At the end of the day, it’s just people trying to make the best decisions for their company. Pete Roberts and Brian Littlefield from Origin USA sat down with Tim to talk about how they started their company and how embracing excellence enabled them to scale it. Pete and Brian’s partnership is a huge powerhouse. Origin USA manufactures products for Jiu-Jitsu, MMA, BJJ, Grappling and Lifestyle Athletes. They’ve teamed up with Jocko Willink to produce vitamin supplements as well. Discover what drives them, what motivates them, and how they’re tearing it up right now.
Listen to the podcast here:
Embracing Excellence with Pete Roberts and Brian Littlefield of Origin USA
I wanted you all to know that I am thankful. I am thankful for you. I’m thankful for your loyalty to the show. Thank you for spending some time with us. It’s important that you know that I enjoy doing this. I enjoy when you reach out to me and let me know that there was something I said or something that one of the guests said that made an impact, a difference. It helped you achieve something that you’ve been trying to achieve. I’m thankful to be able to bring that to all of you each and every week. Thank you for your loyalty. Thank you for being a part of the show. We appreciate you. We have a great interview that we’re going to bring to you from the guys at Origin. Pete Roberts and Brian Littlefield talked about their company, Origin and tell me a little bit about what makes it so special. If you’re a listener to the Jocko podcast like I am and maybe you read about Jocko on this particular blog, you will already know that the guys from Origin, Pete and Brian, teamed up with Jocko to produce Jocko’s Vitamin Supplements.
The vitamin supplements that they produce with Jocko’s name on them are some of the best supplements you can find anywhere in the world. These guys have nailed it. Together with Jocko, they’re a huge powerhouse. They don’t have supplements. They have gears for a Jujitsu. They have apparel. They’re into what they call combat sports. Anything that you might need for combat sports, that’s their goal, is to bring it to you. Anything that you might put in your mouth or wear on your back, that’s what they’re after. These guys are a little bit unique and they don’t approach business the same way that everybody does. They are very targeted on where they want to go, what they want to do and how they want to do it. They’re laser-focused on excellence and the customer experience, which is something that I hold very dear. Anybody that’s focused on excellence and the customer experience is going to kill it. These guys are nonstop. You’re going to get to hear what drives them, what motivates them, how they got started and how they’re tearing it up.
Thanks for coming on. I appreciate the intro from Joe. I assume that you guys had a good time at ECRM. Was that an eye-opening event for you?
It reinforced a lot of what we’re thinking. For us, it was more of a discovery process because this is our first entry into full-blown retail. We’re direct-to-consumer-company across the board. It was exploratory for us to see what it would take to bust into the retail game. If it’s something we even wanted to do because we’re so successful with a direct to consumer online stuff. At the end of the day, it’s people trying to make the best decisions for their company. We hit it off with everybody. We did have real good conversations with everybody. It was awesome. Personally, I felt I learned a lot, but it was surprising how well we were able to connect with everybody even if we didn’t feel like there was placement for our particular products in their spots and in their lineup. It was cool. It was a good experience.
That’s a good testimonial. A lot of people think that when they go to ECRM they have to hit it out of the park. They need to come home or the whole thing wasn’t worth it. There are companies that go to ECRM to do what you guys did, put their tail in the water. To test things to see how the product has reacted to and maybe get some communication with the buyers and find out if there’s anything that’s lacking. I don’t know any other place that you could go and be with as many retail buyers, have the conversations and genuinely connect on a level of, “What do you think of the product?” ECRM is the only place you can do that. Let’s jump back a little bit so that we can give the readers, which are called Big Boxers, in case we want to address them personally. Give me a little bit about Origin. When you say it, is it Origin Maine or is it Origin USA? If I address it as a company, what do I say?
You could say Origin. Origin is the best. Our website URL is Origin Maine as in a state because that’s our home base. It’s near and dear to the messaging and the story of the brand where we started, which was in the woods, literally cutting down trees with a chainsaw, sawing out lumber and building a factory. Maine is part of the story. As far as the brand is concerned, it’s Origin across the board.
You started the story cutting down woods. Give us a little background on Origin, where it came from and why you decided to start it? What the evolution of it? How you and Brian met and how it’s all working?
