What you’ll learn:
This week on the Page 1 Podcast, we’re breaking down the IP process—from how to decide when to get a patent to building it into a company’s product creation process. We also dive deep into the Private Label industry with the help of our guest, Leah Belzer-Adams.
About our guest:
Leah Belzer-Adams is the COO of The Companion Group. Leah is unintentionally taking over a housewares business founded by her dad, Chuck Adams. The business was never meant to be a family business, but Leah came to help the company one summer and fell in love with both sales and the consumer product industry! Innovation is her company’s bread and butter and she finds it incredible to be a part of a company that’s such a thought leader in the industry.
Key takeaways from this episode:
- The CG’s “head-to-toe” approach to product design and manufacturing—2:10
- A breakdown of CG’s product categories—3:30
- Private label as an online channel conflict strategy—5:00
- The Companion Group stats (company size, departments, warehouses, etc.)—5:45
- How CG uses 3D printers to make products in 24 hours and cut production costs—7:10
- Sales channel breakdown: in-store versus online sales—11:06
- Key in-store clients—12:00
- The CG’s quick-to-market product launch strategy—17:13
- IP advice from a company with over 90 patents—23:30
- Steps on how to create a more patentable product—25:00
- Biggest lesson from a veteran consumer product company—29:58
- A young professional’s take on how to remain relevant—32:46
- How to develop talent within your organization—35:10
- One habit to make you a better leader—36:34
- Most influential book for entrepreneurs to read—39:29
Announcer: Welcome to the Page One Podcast. A weekly podcast featuring a variety of guests and thought leaders on topics ranging from channel strategies to tariffs, influencer marketing, best in class product launches, and all the details about how to accelerate your eCommerce sales with the big box retailers or what we call rCommerce. Now here’s your host, Luke Peters.
Luke Peters: Thanks for joining us on the Page One Podcast. I’m your host, Luke Peters. This is the podcast where we bring you the best and brightest leaders to share consumer product sales and marketing strategies that will help you grow your business. I’m the CEO and founder of NewAir Appliances where I cut my teeth selling products online and now started Retail Band where I hope to help other brands succeed in product launches, influencer marketing, and B2B online sales strategy. I am also offering a free sales evaluation right now for your digital strategy. If you’re interested, find me on LinkedIn or email me at email@example.com. We can look at things like if influencer marketing might be a good opportunity for you or just check out your various sales channels, digital strategy, direct to consumer or wholesale. We can look at all of it and see if we can help you.
Luke Peters: Let’s get into this episode. In this episode, you’re going to learn from Leah Belzer-Adams, COO at The Companion Group. Leah unintentionally took over the housewares business. Founded by her dad, Chuck, the business was never meant to be a family business, but she came in to help one summer, fell in love with sales and product. Innovation is their strength. We’re going to dive deep into this father-daughter dynamic and learn about all of the innovation, the patents that they have, and should be an awesome podcast. I’m excited to get going on this. Leah, nice to have you on board.
Belzer-Adams, L: Thanks. Glad to be here.
Luke Peters: Cool, so Leah, why don’t you just give a quick intro about yourself if I missed anything there.
Belzer-Adams, L: I don’t think you missed much. I’m excited to jump into more detail.
Luke Peters: Great.
Belzer-Adams, L: Yeah, I guess the only thing would be a little bit more about our company. I think you’re going to jump into that.
Luke Peters: Perfect. Good segue. That’s the next question. If you can just talk about The Companion Group. What do you guys do? What do you make? What do you sell?
Belzer-Adams, L: Yeah, so traditionally, we call ourselves a housewares company. We design and manufacture products. We own every piece of it, all the way from the inception of design all the way through the manufacturing and handing it over to the customer. We really, really focus on innovation. How can we do things better? Differently? We think a lot about turning trends into product. I think one of the things I’ve really learned from my dad is approaching the world and looking at everything as a potential product. I think that’s been a really interesting insight for me.
Belzer-Adams, L: Then we actually have multiple brands. Our longest running brand is Charcoal Companion. We have several others that have either been in sort of outdoor entertaining or really indoor housewares. De La Terre is our newest brand, which is a ceramic cookware brand that can go, basically it’d be used over electric stove, flame, in the oven, in the freezer, in the microwave, in the dishwasher. We’re really excited to be launching it.
Luke Peters: Great, and can you just mention maybe a few other products that way the consumer gets a good visual, maybe actual products. Describe them a little bit more.
