Fast-growth companies get lots of things right. One little unknown aspect is how the leaders create a feeling of ownership throughout the company. I have researched this topic for years and love to discuss the concept of employees having the feeling of ownership with other founders. Today’s guest is Sandy Posa, Founding Partner at Force of Nature. Inc Magazine ranked his company #405 on the 2021 Inc 5000 list. Force of Nature offers appliances that use electricity to convert salt, water & vinegar into a multi-purpose cleaner and EPA registered disinfectant as effective as bleach. Sandy shares how he can create a feeling of ownership at all company levels.
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Sandy Posa: The Transcript
About: Sandy spent his career creating new products for the top consumer packaged goods companies in the world – Procter & Gamble, Kraft & Quaker Oats. Always searching for new technologies that could truly make a difference in families’ lives, Sandy discovered electrolyzed water and couldn’t believe it had never been brought to at-home use. An appliance that sends an electrical current through salt, water & vinegar to create a cleaner & deodorizer as effective as bleach – with zero dyes, preservatives, fragrances, allergens or irritants – pretty amazing. The more Sandy learned about how electrolyzed water was different from conventional & “natural” cleaners, he knew taking on the large multinationals with a tiny entrepreneurial company would be a challenge but well worth it. With proven safety, cleaning & deodorizing benefits, yet at a fraction of the cost per ounce of typical cleaners, Force of Nature eliminates the tradeoffs in home cleaning products. As a husband & father of 3 in a longtime “green” household due to allergies, Sandy knows Force of Nature can make a big difference for families. He looks forward to helping them finally say goodbye to the unpronounceable toxic ingredients, gloves & hazmat gear locked away in their cabinets.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
Sandy Posa: [00:00:00] We have a really senior team, particularly for an early-stage company. So across the value chain, our management team has experience in fortune 500 companies. So we were able to leverage their talent, both from a strategy standpoint, a network standpoint of reaching out to places like our global supply partners, a really good example, but as importantly, we found a group of people who can operate in a small environment. So, what does that mean? They can both think strategically, but they also have to be a real doers. So they have to reach way back into their career before they were managers and be able to do both in a small environment. And we, we found a group mainly of folks that I had worked with in the past to be able to do that.
Intro: Welcome to grow, think tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs, the fastest-growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moment of their growth. Are you ready to grow?
Gene Hammett: When you think about growth, do you have a clear sense of what [00:01:00] activates your employees to create more growth in your company? Well, I know from my perspective, one of the most important aspects of this is the feeling of ownership. When employees feel like owners, when they have that sense of, of this is my company and I’m here to do something while I’m here. And I’m a part of the mission. I have a, a good feeling of what’s. Really I’m supposed to do with the projects I’m on the client experience. All of that is connected to this feeling of ownership. And today our special guest is the co-founder of the force of nature. They were number 415 on the ink list in 2021, but we have Sandy Posa, Sandy and I talk about the key elements of this feeling of ownership. We talk about transparency. We talk about values. We talk about the mission. All of those are absolutely critical and there are many more to it too. So you’ll get the full interview if you just stay tuned in here. But let me ask you a question before you get there. Are you absolutely clear and what does it take for you to be the leader that your team deserves?
Being the leader that your team deserves is very [00:02:00] different than what you need to do next. Who do you need to be when you can clearly state the difference between how you’re showing up today and how you need to show up for your team, for your company, for the next level of growth, then you have a much better way of doing it. You have, a very clear target if you will. And this is what I do, as a leadership coach and executive coach to fast-growth companies. I say all this to you, because if you’re in any kind of struggle whatsoever and where you are with your business, your leadership, your growth strategy, I’d love to talk to you and get to know you. You’re listening to this podcast. I create content like this every week, three episodes a week for you to grow as a leader, but the best way for you to grow. And I honestly believe this is to have a conversation with me about what’s getting in your way. And that’s very specific to you. It’s, it’s not cookie-cutter advice.
It’s not something you’re gonna get out of a book. It is literally what’s going on inside you right now and your business. And what identifying what getting in your way is the key to your growth. Now, if you don’t believe me, you can check about all the the results we had with clients and then the impact we’re making across the organization. [00:03:00] So, if you wanna have that conversation with me, just go to genehemett.com and schedule your call inside that call. It won’t be a sales conversation. It will truly be of service to you. They help you realize the breakthrough that’s right in front of you. All you have to do is grasp it. I wanna help you do that.
