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We rounded out another year of amazing real world CPG focused advice from the industry stakeholders themselves.  Here is your recap of the two most important pieces of advice we get from each episode: one do and one don’t.  These sum up the most notable aspects of running, starting, and growing an inventory or product based business. 

For more context, and to dive into the full episodes and show notes deeper, visit our podcast page.  If you are here for the first time, it’s worth a look at our previous compilations; volume one, volume two, and volume three to get up to speed.

CPG Do + Dont volume IV

Episode 13:  Marc Levit • ForecastEasy

The Month End Ep 13.1_IGMarc Levit had so much great information to share to our CPG listeners, we had him on twice.  The first of two interviews focused on the world of forecasting, where he introduced his one-of-kind forecasting product:

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Do forecast! 

I don’t care if it’s a cocktail napkin or a highly complex financial model, or anything in between. Simply writing down on a piece of paper: here’s what’s in my head, and here’s what it turns into with numbers - it’s going to help you so much. It’s; plan, plan, plan.  Measure twice, cut once. I really hope that getting this long term plan helps you figure out the best places to play in your industry and how to get there.

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Don’t be intimidated! 

All of the founders that I know are sales people, marketing people, or product people. Not one of them is a finance or accounting person.  Sometimes people like numbers or get numbers, or other times they want to run away as quickly as possible, but the most effective founders know how the numbers work with their overall vision.  I encourage you to work with the folks on your team, or our outsourced advisors, to really understand how your sales, marketing, and product development build ties into the numbers. There’s tools and resources out there to help you with this to really break it down into a granular fashion, and it’s quick and easy, and the numbers are pretty close to right.  

Don’t be intimidated - you don’t need to know finance to be able to develop your P&L down to gross margin; it’s just answering questions over and over again: what are our volumes, prices, and COGS?

Episode 14:  Marc Levit • ForecastEasy

marc levit headshotMarc’s second appearance focused on equity crowdfunding.  This is becoming a more popular way for small businesses to take advantage of raising capital.  With the process comes a lot to consider; from the open financials (and having properly done financials, for that matter), to ensuring the launch of a successful campaign.  While this isn’t in the classic “do/don’t” format, Marc left us with three key takeaways for a successful campaign:  

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The first thing I think about is storytelling. It's the digital assets, it's the video, and it's the visuals and the story. For better or for worse, a lot of these investomers don't care about the valuation similar to, you know, the Robin Hood and the mean stocks we were talking about. You have to tell your story in a really appealing visual way that brings the folks along with you. Get your digital assets to be top notch. That's first and foremost. 

Second, talk to your accountants and lawyers. Make sure that everything you're putting out there is right and representative of your business.

Third - tell the story of the future.  Instead of just telling the story of the digital assets, and the brand and what's great about it, you’ve got to find a way to tell the story of the future: where we can go, and how we can get there, and who's going to help us get there, and what the exit might look like one day. Not necessarily dollars in values, but sort of "who would buy this?". For example, if we're a nut butter company, who are the players out there that would be really interested in it?

Episode 15:  Elizabeth Edwards • H Venture Partners

The Month End Ep 15_IGElizabeth shared a great investor’s point of view into the CPG space.  Her company specializes in investments in science based consumer brands.  She shared best practices in maintaining a good investor relationship and attributes to look for in startups.  With her company’s track record of growing consumer brands, her do’s and don’ts ring especially true for one seeking the same success in the CPG space.

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I would talk to customers before you launch. 

I would get consumers trying things, tasting things, reacting to messaging, doing consumer insight; interviews, primary interviews.  The more that you can research the category and really know the consumers and the retailers in that category before you launch, the better.  I know that a lot of people have this sort of like "Steve Jobs/ Henry Ford" approach, or like, "I know more than the consumer" knows. Apple actually did quite a bit of consumer testing before they launched the iPhone, and Henry Ford was kind of flippant when he was like, "I'll tell them what color they want - it's black", but look at how many colors they have now. So I really do put a lot of stock in consumer insight.

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The one don't: don't get over your skis too early. 

I think entrepreneurs are not the world's most patient people. Being impatient for growth and change and all of those things are wonderful.  One of the challenges that's particular to consumers, especially, as you think about retail, is that just because you want to go to Target (and even if Target really wants you), doesn't mean that they're ready for you next month. There are category resets that happen on a certain schedule, and I have seen some entrepreneurs choose now versus best. Where it's, "well, this other retailer can take me now", but an exclusive at Target is best, even though you're going to have to wait for a period of time. I think that sometimes patience in this business can be a virtue.

