Power Players

Kind snacks founder's advice for small business owners: 'The rules have changed'

Sony Pictures Television

Daniel Lubetzky, founder and CEO of Kind, started his healthy snack company in 2004 and steered the fledgling business through the 2008 recession. Despite the uncertainty of the time, Kind, which had garnered a cult following before the downturn, gained momentum and the business grew stronger.

During the recession Kind leaned on its strong customer base and continued giving away free product samples, which translated to new sales, Lubetzky says.

However, he wouldn't advise any entrepreneur starting or growing a business amid the Covid-19 pandemic to copy Kind's "playbook," he tells CNBC Make It.

"An entrepreneur should not aim to follow somebody else's playbook because the economy constantly changes, society constantly changes," Lubetzky says. "And particularly [in] this pandemic, you should throw out any playbook from the past."

"The rules have changed."

For example, it isn't even possible for a snack company to give out free samples in a grocery store now. Plus, compared to 2008, "in our market, online sales are so much more prevalent [now], and the role of each of the channels is just so different."

"All [business factors] evolve so much, and a lot of entrepreneurs get stuck thinking, 'Well the prior company five years before me did it this way, so I need to follow their approach,'" says Lubetzky.

"But it's often times not the right thing to do. It's almost always the opposite because what tends to work well one way eventually gets overcrowded and you need to find a new, creative way to stand out."

What Lubetzky can recommend during this time is that business owners focus on personal growth, like developing critical thinking skills and other leadership qualities, and building "the smartest, most hard-working team," because "that's important now and will be important forever."

"Build a culture that is resilient, creative, and team-oriented. The values, mindset and culture that you'll want to build in a company is eternal," he says. 

And ask a lot of questions.

"Be a critical thinker. Question everything. Don't be afraid to challenge yourself ... and learn what you did wrong. Don't be afraid to question assumptions," he says.

In fact, "I ask a ton of people the same question," he says. "If I was dealing with a particular situation – whether to go public or not, whether to seek financing or not – I would probably ask more questions than most people. I would be really curious and ask multiple people that I respect how they would process this or that idea.

"Then I'd find my path within all those different perspectives," he says.

But most importantly, give yourself time to analyze the information you receive. 

"I think you should be comfortable spending more time thinking than we tend to as human beings. I think we live in a world where we spend way too much time bringing in inputs – [like] from Tweets, Instagram posts, Facebook posts, LinkedIn posts, emails," Lubetzky says.

"We just do not have time to process, to digest and to think critically."

Lubetzky says learning to "reflect and be introspective" now will "carry you for the rest of your life."

"I encourage entrepreneurs to spend more time and use this time to reflect, absorb, think. Question your product and do more research," he said. "It's a really good time to invest in building that as a trait."

With such difficult circumstances now, he also encourages entrepreneurs to "conserve a bit of your gunpowder," aka, resources.

"Try to take a long view of things. We do not know if this thing is going to rebound and if our economy is going to rebound in a couple months or in six months or in a year or even longer than that. So, you need to find a way to not use up all of your gun powder." 

Check out: The best credit cards of 2020 could earn you over $1,000 in 5 years

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