Belzer-Adams, L: Yeah, of course. Pizzacraft and PizzaQue is one of our big brands. Essentially we have the largest, most comprehensive brand of at home pizza making accessories. Then PizzaQue, which is an outdoor oven. For us, it’s a really cool product. It’s propane run. It’s portable. It’s about 23 pounds in total when it has its table top leg. It cooks the pizza in five minutes. It gets up to 900 degrees, generally cooking between 700 and 800. That’s a pretty awesome product. Not In My Backyard is one of our brands. Really like all natural wearable bug repellents in places like … you’ll see it out at Walgreens and Target and those kinds of places. Then Charcoal Companion like I said, is our longest standing brand. There’s some gajillion products in the line, probably too many/ Himalayan salt blocks and other sort of salt products are really big for us. The Pit Mitt, top of grill is huge for us. That’s our biggest category. Flame Friendlies, so yeah. Does that help? Does that cover it?
Luke Peters: Perfect, perfect. No, that’s great. I like that because for the listeners, it’s easy to go right past that when talking about companies and sometimes they may not know what The Companion Group does. I know you guys, I think you guys, do you white label or at least your IP is used with a lot of other brands, right? You guys have a ton of IP.
Belzer-Adams, L: Yeah, so actually a 65% of our business or more is private label. We’ve really seen that shift as internet has become more and more of a player. It’s so easy to look up a product and see the price right online. Each retailer is really interested in having their own SKU. We’ve really moved to private label in large part because of that. And then also just private label as a strategy has become really big for retailers.
Luke Peters: Yeah, channel conflicts. That’s super smart and solves that problem. How about some details about the company itself, maybe the size of the buildings. I know I was talking to Chuck. He mentioned you guys had moved warehouses and so talking about your footprint, number of employees different departments that you guys operate. I’m sure it’s the standard sales, marketing, finance and warehouse, but any specifics around that to give the listener a little bit more details about the company.
Belzer-Adams, L: Yeah, absolutely. I think the one thing I want to go back to really quickly is I talked a little bit about a head to toe approach in designing and manufacturing product. For us that means we actually own every piece of that. We have an on-staff chef who cooks every meal that is photographed by our in house photography team and our videography team and obviously product development and marketing. We take a lot of pride in that. I think one of the things that’s been key for us is that we have the resources to do what the major retailers need, and yet we’re nimble enough to do it quickly and to change gears when things aren’t working. I think that’s one thing.
Belzer-Adams, L: With that we have obviously a facility in Berkeley that nurtures that culture and business. We have a big creative department. We have open floor space so people have their own cube, so they can keep to themselves and work on their projects and not get distracted, but also connect with their team members pretty easily. We have multiple 3D printers, which has really changed the way that we do business. We used to have to send everything to China, right, and wait for tools to get made and wait for changes and air freighting product and now our ability to design something and print it in 24 hours has completely changed that. We really, really love using those 3D printers. There’s often times when we actually have 3D printed product at a meeting or at a trade show when final product isn’t available.
Belzer-Adams, L: The total company is 75 people, maybe a hundred. We have, like I mentioned, our Berkeley offices. That’s where our all of our creative teams are, our sales exec team, finance. Then we have offices in both Hong Kong and in mainland as well as a warehouse and consolidations facility in mainland China. Also we just recently moved, as you mentioned, from San Leandro, California or Hayward, California to Woodland, which is near Davis. That’s our warehouse facility here. The change really, in large part, comes from just the Bay area being so expensive to operate in. It gave us a really good opportunity to look at what we were doing here in Hayward and make it more efficient and Woodland.
Luke Peters: Great summary. For me to summarize, you guys are, so it sounds like more than 50%, your 65% private label. You have everybody’s dream of an on-staff chef. That has got to be pretty awesome to have. Just interesting that 3D printers are making such a dent in speed to market for you guys. That’s a cool insight. Then warehousing in China for consolidation, super interesting. It sounds like you have sourcing in China and Hong Kong. Why do you have … Tell me more. What’s the benefit of having the warehouse consolidation on the ground in China versus say factories maybe having them hold product for you or just shipping product? How does that help out?
Belzer-Adams, L: In large part it’s because we work with between 30 and 40 factories.
Luke Peters: Oh wow.
