I used to think that the most amazing story was to rise from an administrative assistant to CEO. But how about going from homeless at 16 to CEO of a health foods juggernaut decades later?
That's the story of David Sandoval who founded Purium Health Products as "the anti-processed food company." Purium sells 50 powders, shakes and supplements through "thousands of entrepreneurs" -- generating $47 million in 2014 revenue, expecting $75 million in 2015 and growing at 276% in three years, according to Sandoval.
And he wants to go even further. As he said in a recent interview, "In my eyes, what I've achieved thus far is a stepping-stone for even greater achievements--my goal is to become a billion dollar company, and I know I can accomplish that."
Sandoval has overcome some serious obstacles. "As a child, my family struggled to put food on the table. What inspired me the most was the time I spent homeless, sleeping under the stars on soil," he said.
Homelessness inspired him to help others. As he explained, "When you sleep on dirt, you worry about what can crawl onto you--so you learn which precautions to take to keep the bugs away. I remember looking up at the sky and talking to God saying, 'this is where I am, but not who I am.' Until you've eaten out of trashcans and slept on dirt, you don't know true desperation. The unbridled desperation I experienced at age 16 was the driving force behind my motivation to succeed and help others."
How did Sandoval go from homelessness to startup success? Here are five keys.
1. Find yourself and follow your calling.
If you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there.
But how do you figure out the right direction for you?
Sandoval drifted along and stumbled on to the right path. As he said, "For years I never saw my worth or value. It wasn't until I became a radio host in the early 90s that people started to notice me. While I was a radio host, I tapped into my potential and was able to find my true voice and calling. That experience helped me gain the confidence to do what I love--which is to help guide and teach."
And he believes that people should spend as much time as they can on that path. "100 percent of the time I do what I like to do. In other words, everything I do for Purium is a joy. I'm excellent at negotiating deals, but I prefer to help save lives through the food they eat, the supplements they take or the way they respond to or experience the world," said Sandoval.
2. Fight for what you believe.
To build a successful organization you ought to have strong beliefs and be willing to work hard to realize those beliefs.
Sandoval admires leaders who inspire others. As he said, "My role models include: Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King Jr., and Ghandi. They were all successful because they spoke to the needs of people that were not being met, and stood up for what they believed in--their perseverance led to incredible change."
3. Get stuff done.
High-minded ideals are highly motivating for an entrepreneur and for a company's people.
But what matters most is turning that motivation into action. And Sandoval has demonstrated his ability to get things done the right way.
As he explained, "Success to me is knowing that my family and friends know I love them, my obligations to my company have been met, my list of daily tasks has been completed, and ultimately, that I haven't brought stress into mine or other's lives in the process of accomplishing those goals."
4. Build a great team.
As a company grows, one person can't do all the work. Indeed if an entrepreneur wants to do great things, he must surround himself with great people who share his vision.
But whom should you add to your team? For Sandoval, the answer is people who are good at important things that he does not do well.
"A friend taught me a lesson: you should spend 20 percent of your time teaching, and 80 percent time learning. I'm an artistic entrepreneur, and I've surrounded myself with really great managers. I know what I don't know and I enlist those who know more than I do," said Sandoval.
Sandoval has done this. "Being on teams has always inspired me the most for business and even non-business related experiences. I always sought to surround myself with those that were better or smarter than me, not 'yes men' that I could dominate--I carried that forward in business, and it helped lead to Purium's success."
5. Connect with people.
If you can build a great team, odds are good that you will also be good at working with them to come up with great new ideas and collaborate with them to realize those ideas.
It all comes down to the ability to connect with people.
And this is a skill that Sandoval has proven he has in spades. As he said, "Here is what all my prior bosses would share with you if given the chance: I have an uncanny ability to connect with people of all walks of life. I genuinely care about others, and that quality has allowed me to succeed in my endeavors. I learned a long time ago that if people trust you, they trust your brand. It's as simple as that."
You don't have to be homeless to benefit from Sandoval's insights.