Choose Love Over Fear: How We Grew to $4M in Under 1 Year
We started shipping our product in October 2016 with four employees. We are now a team of eight full-time employees and on track to generate $4 million in revenue this year.
We achieved this milestone because we made a conscious effort to relentlessly focus on our culture. Here’s how our focus on mission, vision and values led to our early success:
1. We avoid using fear as a decision criteria
Last summer, a competitor reached out to us to solicit an acquisition offer. They no longer wanted to operate the business. They saw how we were approaching the period product market and they believed that we were aligned with their mission to serve women with better alternatives.
After due diligence we decided to acquire the company’s assets, but we knew that we had to make dramatic changes to the business since it was not profitable at the time of acquisition.
One of the biggest reasons that the business was losing money was because Walmart and Amazon represented nearly 50% of the acquired business’ top line revenue. But these retailers also represented a negative net income on our income statement.
The fear of turning away nearly 50% of the new business’ annual revenue potential was real. We bet on our ability to turn the business around and our customers’ love for the product.
Within one quarter of acquiring the asset, we stopped working with Walmart and Amazon, and in the second half of 2016, generated more profit than the prior two years combined, while gaining market share and revenue.
2. We are transparent with our employees
It can be valuable for employees to not be “distracted” by thinking about something like how much time a company has left in existence. However, we believe that giving employees this transparency creates agency to help make the most impact that they can.
This January, we started sharing detailed monthly reports of our profit and loss, burn, and runway with all full-time employees. This means that our operations and finance manager presents these financial reports to me, the CEO, at the same as our employees. I don’t even get a preview.
As a result of this increased transparency, two things have happened:
- Everyone understands the importance of their work.
- The team proactively finds ways they can make the biggest impact on the business.
The first time we shared our P&L with the team, the most tenured non-founder employee (our Operations Manager), started an analysis of our Cost of Goods and our packaging waste. We had no idea he was working on this project. Within two weeks, he presented to us a proposal that will improve customer experience, decrease packaging waste, and increase our gross margin (after shipping) 20%.
As a subscription company, this was a phenomenal improvement of our business model.
3. We take care of our employees, who come as they are
I went to night school at a state university while working a full-time job. One of my cofounders didn’t go to college, while my other cofounder has what I would call a “blue chip” academic pedigree.
We recognize that talent and resilience comes in many forms be it academic background, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or any other diversity factor. We want this diversity to be reflected in our hiring, professional development, and benefits.
For example, we noticed that a customer service agent would use a “professional” voice when speaking to customers. This voice was noticeably different than the voice she used when speaking with us or other members of the team. Her manager asked her if she thought she might be code switching. She admitted that she thought this was what a company would want her to do based on her experience working at other companies. We encouraged her to be herself; to speak in the voice that she felt most comfortable with. She thanked us and successfully found her own authentic voice, which was less draining than being a different person inside and outside of work.
We offer Platinum and Gold health benefits. We pay 90% of insurance premiums for employees, and 80% of premiums for their spouses and children, well above the national average of 65% for small employers. This helped our Finance and Operations Manager, who is married and a new mother, to not worry about how she will provide the best healthcare for her and her family.
We offer a $1,000 learning credit for every employee to spend how they wish toward their professional development. This year many chose to take an IDEO course on leadership, for example.
And we value work-life balance by providing our employees with twelve paid vacation days their first year, plus nine holidays. In order to ensure that every team member feels like they can take a “true” vacation, the entire company takes the same week off in the summer.
In these actions, we realized that we had already created a strong culture within the company. Our last three hires told us that the company’s culture was their primary reason for joining.
So, we decided to publicly codify them.
Below is our company’s purpose, vision, mission and values.
You can find our job openings here. If this sounds like the kind of team that’s right for you, we welcome your application.
Our Purpose (why we exist)
We’re working to create a world where every woman loves her body.
Our vision is to reimagine and deliver life-changing period products everywhere.
The Flex Company’s mission is to create body-positive and life-changing experiences through the products that we make and the conversations we spark.
- Choose Love Over Fear
- Have a Growth Mindset
- Optimize for Trust
- Be You
1. Choose Love Over Fear
We work in an industry that has capitalized on shame and profited from fear. If we make decisions out of fear, we stray further from our purpose as a company and as individuals. All decisions are, ultimately, driven by fear or by love. We choose love.
2. Have A Growth Mindset
Talent is only the starting point. Our abilities are developed through dedication and hard work. Learning and resilience are essential to sustained accomplishment.
3. Optimize for Trust
Long-term relationships are formed when there is a foundation of trust. Both within and outside of the company, we work to create, maintain, and build trust.
4. Be You
Being a different you at work versus at home is draining. Respecting and embracing our collective diversity starts with respecting and embracing yourself.
Learn more about The Flex Company at flexfits.com.