EAT Club has served more than 17 million meals to date, which requires an immense amount of energy for both delivery and food production, the two biggest factors in our carbon footprint. In order to offset the carbon footprint of our operations, we recently implemented a Zero Carbon Initiative to match our electricity use with renewable energy generation. In addition, we have plans to make all of our packaging either recyclable or compostable, support landfill recapture programs, and fund projects that are actively preserving and replanting the Amazon rainforest. We’re proud to be the first company anywhere to calculate and negate the carbon footprints of not only our operations, but also of each one of our employees. Any impact their lives have on the environment — in or out of the office — will be offset by our investments. We all have a responsibility to promote global sustainability and I hope that our decision to become carbon neutral will inspire other companies to do the same. It’s in all of our best interests to limit the effect we have on the environment.
As part of my series about “companies and organizations making an important social impact, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ben Wright, Chief Revenue Officer at EAT Club. As Chief Revenue Officer at EAT Club, Ben is a member of the company’s executive team and is responsible for all sales, customer success, client services, demand generation marketing, and sales operations functions. Prior to joining EAT Club in July 2018, Ben was SVP of Strategy and Operations for IAC’s Publishing division. Earlier in his career, Ben held executive roles at Google Ventures funded Trada and before that held several management roles in the Sales organization at Yahoo. Ben is a native of London, England and graduated from Bournemouth University before moving to the USA in 1999. Ben currently resides in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and six children.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I came to America from England in ’99 to play rugby for 6 months and never went back!
I joined GoTo.com’s sales team to help launch their UK market; my only qualification being that I had an English accent to help sell to those with the same accent. GoTo.com was the company that pioneered paid search advertising long before Google, so that immediately gave me the opportunity to work with (and learn from) a diverse and smart group of people in a rapidly evolving business environment. GoTo eventually became Overture Services and was acquired by Yahoo. I led a small team early on at Overture, leveraging my success at selling and managing relationships to build a team of salespeople to grow revenue. That small sales team eventually turned into a large sales team and ~$400M in revenue. I then shifted to Strategy and Operations, leading bigger teams at Yahoo. I left there in 2010 to join a small Google Ventures funded start up, where I learned a lot. From there, I ran strategy and operations at IAC’s publishing division for 6 years before finally deciding to take some time away from work for a much-needed recharge and to be with my family. When I reentered the workplace, it was really important to me that I work with really amazing people (both personally and professionally) and that I join a disruptive company that had the potential to be a great business and was also doing something meaningful from a mission-driven perspective. I feel truly blessed to have found an opportunity that checked all those boxes when I joined EAT Club as Chief Revenue Officer a little over a year ago.
Can you describe how your organization is making a significant social impact?
EAT Club has served more than 17 million meals to date, which requires an immense amount of energy for both delivery and food production, the two biggest factors in our carbon footprint. In order to offset the carbon footprint of our operations, we recently implemented a Zero Carbon Initiative to match our electricity use with renewable energy generation. In addition, we have plans to make all of our packaging either recyclable or compostable, support landfill recapture programs, and fund projects that are actively preserving and replanting the Amazon rainforest. We’re proud to be the first company anywhere to calculate and negate the carbon footprints of not only our operations, but also of each one of our employees. Any impact their lives have on the environment — in or out of the office — will be offset by our investments.
We all have a responsibility to promote global sustainability and I hope that our decision to become carbon neutral will inspire other companies to do the same. It’s in all of our best interests to limit the effect we have on the environment.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership to me means having and being able to articulate a clear vision of your mission and, at a high level, how you want to execute it. I also believe it’s important to build a team you can delegate to, giving them that high level direction, but not specific directions. Then, leadership becomes the ability to support your team, to help them learn and grow with consistent feedback, and then watch them thrive. I also think that leadership is about stepping back when things are going well, but confidently taking a more active role when they are not.
What are your “3 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- The first this isn’t something I wish I had been told, it’s actually something I was taught from a very young age by my experiences playing rugby. In fact, a lot of what I know about management and leadership (and emergency rooms!), I learned from rugby. It’s the ultimate team sport in that it requires a diversity of capabilities and characteristics. The 15 players that take the field need to be a particular mix of tall, short, big, and small people. Without all of those different types, the team simply can’t compete in every facet of the game. That diversity of physical characteristics tends to be accompanied by an even wider mix of personality types. I was the captain of nearly every team I played on, which, even at a young age, came with meaningful leadership responsibilities. You meet with the coaches, help plan the practices, help select the team, even do a coach-free captain’s run. Given that diverse group of characters, motivation systems, and even levels of interest, I had to quickly learn how to pull that team together, get everyone on the same page, remain organized and, and collectively be successful at something that is quite difficult (and frankly, painful). The matches themselves are a frantic 80 minutes of hard work, constant gut checks, and a fair amount of hilarity (if you don’t have a decent sense of humor, rugby may not be for you..). Afterwards, you figure out what went well and what needs more work next time. The experience shares obvious parallels with a business team and leadership, and overall, was incredibly formative, creating the foundation of experience I draw upon to this day.