I’ll give you from my perspective. After the recession, I found myself looking at a blank wall saying, “What am I going to do?” I own a marketing agency for a number of years, I built a lot of brands and I made a lot of folks a lot of money with that. I lost almost everything during the recession. I knew that to bounce back I needed to swallow my pride, humble myself and take some risks. I was able to do that and start Origin. That was the brand that was supposed to and I hope were able to transcend the next recession. That was the goal. We started with getting hands-on in a gritty nature. We call it hands in daylight. All we had was our own hands and daylight above our heads to get this thing started. We started with building a factory. It was started in combat sports and through combat sports, we’re building product that’s mixed martial arts type of stuff. We came in contact with a mutual friend who had a nutritional division. When we cross-referenced the databases, we saw that 1,500 people were like the same customer, the same person with the same address.
We ended up purchasing the assets of that company and that’s how we got into nutrition. That pretty much sums it up and to add to that, the roots are in combat sports specifically jujitsu. That’s how Pete and I met through the art of jujitsu. I’m originally from Maine. I grew up here. I lived in Ohio. The company itself brought me back here and that’s when we partnered up. We make everything from clothing, gear, and jeans to the nutritional products we make now for ourselves and our partner, Jocko. Jocko came into the picture years ago. That’s when we started talking and again through jujitsu, we connected. He wanted to do some things in the nutritional field, in lifestyle, in jujitsu and combat sports. There was a lot of synergy and it was like the perfect storm. Everything came together in the right way. We were able to execute some pretty phenomenal objectives to the masses.
Pete, I probably had to put my foot in my mouth here because I may not have this correctly, but I know that I’ve heard you on Jocko’s podcast before and you mentioned you had a marketing agency. You’re not the guy where all his employees quit. I remember listening to that episode and it’s kept going down. I enjoyed it from a pain point of view of what you had to go through, but how you kept going. It was rough. I can keep my foot out of my mouth that I remembered it correctly.
It was during the recession. There were some demands and there was a walkout like, “We will be back Monday morning to take over the company.”
They were threatening you like they are trying to blackmail.When something authentic comes to you, it's something that you’re yearning for and you don't even realize it. Click To Tweet
I bought those contractor trash bags, put them on the end of the desk and scrape all into those trash bags. When they showed up Monday morning, I handed it to them.
As a guy that’s managed hundreds of people before at points in my life, sometimes the boss needs to win.
It wasn’t worth the sacrifice. That’s something that I keep in mind every single day I walk through these doors. We have two locations both around 20,000 square feet. We have the manufacturing division and we have the nutritional division where we do our distribution out of. Every time I walk through those doors, I think about that. I think about things I did wrong and ways to lead better. Jocko is like the leadership guru. We’re always bouncing ideas on each other. Winning at all costs a lot of times means checking yourself, checking your ego, or checking your ambitions and finding a way to win. We’ve done that. We’re going to continue doing that.
I used to work years ago probably the best intro into retail that I ever received was working for Toys “R” Us back in the early ‘90s. They taught me everything that I know about merchandising product on the floor of a retailer and the stuff that I learned there is still super relevant. This was back in the early ‘90s when Toys “R” Us was still a giant. We sell 25% of the toy market and we were crushing it. This employee comes to me and I was the youngest and I was super cocky. If there’s that word cocky in the dictionary I was times ten. I was the youngest store director on the West Coast. This employee comes to me and says, “You don’t do anything. You set up here and watch everything. I can’t wait until I’m a store director and I get to do nothing.” The reason it reminded me because I remember all the stuff that you were doing behind the scenes to keep these guys’ jobs alive. They had no idea how much financial difficulty you were in and what you were sacrificing.
I remember telling that employee, “Whatever you think you see, the crushing weight of the responsibility of running an entire building and hundreds of people under your supervision and counting on you, will crush you someday.” Two years later that person hunted me down. I can’t remember where I was working, but they had been promoted up through the ranks and was now a store director. They called me just to let me know that walking in that first day and the weight of the responsibility of every decision in that building ultimately rolls up to them. They said it was crushing and they didn’t realize. When you were talking about that, it reminded me of that moment. I was having some like-mindedness. If you haven’t listened to that Jocko podcast, you definitely have to go. If you want to know Pete and his story, you definitely have to go back over to Jocko’s podcast and listen to that. Brian, have you been around since the very beginning?
Since early on 2013, ‘14.
What were you doing before Origin?