Belzer-Adams, L: We have so many factories and also so many different materials. We actually, as we were a smaller, we had a few main factories. We would ask them to deliver a product to each other and fill containers. Getting to work between partners was not super fun. As we grew and worked with more and more factories and more and more types of products, the consolidation center that we owned became more and more important. Then, as I mentioned, the same philosophy that we have here about keeping things in-house, we have in China. In China, we have engineers, we have QC team, we have production teams. In Hong Kong is really just an office. They do all of our bookings and shipping, which is big. That’s what really drove the consolidation center. We have a great, our president of our Asia team is awesome and really runs a tight ship over there. It’s really been awesome for us and made a big difference in what we do.
Luke Peters: How big is the team in China?
Belzer-Adams, L: It can fluctuate depending on the time of year. Pre-Chinese New Year, it grows. On average during the year we have, I’d say 15 to 20 team members.
Luke Peters: Wow, that’s awesome. That’s got to be a powerhouse to have that team over there and helping drive the brand. Then taking the product, so we talked about sourcing a little bit and then products coming in. Let’s talk about sales mix. You guys are mostly in-store, I believe. What’s the breakdown between in store and online? Then from that, why don’t you talk about a couple of your key customers or sales channels.
Belzer-Adams, L: You’re going to test my knowledge. I don’t know from a percentage actually specifically what the breakdown between in store and online, but we do have a big presence on Amazon, and the also Walmart.com, homedepot.com. Obviously Amazon is always growing, so we’re trying to nurture that relationship while still being very focused on our brick and mortar relationships are very important as well. I think everybody focuses online, online, online. That’s where it’s going. I don’t agree with that, that that is sort of the future. I also know that brick and mortar is still the largest percent of our sales. I think it’s very important to stay focused on that and not just our sales but all sales in general. Yeah, so that … I’m sorry. I forgot the second part of the question.
Luke Peters: No, no. Well how about a couple of customers. Who are your key in store customers?
Belzer-Adams, L: Yeah, absolutely. Walmart and Target are big ones. Walgreens is new this year. We’re really excited to be working with them. One of the things that we’ve done really well is I think, somewhat because of the nature of our product being impulse product and then somewhat of just the way that we’ve positioned it, we’ve been able to sell across channels really well. We sell all the way from Williams Sonoma, Crate and Barrel to Walmart, Home Depot and as well as in the middle of there’s Macy’s and Belk, etc. We’re pretty well saturated and have pretty good penetration in the retail market.
Luke Peters: Yeah, that’s huge reach. Wow, congratulations on that. It’s nice when you have all those customers to sell into.
Belzer-Adams, L: Sometimes, yeah.
Luke Peters: Yeah, sales are always good. Let’s talk about the father daughter relationship. I think that’s awesome. Your dad Chuck started the business. I guess before we get into it, talk about the early years. He’s starting a business. You’re growing up in the family. At some point maybe you had become interested in the business. Are you exposed to it? Anything to share there? What stood out in the early years?
Belzer-Adams, L: My parents both are entrepreneurial. My dad started this business. He actually has a business partner, Doug fielding, who’s no longer in the business, although still a shareholder. My mom actually owns and runs her own business as well. I think, I’ve been very entrepreneurial from a very young age. I am, my dad always tells his story of me taking excess products from the warehouse, I must have been eight or nine, and selling it in front of our house, making quite a bit of money doing it. I loved the strategy. I’m hyper competitive. I think that that’s always been in my blood. I think that people are just naturally entrepreneurial.
Belzer-Adams, L: He started the business before I was born, so it’s always been a part of my life. Actually, my brother and I grew up hanging, when it was much smaller business, hanging out in the offices, in the warehouse and that kind of stuff, riding bikes around the warehouse. Definitely was always exposed to it but never really interested in it.
Belzer-Adams, L: I actually went to school for psychology. I was on summer break. My dad asked me was come help, somebody was on maternity leave or something. That was on the sales team. I totally fell in love with that. I did use to always say to him, “If you sold shoes, I’d be way more into it.”
Luke Peters: That’s funny.
Belzer-Adams, L: I came to realize that it wasn’t really about the product itself, the very specific product but more about selling innovative product and exciting products and being in a category that people, it’s fun and people are excited about. Then I also really love the sales strategy and bringing out how to read people and understand retail strategies and how we can fit in to those strategies.
Luke Peters: You coming into the business as a family member, like we talked about in the intro, it wasn’t designed or meant to be a family business and you coming in, did you feel a little bit of extra pressure or anything that was different or unique about that dynamic when you, when you took over and became a leader at the company?