Episode 16:  David Crooch • Ritual Beverage

david headshot bwDavid’s company, Ritual Zero Proof, makes non alcoholic spirits. You would think taking alcohol away from the classics would spoil all of the fun, but it turns out it makes it way more exciting.  He shares great feedback into launching a brand and essentially inventing a new space in the CPG beverage world.  While David is not a stranger to running a CPG brand, this company offered lots of lessons learned, and he shared them with us.

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The do, hands down, is to hire the right people so that you can trust them completely. 

Trust is, honest to God, the currency that we use here to be able to be so efficient.  And it works.  I'm in business with some of my best friends and people I just met, and we've become a family because of that trust. You can't have your hand in every single aspect of the business all day long, all the time as you grow. You just can't. When you can actually siphon that off from your mind and know that your person is handling that, you can then grow and look on top of the business and let the business grow again. So I think trust, it's not micromanagement, but it's not a lack of leadership, either. It's just the ability to hire people that you trust, and then do it.

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Don't move too fast until you're adequately capitalized. 

I think that people get an idea and they want to put the idea in their briefcase with a bunch of NDAs and run around and start the process and just build. Build up, figure out how much money you're really going to need, and plan, look forward. It's very easy to get tripped up with a lack of capital and then you're spending all of your time trying to raise funds as opposed to trying to build your business and build your product. Those are very hard to do at the same time. Get a good leg-up; get six, 12, 18 months of capital under your belt first, and then begin the process of building your brand and making your impact on the world.

Episode 17:  Kyle Maggard • Over Easy

77f20f_2c204be9ca5d4f718e4df12e3d73a40d_mv2Kyle is no stranger to a busy lifestyle.  He was an Army Captain, and now a dad and entrepreneur.  He always knew that a healthy, quick breakfast option was possible, it just needed to be made.  Kyle launched Over Easy to create healthy, quick breakfast options and learned a ton in the process.  From properly pricing his products, to building a great team, he shares his insight in his do’s and don’ts:

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I think a big “do” is not to underestimate the power of having spectacular people on your team. 

Everything that we've done at our company, and everything that we will continue to do with Over Easy, is just a result of having fabulous people; like hard working, salt of the Earth individuals that believe in our mission, that are smart, that are resourceful. That is it. Everything after me deciding, "okay, I'm going to start this company", is all a result of the people involved. Everything that happens is just a product of the people that are involved, the good and the bad, so I think it's the biggest challenge of a startup is it's all a people business, and making sure you have the right people on the bus.

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Don't get complacent. 

I would say that I've heard this narrative so much about, "you just need to own this one business, like this one product, you just need to own your one specialty, or one area of your core business and just focus on that..." I can tell when certain parts of our business are not going to be a success. I think that a lot of companies out there are working really hard to their own death, that are already set up for failure. 

Be very honest with yourself, be very humble, and make changes before the industry tells you that there needs to be a change, before someone gives you the negative feedback that says, "hey, there needs to be a change".  We look at ourselves in the mirror and we're not perfect. We have failed at this plenty of times, and we'll probably fail at it plenty more times. We asked ourselves, "is this really going to be a success?"   No one said it hasn't been and we have no reason to believe, other than our own intuition that it's not going to be a success, but something in our gut is like "no, that's not right".  

On the opposite side; being very honest with ourselves like, "hey, I know everybody said don't do this, and this is against the industry best practices, or the industry guide, but screw it, we think it's the right way to go". You have to trust your gut. So just being very honest, very open, removing any ego - which is always harder to do than to say - that's probably the biggest thing. That is the biggest advice that I've been trying to tell myself, I will continue to tell myself and, you know, hopefully it's helpful for other people too.

• • •

Just look at all of that insight, and we’ve only recapped four episodes!  If any (or all) of these subjects strike a chord, and you would like to dive into the full episode details, check them out here.  Stay tuned for more episodes and more insightful conversations with fellow CPG businesses and stakeholders.  Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel, so you don’t miss any newly posted conversations.  

To join the conversation with fellow CPG enthusiasts, you can also join our groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, called “The Accountfully Alliance”.  We post great content weekly, and offer a safe place to get ideas and insight into the finance and operational world.

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