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4 Principles Guiding My Company’s Mission to Make Fresh Organic Meals Accessible for Everyone

StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Article | 4 Principles Guiding My Company’s Mission to Make Fresh Organic Meals Accessible for EveryoneA healthy diet doesn’t need to be expensive and taste bland.

Since I launched Fresh n’ Lean in 2010, I’ve been committed to breaking those stereotypes while getting affordable, pre-made organic meals to as many people as possible.

Those who need healthy meals the most, whether for medical issues or convenience, are too often left with heavily processed and unhealthy food choices. More than 50 million Americans live in food deserts, areas without access to high-quality or affordable fresh food, according to USDA research. But better knowledge about healthy eating has sparked national discourse about what we put into our bodies, and evolving consumer habits are making people less beholden to insufficient local food options.

Four principles have helped me lead my company forward: family, discipline, humility and vision.

My mission began with family in mind.

My father was facing life-threatening health issues — we didn’t know if he would be around in six months or a year. He made drastic changes to his diet and lifestyle, and his health rebounded. Seeing his success was proof that it could work for others, and that there was a greater need for fresh, healthy food options.

Discipline fueled the company’s growth.

I started Fresh n’ Lean when I was 18 years old. While my friends were out partying, I was waking up at 4 a.m. and working 16, 17, 18 hours a day, seven days a week.

That discipline carried over to the company’s financial wellbeing, where we sustained steady growth without relying on outside capital. We’ve always run a pretty lean operation, in part because we didn’t have a lot of excess funds to fuel unrestrained expansion. We had to be thoughtful in how to approach growth opportunities, because one mistake or one wrong decision could derail the whole company.

A dream since Day 1 was building our own kitchen and manufacturing area, a custom space to fit our needs. It wasn’t feasible during our early years, but in time it became a necessity. I never dealt with such a big construction project before, and it was a huge learning experience — I worked with contractors, city officials and architects throughout the permit process. There were setbacks, but we had to keep powering forward. Failure wasn’t an option.

Humility means respect for everyone’s role and impact.

I’ve worked every job the employees work, so I understand where they’re coming from and recognize the obstacles they face. I used to wash dishes and pack boxes. I’d go into the warehouse and pack boxes tomorrow if needed. We’re each a piece in a puzzle that fit together to reveal the mission and character of this company.

My vision for the future

As horrible and disappointing as it is that millions of people don’t have regular access to healthy food, I’m encouraged that our society is paying more attention to what we eat and that the rise of direct-to-consumer shipping provides additional options for people living in food deserts.

Ultimately, we want everyone in the United States to have access to a fresh organic meal within five miles of where they are. While direct-to-consumer is a big part of our business, we’re also looking to increase our offerings in grocery and retail on-the-go stores and getting our vending machines a wider release. We’ve targeted corporate wellness programs with the vending machines, but we plan to take a more mainstream approach in the coming years.

Convenience is a key to continued growth. A healthy diet doesn’t need to be expensive and taste bland — and it should be within reach no matter where you live.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Laureen AsseoLaureen Asseo is only 27-years-old, yet she has become a pioneer in leading the nation’s organic food craze. She’s the CEO and founder of LA-based Fresh n’ Lean, the largest nationwide organic meal delivery service in the country. It’s her mission to make eating organic easy, affordable and accessible – reclaiming the phrase “fast food”. She was inspired by her father’s ailing health due to his eating habits, and started the company from her one bedroom apartment.

The Disconnect that Keeps Your Company from Performing at its Peak

StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Article | THE SUCCESS CADENCE: Unleash Your Organization’s Rapid Growth CultureOver the years, I’ve worked with a number of founders, CEOs, and presidents of companies. Often, these executives are a part of my network. I have noticed that their story consistently repeats itself: their organizations are underperforming, and they want to discuss ways to optimize, share ideas and collaborate on experience that could help set up a plan to turn that situation around. These executives tell me frankly that they don’t have the revenue stream, the market share, or the margins their products and services deserve. They’re not sure what the problem or solution is. A common challenge is that they have not hired the level of skill necessary on the sales team. Very often, though, I find that there is another, related obstacle to their company achieving at its full potential, one that all too common goes unnoticed. I call this obstacle The Disconnect.

The Disconnect puts the sales team outside of the strategic conversation. Sales are considered an ending point, not a vital resource. Typically, Finance, Marketing, and Operations all have input, direct or indirect, on the creation and revision of the strategic plan. Sales often have no such contribution. The plan, and its revenue targets are dictated to Sales. The salespeople are expected to go out and execute it. There is zero conversation, zero back and forth, zero collaboration. The strategic communication with Sales can be translated roughly but accurately as: “Here’s your quarterly target. Go hit it.”

In early-stage and high growth scenarios, that’s a losing proposition because there’s no buy-in and no intimacy in the field with what the company is genuinely trying to accomplish. That Disconnect leads to a low-growth culture and a failure to execute the strategic plan adequately or effectively. It’s often impossible to recover from such a blow to communication, collaboration, and strategic alignment.