Belzer-Adams, L: Yeah, absolutely. It’s complicated. I came in as an assistant. I moved all the way up to where I am today. I was never just handed a executive position. My dad was always really hard on me. I think that that is obviously always complicated, but I think it drove me to just want to be better at what I’m doing and gain more skills and look outside for additional education around retail strategies and management. I think I felt a lot of pressure also from the team members around nepotism and what me being their meant and what moving through the chain meant. When I was moved into a leadership role, I worked really hard to connect with the team, especially because of the companies has had people there for a long time and worked really hard to connect with them and show them that I’m there because I belong there rather than, because I was just given this spot.
Luke Peters: Yeah, and that makes sense that he would put, I think a lot of parents would do that because it’s good for the incoming family member to really earn it and feel like they’ve earned it. I’m sure the team sees that too. Yeah, it’s a great story. It sounds like you’re in the entrepreneurial family, both of your parents actually. Then you went to school. You weren’t even planning on being in this position. That summer you came in and worked, fell in love with it, and now you’re a COO and leading a large part of the company.
Luke Peters: Now let’s talk about this new launch of a cookware brand called De La Terre. I know Chuck, I think Chuck was describing a little bit about it’s, I wish I was more of an expert in these types of products, but it can handle heat in different ways or better ways than the competing products. Why don’t you take a start to finish. First start with what the product is and then conception to product launch. How did that go?
Belzer-Adams, L: Actually, we originally started with, we were looking for a ceramic that we could use on the grill. It doesn’t have to sort of take as much heat as a ceramic that goes on the stove just because it’s not sitting in a flame usually. It’s over the flame quite a bit more than if you’re cooking on a gas stove, right? Originally, we were looking for that, and we found material that’s actually a natural material that has a proprietary additive to it that makes it high heat resistance. It gives it thermal shock resistance. We started there. That’s the flame friendly line within Charcoal Companion.
Belzer-Adams, L: Then I was just looking at the product and thinking about it and thinking about the response to it and what else can we do with this, what else can we do with this material? It’s obviously, it’s really cool. It’s different. It’s unique, so started doing more. We haven’t really been so ever in the indoor cookware arena, which is a little bit scary. It’s definitely a big, big market with lots of big players. Looking around, there wasn’t really anything like it. There are couple of pieces here and there that you can use the ceramic on the stove, but not exactly, not huge brands and not several use, etc. Really got excited about the material and starting to think about how we can turn it into an indoor brand.
Belzer-Adams, L: From there I guess we started both doing product design. Really, again, I had to work really closely with the team, because we’re really used to the barbecue style or outdoor entertainment style. It’s not all about aesthetic. I think this has really tested them in terms of their design ability and made them grow in terms of really being able to be thoughtful, very thoughtful about aesthetic and not just function.
Belzer-Adams, L: In parallel to that, we were doing a ton of product testing. Essentially what I always say is our staff chef is also does all of our product testing like as you would if you’re a chef. I always say he’s trying out, he tries to break the product, right? He does everything that any consumer would do to get the product to break. I spent a long time on that piece of it, because it’s complicated.
Belzer-Adams, L: But sorry, I’m just going to go back. Just essentially what this says is this does, it’s a ceramic, like you would see any other ceramic cookware, although it has thermal shock resistance. It can go, like I mentioned, over the electric stove, over the gas stove. It can go from the freezer directly into the oven. It can go in the microwave. It can go in the dishwasher. It’s pretty incredible what it can do.
Luke Peters: The competitors would crack, right, in that situation?
Belzer-Adams, L: Mostly, yeah. Emile Henri has launched a similar product, actually. They’ve had a couple of SKUs out for a while and then actually right as we were launching ours at the Housewares last year, we saw Emile Henri come out with more of a statement around this. That’s really the only big competition we have right now. Anything else would crack in all those scenarios pretty much other than the oven.
Luke Peters: Yeah, and so you found this unique material. Then you created a new product for the company and had to design this product, like you said, around the aesthetic. Did you already have the designs done and then you got buyer input or buyer sales and then you brought it to market? Or did you have to do some marketing and consumer testing and a lot of versioning with buyers before you got to the final sellable product?
Belzer-Adams, L: We like to move pretty quickly if you get to market first, especially when we see competitors coming out with similar types of products. We did all of those things in parallel, right? We were designing. We were testing. Then we’re showing our retailers who have close relationships with. The we put it out to the public last year at IJ. It wasn’t ready to ship, but just this is coming, right? Got really good feedback, especially around the aesthetic. I think that’s what draws people in. Then what keeps them interested and engaged is all of the elements and what the material can handle. I think that’s really important. I think that getting people there is really important, because otherwise everyone just views it as another piece of ceramic.