Just go to genehemett.com and schedule a call. Now here’s the interview with Sandy,
Gene Hammett: Sandy, how are you?
Sandy Posa: I’m terrific. How are you?
Gene Hammett: Fantastic. Excited to have you here on the podcast.
Sandy Posa: Thank you, Gene, for inviting me.
Gene Hammett: Well, before we kick this off and get into the heart of today’s episode, I’d love for you to tell us about your company. So what is, and who is force of nature?
Sandy Posa: So force of nature is a very disruptive brand in the cleaning and dis disinfecting industry. And the reason it’s so new and disruptive is it has a set of benefits for consumers that are unmatched in the marketplace. So, let me just list them for you first. It’s an EPA-approved disinfectant. It is a cleaner that you can use on any application in your home or work, which makes it very unusual. It also kills odors. So think anything from stinky, garbage cans, pet odors, things like that. And it is the most eco-friendly of all disinfectants and [00:04:00] cleaners. We eliminate 90% of plastic. So those are all the functional benefits of the product, but what’s really the most important piece is that. It’s it eliminates toxic chemicals from your home or place of work. So it has real health benefits that have become clearly more important since COVID. So that’s what we’re about.
Gene Hammett: I was gonna say, I would imagine COVID that was the whole thing around, you know, sanitation and cleaning things and everyone, you couldn’t find supplies. How did you guys weather that storm?
Sandy Posa: Well, we, we actually did quite well. So when COVID hit, we, we increased our business about 10 X, two months from the historical run. And we were able to get in supply chain balance with demand within about six weeks. And we were able to do that because we had an unbelievable global manufacturing partner that allowed us to scale much faster than, you know, you would think a small company could.
Gene Hammett: Love that story. I’m glad you were able to fix the supply chain. I mean, in some cases, a lot of product companies are still not able, to get the supply out there. And of course, we’re seeing a lot of inflation, but that’s another topic for another day. Sandy, I wanted you to [00:05:00] dive into this. You, you were number 415 on the ink list. When you guys got this, is this the first time you’ve ever, ever been on the ink list, or have you had other companies.
Sandy Posa: This is the first time
Gene Hammett: when you, you got that. What was your immediate first thought of getting that high up into the list?
Sandy Posa: Well, one, I was surprised that we made sort of the top 10% of the list. So I was surprised that we are not that bad that we were up that high was the first answer, but, you know, so other than that, it was like what a, what a pleasant thing to do. And we’ve been able to, you know, our customers about that. So it’s been an important part of our, actually the marketing of our company.
Gene Hammett: Well, you wouldn’t have gotten there alone. And I know that you’ve got a team behind you. Tell me a little bit about how your team is able to create this kind of growth across the company.
Sandy Posa: Right? So we, we have a really senior team, particularly for an early-stage company. So across the value chain, our management team has experience in fortune 500 companies. So we were able to leverage their talent, the oath from a strategy standpoint, a network standpoint of reaching out to places like our global [00:06:00] supply partners. A really good example. But as importantly, we found a group of people who can operate in a small environment. So what does that mean? They can both think strategically, but they also have to be a real doer. So they have to reach way back into their career before they were managers and be able to do both in a small environment. And we, we found a group mainly of folks that I had worked with in the past to be able to do that.
Gene Hammett: Well, I know that it’s hard to, to make the transition from doer to manager. It’s probably even harder to go from manager to, I’m gonna do some doing and some strategic thinking as well.
Did you find that challenge?
Sandy Posa: Very few people can do it. To be honest, it takes a real person who’s special to do it and is as a real belief in, , the mission of the company to be able to step back in their past and, and become a doer again. So, so here I find very few people could do it.
Gene Hammett: You know, the mission comes up quite a bit with fast-growth companies. And, and I, I paid attention quite a bit because I, I didn’t know the importance of it until I had hundreds of these interviews with people just like you. How do you use the mission to make sure you’re hiring [00:07:00] the right people?
Sandy Posa: Well, it, you know, it’s it’s the north star of any company and our mission is really simple and that’s to make. People’s homes and it turns out their work of their place of business much healthier than they are today. It’s a very simple mission statement, but it’s very powerful in its simplicity. And so you gotta find people who believe in that mission and more importantly, believe in the product to deliver it.