When I moved back to Maine, I was running a jujitsu academy and small little supplement store. I had the background in sports nutrition and that made a lot of sense when we dove into the nutritional side of things for the brand, for Origin. When I was in Ohio, I was running a store, teaching and working satellite for Origin. Setting up what was the wholesale distribution to all the academies, small brick and mortars across the United States and some overseas. It became too much to be on the road. Origin itself needed some more things that I felt I could provide. Pete did as well and it made sense for me to come back and do everything I could to help the brand grow. Back then as a stage one business, the human resources and being on site were so important because at that point in business you’re not working on your business, you’re working for your business. There’s a big difference there. We needed more people working for the business as we tried to transition to working on the business. You know how that goes in business and that’s what Brian came through and helped us do. Taking a lot of responsibility to help make things happen and see the vision through.
Believe me, I have to force myself every week to give one day to working on the business instead. I’m full-time with ECRM. I do consulting on the side. I do the podcast. Sometimes you have to stop and work on the business. Otherwise, the business doesn’t go anywhere. You’re answering email. If I could sit here all day long and answer an email as I watch them as they come in and sometimes that’s a distraction. To me, it’s like a game on my phone watching email come in if I want that distraction. I’m with you and it sounds like you have mastered that or are on the way to mastering it. I’m interested to know and understand the people here are in a couple of different stages. They either have a product and they’re trying to get it into retail.
They have product on Amazon and they want to diversify and get it into brick and mortar. They have a product that they produced and they’re starting from scratch or they have a product idea and they’re trying to figure out whether they should make a move on that. I’ve listened to the podcast coming up and I’ve seen a little bit of the evolution. I understand a little bit of the product, but it seems like you are very rooted in excellence in no matter what you do. If you check out your website, everything is geared towards best of class. The question is, how do you gear a business towards excellence?You're not actually selling a product, you're selling an experience. Click To Tweet
We have a couple of things we do and we say that aren’t just words. That’s like when you follow the track back to the source, where does it end up? We would challenge someone to do that because we’re willing to do it ourselves. On our manufacturing side, if you follow the track all the way back, where are you going to end up? You’re going to end up in the Tennessee-Delta region watching a farmer pick cotton. On the nutritional side, you’re going to find the same thing. That’s the standard we hold ourselves to. That’s the state that we are held to because it’s the standard we’ve set. What does that do? It keeps the checks and balances in the forefront all the time. People appreciate that. They appreciate that level of transparency and authenticity that you rarely get these days when everyone is vying for your attention in every platform you enter whether it’s social media, getting your email or turning on the TV. When something authentic comes to you, it’s something that you’re yearning for and you don’t even realize it. We’ve been able to capture that in essence with what we’re doing.
As far as why, it’s because we grew up in New England. There’s something about New England that’s special. I’m not saying it’s more special than other places in the country. I’m not saying that at all. What I’m saying is to me it’s special, to Brian is special. My Yaya emigrated from Sparta Greece in the early 1900s and worked in the local Woolen Mills. Our families are immigrants that I heard these stories growing up. At eight years old, I go down the tannery and I pull packs out of the hides by hand. These stories resonated with me as an adult. Then we see how easy it is. If it was all about just making money, we could have retired a long time ago. There’s a loss, there is a void and we’re feeling that. We’re part of feeling that. We’re one of the companies stepping into that void and saying, “We’re here and we’re going to change the game,” because the balance needs to be brought back. That balance that we heard about from our grandparents and great-grandparents. That’s what we’re trying to capture. That’s deep and maybe a little too deep or maybe not, but that’s what’s important to us. That’s what we’re doing is capturing that and putting it in a bottle.
A short article from Jeff Bezos was on work-life balance. It was interesting because he was debunking his personal philosophy is that there is no work-life balance. It’s more of a circle. His idea was if I spend time with my family, if I invest in my family, if I put time into that, then I’m happier. If I’m happier when I leave my house, then I’m a happier person when I walk through the doors at work. If I put excellence into my work and I’m happy when I leave the office, then I’ll be happy when I get home. He was talking more that you don’t do this, so you can have a balance. You invest in these two parts of your life that are synergistic and they flow in this big circle. I thought a lot about it because I, like everyone, especially owning my own business, think about that a lot. Every time I do anything with business, it technically takes away from my home life. His idea is that that will happen, but if you’re inserting excellence into both things even if one is more dominant than the other for that moment, it will still flow. At times, you’ll be spending more time with your family, at times you’ll be spending more time at work.