- Win at home first. Does your family get the best of you or just what’s left of you? My dad was a soldier in one of the British military’s elite units and definitely instilled a very strong work ethic in me and my siblings. I take a lot of pride in what I do, which I think is a key factor in my professional success. But, like a lot of things, that can also be a weakness or at least have negative ramifications if not properly managed. And the most obvious issue, at least for me, was the inability to shut work off and be truly present for my family. I hustle every day from early in the morning all the way through my commute home, until the moment I walk back into my house. That often meant my work day followed me from the office straight into my home. So, once home, I often wasn’t really home. I would get frustrated and impatient due to my inability to shut off my work brain and shift gears to be responsive to the vastly different needs of small children, or the types of issues and challenges my wife was trying to solve for our family. Earlier on in my career, I was crushing it at work, but if I’m honest, I was failing at home. I wish someone had told me that wasn’t the right prioritization. Here’s a practical exercise I have recently incorporated (hat tip to Jordan B Peterson for this one, and lots of others!): If you have a partner and/or kids, think about how you come home. Literally think about how you walk back into your house or apartment. After being this great guy at work all day, there were many times when I would walk in tired and short tempered, which was very apparent to the people who should be seeing the best of me. I made a big effort to fix that. I imagined what it would look like if I walked into my house happy, positive, and excited to see everyone who was there. I simply made the decision to do that every day, faking it if necessary on days when I was feeling stressed. That tiny change has made a huge positive difference in our family life.
- That which is measured is managed.Measurement and instrumentation are critical for me. As a leader I am often conceptualizing operational changes in the hopes of driving a better outcome for my business. But when I make an operational change, do I actually know whether it worked or not? Should I continue with that change or walk it back? If you’re not equipped to understand the key drivers of your business, then you won’t know whether the things you are doing are helping or hurting the business. I now frequently add additional instrumentation, measuring things I didn’t previously track, or measuring down to the next level of detail. At the same time, I pare down instrumentation in other areas when it becomes apparent that the data doesn’t matter enough to change behavior. This balance is necessary to make sure we’re not so overwhelmed with data such that we grind ourselves to a standstill, suffering from analysis paralysis. Not only does proper instrumentation give you the tools to understand whether or not something is improving, but it also has the added benefit of ensuring that your team understands what is important. This, of course, will encourage them to strive to be more successful in that particular area of the business because of the importance placed on it by management and awareness that their performance in that area (either as individuals or as a collective team) is being assessed. A good exercise is to design the dashboard you’d like to see, even if you don’t actually have that reporting developed today. The first question is “what should I be measuring, and what are the KPIs for it?” It’s a great first step that will also ensure alignment with leadership.
You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂
It would be a movement focused on getting people engaged in their own wellness. As a western society, we live with so many chronic illnesses and debilitating situations. I think we have largely just come to accept that as being “just the way it is.” The fact is that our lifestyles and our diets in particular have changed more in the last century than in the previous 1000+ years combined. I think many of the issues we have come to accept today are relatively new are based on those lifestyle and diet changes and, as such, are avoidable or at least controllable. And, often with relatively simple changes to our lives, not through the use of some miracle drug. Thanks entirely to my wife, over the last few years I’ve started to educate myself on the benefits of a cleaner diet, going organic whenever possible, functional medicine, meditation and mindfulness, and the importance of sleep and how to get more of it (tip: don’t sleep with your cell phone in your bedroom!). The first challenge is that society in general must ascend to the idea that perhaps the government, big food, or big pharma do not necessarily have all the answers (or even the motivation) to solve all the issues of health and wellness. If we can get there, then I believe the information on how you can make simple changes to improve your physical health and mental happiness does exist. Making people aware of that and getting them engaged in accessing and leveraging that information is the thing I’d love to help drive.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Begin with the end in mind.” As a business leader I say this a lot, to the point that it’s almost a punchline for my teams. If we’re a little lost or stuck on a problem, I’ll pause and smile, and they know what’s coming. “Begin with the end in mind”. What is it that we are trying to achieve? Do we know what success looks like? If we don’t, then we probably need to take a step back and figure that out first. Once we are clear on the desired outcome, we can map back to it and use it as a helpful tool for decisioning. What may surprise my teams at work to know is that in addition to being my swiss army knife question for almost every work situation, it actually has a much more profound meaning in my life. At some point each of us will get to the end of our time here on earth. When that moment comes, will we have lived a life we are proud of? Will we have prioritized the right things? What will the people that know us best really think of us? Will we have made a positive impact to the people and the world around us? If you have never stopped to contemplate your final moments and the life you hope to be able to look back upon at that moment, I suggest trying the exercise. If we were to begin with that end in mind would we make the same choices, both big and small, that we make today?
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Joe Rogan. I listen to his podcast, and although controversial (with even more controversial guests), and a little bro-ish (okay actually a lot bro-ish), I find him to be a really interesting and innovative guy with his longform, free roaming interview format. I appreciate the fact that his opinions span the spectrum from conservative to very liberal. I think that makes him an outlier in a world that has become so polarized, politically speaking in particular, where people tend to pick a team and seemingly feel compelled to swear blind allegiance rather than think critically issue by issue. Even when I completely disagree with his perspective on a topic (which is often..), I always assume he is coming from an honest, authentic position. He’s good humored and genuinely interested to better understand why people hold the positions they do, even when he doesn’t agree with them. I think that’s a much better approach for us as humans, who are all wired differently but have to live and thrive together, than the type of crude labeling and demonizing that often seems to pass as “debate” in today’s world. Having breakfast with him would also give me insight into the many interesting conversations he’s had with an amazingly diverse group of individuals, from political candidates to tech leaders and everyone in between.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much!