Changing this situation is not a simple fix. It requires the courage to change the operating culture that management has grown used to, and a parallel willingness to make and follow through on decisions that challenge the familiar ways of setting company strategy.  Specifically, there has to be a connecting line from the outset between the salespeople and leaders out in the field and the management team setting and funding corporate objectives – without it, slow growth is imminent.

Sales has to be the active, leading partner in the formation of the strategy that the company is trying to pursue. That’s a differentiator that most companies miss. Once you get it right, though, this way of doing business leads to a whole new organizational culture, one based on the full support of the principle of scalable, aggressive growth.

When the field organization,  both sales and technical sales have active roles in strategic planning, development of corporate initiatives, and specifically on the setting of their own monthly and quarterly targets, territory plans, etc. the dynamic changes, Everybody’s on the same page; everybody’s taking action to serve the same purposes; everyone is in alignment with senior executives.  A remarkable spirit of cohesion emerges when the sales team knows with deep certainty that their fingerprints and contribution are on the company’s objectives, initiatives and revenue targets, Unfortunately, this is the exception, rather than the rule. Usually, what happens is The Disconnect. That’s how companies are used to doing business. But that familiarity carries a steep cost: slow growth, missed targets, attrition, and unfulfilled potential.

The key takeaway for senior leaders here is a simple one. If for some reason you’re not including your sales leaders and front-line salespeople in your strategy discussions, your go-to-market planning sessions, and your discussions about monthly, quarterly, and annual revenue targets, you are missing out on the opportunity to turn your sales team into the battlefield defenders of your strategic vision. Start the conversation today!


About the Author

StrategyDriven Expert Contributor | Bart FanelliBart Fanelli is co-author, with David Mattson and Tom Schodorf, of THE SUCCESS CADENCE: Unleash Your Organization’s Rapid Growth Culture. Bart is a sales leader, entrepreneur, executive advisor, and platform developer who specializes in team building, sales execution, sales leadership methodologies, and global operational efficiency. He has deep experience in building, leading, and scaling technology teams committed to rapid growth. The hypergrowth of one of the teams he led was the subject of a 2017 article in the Harvard Business Review. He is the recipient of the Technology Services Industry Association’s STAR award for “innovation in expand selling,” and the founder and lead designer of Skillibrium, a powerful sales success execution platform.

 

Alternative Development Best Practice 2 – Organizationally Developed Options

It’s hard to find an executive who doesn’t believe that his or her people are significant assets and a competitive advantage for the company. Why then are so few employees involved in the strategic planning process? Engaging employees gains their ‘rubber meets the road’ customer and process experiences and earns buy-in it for the plan’s implementation. Therefore, employee involvement in strategic planning is a win-win proposition; the only question remaining is when and where in the process to involve them.


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Additional Information

For an illustrative model of an organization’s hierarchical roles and responsibilities, see StrategyDriven’s Strategic Organizational Alignment model.

For additional insights to the involvement of managers and employees in the alternative development process, listen to the StrategyDriven’s special edition podcast, An Interview with Nilofer Merchant, author of The New How.

Strategy Driven – A Reality Check

StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Article | Strategic Planning | Strategy Driven – A Reality CheckMost modern organizations claim to be strategy-driven. But when you cut through the hyperbole, what do you find?

The Oxford dictionary defines strategy as “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim.” People tend to focus on the word “plan” in this sentence. We think about strategy as the highest-level, guiding plan for an organization, but if we want to objectively determine the strategy of an organization, this is where we’ll hit a problem.

A plan is an intention to do things in the future, but you can’t objectively study or observe an intention. An intention has no physical presence, we can only witness people talking about it. Walk into an organization and ask to see their strategy and you will likely be given a one-line “mission” statement and a document filled with words and diagrams. The document is real and can be observed. However, the intention that the document describes is not real. We should never confuse the two – having a physical document does not mean that you have a strategy.

But don’t give up hope yet! I cannot physically find gravity and yet I know that it is real because I can witness the impact of gravity on the real world. Newton observed a falling apple and was able to use this data to infer that gravity existed.

So what is the equivalent of Newton’s apple when it comes to strategy? Think about the dictionary definition. A strategy is a not just “a plan”, it is “a plan of action”. I cannot physically witness the plan, but I can certainly witness actions and use them to infer the strategy. If I walk into an organization and carefully examine the action, then I will be able to determine the strategy which is at play.

This might sound a bit backward. After all, the strategy is all about the big picture, about how we will conquer the world tomorrow, not about what is happening today. I disagree – the only way that you can witness a strategy is to carefully look at what is happening today and then infer the strategy from that data.