Gene Hammett: So mission’s a big component behind this. What else would you say factors into creating a team that you have?
Sandy Posa: Well, the sec, there’s a series, of attributes you look for and people and your leaders, and then that scales down to everybody who works in your company. And it starts with having the right value structure and being consistent in that value structure, across every employee, too, you have to have people in a small organization that believes in teamwork over personal go personal. Everybody leaves this on, but you have to have really talented people. To start with. So I always look more, cause I always say people who are smarter than me and their disciplines, that that’s, those are the kinds of people that I look for. And then beyond that, you know, from how you [00:08:00] organize it, we believe everybody should be an owner. So everybody has stock or stock options in the company. , and we believe in. Complete transparency among our team. Good, bad. And other one, you gotta communicate ’em so those are some of the things that we think make for a good team environment.
Gene Hammett: You, you hit on some of the key things. It looks like you’ve been reading my notes about all these, these companies going fast. I, I wanna go back to the beginning. You said value structure. , some people may say that’s, you know, company core values. Is that something different for you?
Sandy Posa: No, I think it’s a headline for the things that I just talked about is the way I think about it, you know what I’m saying you know, I think the point you’re making is good and value can be defined a bunch of different ways. That’s how I try to and the team tries to operationalize values.
Gene Hammett: What, what goes into operationalizing? The values?
Sandy Posa: Let let me, let’s take one and I’ll use it as an example. So we, we believe customers the first period. Now lots of companies say that. So the real question is how, how do you live that day in and day out? And so to use an example, so we have a team of customer support people. So they’re the front line of talking [00:09:00] to our customers or potential customers for. So they have to be one well trained, but two, we give them the authority with, within a construct within a structure. But pretty wide authority, but how to deal with customers, questioned issues, complaints. And, you know, we believe that the, you know, if you have the right people in those jobs, they’re gonna do what’s right for the customer, which in turn is right for us. So we actually allow them to break some of the rules occasion.
Commentary: Now, Sandy just talked about having a value that’s customer first. I have no problem with that, but I wanna make sure, this is crystal clear because a lot of people have heard other episodes and know how I believe that leaders should be putting employees first. And I do believe that when leaders put employees first, you have a better, chance to have people feeling like owners. But when you have a company, you wanna make sure the entire company is putting the customer first, the customer value, the customer experience. All of those things are very, very, very important and don’t confuse them. So you wanna make sure leadership is putting employees first, but the entire company, putting customers first. Just making that clear for you [00:10:00] as you continue, to be the best leader, you can be back to Sandy.
Gene Hammett: No, I’ve gotten to a conversation with someone about breaking rules, and I, I get that, that some rules can’t be broken. Right. But one of the epi, one of the examples that gave me was United airlines. A few years ago, drug someone off of an airplane. Do you remember that story?
Sandy Posa: Oh, yeah, I do. Exactly.
Gene Hammett: And his point was, it’s an example that, you know, there was a failure in leadership and I go totally agree with that. Like, we were totally in line with that, but I also said, I think there was a failure and there wasn’t a, a place where these people at the gate who probably don’t have that much control and they probably escalated up a few times and it, you know, it’s, these things have to be done very quickly, right. To, to get on time leaving, but someone should have probably stopped it before they drug someone off the plane. And someone should have had the, the, the ability to say, I can’t, this is what I believe. , that rule should have probably been broken, but the rule was probably written way before cell phones and videos were available. And those things went out on social media, the moment that it was happening, and it was [00:11:00] catastrophic for the brand and for the company. And, and for just in many different ways, is that an example of the kind of being able to break the rules?
Sandy Posa: Well, it, it, it is. And, you know, I’ll, I will say this, the larger the company, the more difficult it is to do that. Yeah. You know? , so, you know, I have the luxury of having a small company that I know everybody personally, so I trust in their judgment, you know, again, they’ve been well trained and so, and it’s the simplest things that, that really make a difference with consumers and how they talk about your brand to their friends and family. So, you know, it’s simple examples. So. We have a warranty in our product. That’s a year if it breaks. So if someone comes in and it’s, you know, 14 months or 15 months and you look up their, you know, how good a customer they’ve been and you know, and they’ve been a good customer, you go, no problem. We’ll replace it. It’s simple examples like that. That build customer first as we’re using this example throughout the organization. , so those are the sorts of things that over time make a big difference and, and you see it in you know, reviews of our product [00:12:00] and, and things of that nature that it comes back in spades. So it’s not only the right thing to do. It’s good for business.
