We’ve had a few interviews on how to leave your day job to start your own business. Today’s guest, Manny, Founder of HeavensPantryllc.com, shares his story of how he continues to gain value from staying in his Fortune 500 executive role while also managing his high-growth fruit and nut energy bar company. He shares with us time management principles that will help you drive better results in less time.
In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:
Starting a business while working a demanding executive role at another company - and using the experience to your benefit!
Mastering your time management skills
Focusing on the data that will optimize your KPIs
Why being positive can make the difference between success and failure
And so much more!
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Or, watch the full video interview here!
Do you have a brand that you’d like to launch or grow? Do you want help from a partner that has successfully launched hundreds of brands that now total over $2 billion in revenues? Set up a free consultation with us today!
Prefer reading instead of listening? Read the full transcript here!
Jon LaClare: We've had a few interviews on how to leave your day job to start your own business. Today's guest shares his story on how he continues to gain value from his Fortune 500 executive role. At the same time, he manages his high-growth fruit and nut energy bar company. Among other things, he shares time management principles that will help drive better results in less time.
Welcome to another episode of The Harvest Growth Podcast, focused on helping consumer product companies, inventors, and entrepreneurs harvest the growth potential of their product businesses. Today, I'm super excited to be speak with Manny. He's the founder of Heaven's Pantry. Also, one of the core products of that business is called ExcaliBar. It's a nutrition bar.
Manny: I see that right over here.
Jon: Oh, perfect. For anybody watching on video, he's holding one up. This is their chocolate energy bar. Let's get into the details of it. One of the things I love about this product is I think in all of your products, there's six ingredients. Manny, is that correct?
Manny: That's absolutely correct. I take great pride in a simplicity. Both in my life in the corporate world and also my life as an entrepreneur, I oftentimes see that people like to overengineer things. I really think that simplicity is the key of the game. In today's CPG world, consumers want clean, healthy products that they can feel good about putting in their body. I'll be completely honest with you, most consumers nowadays are starting to get really educated and very health conscious, and they're starting to learn all the different deleterious effects that artificial sweeteners and preservatives can have for you.
This bar actually was a bar that helped me get through my days in the world of consulting. It's just a really wholesome boost of energy and unlike coffee, and I'm not knocking coffee by any means. I love coffee. I literally just got back from the coffee shop, but I will tell you one thing. Caffeine definitely leads to a midday crash. Back when I was in the world of consulting, during busy seasons, we would work 70 hours a week and one of the perks that they would give us is free coffee.
Every morning, we have a nitro cold brew that probably got me through until the afternoon and then the effects start to wear off. I started to feel really crummy. I had another one and then boom, that lasted me through the whole evening. By the time I got home at eleven o'clock or twelve o'clock, I simply couldn't go to sleep. That's where the ExcaliBar really came into play.
The ExcaliBar provides a clean wholesome boost of energy that's sustainable and doesn't lead to that midday crash, leaving it the perfect energy bar for busy professionals trying to power through their day without a caffeine slump.
Jon: I love that. One of the reasons I'm really excited about this interview today is it's perfect for the product, it's perfect for our audience. I think your story as well. We'll get to that in a minute, but the product especially, so many of us as business owners, entrepreneurs, and vendors, we're busy. It takes a lot of time and effort and those crashes come quite often during the day and looking for something healthy to help us get over that is a great option. I do encourage everyone to check out their website. Please, go there. At some point, we'll put this in the show notes as well. Go to heavenspantryllc.com. We'll also have an Amazon link. You can find the product on Amazon. Again, go to show us to find out more about the product, but it's great product, great concept. Again, I think it's a great fit for a lot of people listening today.
One of the things I love about your story also is you talked about your consulting background, but currently, you have a career outside of Heaven's Pantry-
Jon: -outside of ExcaliBar as well. Talk to us about how you marry the two and still find success running a very demanding job with a Fortune 500 company and running a very successful business at night. I call it on the side. I'm sure life nothing's on the side anymore, but you've got two things that are very time-consuming, demanding going on your life and real proof that your healthy nutritional bar is helpful along the way, but how do you do it? How do you manage both of those successful careers at the same time?
