Starting a business is a big achievement for many entrepreneurs, but maintaining one is the larger challenge. There are many standard challenges that face every business whether they are large or small. It is not easy running a company, especially in a fast-paced, ever-changing business world. Technology advances, new hiring strategies, and now, political changes coming with the new administration, all add to the existing business challenges that entrepreneurs, business owners, and executives have to deal with.
Maximizing profits, minimizing expenses and finding talented staff to keep things moving seem to be top challenges for both SMBs and large corporations. We have been interviewing companies from around the world to discover what challenges they are facing in their businesses. We also asked each company to share business advice they would give to a younger version of themselves.
Below is our interview with Alexander Gillett, Founder and CEO at HowGood:
What does your company do?
Founded in 2007 and headquartered in New York City, HowGood is an in-store rating system that identifies industry leaders in the food system. As an independent research organization, HowGood determines the overall goodness of food and awards ratings to the best products, empowering consumers to make fast and informed purchasing decisions. For businesses, HowGood is a powerful tool to help promote sustainable products, attract more customers and strengthen a sustainable brand's image.
What is your role? What do you enjoy most about your role?
I'm the CEO and co-founder. I've wanted to run my own business ever since I was little. What I enjoy most is, hands-down, seeing the impact of our work play out in the grocers and food manufacturers that our ratings have helped. Products that receive a "best" rating for sustainability -- that's the highest score -- see on average a 230% increase in sales. We've had people come up to our booth with tears in their eyes thanking us for our role in finally making their products known to the world. Their boost in sales directly translates to a reduction in pesticide usage, animal cruelty, and unfair labor standards. It's a win-win. This is what I've always dreamed of doing, and I couldn't be happier that it's taken this form. And the impact is only going to grow.
What are the biggest challenges in your business right now?
The challenges we face are nearly always where the things I'm most excited about or proud of are born.
HowGood is in a unique position, because we are at the intersection of the fastest-changing industry -- tech -- and one of the slowest, -- grocery. By and large, 22 years olds are buying their groceries almost the same way as their grandparents did. There are some disruptors introducing innovative ways to shop online, but over 90% of grocery-buying in the U.S. is done in-store. That said, the balance is definitely shifting. Our task is to ensure we stay at the beginning of the trend that is not asking the question "brick or click," but rather looking for ways for connect the two. It's a challenge, yes, but also the raison d'etre for us at HowGood: creating the most efficient, easy way to create a more sustainable food system and ensure that the 85% of shoppers who want to buy more sustainably can do so.
If you could go back in time, what business advice would you give to a younger version of yourself?
The mistakes I made along the way were integral to getting HowGood where it is today, so I wouldn't try to convince my younger self to do anything differently. But, a reminder to be patient always helps. For example, it took us some time to learn the best way to raise capital. In hindsight now that we've been successful, it seems obvious.
But at first, we were among a very crowded group of people all trying to raise funds for an idea without an explicit proof of concept. Turns out, we'd done it backwards. What made us successful was when we flipped the process: we doubled-down on product development, created a future-proofed, scaleable research model, and discovered that what works is a positive-only rating system that rewards companies doing good without chastising those who aren't. With that solid foundation under us, raising capital was a heck of a lot easier.