I founded Simple Mills in 2013, so we're still very much a young business. But a decision I made from the beginning was to avoid building and running Simple Mills like many early stage companies do.
Certainly, there are gains to operating a company like a startup, even if it isn't one. But the approach I've taken is to draw from both worlds - a blend of big and small business.
We Don't Act Like An Early Stage Company
1. We don't have toys and ping pong tables. An environment that sparks creative, open thinking and innovation is important to me at Simple Mills.
But we skip the playrooms and toys common at many startups, which are often ineffective in building culture.
We have a bright, open office that fits our brand, and focus on other perks like flexibility and pay for employees.
2. We don't have snacks. Unless we get them for free, that is. Snacks are expensive, and can be unhealthy for employees even when you try to provide nutritional options.
I also don't want to waste investor money on something that isn't really a value to our teams, or that doesn't truly help us.
We spend on an office that's in a great, convenient location instead. Employees can get to work easily, and enjoy the community we're part of.
3. We don't consider lack of structure an advantage. An absence of framework and process isn't what enables new companies to challenge the status quo.
Fluidity can foster forward thinking and ideas - but it can also create a climate of disarray if out of balance. The wrong type of chaos can hurt, not help.
We look at where processes and structure is needed, or where it can have value. We prioritize focused execution over pursuit of every opportunity. This has enabled us to scale better, and our teams catch problems early on that would take down many new companies.
4. We're not just a bunch of 20-Somethings. More than half of our company is made up of people with formal corporate training - with experience spanning from as few as three years to as many as 25 years in the industry.
This enables us to avoid pitfalls, be more efficient with our resources, and shortcut growth. The answer is to spend less time on trial and error where an experienced hand would know the answer.
But, We Don't Act Like a Late Stage Company Either
1. We're scrappy. Part of why startup companies are able to succeed is their ability to be resourceful. At Simple Mills, we're constantly looking at how we can smartly do more with what we've got.
For example, unlike other companies that ship booths around the country, we've done the math to learn it's more efficient to replicate booths for each event, and store near each show. It's saved a lot of time, money and resulted in nicer booths.
2. We don't accept the excuse that "There's a reason it's always been done this way." We question the status quo, ask why, and if there is a better way. No place has this helped us more than in our product development.
When it came to launching our crackers, conventional wisdom (and food scientists) told us that we needed preservatives, gums, emulsifiers, and a ton of carbohydrates to make a delicious, crunchy cracker.
It turns out it's possible when you have a team that believes in finding another way and is willing to experiment with the unconventional.
3. We're flexible. Early stage companies are often agile, flexible and adaptable.
We maintain this at Simple Mills through an open, collaborative, fast-paced culture.
Employees of any level are encouraged to bring up ideas or needs, and we they do, we respond immediately. We don't wait to run decisions up a bureaucratic chain of command.
It enables us to innovate in record time. Our last products were taken from first recipe to sold into stores in a quick sixty days.
Flexibility is also extended to employees. We provide it in work schedules, encourage work/life balance, and allow remote employment when needed.
This approach at Simple Mills has had a lot of unexpected gains as well. Employees acclimate well to our business, and we solve problems faster. We can be reactive and adaptive with product development as the need arises.
Many of our investors have said we're among the most organized young company they work with, and it's also paved the way for future succession.