We have a podcast called Hands and Daylight. It’s about work ethic, grit, business, and life. It has a lot to do with life. We talked about that feeling. What does thing everyone is chasing? Is it a monetary thing? Is it a physical thing? Everyone is chasing a feeling. They’re chasing a feeling of self-worth, of success, raising their kids, if you parent successfully or that others are looking at you like you want to be looked at and talked about. I don’t care if you’re Jeff Bezos or you’re pulling lumber out of the woods with a skidder up in the North woods of Maine. You’re chasing that feeling. At the end of the day being happy and feeling successful, whatever that means to you, whatever version of that is for you. Absolutely, he is correct on that.
Brian, I’m studying the decline of big box and brick and mortar retail. It’s interesting to me because it shouldn’t be declining based on the fact that the biggest demographic in the US still wants to go into retail stores. It’s because of a lack of understanding the customer experience. Do you talk at Origin about the customer experience and if so, how do you guys manage that?
We do. We connect with our customers on a very deep level. We do that through a personal connection through social media. We are able to connect the end user to the actual individual who’s making the product. That personal experience that they’re getting from that because you weren’t able to get that 30 years ago. When you can connect that consumer with the person, literally through social media where they can connect with each other and talk and build a relationship. Understand that there’s a person here in the United States who’s making that product. You’re helping provide for them and their family and put food on their table and there’s a real relationship there, to me, there is no personal experience like that. It is powerful. We will be able to transcend that through to the brick and mortar stores or the big box stores and to connect what you were talking about. You were saying that the big box store decline but not necessarily the brick and mortar decline is that what you’re saying?
Last year we lost north of 7,000 retail locations. This year we’re in the 6,000 range more than ever in history. There’s a reason that the actual locations and companies have to consolidate. There’s a reason for that. There’s a reason that they’re not figuring it out especially when the biggest demographic, the millennials, they want to go into retail stores. They still especially of any other generation, they want to touch and feel. If you have the biggest generation wanting to go into retail stores, why is there such a rapid decline? It’s because there are two types of experience that somebody can get in retail. One is the experience in the location, in the store. How it is to be there and what type of experience you have while you there. The second one is the experience when you get home and you open up the products that you purchased. If that experience is wonderful, then it reflects amazingly on the manufacturer and the retailer. You’ll probably go back. If that experience is not wonderful, the chances that you’ll go back to that retailer are less and less and less. You’ll say, “I can get an average experience and find it online. I don’t need to go there. I’m interested with companies and how they manage their customer experience and whether it’s a topic of conversation. That’s where that question came from.
It’s a wonderful situation from us because it’s very simple. You’re separating the wheat from the chaff. Over the past ten years or the next ten years, that’s what’s going to happen. The educated consumer won’t be fooled. That’s the bottom line. They’re not going to be fooled. They’re going to want to purchase authenticity. When they can go into a brick and mortar store, touch and feel that, see that, talk about that and experience that, they’re going to gravitate towards that. They’re going to skip over. They’re going to bypass the things that are pushed in front of them. That’s the difference. It’s a great thing for us because we recognize this early on. In 2010 when we started recognizing this and building it into our messaging. That’s why we put gloves on chainsaws and cut down trees because it’s real. It’s a real thing. You can’t take that away from us. When you start to separate that from the consumer, then what’s the difference between going online and purchasing something. That’s why you’re seeing the decline. This is my opinion. It’s what I’ve seen. I’m not saying this is set in stone, but you connect the dots and you could pretty much figured out for yourself.
From a direct product perspective, when you walk into a store, a big box store, let’s say you’re talking about clothing. What is the defining factor there? You’re seeing a bunch of stuff, vying for your attention. If there’s no unique selling proposition, if there’s no there’s no real reason, no why for it to stand out then why is it? If nothing stands out then what’s bringing people into the stores rather than them simply seeking out what they need to do online. That’s why you see a lot of these pop-up stores and a lot of these individual brands launching their own brick and mortar stores and having success. It is because they’re able to cater to the individual people on a personal level. If you want to connect with the consumer and you’re going to be putting multiple products in front of them, you’ve got to be able to put something that’s either going to innovate and/or that carries a message that’s powerful. Otherwise, you’re not going to connect with the consumer. It’s just a whole chaos.