Gene Hammett: I, I love these examples. I wanna go into something you said to when you started out, what makes our company great? You talked about transparency. A lot of people immediately think, well, that means financial transparency. I think there are actually different types of transparency inside of our companies. How far do you take transparency as it relates to leading people?
Sandy Posa: Well, you know, our, first of all, our financials are an open book to our, to our employees. We have regular team meetings where our CFO will go through, you know, the month results, et cetera. So that, that, that’s one thing that we do. The second thing that we’re real, we, we do is we always, we always concentrate on the good and the bad. , you know, ’cause the nature of an early-stage company is it’s not a straight line, particularly with a disruptive cost you know, product it’s, we’re trying to change long and Greenham as the customers. It’s not a straight line up it’s up, down on sideways. And so when you’re going up and down on sideways, you have to make sure that people know that’s happening. And two, you know, know that [00:13:00] as a company. We’re doing something about it and to reach out to them with ideas, to how to fix the up, you know, the downs of the sideways. So we, we, it’s both how we’re doing in business. What cross-functional things are going on that they may be tangentially involved with but are important to the success of the company. And it makes people feel like they’re really integral a part of the company, which they are. If you communicate that broadly. So, that’s what we try to do. I would say there are times when we’re not great at that, you know, and there are times when we’re really good at it.
Commentary: Now Sandy’s been talking about open-book financials and that’s very important, but one part of transparency is the ability for people to be, give feedback, and really have transparent conversations. Being honest with people is being direct, but these aspects of transparency are critical for your leadership and everyone else because what happens is something called a cascading effect of leadership. If you’re avoiding these conversations, then it actually is a signal to everyone else on your team that that’s what leaders do they avoid these conversations for whatever reason. And you don’t [00:14:00] want that to happen because of enough of that happens. Then you’re just really gonna have people that aren’t meeting expectations and you’re no longer a high-performance team, but if you do have the transparency of conversations and feedback, you have a much better chance to create the kind of high-performance team that is necessary. And this, all it takes is great leadership. When I talk about leaders in these concepts, They really understand the power of it and they know how to execute it day in and day out, back to Sandy.
Gene Hammett: I wanna go into one of those other little things before we wrap up today. And we got a little bit of time to, to look at this one specifically, is this a big idea, but you’ve decided to create a structure where you’ve got stock options or, , something available to people where they, they have an ownership stake in the company. Why did you feel like that was such an important piece?
Sandy Posa: Well, for two reasons, one. People are taking a real risk coming to a small company. They’re taking a personal risk. , ’cause most companies fail by the way as you know. And so they’re, and they’re taking a financial risk. So I’ve always been in the opinion of that. They should be compensated for that risk and [00:15:00] like most small companies. , there’s not a lot of cash. A lot of small companies are always cash constrained. You never have enough. , so one of the ways to that is with stock options. So both from a personal risk standpoint and an ownership field standpoint, you feel like you’re an owner and you are, so you are. Committed to, you know, the success of the company. And I do mean everybody in the company now, again, we don’t have that many, so it’s kind of easy, but I think for all those reasons, it’s really important
Gene Hammett: when I first started doing the research, then that we’re talking about, about fast-growth companies. And you’re part of hundreds of, of these founders and CEOs, Sandy, I didn’t realize how important ownership was ownership kept coming out up a little bit. I, I would ask a question that went sort of like this, with big growth goals. How do you get people to take responsibility for those goals? Your peers would come back and say, yeah, I, I get when you say responsibility, that’s not really what we’re looking for. We want them to take ownership of the goals because we want them to feel like owners. And they said this enough. And I, I remember I wrote it out on paper and I’m, I’m looking at all the data trying to connect dots. And I started speaking about this [00:16:00] around the company. Having people feel like owners, I actually believe there are certain things that you’re doing and can do without giving stock options like transparency. Like having a mission that people are all behind that that helps them feel like owners. Would you agree to them that you don’t have to actually have the financial tools that you can actually do it in other ways?
