above plan in those same investment areas, while we have increased our liquidity of cash to record levels. Hopefully the economy will recover quickly, and if it does, that cash reserve will be deployed into growth engine acceleration. If the economy takes longer than expected to recover, we have the financial resources to comfortably ride out the economic storm.

The main message I would like to convey is the importance of using your own intuition in knowing when to invest and when to reserve cash. Listen to that intuition. Don’t delay in your approach to pivot your business or time will catch up to you and before you know it you are dealing with a problem from which you unfortunately may not recover. As much as growth is important over the long march, it’s even more important to ensure your own financial viability so that you can have a future both for yourself and your employees.

In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?

One of the biggest overlooked parts of business is that you have to invest in your team and how to communicate effectively. At Enzymedica, we are growing so quickly, and I devote a lot of time with each department to ensure everyone is on board with our mission and with changing times. Healthy communication is not to be underestimated and is vital to any company’s success. As we grow, we also evolve the way we communicate internally.

I realized early on that the increased demands of adjusting to COVID placed a greater burden on many individuals and departments. This created a capacity GAP that we had to address. The initial focus has been on delaying “nice to do” projects, while placing greater attention on strategic efforts which will move our revenue needle in the upcoming 12 months.

Going beyond refining our focus, we are now beginning to track our “say and do’s” individually, and also in our departmental commitments. This has increased accountability and ensures that when we say we are going to meet a deadline goal — the rest of the team can depend on it!

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?

At Enzymedica, we view conversion as the process of building a relationship with our consumers as opposed to a fleeting one-time sale. This goes back to the authenticity of who you are as a company and brand. Do not miss the key point that consumers today are increasingly becoming more educated about the products and services they consume. For example, product packaging and advertising can often be misleading due to a crafty copywriter in a marketing department. That strategy proved effective in the old CPG world.

In today’s marketplace, consumers are paying more attention to authentic product reviews — they want to read what others are saying about your product. In the case of Enzymedica, our primary focus is on digestive health. What we often say is that the one consumer you cannot lie to is the digestive health consumer who is looking for immediate results. Many of our competitors are full line dietary supplement companies who are good at attempting to copy products, while procuring the cheapest ingredients they can find simply to meet a label claim and lower price point. A consumer who tries those products will never gain the same benefit as with ours since we invest in only the highest quality of ingredients, along with ongoing efficacy enhancements. This strategy leads to our goal of developing a long-term relationship with our consumers by delivering on our promise to provide them with health solutions which work for the needs of their body.

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?

My previous answers addressed this question, but for us it’s all about never compromising on efficacy and quality. Going beyond our products, I wish I could invite all of our customers to tour Enzymedica. They would see a world-class facility and meet a team that is the very best at what they do. You can experience some of this by visiting our website that features videos of our staff and facility.

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?

I love this question since we are constantly focused on our strategy of customer experience. It begins with our trade customers, in how we train and manage our sales organization, right down to our call center. Then we extend our efforts to our consumer experience by ensuring that our products are the most effective in the marketplace. In the end, for us it’s about the efficacy of our products. That is our primary definition of how we measure customer experience.

What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.

In today’s world, if your company is not engaged on social media you are missing the boat. Now more than ever, consumers are rapidly moving away from traditional media, i.e., print and TV, and are seeking out both education and entertainment online. It’s important to note that every platform has a different audience and tone and to make sure that you are not taking a one-size-fits-all approach to how you represent your company/brand.

Regarding reputational risk, it can be mitigated by simply working with your marketing and agency teams to set parameters up front as to how you want your company represented. I have observed with some of our competitors that they have tried to be actively involved in joining various movements. In every case, it completely backfired on those companies and created polarization of their consumer audience.

At Enzymedica, we are for all people and all beliefs and we stick to what we do best. This is the focus of the content we produce. It goes back to the question of “good to great”. Every company should focus on their core mission and never deviate on that messaging.

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?

The biggest mistake I see CEOs, and especially founders, make is that they place too much emphasis on their own self-importance. In the early stages of an enterprise it’s a necessity, since resources are limited and oftentimes the leaders have to wear many hats. The problem is that as the enterprise grows, it’s no longer sustainable for all decisions to flow through one person. Instead as Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great explains, it’s about finding people that are the best at what they do. It’s your job as CEO to provide them with the resources they need, and get out of their way, so they can succeed.

It’s also important to note that we all became who we are by making mistakes in our career path. It’s learning from those mistakes that makes us who we are today. So as we look to overseeing our leadership teams, make sure that you allow for a company culture that learns from its mistakes as opposed to one that presents fear in making a mistake. It can be a painful process, but ultimately it’s an investment in the development of your team to give them the freedom to succeed and fail. In the end, everyone is accountable and if mistakes do not produce learning from the individual or team, then it is time for you to step in and make the change needed to move the company forward.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

At Enzymedica, our core is all about continuing with our movement for helping consumers find healthier options for supporting their digestive health. It’s a long road, but one that we are very proud of and we use our passion for this movement as motivation to continue to stay the course and make a difference in the lives for all of the consumers whom we serve.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Readers can connected with me on LinkedIn —

They can also visit our site at and follow us on social media @enzymedica

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

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