I’m not sure if there’s an end to innovation, but things start to slow down where brands can stand out is in the marketing after purchase. The fact that we still care about you. If you bought one of our pieces of apparel, we want to know how did it fit? How did it feel? How did it work? If we bought one of your supplements, did you feel a difference? Tell us what you think. It’s in the packaging, the unboxing and in the quality. All those things are places where manufacturers can shine. I’m glad that you said something about small manufacturers popping up their own locations because we’re in a ten-year changeover where you’re going to see a resurgence in specialty retail because the big box stores cannot figure it out. They’re dropping like flies. It’s going to give way to those specialty retailers where you can walk in and get the things and the information. You can become friends with, understand and know those people.We need to make relationships with the right partners, not just everyone. Click To Tweet
All through high school, we had one sports store in my town. It was owned by a guy. Everybody in the entire town had their ski sharpened by that guy and re-waxed. When it came to snow and snow sports, everybody went to that one guy. There was no Dick’s Sporting Goods or any Sport Chalet, which is now long gone in California area. Those things didn’t exist back then. That was his whole life. He made all his money in the winter time. We’re going to start to see some more of that because the big guys aren’t figuring that out. It’s a good time especially for you to take a look at specialty because those are the people that will be able to stop and they know their customers and say we’ve got this new line. That’s where we’re going to for the next ten years at least.
The big secret is that with this now mindset, our brains have been recrafted especially with Amazon. I find myself being like, “I can’t get that tomorrow.” I live up in the last stop of Maine. When you go North of my house, you’re over the great North Woods. There’s nothing left except for moose. We have become accustomed to getting things now. If you look at building your brand or product line or whatever you’re doing, accept the fact that this is a long game and this is going to take time. Trying to find a little bit of success, you’re going to get crushed the long-term. If you’re coming into it and you haven’t thought through what your messaging is, what your story is and what you’re doing or what you’re selling and providing because you’re not selling a product. You’re selling an experience. There’s a difference there.
The long game and the folks, who will be successful in the long-term as brands will have that built-in as they grow, as they scale and pick the right partners. We look at retail the same way. We look at retail like we need to make relationships with the right partners, not everyone. That’s important that you are also supporting them and driving people there to brick and mortar. It’s more relationships than straight, “What’s your price? Does it fit in my category, into my set? Is it good to go or not good to go?” It’s a lot more than that for us.
There are certainly plenty of that specialty these days that mentality of what’s the price? Will you pay to remove the product that’s already there? With all that in mind, you went to ECRM to check that out. What did you learn about brick and mortar retail and your thoughts on that and what you might want to do next?
We’re definitely going to move into brick and mortar because it’s important especially from the nutritional perspective and supplementation perspective. There is impulse buying for sure, but the availability of being able to drive a half a mile and grab something, Amazon can’t do that for you. Until they have a million drones in every city and every small town in the country and warehouses, which isn’t going to happen, you can’t get that. It’s super important. Here’s another one of our secrets is we’re going to push it back up the chain. Instead of leading top down like getting the product on shelves, selling it through the mass of merchants or brick and mortar to the consumer, the consumer getting the experience. We want the consumer to see the product and then go back up the chain to find out what it’s all about with Jocko. Who is Jocko? What’s his story? What’s his message?
What they do is we create this full circle of experience for them. We’re also using retail to drive back up the chain to the message, not just the message. It’s not a top-down thing. That’s a matter of perspective and getting outside the box and seeing how you can tackle this thing. Along with making the right relationships with the right partners. This I’m going to put out there where your mission and values align. That’s important. That’s not just empty words. That’s a real thing where your mission values align because you want partners especially if you’re playing the long game. If you’re going to be a quick one and done, you’re in and out, that’s one thing. That’s not us, but we keep those things in mind as we make these relationships with our partners, with these brick and mortar retailers.
It is important when you’re sitting in front of a buyer and talking to a buyer that you ask a question. That you ask a question about, “How are you going to take care of my brand? How’s my brand going to fit into what you’re trying to accomplish?” It isn’t all you begging the retailer to buy your product. I know sometimes it feels like that because it takes so long to get these audiences and the process can be long. You don’t want to blow it, but like interviewing for a job, it’s important that you ask some questions about the company that you’re about to work for to make sure that it fits within what you want and what you’re doing. It’s a super great advice. Big Boxers, please take that to heart. Product-wise, what do you guys think? You’re in apparel. You’re in supplements. I noticed that you have your own supplement line and you also have Jocko’s supplement line that you guys are working with. You’re in the business. Anything else coming and do you want to diversify into another category? Is that top secret?
