I had the pleasure to interview Jon Bostock. Jon is the co-founder of Truman’s, a direct-to-consumer brand that is challenging the clutter and waste of traditional, single-use home cleaning products. Truman’s cleaners use auto-dispensing concentrate cartridges with customers simply adding water at home and reusing the same bottle over and over. By using refill cartridges, Truman’s dramatically reduces its carbon footprint, as traditional cleaning brands need 30 semi-trucks filled with ready-to-use cleaners to equal just one semi-truck of the equivalent of the company’s refill cartridges. Fast Company recently honored Truman’s as part of its World Changing Ideas awards contest.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My first entrepreneurial venture was right out of college in the late ’90s. A friend and I got this big idea that we could provide audio news content to users of those newfangled devices called iPods. Of course, that didn’t really take off — not for another five to 10 years and that was long after we’d given up and I’d gone to LSU to get my master’s degree. If we’d stuck with it, maybe we could have claimed we invented the podcast.
It was at LSU that my career truly began, in large part thanks to General Electric Chief Diversity Officer Deb Elam. I had the chance to speak with her one-on-one after a presentation she gave, and she recognized something in me. She encouraged me to apply to GE’s leadership program, and I took her up on it. My first assignment was the plastics division, which was not glamorous work, but I had a knack for doing the tough jobs that no one else wanted. I not only did it well, but I enjoyed it and wound up rising through the ranks at GE, eventually overseeing startup ventures at 30 Rock. In 2016, I left the company to become the first chief operating officer at fan and light manufacturer Big Ass Fans, and I guided the company’s $500 million sale the following year.
After the sale, I knew I wanted a different challenge. Time and again, I came back to the idea of once again becoming an entrepreneur. In my personal life, I’m passionate about sustainability and cleaning, and, in business, I gravitate toward disrupting outdated practices and creating user-friendly experiences. Truman’s is really the perfect marriage of these passions.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
One of the biggest surprises for me has been recognizing that cleaning is so personal to people. They spend a great deal of time selecting products, researching ingredients and toxicity, and finding out how well they perform. For many people, cleanliness is a vital part of their identity, as much as a job or a hobby. The most exciting aspect to me has been when customers share videos on social media of their kids becoming so excited after popping in a Truman’s refill cartridge and watching the colorful concentrate disperse. I take such a sense of pride in watching these parents pass that love of cleaning onto their kids.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We’ve already expanded our offerings to allow customers to order refill cartridges in either subscription refill plans that match their cleaning needs or to purchase a la carte. We don’t judge whether you’re obsessive-compulsive or love those thick layers of dust. We recently implemented a text message-assisted ordering program and are working to expand its functionality. That’s an extension of our desire to be as accessible as possible, and that’s the purpose of building a brand like Truman’s. You wouldn’t log onto a website and input your credit card information to ask a friend for a favor. You would just send them a text message, and that’s what we’re aiming to offer. Just send us a message, and you’ll be cleaning in no time.
Ok, lets jump to the main part of our interview. According to this study cited in Forbes, more than half of the US workforce is unhappy. Why do you think that number is so high?
People’s values are changing. Employees are more concerned about fairness, sustainability, honesty and authenticity than ever before. And they want to work for a company that shares those values, which, unfortunately, is hard to come by because we’re in such a mature economy.
Big businesses are in preservation mode. When you have business assets and models and partnerships in place that have always worked for you, naturally you want to keep the status quo. That attitude and resistance to change can easily suck the life out from any workplace.
If there’s any good news, it’s that the ocean is blue for entrepreneurs. Big businesses aren’t going to be the ones to solve the world’s problems, and fewer millennials are making the leap to entrepreneurship, which means a lot of ideas are being left on the table. People who are brave enough to pursue their passions can find plenty of markets ripe for disruption, just as my co-founder, Alex Reed, and I did with cleaning.
Based on your experience or research, can you explain why it is so important to create a great work culture?
PRODUCTIVITY: An unhappy employee is an unproductive employee. Every job comes with its share of stress, but it should not be the source of profound unhappiness.
PROFITABILITY: Aside from lost productivity, an unhappy workforce creates high turnover. That constant need to hire and train can be a huge drain on resources, which is an expense that many business owners don’t fully appreciate.
EMPLOYEE HEALTH AND WELL-BEING: Unfortunately, it can be easy for big business to be so focused on the big picture that they forget their employees are more than just tools. People’s jobs are huge parts of their identity, and if they feel like they’re failing at their jobs, they can feel like they’re failing at life. They take that unhappiness home with them, and they can suffer mentally and physically from it. It’s important to remember, as business owners, that happier employees are healthier, and healthier employees are more productive. Keeping employees happy benefits the bottom line, and it’s simply the right thing to do.
Thank you for these great insights!