Mike Fata, CEO of Fata & Associates and author of “Grow: 12 Unconventional Lessons for Being an Unstoppable Entrepreneur”
You think successful people don’t feel impostor syndrome? think again.
Despite a lot of new sales coming in at the turn of the new millennium, we were still learning. The learning curve was particularly steep when we had to ramp up production. We were growing a product batch, and, for whatever reason, the product was fine.
Ok wasn’t good enough. no way.
We had to make the tough decision to stop selling that product, even incur losses, which had a significant financial impact on the business at the time. As a young entrepreneur, especially one emerging from childhood poverty, I was naturally nervous. It felt like a threat. I felt like I was about to drown.
But I had to keep the Manitoba Harvest brand going for the long run, and while other elements to my vision would emerge over time, the first thing I knew was that the brand was going to stand for quality.
My vision for quality was honed by the same need to ensure that my products were healthy and were contributing something positive to people, to the world. But I was also inspired by what I had read and learned about the Toyota Method.
Coming back to one of my essential questions, namely, what a world-class way of doing business looked like, I learned that a world-class quality culture looked like Toyota took off back in the ’90s, and the lesson stuck. Went. Speaking of Toyota’s just-in-time, Kanban was an effective tool in supporting running the production system as a whole, as each employee could mark a problem using a yellow sticky note wherever they saw a defect. Even today, anyone on that production line can pull a handle and the entire production line comes to a halt. Quality assurance at Toyota means that every problem is solved right here and now.
Seeing what was happening on our production line, I decided to bring that vision of quality to Manitoba Harvest. I wanted to make sure that someone could intercept the line if something went wrong.
But before you can stop down the line, you have to get a few things right.
At Toyota, their vision of quality is literally printed on the walls. It’s printed on T-shirts, on people’s job descriptions, on their training documents. It’s so much a part of their culture that Toyota’s organizational structure has been intentionally flattened. Everyone is seen as an integral part of the team. That team integrity, literally, is part of the goodwill, the brand and the value of that business today.
So that’s what we did at Manitoba Harvest, build a culture that had quality as one of its core values. Despite the added concern of cost, we invested heavily in process and quality management systems and training. We removed the gatekeepers to change management. We got really clear on what would be acceptable to our customers and what would be acceptable to our company values. We deputized everyone throughout the business as a quality sheriff.
Hemp Fitness was a lifestyle that not everyone knew about at the time, and especially the idea of promoting health throughout the day. It was brand new. That was the ethos of Manitoba Harvest. But hardly anyone outside the alternative-health community was following a vegan or plant-based diet when we were growing up. Although focused on quality, we soon learned that most of the team took pride in working in a business that is making the world a healthier place by offering hemp products to all. We were also beginning to see positive feedback from consumers and testimonials about our socially and environmentally responsible business.
That’s when the quality mark we were aiming for started to feel real.
In fact, we soon learned that the very reason people work at Manitoba Harvest in the first place was my own reason: personal and professional growth. The number two reason was that they could take pride in their work – so much so that they could tell their family and friends about that pride.
With a shared vision, none of us hesitated to live the brand because it was meaningful to all of us.
Over time, I developed a deeper, richer version of my vision.
So if you are looking to start your own business, your own vision should be paramount.
Remember that you are never a cheater in your game. What really matters is what you are passionate about. You can kanban through your own business issues. Keep a sticky note on sticky problems, and then call on those friendships, ask more questions, and make changes as you go along. A vision can grow naturally from the community and friendships you’ve already established and allow everyone’s passionate ideas to influence your future success. You don’t have to replicate old business ideas and models to be successful. Instead, you need to find the founder-product-market fit that works for you.
* Excerpted from “Grow: 12 Unconventional Lessons for Being an Unstoppable Entrepreneur” by Mike Fata (page two of the book)
Mike Fata is CEO of Fata & Associates and author of “Grow: 12 Unconventional Lessons for Being an Unstoppable Entrepreneur.” He is the co-founder of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods and hosts the Founders to Mentor podcast. As a 9-figure entrepreneur, certified holistic health coach and growth coach, he inspires and motivates people to discover their authentic business passion and live their best life every day.