Manny: It's definitely when we post our lives on social media, and this is not how I like to portray myself. I'm a very big believer in honesty and presenting things as they actually are. A lot of people when they go on Instagram, LinkedIn, talk about the things they do, they like to act like everything's effortless, that it comes naturally like it was magic. Things are always going smooth, there's never any Debbie Downer moments. I like to pride myself of being a really positive guy. Most people that I know definitely have described me as one of the most positive and optimistic people that they've ever met.
I'll tell you one thing. You want to succeed as an entrepreneur, you can't be a Debbie Downer. You'll always got to believe that tomorrow's going to be better than today. If you don't truly believe with your heart that tomorrow is going to be better than today, you better do something about it real soon. Otherwise, you're not going to survive. I can tell you one thing for sure. This journey has not been easy. Ever since I was out of school, I think I was combined with my-- Even though currently my corporate job is not as demanding as my consulting days, I definitely still sink in a good amount of hours and I do it very proudly. I take great pride in what I do.
I always have this philosophy where- and I told people during my interviews. You pay me $1, I'm going to make you at least three extra dollars. I'm not cheap, but I'm a very good bargain for the amount of value that you're getting. I think that's number one, if there's anything you got to learn how to master, you got to master time management. You will never get everything done that you want to get done. The most important thing that you can do when managing time is to outline what is going to get you the results and what is just the formality. You never want to be doing work for the sake of going on LinkedIn and boasting about work in 80 hours a week because I'll be completely honest, no one cares.
I've been in managerial positions before and whenever I lead a team, the first thing that I say is, "It's not about the amount of hours you work." I don't want to create a culture where everyone's pitted against each other to show the most FaceTime. I don't want to create a culture where people feel that because I'm there, they can't leave. I've definitely been in those kinds of cultures before. I was also really fortunate that I also had great mentors, great managers who always said, "Hey, it's really the impact that you create that matters." It really is about the impact.
I have this philosophy and it's actually a core driver of Lean Six Sigma. Lean Six Sigma is a series of principles that the Japanese actually use to become masters of production. In Lean Six Sigma, we have this thing called the Pareto Principle. The Pareto Principle states that 80% of your results are going to come from 20% of your efforts. If I can impart one piece of advice on the audience today is to list out all the things that you want to get done for the day, and then outline which one of these things you think will get you 80% of the results. Once you comb through that list, don't be surprised when your workload shrinks by 80%. You're still going to have a big workload, you're still going to be working a lot of hours, but now you finally have enough time in the day to do what you want.
Jon: I love that. I think another way to look at that too, I think sometimes you push things off and just don't need to do them if they're not really urgent, if they're not going to drive results, or is there somebody on your team, whether it's at a job or at your business that you can maybe less expensive than you to push on to somebody else to get help with that. It's not really adding value, should you be doing that, and whether you're an executive or whether you're the entrepreneur.
Manny: One thing I also want to stress is the importance of outsourcing. If something's not part of my core competency, I outsource it right away as long as the cost is reasonable. In today's economy, in today's world, really the reason why we enjoy the privileges of modern living is because of specialization. During my corporate career, I am a process automation and process improvement specialist. I specialize in tweaking people's processes and making things better. I am not a specialist at many, many, many items, I'm not a SME at many of the processes that I tweak, and that's why I rely on other people's knowledge that they've built up over the years to be able to do what I do.
I have no shame in outsourcing work to other parties. If someone else is going to be a better fit for that particular task than myself and same goes for my entrepreneurial life, same goes my personal life too. I have no problem outsourcing a lot of the mundane, repetitive tasks of everyday life that quite honestly keep me from maximizing my productivity and outputs.
Jon: I love that. I've heard oftentimes the comparison of physicians or surgeons. When we think about running a business, whether it's, again, a product business or whatever it might be, or as an executive, if you go to the doctor, you know the doctor's not going to do everything for you. They come in for the important parts. They'll do the surgery, they'll do the consultation, but you've got physician assistants. You've got nurses, you've got staff up front, other people doing things. It would be weird, I think, for the surgeon to be doing the mundane work.
