Four things to grow an amazing $100 million company.

If I can do it you can do it too.

John Warner
Control Your Destiny


In the mid 1990s, I was running a large angel capital group in Greenville, SC. An associate heard about an organic grocery store chain in Asheville, NC seeking to grow. We called on the founder, Roger, who gave us a tour of his store and convinced us he had a strong concept. We had folks with lots of grocery experience in our investor group.

After investing we opened a second store in Charleston, SC. That didn’t go well. We took a step back and asked a series of questions that defined the company’s future.

What is essential to achieve our objective?
We all agreed we wanted to grow into a large regional chain that we could sell to a strategic buyer for more than it was worth to us. Visualizing what that looked like was key.

What skills do we need to accomplish that?
We had a strong marketing concept, so we needed a new CEO who was a strong operator. That sounds obvious in retrospect, but it took us a while to think through that conclusion. The first job description was a superhuman who didn’t live on this planet. So we focused on the two or three things which were most critical. That strong consensus was powerful as we interviewed candidates together.

Then we hired a CFO and several other members of the leadership team with other skills we needed. We let the original President/COO go because he chafed at this process. That was unfortunate because had he worked with us, he was a talented guy and could have been a good team member.

A key to any high performing team is getting the right people on the bus and the wrong people off the bus.

What are success metrics the team is accountable for? As we visualized a large regional chain, we identified the most important key metrics indicating we were on the right track. One of the biggest was demonstrating our new store location model could accurately project revenue 18 months after opening. Once we achieved that, our pitch to a strategic buyer was “just add cash” so they could continue to open new stores. Agreeing on success metrics was key to recruiting the CEO and the rest of the team, and achieving them was the foundation of our compensation plan.

Then let go and allow people to do their jobs. That’s key to building a highly empowered team. Tell me what I have to be accountable for, and then get out of my way and let me do my job with passion.

Isn’t this where we all want to work? Isn’t this where people who work for us want to work?

As Chairman, my job was to help the team work through this process and then organize regular meetings to keep the team on track, monthly at first and then quarterly as the flywheel started spinning. The thought process needed for the team to prepare for these update meetings was as important as what was actually presented at the meetings. By the time the team got to the meeting, most of the hard work is done. It was helpful for me not to be in the day to day grind so I could bring some outside perspective to the process.

Earth Fare went from one store and $7 million in revenue to 14 stores and $100 million in revenue when we sold it. Our investors got an 8X return on their investment. If I can do it, you can do it too!

Contact me at and let’s talk.



John Warner
Control Your Destiny

Serial entrepreneur sharing 40 years of insights to control your destiny in our turbulent times