Luke Peters: Are you guys now selling that? Is that live in some store shelves and brick and mortar or online or where are we at now with this product launch?
Belzer-Adams, L: Yeah, so it just went live last month. We have it definitely in some independence and then online, we have our direct to consumer site is live. I think my team worked with you Luke on an influencer strategy and really executing that, being strong there.
Luke Peters: Oh, that’d be fun.
Belzer-Adams, L: Well, it’s been really fun.
Luke Peters: Yeah, because it’s a visual product. Those are the best for social media and YouTube. How long start to finish? From the very beginning when you guys found the unique properties of the material that you would then use into the ceramic pot to now launching the product, what was the start to finish time on that? Was there any IP involved?
Belzer-Adams, L: I think there was about a year and a half on this. Unlike most of our products, there’s no specific IP. We can’t patent the material. Because we worked with our factory who has already been doing something similar. Then obviously we can always do design patents, but I don’t think that’s really valuable here. We are very well versed in patents. We have over 90 patents. IP is our bread and butter. There’s not IP on this right now.
Luke Peters: Well, that’s a great story and thanks for taking us through it. Leah, why don’t we kind of staying on the IP and the patent side of things. I thought there’s definitely some questions I have that I want to dive deeper into. Your company holds over 90 patents. Can you give us a specific case of a patent that’s been really, really helpful to you. That way we can get a visual or a picture of what the patent is? Is it some sort of design or how it’s protecting the product? Then we can dive deeper after that.
Belzer-Adams, L: Sure. It’s a little complicated. We have both a mix of design and utility patents. Obviously the design patents are good, especially when you’re coming first to market, but they can pretty much always be designed around. Utility patents are often more valuable because they’re able to protect you in more ways than just the design patents. I think the pizza oven is a great example. We have both design and utility patents on. Although there are definitely competitors in the market, I think that people have not been able to drastically knock off or dramatically or exactly knock off what we have in terms of our PizzaQue pizza oven or Pizzeria Pronto. I think that that IP is really valuable. As I said, I think that even if it’s just design patents, it helps you get it out onto the market and be first and force people to design around you.
Luke Peters: Perfect. That’s a good example, Leah. Also what I wanted to ask this is, this is more about processing and ideation, but how can a company internalize, be creating more IP and more patents within the company? Is that just something that Chuck or a department within the company, it’s already in their DNA? Let’s say a company doesn’t have that in their DNA, what do you think are two or three steps that they could then do to start creating more patentable product? What I mean is, verse just doing contract manufacturing and taking stuff off the shelf, but not actually putting their own patentable IP on the product that then protects them down the line? How can a company bring that into its DNA and into its processes?
Belzer-Adams, L: Yeah, that’s an interesting question. It’s absolutely in my dad’s DNA. I think that he’s helped bring it into the DNA of the company. I do also think that, I hope he doesn’t listen to this, I think that every company needs really, they need that visionary and that person really driving innovation at least as they’re starting along the path of innovation. Then they need somebody who’s more grounded and more process oriented, has more, better at system. I think that my dad has always been a visionary. He’s always been able to bring innovation to the table. Like I said, he has a good mechanical mind, which helps, but also just very creative and always thinking about the next thing. He goes through these interesting creative ups and downs in terms of he’s cranking out all these ideas and then not. I think we all have that. But I do also think that, so I think every company needs that sort of visionary.
Belzer-Adams, L: But I also think it’s very important to be grounded. I don’t necessarily think that my dad always had a partner that kept him grounded, that allowed him the space to come up with all crazy ideas and then helped him say, “Great idea. Not so great idea, let’s shelf it.” I think that’s in large part where our partnership has been successful is that I feel like he does a better job of listening to me then listening to others often and that I’ve been able to say, “Hey, cool idea, let’s keep thinking about it, but let’s put it on the shelf for now because it’s definitely not a home run as is.” I think companies need to have that visionary and give them the opportunity to really just let them go and then they need a partner to always bring them back as well. I also think companies need to take risks. I think that’s one huge risk. Let’s take a risk here. I think it doesn’t always pay out, but it often does. I think that’s really important.