Essentially the idea is to make anything that you’re going to put on or in your body, honoring your body. I got up in the morning and it’s freezing up here in Maine. There is snow on the ground. I looked down and everything I was wearing from head to toe was made in our factory even the boots. They’re prototypes but that feels good. As far as what we’re reaching for, it’s a mission and it’s a message. What we end up doing long-term building these companies, building Origin and Origin labs, that’s our goal within the manufacturing side and the nutritional side. We feel like that fits because when you follow that track back to the source, you’re going to find raw ingredients, raw materials whether that’s cotton or curcumin, you’re finding something at the end of that journey.
I worked with a guy for a while, who worked for Rip Curl years ago when Rip Curl was starting out. He made his way all the way up the chain. He was a vice president. He was one of the decision makers at that time and he left Rip Curl on good standing. They passed down to him as part of his package that he had an entire allowance, his clothing allowance for life that he got to access every year for the rest of his life. That guy never wore one piece of clothing that wasn’t Rip Curl ever. I never saw in anything but Rip Curl. I’ve never heard of anybody else offering that to high-level executives as they leave and go. I thought what a great way to keep your brand alive through the years especially for people that helped shape the company. I’ve never heard of that since then. Even as an older gentleman, he was also very good at managing his money. Free clothes was always his first go-to. He wished, “Does Rip Curl make a tux because I need a tux.”
What’s funny now if you take that cons up and then you compound it with, let’s say he knew the folks who made each piece of clothing. He knew the teams. He knew the people. He knew the generations that were in the factory doing it. How much more powerful that would be? That’s the missing link there for us.Learn from folks who have been in the game longer or differently or at the next level, who see something you don't see. Click To Tweet
The missing link is what you are trying to achieve? It’s what you are trying to incorporate as part of your company culture.
It’s part of our culture. It’s the link we’re putting back in the chain.
I was out at ECRM event not too long ago and I was sitting with a guy from Brazil. His product was honey. On the top of all of his honey jars was a sticker and he called it a traceability sticker. It was a QR code, but when you scanned it, it pulled up this chart that started with who the beekeeper was, what their address was, what area of Brazil they were from and what the indigenous plants in that area are that would formulate the taste of that particular jar of honey and then on and on. Everything that you would want to know about the bees that were producing that jar of honey that’s what you got to find. They had honey from all over Brazil so each QR code, each traceability sticker was different based on where the beekeeper was, what the bees were pollinating, what those plants were and what the climate was there.
That’s pushing back up the chain and that’s what we’re going to do.
I don’t know if you saw that internet show called Portlandia.
About Portland, Oregon?
There is this one episode where they’re sitting down in a restaurant and they wanted chicken. They started talking to the waiter about where the chicken comes from, where the farm was and what the name of the chicken’s friends were. They decide they’re going to get up and they said, “We’ll be back.” They literally go to the farm and visit it and check it out before they come back to the restaurant and order that dinner. It was that concept like to the nth degree, which in a comedic way anyway. How’s the relationship been since you teamed up with Jocko? You have a lot of synergy. How’s that been teaming up with his company?
It’s been awesome. It’s like the perfect storm. He’s got a voice and a platform. Millions and millions of people on a monthly basis. It’s like nine million people or so are crazy like that. He’s all over mass media. He’s a New York Times bestselling author. He’s got a leadership company that’s highly sought after by some of the biggest companies in the world. He’s totally in the game. He talks about it. We make it. It’s a great relationship. We work together to make sure that we’re filling a void with every product we release. The new Warrior Kid product is a great example where Jocko was. He wrote these two New York Times bestselling books, Way of the Warrior Kid. There’s a second version called Marc’s Mission.
He sold hundreds of thousands of copies of this thing. He was like, “I want to develop something that tastes as good as that brand that makes the chocolate and strawberry powder. The big brand that tastes as good as that but is healthy.” We were like, “Let’s do it.” We did research. We started sourcing Monk fruit, which is an all-natural sweetener, which is not fully in the game in the US right now. It has zero sugar, zero calorie, all-natural sweetener. We put protein in it and probiotics. We literally when we went to ECRM, we showed this to every buyer and every buyer was pretty much speechless. They were this, “How do I? What do I?” It’s things like that. He’s a creative person. It’s been a great relationship. A lot of synergy and we’re having a lot of fun.