Let’s look at an example. Some years ago, I worked with a company that was on a sustained journey to improve safety in its operation. Their strategy document declared that “Safety comes first. There is nothing more important for us than the safety of our people and the community in which we operate.” As a strategy statement, it couldn’t be clearer. When I went looking for the action however, I found something different.

At their project portfolio meeting I found something interesting. As is frequently the case, this company had many more potential projects than it had budget. Because of this, the company had to choose which projects to progress and which projects to defer or cancel. Given their strategy of “safety comes first”, I should have witnessed that all the safety projects were approved first and then, only if there was remaining budget, would commercial projects be approved. What I witnessed instead was that a large number of safety projects had been deferred to make space for a more evenly balanced selection of commercial and safety projects. The individuals responsible for making these calls were under a great deal of stress.

“Safety first” was what we call the espoused strategy and it was clearly not real. By witnessing the company’s actions, we can see that the real strategy was to balance commercial and safety interests. They were very committed to their safety journey, but not in a way that put them out of business!

The most concerning thing that I observed was the stress placed on the decision makers. They were implementing the real strategy of the senior management. But they were then placed in a highly compromised position by the same senior management espousing a completely different “strategy”.

As a leader in your organization, I encourage you to constantly check that the actions in your organization match the strategy you espouse. Only then can you truly claim to be strategy-driven.


About the Author

StrategyDriven Strategic Planning Article | Strategic Planning | Strategy Driven – A Reality CheckGraeme Findlay is an Associate Fellow at the University of Oxford Saïd Business School. He consults to industry as an executive coach and change management advisor. Prior to specializing in leadership development, Findlay held executive management roles and was accountable for delivering operational transformations and performance turnarounds on world-scale mega-projects. His passion for high performance teams led to academic research at Oxford University and HEC Paris. Findlay holds a Masters degree in Consulting and Coaching for Change. For more information, please visit www.graemefindlay.com

How to Think Like a Futurist

StrategyDriven Practices for Professionals Article | Futurist | How to Think Like a FuturistBeing a futurist means paying attention to new patterns or trends that are slowly percolating up through the market and/or society that have the potential to catch on in a major way. It’s about coming up with possible scenarios for the future given these developments.

For me, the ideal timeframe for futurist thinking is 5-10 years, because although no one can successfully predict the future, in this window you are more likely to be able to clearly see where things are going according to current operating models. Now, in 2019, I think anything beyond 10-15 years is reasonably futile because we bump up against the technological singularity (the time when machine intelligence becomes so sophisticated that it causes currently unfathomable changes to human existence).

The simplest way to imagine and prepare for the future is to devise intelligent strategies that will serve your company well. You can do this by reading a ton and consulting experts in your field about what they’re seeing. Futurists use tools that systematize these recommendations including scenario planning, environmental scanning, Delphi surveying, and individual software programs like Fibres, Futures Platform, and Athena.

Through your research, you will probably determine that financial markets and corporate structures are likely to change dramatically in the next few years. Blockchain will democratize, streamline, and improve the efficiency of ownership. Other potential developments in the financial sector include the increased use of algorithms to boost trading effectiveness, and the inclusion of machines and machine learning in individual and corporate financial planning.

Generally speaking, corporate structures will become flatter and more specialized, with fewer full-time employees and a network of virtual and contract workers who move in and out of the organization fluidly (including Boomers who work fewer hours but still contribute, unlike prior generations that were forced to fully retire at a certain age). The widespread use of flextime and remote work means that your success and productivity in a job will be judged by your results – not where or when you accomplished them.

In a general sense, employers will probably not “take care” of people the way they do today. Most employees will work in a contract capacity, meaning that they have to continually sell themselves and their value to organizations. One area of specialty won’t last very long and individuals will be responsible for continuously reskilling and upskilling to ensure they’re providing what the market needs. At the same time, geographic skills mismatches and demographic shifts mean that employers may not have the local talent they require and will have to become more flexible about building virtual teams so they can employ the best people for the job.

Organizations will also need to rethink their relationships with customers. The days of producing a product and expecting the customer to “just go with it” are over. Now, product development should be extensively informed by customer feedback, including analysis of that feedback via data analytics. Through iterative processes such as design thinking, companies can devise ideas, prototype and test them, and then adjust the offering based on changing conditions and received customer input. Organizations should also prepare for customer demand for increased customization, and believe it or not, a desire for the human element and traditional craftsmanship in products.

My final piece of advice in thinking like a futurist is to be proactive. Instead of insisting on a laser focus on your immediate business priorities tomorrow, keep your head up, your eyes open, and your mind curious. Take responsibility for identifying disruptions in your industry and training your workforce to cope with them. Remember that the future doesn’t just happen – we shape it every day.


About the Author

Alexandra Levit is the author of the new book Humanity Works: Merging Technologies and People for the Workforce of the Future (Kogan Page). A business and workforce futurist and partner at People Results, she helps Fortune 500 and government organizations and their leaders prepare for the future of work through proprietary research, consulting, and program development.