Luke Peters: Yeah, I mean it makes a lot of sense what you’re saying. I’m guilty of that all the time, by the way. I’m sure Chuck’s going to be fine hearing that part of the podcast. I actually want people here at the company to do. It’s more fun. You want to have the free range to come up with the crazy ideas. Then you want your, and then the rest of the leadership needs to be able to push back and everybody has to settle on what the best path forward is. I think that’s a totally a healthy dynamic. That’s a good story. What do you think about, I don’t know, productizing IP within a company. Is it part of a process or a new product launch or new product creation process where you guys say, “Hey stuff’s doesn’t make it to the new product stage unless it has IP.” Or is it just people behind the scenes who are actually doing this product creation are just used to thinking that way and coming up with products that are going to have IP? Is it just something natural or is it something that you think companies can actually mandate and build into their product creation?
Belzer-Adams, L: We definitely don’t have any rule or anything that no new product comes to the table unless it has IP. I think that’s very limiting. What we do is we always think about when we’re developing something, “Okay, how is it different than what’s out there or is it totally new? Is it our crazy innovation here or are we taking something that’s in the market and making it better?” We often think about how big we think a product is going to be. Doing IP is time consuming. It can be expensive. Really being strategic about like, “Okay, we can get a design patent on this, but is it worth it? Is there value there?” I think yes, in the one sense that it can be built into the product development process and that as you’re developing, being thinking about how you can do something that’s different from what the market has and what the market scene and then own that and own IP on it. But I also don’t think you should limit yourself to, we don’t let anything go out the door that doesn’t have IP or forcing IP on products that there’s just not enough value there.
Luke Peters: Yeah, it makes sense. There’s that happy medium. Cool, that’s super interesting and really helpful. IP is just, it’s enormously important and has been important to your brand. It’s good to hear the backstory there. Talking about leadership and your role as COO and running a major part of the company, what might be your biggest mistake along the way that the audience can learn from?
Belzer-Adams, L: Oh, that’s a really good question. So many mistakes. I think that the biggest mistake we’ve made as an overall company has been to grow fast and not implement processes in order to scale. I think that again speaks a little bit to my dad being a visionary and just kind of being out there with all these ideas and really focused on product development and lost track a little bit of how important it is that you have sales to back that product development. I think at one point we had more products than we have sales.
Luke Peters: That’s funny.
Belzer-Adams, L: I think making that shift to really being process oriented, system oriented is really important. I think we’re still working on that. I think that’s a large part of what I’m bringing to the table. I think, it’s great to be flexible and nimble, but that should be the exception to the rule rather than being always flexible or always nimble and not always having processes and system.
Belzer-Adams, L: I guess, the mistake I’ve made personally, I think part of it and it’s just really hard, it’s so emotional for me in that I love what I do. I’m so committed to it. I have incredibly high expectations of myself. But also I think there’s a lot of people have high expectations of me given that I am the daughter of the founder. My dad has high expectations of me. Sometimes just making it too personal. Business is business, right? There’s always those hard things. Do you let people go at the right time or are you emotionally connected, because they’ve been there for 20 years? Do you table this product idea because you’ve been really invested in it, you think it’s really cool. Those kinds of things. I think that’s really challenging.
Luke Peters: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing that Leah. It helps us connect more on the podcast. I think the mistake of growing fast without process is actually par for the course. I think, it’s literally like a stage of companies. It’s like you’re a teenager at that time and causing trouble and growing fast and doing everything that comes in front of you. Then later on, you’ve got to decide which products to jump into. It sounds like that’s the perfect role for you. That’s great. There’s a book called Traction, I think it talks, it says you need to be …
Belzer-Adams, L: Yeah, I’ve read Traction.
Luke Peters: Okay, there you go. There you go. You guys are the yin-yang, the perfect fit on a company there.
Belzer-Adams, L: I don’t know about that, but we’re working on it.
Luke Peters: Yeah, it’s a great book. It’s cool that you read it. You bring new energy to an older industry. I mean, I guess, housewares, I’ll call it an older industry. I mean, we go to the same trade shows. I’m over at IHA as well. You guys are probably in a different hall. Just thinking about that, how do you bring, how do you think differently. That’s question one. And then what advice would you give to establish brands that haven’t kept up with the recent changes and digital changes and are still maybe a little bit old? How would you bring more youth into those brands?