I asked him when I interviewed him for the podcast, “Did you ever think you’d be a storyteller? See those guys sitting down with a bunch of kids reading a story,” but he’s a storyteller and a good one. I asked him I said, “Do you only like people on your podcast who have a cool voice?” Because it doesn’t seem like everybody on his podcast has this awesome voice. Jocko had said they call him the Texas Batman. the allure of Jocko and his message and in what you guys have been able to link into is that it’s all very black and white. We don’t live these days in a very black and white society. Everything that you see on TV and in politics it’s all grey and it’s all perspective. Jocko holds the line and says, “You either do it or you don’t do it. You’re either disciplined or you’re not.” It’s not I’m trying, I want to, I wish I could, it’d be great if I did. It’s either you do it or you don’t do it. That flows through to your product because you either produce good products, excellent products, amazing products or you don’t produce them.You need balance in all things, and that includes the people that you surround yourself with, your inner circle. Click To Tweet
There has been products we put our R&D money into a lot of time, we would like sit around and we look at each other and say like, “Scrap it.” Walk away, we did this with a bar and instead we invested in like the equipment to prototype making the bar. We want to make a bar in a certain way, a food bar. We scrapped the whole thing. We’re starting over and you have to be willing to do that if you want to bring something good as Jocko would say, good to market.
It’s very powerful and courageous to be able to walk away. I tell the suppliers all the time because it’s easy to blame the big box retailers and say that you got screwed. They crushed me or Big Brother was here and there. That’s very prevalent on the internet. You can find podcasts that even talk to that. The one thing I always ask suppliers is who is the last person to sign a contract? Who signed the vendor agreement? That was you. If you didn’t read it or you didn’t look at it or it wasn’t good for you and you didn’t know it, then Big Brother is not messing with you. You weren’t prepared or you didn’t know or you didn’t have guidance. Sometimes you read a deal and it isn’t good. You are going to get crushed and you walk away. Even if it’s hundreds of thousands of products you have to walk away.
The thing is you also can’t be scared of making tuition payments. You’re going to make tuition payments and that’s part of the learning process. If you’re not pushing the boundaries and limits, how do you know where you fit in this whole thing? Where do you stand? The further you push that and the further you chase that rabbit down the rabbit hole, the more you start to separate yourself from the pack. Other folks are going to stop to breathe or stop and turn around and run towards the light and you keep going and going. You come out on the other end of that thing and you’re standing alone. I’ve heard it called a Blue Ocean Strategy. You’re standing in a green field looking around saying, “I’m not looking back. I’m looking forward side to side a bit, but I’m looking forward because something is so different that can’t be denied.” It’s undeniable. Not everybody is willing to get to that point. Your messaging gets produced and created through that process. It’s through a process of making those tuition payments and putting yourself out there and getting uncomfortable.
I tell my clients all the time be careful what you wish for because sometimes it’s going to come screaming at you and you need to be ready for it. Everything happens for a reason. If you have to step back, if you have to push forward, if you have to jump in, all of those things, the more prepared you are, the better you’re going to come out on the other end. A lot of times I’ll be standing alone. Nobody else was able to make it through that. I won’t take up a ton of your time. I appreciate you coming on. Any last thoughts to people who are struggling, trying to get their products to where they want them to be, striving towards perfection?
I’m sure we have some advice because we paid a lot tuition payments, but we’d love to pick your brain off the record. You being in the game for so long. We’re always looking to learn from folks who have been in the game longer or differently you’re at the next level and see something we don’t see. I’m going to transition that into go find those people, who can help you through those decisions, advisers. Advisers are some of the most important people that we have in our business life. You would be surprised how willing people are to help. If you approach them right, if you search and ask why or how five times, you’ll get to one. It’s that easy. Be willing to make yourself vulnerable and be humble enough to do it.
Brian, any last thoughts?
Along those lines when you’re surrounding yourself with people in your inner circle, you can’t be afraid to surround yourself with people that are going to say no or check you or say, “I’m sorry, but that’s not a good idea.” If you simply surround yourself with people who are going to say everything that you put in front of them is greatness, then you’re never going to get anywhere. You need balance in all things and that includes the people that you surround yourself and your circle. That’s helped with us in what we’re doing.