Sandy Posa: Well, I think it’s all connected. Everything that you said is, is all connected. They are, they’re all pieces of how you build the right value structure and the right culture. So if you didn’t have. The sort of the topics that you were talking about are how, how, how the values are set, the levels of authority that you give people, how transparent you are. , those all form, you know, the Ben rock of a good culture and a good value system, then you add in the financial incentive and, and by the way, it doesn’t have to be huge. And for some people it’s not, it it’s, it’s another element that makes ’em just feel like I’m part of this team. So I, I think it’s important, but it’s just part of a building block.
Gene Hammett: Totally agree. I wanna give you one last chance, Sandy, you’ve been through different evolution or [00:17:00] evolutions, if you will, in your own leadership, can you look back and, and kind of help us see something that you had to maybe learn the hard way as a leader?
Sandy Posa: Yeah, I, I think early in my career I was not very tolerant I would say, and I didn’t really know how to communicate, very well. And those are things that. I had to learn early on from a personal learning growth standpoint. If you twist the question a little bit and, and ask what are the most important things I’ve learned that, that have helped me in my leadership roles. It was almost from my first job forward that I, I, I picked up things from great leaders that I work with that over time, I built, built my own style if you will. And we can talk about that if, if it’s of interest to you, but. But I really do think the communication piece was, was something that I had to learn in some cases, the hard way
Gene Hammett: I don’t wanna leave this undone. And I’m not sure when we’ll be able to have this back, have you back on the show. So give us a little idea of how you built your own style of leadership.
Sandy Posa: So I’ll give, I’ll give you the first example. When I was very young in my career, my boss would take me into his [00:18:00] one on one meetings with his boss and he, and if there was a question from the, you know, from his boss about a certain project and it was my project. I was the one that answered. It was really unusual. If you think about it, he brought me into his one-on-one meetings, his boss for me to communicate the things that I was working on now that took a lot of, so that was just empowering, empowering, if you can just think of it as a young people. So, and I’ll use that as a young. So what, where, where I involve that is what I would, what I tell people to, throughout my organizations over time as. For, for you to succeed. Here’s a good rule of thumb. I want you to do all of your job and half of mine, and then that allows me to do half of my job and half of my boss’s job. And if you get that right, you’re gonna be on a constant learning curve and you’re gonna be ready for the next level of your growth.
And I U and then. You know, just going into one-on-one meetings, your boss is a, is a tactical way to do that. And so I, I’ve tried to tell people that throughout, throughout their careers and that been wildly successful, ’cause people are just jazzed [00:19:00] about that idea. So if you’re in an exceptional job, for example, and you know, it’s part strategy, then you’re gonna work your way up. You have your job being strategy while you execute. And then you’re gonna be ready for that next level. So that’s a good example of what I learned over time that I try to attract to people the second thing. And, that also gives people more authority than their job scope. Really. I, I found that to be one of the most important things that I learned early on and applied in my own way, in that sense.
Gene Hammett: Love that example. I appreciate you sharing that with us, Sandy. We’ve run out of time, but you’ve shared with us quite a bit of wisdom, and I really appreciate you doing this for being on the show.
Sandy Posa: Thank you. I enjoyed it.
Gene Hammett: I wanna reflect just a little bit here about what I take away from today’s interview, just so that you can actually have this summarized. You know, being a great leader of, a fast-growing company requires you to get a lot of things, right? There’s, there’s so much going on. I get it. , I work as an executive coach in this area. And so I understand, but you, your job is to make sure people are aligned and having those values and consistently rolled out across the [00:20:00] organization, hiring the right people, being transparent and love this last thing about empowering people to, to do half of your work as, as a, a boss and all of theirs.
So that you can actually manage your way up, the scheme of leadership. And now there’s a lot more to it than this, but I just want you to put a, a, are you creating this kind of space inside your company? Are you being a leader? That’s encouraging people empowering this way. If you have any questions about what’s next in your journey of leadership, make sure you go to Genehammett.com schedule a call with me. I’d love to talk to you about what’s getting in your way of you being an extraordinary leader. This is what I do. I love to do it, and I love to help you too.
When you think of great. Thanks. I appreciate that. By the way. Are we, are we still being quote, are you we still online here or so we are still online.
I’m just wrapping it up here.
When you think of growth. If you think of leadership, think of Growth Think Tank. As always live with courage. We’ll see you next time.
Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.
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