Founder of Four Sigmatica functional food company that makes the world’s most nutritious foods tastier and easier to consume.
I just celebrated my 10th anniversary, at least the 10th anniversary of my company. I’ve been thinking a lot over the past year about what we had to do to get here. Studies show that about 35% of all companies make it up to 10 years. In these 10 years of Four Sigmatic, we’ve sold more than 100 million servings and answered more than 200,000 consumer questions. We calculated that there were more than 50 million jitter-free workdays in the past 10 years thanks to mushroom coffee. There were incredible highs (non-psychedelic, of course) and really dark times.
Last year I wrote an article about lessons I learned specific to foodpreneurs, so I thought I’d broaden it this year to include all kinds of entrepreneurs. Whether it’s a day, a month, a year or a decade, I see you and I’m excited that we can support each other.
1. Stay healthy.
Running a business takes a long time and 10 years is just the beginning. Take care of your own health before you take care of others. They say, “put on your oxygen mask first,” and this mindset is especially true if you’re an entrepreneur. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and you can’t lead if you’re not feeling your best.
2. Remember that you are you, not them.
Don’t go after fads and trends. Stay grounded in why you started your business, and stay on track. If you constantly change your mission, products or services, you will never grow because your team, consumers and investors will be confused and disoriented. Listen to feedback, but don’t forget to have the conviction to stay true to yourself.
3. Always wear the product.
You never know who’s sitting next to you on a plane, driving your Uber, or who you’ll bump into at the grocery store. If you have a physical product, nothing beats having it on hand to share. If you have a service, bring business cards with a free offer or discount to encourage people to try your service instead of keeping your card in their desk.
4. Be flexible about where and when you work.
Four Sigmatic started out as a fully distributed third-party company. I have worked in over 50 countries in the past 10 years! As long as you (and your team) get the job done, nobody cares where you log in. This applies not only to where you work, but also to when. The only bad days I have are when I don’t take a nap. Very few of us are productive from 9am to 5pm
5. Let it grow or let it go.
In nature, progress and evolution are important – the same is true for business. You have to evolve or you will die. Always improve how you manage your business, product formats and offers. The world keeps moving, so make sure you keep up. Sometimes you have to kill your so-so product to make one that’s 10x better.
6. Find your happy customers.
You don’t have to – or should – serve everyone, but you do need to find your group of satisfied customers. And to find a happy customer, you may not have to agree with them to train them. Take the time to read consumer reviews and help desk tickets. Work from a solution-focused mindset to proactively resolve your consumers’ pain points.
7. Don’t forget to serve nature.
If we want to do business in the next 10 years, we need to take good care of the planet. The earth is suffering right now, and ever-expanding, wasteful business practices are partly to blame. Think about the impact your business has on the planet. In what ways could you reduce your impact? Sustainable business for more than 10 years also requires being environmentally sustainable.
8. Play to win big.
We self-funded Four Sigmatic and started globally. To really make an impact on the lives of our consumers, we had to emigrate to the US, which was a huge risk. You have to have a mindset of winning and succeeding. If you think you are going to miss your chance, you will fail. When we have the defense mentality, things go wrong. But if we approach strategy from the mindset of insult, it usually goes well. Whether or not you succeed, just keep that mindset.
9. Trust but verify.
We have seen a lot of fraud and lies in our 10 years of existence. It’s easy to get cynical, but that’s no way to live your life. Try to trust people, but verify. Put it on paper. Big or small, be it a contract or a project, write it down and send it to all parties, no matter who you work with (even if they are your friend). Whenever I forget this, I am quickly reminded of its importance.
10. Remember that consumers always beat celebrities.
We’ve been lucky enough to get a lot of press coverage and celebrities to endorse our brand. And they feel great. But that high is like a sugar high; it gets you excited for a few hours, but the crash comes quickly. To run a business for over 10 years, you need sustained energy, not empty calories. What really fuels our journey are letters from our consumers about how we’ve changed their lives. These stories literally drive us forward every day. Do what you can to collect those stories.
Running a business for 10 years is hard, but it’s worth it. I know that the next 10 years will be even more difficult and even more fulfilling.