In reality, our businesses should be the same way. Again, whether an executive or whether running our own business, pull that mundane work. It's important, some of it. If it's not driving results, if you're not making a difference or impact, then somebody else can do it less expensively oftentimes. It's a great way to think about it.
Manny: Absolutely. There's another point I really wanted to stress. Sometimes the mundane work is what drives the results. As a business leader, as an entrepreneur, people should never shy away from rolling up their sleeves and doing that mundane work if number one, there's no better way to do it. You should always be thinking of ways to better automate and perform the mundane work. Secondly, if that mundane work is really driving results, because when you roll up your sleeves and you hop in the trenches, that's how you build credibility with people.
Jon: Yes. I like you said that. Mundane maybe the wrong word to use. We don't want to give all the mundane work, but it's the work that drive. It doesn't drive results at the end of the day because some stuff we might not enjoy, but if we're going to be the best at it and it's going to drive success, we should be doing that. If we're going to do it better than anybody else, let's do it.
Manny: 100%. For example, I am not a big fan of documentation. I am not a big fan of writing procedures, but I will be the first guy to roll up my sleeves, whip out my pencil and start jotting down procedures and documentation because that enables me to become a force multiplier. You want really how you leverage and achieve economies of scale in an organization is by being a force multiplier, by enabling other people around you to become more productive.
Jon: Yes, absolutely. I imagine in your day-to-day role in your Fortune 500 career executive role, you've learned a lot that you can now apply to your own business that you're running. Can you talk specifically about innovation or technology? What have you taken from there, learning-wise, that really has driven success for your own business?
Manny: Absolutely. This is a topic that I'm incredibly passionate about and I'm really happy that you asked. At my previous role, I was the regional automation experts of a large CPG company. It was a very well-known household name. They actually manufactured many of the candies that people enjoy from all over the world. Essentially, what that position entailed was that I was in charge of managing the entire North American digital portfolio of automations and also process improvements.
Over time, I eventually inherited analytics center of excellence, where I trained 12 non-technical people to develop their own data analytics automations using a tool called Alteryx. We achieved 200% ROI in every single dollar that we invested in that program. To this day, I consider it the biggest feathers in my cap. I'm truly proud of the work that I did, and I'm truly proud of the friends that I made, the mentors that I've acquired a long the way. My former manager, I definitely cite him as one of the biggest reasons why I got to the position that I am at. He's a very good friend of mine. He's given me a lot of great advice along the way.
The one thing that I really took from that position is being very data-driven. I think that without KPIs, without the objectives and key results, it's like you're rowing a boat without a coxswain guiding the way. You can have the biggest, you can have the most talented rowers, but without a rudder steering your ship in the proper direction, you're really just rowing against the tides. Data is how people make effective managerial decisions through tracking progress time over time. Even though a lot of the tools that I used at that job, I no longer use in my role as an entrepreneur, those lessons stuck with me.
The other tool that really did stick with me though, is what I call Robotic Process Automation. Robotic Process Automation is a series of low code technologies that allow people without the most technical backgrounds to become technical with a limited amount of training. My job and my previous role was to ideate Robotic Process Automation ideas. We really achieved some phenomenal results. We automated a credit management system, saving 7,500 hours per year. That was a huge win for the business. Today, I'm using robotic process automation for Heaven's Pantry as well. I wrote a RPA script in a platform called UIPath, and this script actually goes onto various platforms and scrapes sales leads for Heaven's Pantry.
Building an effective sales process is really not just about one factor. It's about many different factors laid in one. First of all, how do you get the leads in your pipeline? Do you have an effective automated system? Sometimes it can't be 100% automated, but you want to have as much parts of the system automated as possible because you have better things to do with your day than going on yellow pages and typing in data onto a spreadsheet. There's really much better uses of your time.
Number one, you need to find a way to streamline the process. Number two, you want to be respectful of people's time. I'm a huge believer in mutuality. When I do business, I don't want to waste someone's time if they're not likely to be interested in what I have to offer. I know there's a lot of people who are interested in what I have to offer, but I don't want to waste time on the wrong people. It's not worth my time and it's also a disservice to them as well. How can I best configure these tools to identify the category of people who would be interested in my product? That was a problem that we were able to solve using Robotic Process Automation.
