Daniel Lubetzky, founder and CEO of Kind Snacks, spent much of last year quietly battling the Food and Drug Administration over the labels on his fruit-and-nut bars. In a recent conversation with Inc. senior editor Maria Aspan, he discussed what he's learned from his regulatory run-ins, how he recovers from failure, and how he balances work and family.
What's the hardest lesson you've learned as an entrepreneur?
I can be my business's best friend and its best enemy. When I was starting my first company, PeaceWorks, I considered all of my energy net-positive--so I didn't filter it. I ended up distracting my team with hundreds of ideas, which was a recipe for overextension. In the consumer packaged-goods business, that may be the most common mistake--people launch a product, it does well, and then they have this urge to launch more and more and more products. And some are mediocre, which makes you vulnerable to competitors.
You were negotiating a big investment in Kind when your wife gave birth to your first child. How do you balance business and family?
This was the most financially important decision of my life; there was so much riding on it--and yet when our son arrived, I just disconnected. I had my baby in my arms, and that was everything to me. But I also had a great team that helped me, and my partners were very respectful. Nobody tried to change terms while I was distracted--and if anyone had, I would not have closed the deal. There are investors that try to do that, and you have to be really careful about getting in bed with those partners.
How did you recover after the FDA banned some Kind bars from using the "healthy" label?
You cannot call a serving of nuts healthy because of the fat content, and yet you can call sugary children's cereal healthy? So we were very introspective and said, "How did we miss this?" We changed those four labels, and now we have a petition for the FDA to update its regulations. You don't want to miss the opportunity that a crisis brings with it. Our company has been so blessed with so much growth; suddenly we have a challenge, and we need to embrace that and use that to build our entrepreneurial muscle.