Belzer-Adams, L: Yeah, I think bring young people on. Let them speak. Give them an opportunity to really bring something to the table rather than have them just be junior people. My generation is going to be the biggest generation in the workforce now or shortly. I think it’s really important that you’re listening to young people and giving them a voice. I also think it’s important to obviously look at what’s going on. I think it’s not always easy, but try to figure out what’s a quick fad and what’s a longer running trend. I definitely think there’s a lot of quick fads. We make all these changes to fit into these quick fads, and then they’re gone. It can make a company feel novelty or disingenuous. That’s not always easy. I don’t have a lot of good advice on figuring that out. I think those are a couple of things.
Belzer-Adams, L: I just joined the IJ, young professionals group. This year it will be my first year getting together with other young professionals in the housewares market. After the show thinking about what the show did and didn’t do to bring young energy to the table. I’m really excited to do that.
Luke Peters: Cool, so I like your first advice. Just bring young people on. Young people with new ideas, I think that’s great. I’ve never heard of this young professionals group with IHA. Any more details on that?
Belzer-Adams, L: Not a lot. I mean just as a group of, I don’t even think it’s like 30 or so young professionals, either people in positions like myself who have started businesses or taking over business from their families or have moved up the executive chain and get together after the trade show a few months later and talk about what then didn’t work and what’s going on in the housewares industry and how we can help give insight to companies and the organizations based on, on what we see.
Luke Peters: What would be your advice to other business owners on developing talent from within the company? Just curious if you have any stories or how you have developed talent within your organization.
Belzer-Adams, L: My philosophy as a leader is to one, always bring people on in positions that are better than yourself. I think that I could go to every position in my company and say what each person is better at than me because that’s what I want from them. I want them to be executing the things really well that either aren’t my strengths or don’t have time for, etc. I think that’s a really important, it’s super important not to have an ego and not in that way. I think that’s how you get the best people. Let them thrive. I mean, give them enough support and oversight to do what you need to do for your business as well as to make them feel supportive. I find that the team works best when they feel like they’ve really owned something. I think, trying to figure out how to bring up is really same thing, always teaching them what you’re doing, what you’re thinking about, why you’re thinking about it so that they can keep moving up. Theoretically you should keep moving up as well as they move up. I think again, just not bringing the least amount of ego to it and gets the best results.
Luke Peters: Perfect. Just thinking about how you prepare for the day professionally, is there maybe a habit or a ritual or a practice that you have that has made you a better person either at work or at home?
Belzer-Adams, L: The most important thing for me is working out. I’m so much of a better person, a better thinker, a better manager when I’ve been able to cut that time out to work out. I think maybe it’s working out for other people, maybe it’s not, but making sure that you’ve cut that time out of the day for yourself and be selfish about it. It’s going to make you better at everything else. I think I’ve really learned that working at all hours and always being on email or whatever, burned me out. I wasn’t thinking as clearly and those kinds of things. Obviously I still work a lot of hours, but making sure you take that time out to do whatever it is for yourself. That is important.
Luke Peters: Totally.
Belzer-Adams, L: A lot of people like meditation. I’m just too type A for that. I know it works well for a lot of people.
Luke Peters: Yeah, no, workouts are a must. Do you have a routine? Is it morning or is it late afternoon or evening? How does your routine look there?
Belzer-Adams, L: I see a trainer twice a week. That’s in the evening. Then try to do my own gym the same time, 5:30/6 every day after work.
Luke Peters: Oh that’s perfect. Yeah, it’s a huge energy boost. It’s important. It’s funny, because people think about working out like as if it’s an extra thing. But the problem is like in today’s work, we’re sitting down too much. It’s really just coming back to normal. The body should be moving. Yeah, it’s a complete necessity and so that’s awesome.
Belzer-Adams, L: Gives you enough energy to come home and work again at night, right?
Luke Peters: Oh exactly. Sometimes if it’s too late, I’ll get too wired. I’ll usually do the workout in the morning but anytime it’s like workout, morning or afternoon. It doesn’t even have to be strenuous. It’s just enough to get the … I have this thing called the aura ring. I don’t know if you’ve heard of this. It’s pretty cool. If you haven’t, it’s a so yeah I know you just shared before the episode that you’re going to be getting married. Yeah, you wouldn’t want this in place of a wedding ring, but it’s cool because it tracks all your motion and your sleep and everything. It’s cool on the workout side, because you can see history of all of the, it tracks all your motions. It’s got a bunch of gyroscopes in it. It tells you how many steps and equivalency of steps and also even how hard you work out was, because it can measure your heart rate and stuff. It’s pretty cool. It makes you kind of more competitive when you can look at previous days or previous weeks or months.