A little bit more about RPA or Robotic Process Automation, you can think of RPA as a digital worker. If you have a guy who's logging onto a platform, pulling data, plopping it into a spreadsheet, RPA allows you to program those same exact actions and iterate and loop it over and over and over again, allowing people to focus on the work that actually matters.
Jon: Getting back to results, finding the tasks that drive results. That's fantastic. I'm in the middle of a book right now. It's called The CEO Only Does Three Things. One of those things is, as you're talking about data and the focus on KPIs. Really at the helm of a business, that should be a core focus, a primary focus of our time is looking at these key performance indicators and what is-- Leading and lagging, the ones that are historical, as well as the ones that are perspective, what's going to happen in our future. Really looking at data points that help us see what's coming next and to adjust for things in the past that may be working well, they're growing, fantastic, keep doing. If not, what do we tweak or what do we change in order to drive changes? Again, whatever size our business is in, it really should be our focus is that that core data when we're looking at KPIs.
Manny: One common mistake that people make when it comes to analytics and decision-making, is that a lot of times people are changing what isn't broken. If there's a particular KPI that's really not budging but it's still in a steady state, sometimes the cost to tweak your process is actually more than the benefits that it would deliver. I call this decision anxiety. When people are inundated with data, they oftentimes get decision anxiety. Sometimes the best course of action-- You develop this wisdom over the years. Sometimes the best course of action is literally to sit there and watch patiently.
Jon: Yes, absolutely. Wait, right? It's that patience. Sometimes we're so jumpy wanting to get to the next change, the next decision, but waiting or being patient could be so important. I like that. I want to shift gears. Let's talk about marketing for a second. If anyone's listening, please check out their Facebook page. If you search for Heaven's Pantry with an apostrophe S, so Heaven's Pantry, you can find their Facebook page, follow them. They've got some great ads that they run. You'll come across as you follow their page, and they're cartoon base. You do a great job. You were talking about this right before the show, describing one of these cartoons. Describe if you wouldn't mind what these cartoons are saying or doing.
Manny: Absolutely. Back to the topic of core competencies, marketing was actually something that me and my business partners were not initially strong at. Two of them come from engineering backgrounds and I eventually transitioned to a process analysis, process engineering role. Our backgrounds were actually not marketing. This is something that we had to develop over the years as we got more experience, but we chose the knight as one of our symbols. The reason why we chose the knight, several factors.
I think that when people pick a good mascot, they're propping up a character that their audience can truly build a deep relationship with and they can truly get to trust. We as business people, every day when we get up in the morning, we want to make sure that we earn your trust. We're not asking for your trust. We're asking for the privilege and the opportunity to earn your trust. We picked a knight because if you look at medieval history, the knight is a ideal of valor and honesty. Our brand was founded based in honesty because we saw that other brands were not delivering on their health promises. We saw tons of bars that claimed to be healthy and these bars simply did not deliver when I looked at their ingredients list. There was tons of nutrition bars claiming to be healthy, claiming to be clean, and then boom, you look at the ingredients list, 20 artificial ingredients, tons of preservatives. The knight is a picture and a ideal of honesty.
Secondly, a knight is also a symbol of adventure. This bar is not marketed towards people who sit at home all day and aren't doing anything with their lives. I'm a huge believer in people's freedom to find their own way. I do not think less than anyone for their choices in life. I think that's complete arrogance because some people are completely happy sitting on their couch and watching Netflix all day. That's completely fine with me, but that's not the kind of demographic that these bars appeal to.
I hate to say it, man, if you're sitting home all day, number one, you should probably go outside and see the world and get some exercise. It's a beautiful world out there full of excitement, full of new adventures every day. Secondly, you should probably also not be eating these bars because these bars are nutritionally formulated for active people who are busy professionals or outdoors men or athletes. There's definitely a lot of crossover between those three categories, but we're definitely not geared towards couch potatoes. The knight is a symbol of adventure.
Lastly, the knight is a symbol of resilience. This bar was the shield and armor that powered me through my consulting days. This was the sword that allowed me to tackle whatever assignments that my superiors threw my way.
