by Mike Fata, CEO of Fata & Associates and author of “Grow: 12 Unconventional Lessons for Becoming an Unstoppable Entrepreneur“
You think successful people don’t feel imposter syndrome? Think again.
Even with a lot of new sales coming in the door at the turn of the new millennium, we were still learning. The learning curve was especially steep when we had to ramp up production. We were increasing product batches, and, for whatever reason, the product was just okay.
Okay wasn’t good enough. Not at all.
We had to make the hard decision to stop selling that product, even to the point of taking a loss, one that had a significant financial impact on the business at the time. As a young entrepreneur, especially as someone who had emerged from childhood poverty, I was understandably nervous. It felt like a threat. I felt like I was going to drown.
But I had to uphold what the Manitoba Harvest brand was going to stand for long term, and while other elements for 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 that same need to ensure that my products were healthy and 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 did the world-class way to do business look like, I found out that a world-class quality culture looked like a Toyota picked up on a flight back in the ’90s, and the lesson stuck. In Toyota’s just-in-time speak, Kanban was an effective tool in support of running a production system as a whole, because every employee could mark a problem using a yellow sticky note wherever they saw a flaw. Even to this day, anyone on that production line can pull the handle and the whole production line stops. Quality assurance at Toyota means that every problem is addressed 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 anyone could stop the line if there was something wrong.
But before you can stop 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 framework is deliberately 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 homed in on at Manitoba Harvest, building a culture that had quality as one of its core values. Despite the added worry of the cost, we highly invested in process and quality management systems and training. We eliminated gatekeepers to change management. We became really clear with what was going to be acceptable to our customers, and what was going to be acceptable to our company values. We deputized everyone to be a quality sheriff throughout the business.
Hemp health was a lifestyle that not everyone was aware of at the time, and especially the idea of promoting health all day long. That was brand-new. That was Manitoba Harvest’s ethos. But barely anyone outside of the alternative-health community was following a vegetarian or plant-based diet when we were ramping up. Focusing on quality, however, we soon learned that the majority of the team felt proud that they were working in a business that was making the world a healthier place by offering hemp products to all. We were also beginning to see all of the positive feedback from consumers and testimonials about our socially and environmentally responsible business.
That’s when the quality mark we were aiming for began to feel real.
In fact, we soon discovered that the number one reason people wanted to work at Manitoba Harvest was the same as my own reason: personal and professional growth. The number two reason was that they could be proud of the work they were doing—so much so that they’d tell their family and friends about that pride.
With a shared vision, none of us hesitated in living the brand because it was meaningful for all of us.
Over time, I developed a deeper, richer version of my vision.
So if you’re looking to found your own business, your own vision has to be paramount.
- Remember that you’re never an imposter in your own game. What you’re passionate about really matters.
- You can Kanban your way through your own business issues. Put a sticky note on sticky problems, and then call on those friendships, ask more questions, and make changes as you go.
- A vision can naturally evolve out of the community and friendships you’ve already established and allows everyone’s passionate ideas to infuse 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 Becoming an Unstoppable Entrepreneur” by Mike Fata (Page Two Books)
Mike Fata is the CEO of Fata & Associates and author of “Grow: 12 Unconventional Lessons for Becoming an Unstoppable Entrepreneur“. He is co-Founder of Manitoba Harvest Hemp Foods and hosts the Founder to Mentor podcast. As a 9-figure entrepreneur, certified holistic health coach, and growth coach, he motivates and inspires people to discover their authentic business passions and live their best life every day.