Why John Roulac feeds America’s appetite for change to sow organic growth at Nutiva

Build a broad coalition of support

It takes more than a passionate, lone voice to refute the opinions of medical experts — it takes a village. Roulac has proven that activist consumers will rally around a cause and join the fight if they are plied with compelling facts and information.

Roulac not only pleads his case to journalists, like a true modern day advocate, he uses a well-orchestrated social media campaign to create a groundswell of support for change.
“We’ve always looked at ourselves as educators as much as marketers,” he says.

“It’s easy to invite a conversation around the digital campfire if you say the right things.”

Eighty percent of the firm’s social media content is educational and thought-provoking while only 20 percent revolves around the firm’s products.

“I have a mantra: Never be boring,” he says. “If someone in the organic food industry is a bad player, I have no problem calling them out. Selling our ideas as well as our products has produced more demand than we can meet.

“We even filed a lawsuit against the federal government for classifying hemp seeds as heroin. And I’m not opposed to using guerilla tactics. Today, we work around government restrictions by importing hemp seed from Canada.”

The firm’s most successful post offers a do-it-yourself video for making hemp milk.

Other popular posts tout the virtues of carbon farming, the evils of Wall Street and the company’s efforts to support sustainable agriculture programs. Still others offer gardening tips or recipes.

“Today, every corporation is translucent,” he says. “How you handle a Twitter exchange with a dissatisfied customer or what people say about your company on Glassdoor matters. Companies need to be aware of what people are saying and respond appropriately.”

Don’t lose your edge or your values

Sustaining your culture and your competitive edge as your company matures is a huge challenge for entrepreneurs. Especially for persuasive leaders like Roulac who use their passion to influence others.

“Once you reach $50 million in sales you enter the valley of death,” he says. “That’s when a lot of entrepreneurial companies stall.

“I knew our success wouldn’t be dictated by my sales skills or my ability to pick the next superfood as we added people. Our growth would be sustained by our team and our culture. My biggest fear was that I would walk through the company one day and wouldn’t recognize anyone.”

Roulac heeded the advice of cultural gurus such as Ann Rhoades, co-founder of Jet Blue Airlines, and Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, to preserve Nutiva’s fighting spirit.

His key takeaway: Culture starts at the top.

“Anybody can put chia seeds in a bag,” he says. “It’s our values that set us apart. I had to do a better job of educating our employees on what we believe in order to sustain our culture.”

He revised and communicated the company’s core values which are community, purity, well-being and innovation. He also established a new mission: Revolutionizing the way the world eats.

Next, to make those values live, he redesigned the company’s hiring process and developed new selection criteria to ensure that new hires match Nutiva’s culture.

He no longer assumes that workers automatically share his passion for healthy eating. Every four to six weeks, an expert speaks to the team about nutrition and health issues and the benefits of organic and natural foods. He also reinforces his vision and values by financially backing causes such as sustainable farming and food activism.

“I reinforce our values by donating 1 percent of Nutiva’s sales each year to programs that support the advancement of healthy communities and ecologically sustainable agriculture,” he says.

And to make sure staffers develop a taste for healthy foods, an on-site chef treats Nutiva’s team to goodies made with the company’s products. Frequent treats and retreats support Roulac’s personal goal of fostering a fun work environment where employees feel a sense of purpose.

“Business is all about compromise,” Roulac says. “But there are some things that you should not be willing to compromise under any circumstances. CEOs need to figure out what those things are and communicate them to their staff. Because the things that you would be absolutely unwilling to compromise in any situation are your core values.” ●

How to reach: Nutiva, (800) 993-4367 or www.nutiva.com