Belzer-Adams, L: Awesome. I think that’s really cool. I think I compete really, really well against myself. It’s very, very helpful to be able to look at where you’ve come from.
Luke Peters: Yeah, so check it out. It’s called aura ring. The only thing is you got to wear it. You have to wear it. It’s clunky. It looks like I got this like massive ring on. Anyways, it’s tracking what I do. Leah, do you have a favorite book to recommend to listeners?
Belzer-Adams, L: Let’s see. I really actually liked the Traction book. I think that was really helpful, especially for a company trying to come from a small phase into the next phase and scaling. I’m going to kick myself because I don’t remember the exact name of this book. It was all about culture and company culture. If I didn’t have a broken ankle, I’d go grab it. It’s all about company culture. It’s really, really interesting. I think one of the things that stuck out for me the most, and I’ll get the name, so you can put it in the podcast.
Luke Peters: Yeah, cool.
Belzer-Adams, L: It was … Description, but it was the most interesting thing for me I got out of the book was that they did a test. They basically gave a group of CEOs, a group of attorneys, a group of teachers and a group of kindergartners, all the exact same project. It was a very basic product. I think it was taking marshmallows and toothpicks and all having the same amount and starting with the same number and then building the highest structure that you said build. What was so interesting was so they compared who did the best, who, who had the highest structure and then group dynamic. The kindergartners had the highest structure. They beat everybody. CEOs came in next. I think what was so interesting and insightful was they really talked about how the kindergartens didn’t care what other people thought of them. They didn’t really have a hierarchy in the group. They just all did what they thought was best and played each role in order to execute the project.
Belzer-Adams, L: I thought that was really, really interesting, and it helped me think about how to, obviously there’s some hierarchy in business and there has to be some hierarchy, but also how to make people feel like they have a voice no matter what their role is in the company and that they’re heard and that they can share their ideas whether than the best ideas or not. I thought that was really, really interesting. And then I had a lot of other interesting, insightful pieces about company culture and what kind of cultures work well and how to shape those cultures.
Belzer-Adams, L: I think that’s really important right now because I think that as tech has kind of blown up, everybody has really tried to foster these very tech cultures, right? Like having beer in the fridge or whatever it is. I think the reality is a lot of the tech cultures are very toxic. And so trying to figure out the balance of being casual and making people feel comfortable, but also not taking that so far that it’s then uncomfortable. I think one of the things I always say to my team is we’re a team, not a family, right? We’re a group of people choosing to be together and working together and committing to each other rather than a family who has to be to gather. Often there’s dysfunction in family. I think that that’s really important. I think that book was really helpful for me.
Luke Peters: Yeah, I remember doing that. I think it was like called the marshmallow test or something like that. I think we did it. We’d done it at work. I’ve done it at different projects. It really is fun. Anybody listening, if you guys haven’t done that, it’s a pretty cool team-building project that you could do at your business. You could just look it up on YouTube. I thought your other comment about flipping the Org chart was great or flattening the Org chart or however you want to look at that and couldn’t agree more with comment on toxic tech. I’ve seen it time and time again with companies like that where they’ll, they’ll have the image, but it isn’t like that on the inside. Yeah, that’s super insightful. Thanks for that. How can listeners find more about you or connect with you? What’s the best place?
Belzer-Adams, L: Probably LinkedIn, although I should update my LinkedIn. Yeah, I think that’s probably the best place.
Luke Peters: Awesome, and then at LinkedIn you’re Leah Belzer-Adams, so for those listening.
Belzer-Adams, L: Yes.
Luke Peters: They can connect with you there. Leah, listen, I want to thank you for joining me on this episode of the Page One Podcast sponsored by Retail Band. Quick reminder that I’m offering a free evaluation of your online sales strategy. We will take a look at your Amazon, Home Depot, Wayfair, Lowe’s, Walmart, Target, wherever you’re selling online, we can evaluate your strategy and all of those channels and optimize your sales there. Then we can use our selling tools to look at your keywords and how you have your product set up. Finally, we can help you with influencer marketing. It’s an awesome fit for most products, especially visual or products that can be tested on YouTube. We can help you gain a share of the world’s number two search engine, which is YouTube and which your company needs to be showing up for on the keywords that are going to make a difference for your brand. Connect with me on LinkedIn. You can ask about that free evaluation that we can do or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks all for listening to this episode of the Page One Podcast. I appreciate everybody that listens, all of your comments, suggestions and reviews. We’ll see on the next episode. Thank you.
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