Those are two key pieces of advice and I know because I’ve heard it, I can’t even tell you how many times, “My family says that this is the best product ever.” What do we always say? Your family saying it’s the best product ever it’s not going to make it on the shelf retail. You’ve got to go out and find some people who are going to tell you like it is because they care about you, because they’re experts in the field. They don’t want to see you make some of the mistakes that they made. Pete is right. Genuinely, if somebody has made a mistake and they paid dearly for it. They see you going down that road, they genuinely want you not to make that same mistake. They genuinely want to help steer you away from that because nobody wants to inflict pain on people. There are people that do, but in business, in entrepreneurship, I have found in my lifetime that people generally want to see you steer clear those if they can help you do that. Be listening when that advice is given.
Brian and Pete are unique business owners and they have a special way that they do business. They’re not compromising. They’re not changing the way they do things to get on the shelf of a big box retailer. They’re going to do some interviewing. They’re going to find the retailers that are right for them, not any retailer that will take their product. That’s pretty unique. It’s a great way to approach it. There’s something Big Boxers about your confidence that happens when you’re talking to a buyer and you’re as interested in interviewing them as they are finding out about your product. You’re as interested in finding out if they’re the right retailer for your product as they are about finding out whether they want to carry it. There is something that changes in the way you act, in the way you present your product and the way you present yourself when you are also interviewing them. You’re not just begging them to take your product. I want you to think about that. I want you to think about Brian. I want you to think about Pete and how they are pioneering that interview when they’re looking to get their products on the shelf.
Thanks, Brian and Pete for coming on. It was a great conversation. I can’t wait to do it again and have you guys back on the podcast when anything new and exciting is happening in your world. I appreciate all the info and the nuggets of wisdom that you gave out to the Big Boxers. I know that we talk every week about supporting the podcast and it’s important. If you want to support the podcast, here’s a couple ways that you can do that. I’m not asking you to spend any money, yet. I’m not asking you to donate, yet. What I am asking you to do is subscribe. Simply subscribe to the podcast and then share it. Share it with people that you know that might be interested in hearing what we’re talking about. Open it up to people who might be interested in learning how to get their products on the shelf. I appreciate it if you can do that. The other thing that you can do to support the podcast and keep the conversation going is to come on, OnTheShelfNow.com and comment on the podcast, get some conversation going with other Big Boxers that are interested in discussing the different episodes.
Come on and make a comment. You can also write a review. You can go on iTunes or Stitcher or Spotify or any of the other platforms that we’re on and you can write a review and in fact OnTheShelfNow.com is going to have a tutorial on there on how you can easily rate podcast. Go and check that out. There are a bunch of ways that you can get connected with us. One of them is our Instagram account called On The Shelf Now. You can go to Instagram and follow us on there. You can follow us on Twitter, which is also @OnTheShelfNow. You can get to us on Facebook, two different ways. We have our Facebook page, which is On The Shelf Now. You can get with us on our closed group, which is On The Shelf Now. There are a multitude of different ways that you can reach us. Don’t hesitate to get connected with us. We would appreciate it. I want to say thank you again. I appreciate you. I’m very thankful to have this podcast and the chance to speak with you. I look forward to our next conversation but until then, I look forward to seeing your products On The Shelf.
- Jocko Willink – Previous episode
- Pete Roberts – Episode on Jocko Podcast
- Hands and Daylight
- Way of the Warrior Kid
- Marc’s Mission
- iTunes – On the Shelf Now
- Stitcher – On the Shelf Now
- Spotify – On the Shelf Now
- On The Shelf Now – Instagram
- @OnTheShelfNow– Twitter
- On The Shelf Now – Facebook
- On The Shelf Now – Closed Group
About Pete Roberts and Brian Littlefield
Our manufacturing schedule has been pushed one week due to a dyeing machine going down for repairs. Everything from the week of MONDAY, APRIL 4th will be pushed forward one week, as the machine will take one full week to fix. This includes all Origin Kimono Models (Mist, Silverback, Congo), as well as AXIOM models. During our down week APRIL 4th-8th, we will be manufacturing the remainder of the Warrior Brand kimonos, small sizes, big sizes, and off colors. We will also tackle any repairs and exchanges. If you see your gi has been made, please allow a few days for trimming, inspection, packing, and shipping.