“Give Credit For Success And Take Credit For Failure” Words Of Wisdom With Mike McDevitt, CEO Of Terra’s Kitchen
I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike McDevitt, CEO of Terra’s Kitchen. After being a consumer of meal kits himself, McDevitt decided to make them better and founded Terra’s Kitchen. In less than two years, the company has become a leading fresh food delivery service, offering healthy meal kits, ready-to-eat breakfasts, lunches and snacks and partner products like siggi’s yogurt and BluePrint juices. With several successful businesses under his belt, including taking a multi-million dollar weight-loss company public in his 20s, McDevitt shares the five things he wishes someone had told him before becoming a CEO.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
Thank you for letting me share. I’ve worked in health and wellness for almost two decades. In my early 20s after a fortuitous meeting, I had the opportunity to join a weight-loss company, Medifast (MED). I spent eight incredible years as CFO and CEO when the company went public, was named the #1 Fastest Growing Small Business by Forbes in 2010 and named Stock of the Decade after 16,000% return. After Medifast, I wanted to become an advisor and launched a law and consulting firm for startups. While working as general counsel, my wife and I learned that we were going to become parents. I asked my mom for advice. Her words of wisdom? “Every night, have dinner together as a family.” To do that, I tried several meal kits but found them lacking nutrition, convenience and sustainability. I launched Terra’s Kitchen in 2016 to solve those three problems and we’ve since grown to a leading fresh food delivery service.
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
I try to find a chance each day to laugh my ass off or be intrigued on a topic to the point of drowning someone with questions about it. One example is a Terra’s Kitchen customer who reminded me of the importance of clear communication. Sustainability is one of our core values and we’re always looking for ways to reduce waste. When delivering fresh food, we use a reusable vessel. To cool the vessel, instead of the typical ice packs that are thrown away, we use reusable containers of frozen water. One day, we received a call from a customer letting us know that we needed to improve the lid on our water bottles. Confused — because we don’t deliver water bottles — we asked for clarity. She had mistaken the ice pack for a water bottle, opening the top with a knife and drank the water straight from the little green container. Her persistence was impressive and I was even happier that we don’t use chemicals in our ice packs. We now take extra steps to educate our customers — just in case.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
I love that we’re relevant to such a wide variety of people. People of all ages and family environments tell me that they feel like Terra’s Kitchen was invented for them, whether it’s the ability to select from such a wide variety of meals and snacks or the messaging and content that we share. My favorite stories come from customers who tell us that our recipes remind them of meals they had when they were growing up; We’ve just made them healthy. That’s something I am proud of and I believe makes us special.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Ensure your employees clearly understand how they impact the end consumer. Challenge them to always balance their thinking on how they can help improve the customer’s experience by doing new things and doing what they currently do, better.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
So many! I consider myself the luckiest person in the world because of the countless number of amazing people who have positively influenced me in my life and career. Every time I am watching an awards show and I imagine myself on stage rattling off the names of the people I want to thank, I just know that I would forget someone of great importance. I’m going to take my own advice and keep it general. I would like to thank my family and friends.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I ask myself this on a regular basis; I sometimes go down a mental rabbit hole. “Have I done enough?” “Can I do more?” “If I do more, will I be able to give the time and focus needed to my family and my employees?” “Does writing a check really count?” I created a worksheet for my life with four categories: Relationships, Purpose (Career), Mind and Body, and Community. My balance of time between the four areas always fluctuates, but I hold myself accountable to put the right amount of time in each area. Hopefully that helps me create a better world outside of my own.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why?
Give credit for success and take credit for failure. The more that I highlight the amazing work everyone around me is doing, the more amazing things continue to happen.
Control your perceptions. I have a pretty active imagination. This can be great for creating new ideas and terrible for complicating simple situations. Leadership is easier when you keep it simple.
Accept what is out of your control. The world is full of variables that are beyond our control. Time spent focusing on those is time not spent on taking action on something that you can control.
Be the culture — and ask people to call you out if you are acting outside of it. We are human; we make mistakes. Have the humility to admit when you’re wrong and work to get better.
Have fun. There will be tough times. Challenge yourself to find the fun in every situation.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“You are known by the company you keep.”
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this :-)
I’d like to meet Joshua Waitzkin, the author of The Art of Learning: An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance, because he’s in a constant state of authentic and engaged learning. I would love to understand how he designs the hours in his days and how he comes across the next area wants to master.