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Sweet success Featured

8:00pm EDT March 26, 2007
Taste testing had proven that Eco Rounds, “a beautiful blend of three chocolates with caramelized cocoa nibs,” would be a hit with customers of Endangered Species Chocolate, says Wayne Zink.

But a rush to get the product on the shelves resulted in less than desirable packaging for the new item, the CEO says.

“There is a direct correlation between failure and taking the proper amount of time to do a job well,” Zink says. “In my estimation, we launched it with packaging that wasn’t as well thought out, and that’s because I personally rushed it.”

That ability to own up to mistakes and correct them is one reason the chocolate seller grew its revenue from $8 million in 2005 to $14 million in 2006 with 68 employees.

“You don’t waste any time, you don’t stall, you don’t hem, you don’t haw and you don’t wait around for someone to tell you that you were wrong,” Zink says. “You go to Plan B.”

Smart Business spoke with Zink about the keys to staying ahead during times of rapid growth.

Q: How do you deal with rapid growth?

Have a very honest and clear picture into who you are and what you do. Understand how you, meaning you and the employees, relate to the vision and how you and the employees are going to fulfill the vision.

If you create this beautiful and meaningful broad-stroke vision, and you don’t have a team or a group to fulfill it, it’s meaningless. The vision has to relate directly to where the group wants to go.

You have to be agile, quick, responsive and present. At a time of intense growth, you just have to bite the bullet and say I’m going to be pulling some long hours. Be present every day for everything you can that is going on.

You also have to make a conscious decision every day as to which balls you will consciously drop. Consciously decide which balls you are going to drop and let people know that you are dropping those balls. You can’t be everywhere and do everything. Know when you have lost your traction and when you have lost your effectiveness. If it’s 8 o’clock at night and you are trying to make hard decisions, stop. Go home, rest and come back, and be vital.

Announce to the group you are working with, ‘I’m dropping this ball, so if somebody can pick it up.’ ... It is critical to have people you trust.

Q: How do you find the right people?

We speak to our mission and our vision and our corporate culture and our core values throughout the interview. If that’s not something that motivates you, not just as an employee but as a human being, that’s going to become pretty apparent very quickly in our interview process.

Your internal processes have to speak to what kind of person you are looking for. Be as specific as possible in the description of your job and requirements.

Our company does not tolerate new employees who are not mission-driven. They tend to not perform as well or have as much fun at work.

Q: How do you keep good employees?

People have to know that you care. If your employees sense that you don’t care, there won’t be the natural willingness to succeed.

Every single person who works in this company needs to understand how their daily contribution relates to the success of the company and their own personal success. You need a very clear standard process that everyone goes through so that everyone has the same expectations for the process of how their work is evaluated.

Daily, weekly and quarterly work needs to be planned and needs to relate directly to the strategic plan so that there is constant analysis.

Q: What are some important qualities of a good leader?

As you come into the business every day, [ask yourself] what is the temperature? How are folks doing? Every-thing from body language to the tone of e-mails to trying to really intuit how people are doing, not just from what is being said, but from what you see. Have the ability to look at things in a very sequential way, and then use your intuition as well to make a strategic change or a strategic move.

A good CEO should be good at statistical analysis and financial analysis. They need to have a clear, undaunted vision that is beyond profitability. Profitability is an outcome of a strong vision.

They should be passionate, specifically about the business. They should have a very good sense of humor and certainly be able to laugh at themselves. They should have a willingness to give. Give back to employees and give back to the community. Good leaders understand that they are good servants.

HOW TO REACH: Endangered Species Chocolate, (800) 293-0160 or www.chocolatebar.com