Jon: I love that. I think it really resonates once you understand your own story, who you are, what your brand is, once you define that, the character can come out of it. The personality doesn't need to be necessarily a character, but the personality of your brand can be an offshoot of that. You don't want to fit it with him.
Manny: If you don't mind, I'd love to talk a little bit about the story about how we came up with the formulation of our ingredients. My friend, Rob and I, Rob is a very avid cook. He is a huge fan of baking and just making things from scratch. We actually came up with a recipe together when I was just hanging out in his house one day, but the six ingredients, the fruit and the nut component, that was actually inspired partially by my upbringing. I really credit a lot of my upbringing to how I turned out today and mom and dad, if you're watching this, I'm really grateful for the way that you raised me. I really owe a lot to you for the, just the values that you instilled upon me when I was a child, even though I didn't really appreciate it when I was younger.
When I was younger I was always told this, you got to get your homework done before you go on with your fun time. You got to make sure you get done what you're supposed to have done before you go on and play computer games, before you go outside. I was always told, there's nothing wrong with going outside. There's nothing wrong with playing computer games, but you got to get your homework done first.
Health and fitness was also really, really stressed in my household growing up, and nutrition and clean eating was just really heavily valued. Before I started my homework every day, my father would give me a bowl of fruits and nuts and he told me, "Hey, you better eat this before you start your homework." As I got older, I think I was around 10 or something like that, I asked him, "Hey, so what's the whole point of this?" He then broke down like the nutritional benefits behind nuts. He's actually an incredibly studious person himself. He's one of the first computer science graduates in the country at Taiwan. He always had a-- He never lost his fascination with chemistry, with biology, and that's probably due to his engineering training as well.
The fruits, he explained how the glucose, is what allows you to get that short term energy boost and that hits you with a short term burst to power through, but the nuts provided some sort of slowed burn that allowed you to pull off those late night study sessions that it takes to crush it in an academic setting. That same recipe, that same formula, even though the fruits changed, even though the nuts changed, even though the overall product changed, that fruit and nut ball that I still remember very fondly from my childhood, I'm very proud to be able to give it to my audience today.
Jon: I love it. It's a great story. I think it's speaks to your origins going way back on the development of this product, but it speaks to, it's not just an idea you came up with on your own, but really there's facts rooted behind that. There's a basis for this, the reason or rationale you've built it. The proof is that it works. You've been using it yourself and many other people are great followers and users of the ExcaliBar and the product line as well because of that. There's definitely science behind it. I've got a background from Planters nuts. That was one of my early careers in marketing.
Manny: That's a fantastic company, by the way. I think they're a phenomenal case study of marketing done correctly. You build, you have that friendly icon that you can truly get to bond with over the years. When I go to a convenience store and I see Planters versus some brand that I haven't heard of, that's like a generic brand of the convenience store, I always go with Planters because I know it. I've seen that since my childhood and I trust it.
Jon: Oh, yes. It was fun to work there for sure. One of the many things I learned there was, we had scientists come and speaking to us all the time to understand, get the basis down so you can market it well. Understand the reason, the rationale of the story, and then you can talk about it. It gives you the story to talk about. For us, it was understanding the science just of nuts by themselves, which is part of the story. As you mentioned, there's that combination. When you combine that with fruits, the importance of getting both of those ingredients really nailed down, you're going to get the essential nutrients we need to stay active, to be able to work, whether it's long hours or whether it's just working intensely, being able to focus, staying healthy is so important.
Well, I got to ask you. Manny, this has been an awesome interview. Do you have any resources that you recommend to our audience? Any books, podcast, things that have been impactful or helpful in your life?
Manny: Absolutely. I really want to give a shout-out to UiPath. UiPath is the automation software that I use. UiPath is a very robust community and a very robust knowledge base. I actually started using UiPath during my consulting days because I was always looking and trimming down the amount of work that I got for the day because I'm a huge believer in getting things done in as intelligent manner as possible instead of just a hard work and manner. I think it's obviously very important to work hard, but you want to work smart as well.
UiPath is a phenomenal community user base. You have people who, if I have a question and I post it on their forums, people will literally answer that question out of the goodness of their heart and also because they want to hone their technical skills as well. I truly believe that given three months of training, anyone can become technically proficient at UiPath. I fully stand by the quality of the software and I fully stand by the quality of the community as well.
Secondly, for data analytics, there's a tool called Alteryx that I really vouched for, which I eventually became an expert at and got certified at. Alteryx is actually a very similar tool to UiPath except they focus more on data analytics. Once again, phenomenal community, tons of helpful people, and if you are a student, they will even give you a $5,000 value license for free.
I want to make it completely clear, as of now, I do not have any financial interest with those two companies. I am not getting paid to say this. I am not getting any commissions for vouching for the products. I'm only saying this because building my career off of those two pieces of software really turned out well. I want you guys to reap the benefits of those pieces of software as well because they can truly make your everyday life a lot easier.
Jon: If you think about this, for our audience, if you heard that resounding testimonial as you said, Manny, you get nothing from it, you're just trying to help our audience. When your product has that impact on other people, you know you've reached it, you've been successful. When you have quality, when you're meeting the demands, and that you're solving the problems for your particular audience, you're going to get them excited. Frankly, people should be excited about everything that we sell or market, whether that's ExcaliBar or there's [crosstalk]
Manny: Absolutely. If I wasn't passionate about this business, If I wasn't passionate about energy bars, if I didn't truly believe in this product, I would not be doing this. It's not fair to me, it's not fair to my customers. Believe me, there are way easier industries to make money in than the CPG industry, but at the end of the day, this is a passion and I'm proud to share with you my love of nutrition. I truly invite you to try our chocolate ExcaliBar.
Jon: Absolutely. I do want to tell everybody, please go to their website, heavenspantryllc.com. If you're driving, check out the show notes, you'll see that listed on there. You'll also see the Amazon listing that you can just simply click and go to Amazon but to buy as well, whichever you prefer. Manny, my one last questions for you, is there anything I didn't ask you today that you think could be helpful for our audience?
Manny: I think there's one thing that I would so like to cover, it's how to start up a company while working for a company as well. That's one topic that I really want to give some final parting advice and words on. Number one, if there's anything that I can encourage people in this audience to do, instead of viewing your day job and I say that at air quotes because I really think that just like I said with what creating win-wins and running a business because you're truly passionate about it. I advise everyone in this audience to make the most out of their day job, make the most out of their corporate job.
I don't care what kind of job you have, even if it's something as simple as pouring drinks for people at a bar or flipping pizzas at a pizza shop. One of my good friends, his father actually is a successful pizza shop entrepreneur. The reason why he was able to succeed is because for many years, he was working at a restaurant flipping pizzas. There is so much you can learn from your day job and I view it as getting paid to learn. Well, during the daytime, I am getting paid to learn and take risks and grow and play with toys that I don't have the capital myself to buy. I'm getting a lot of great experience from that.
If there's one thing that you got to do, you got to get paid to learn. Make the most out of the opportunity that you have in front of you before thinking, "Hey, I'm ready to move on to something else." The second that you feel like you're no longer learning anything that your job learns, learn another skill and move on.
Jon: Love it. That's great advice whether you're a young inventor or entrepreneur listening or a seasoned executive. At all stages, we can learn and make sure we focus on whatever we're doing. We can get value out of, we can learn from, and make sure you're putting your effort in to everything you do. Whether that's your "day job" or whether that's your business you're starting up or growing, whatever that might be, put your full effort into. Well, Manny, again, I really appreciate the time you spent today. This is super valuable. It's tons of fun. I feel like we could keep chatting for a long time but at some point, we got to cut it off.
I do want to say for our listeners, please again, go to heavenspantryllc.com or the Amazon link in the show notes to learn more. Also, be sure to check out harvestgrowth.com, our website to see other episodes that we've recorded. If you like this episode and you want to learn more about how you can profitably grow your consumer product business, please subscribe to our show and be sure to leave us a review. Really appreciate it. Again, thanks again, Manny.
Manny: Hey, thank you so much for your time.
[00:36:02] [END OF AUDIO]