Book Review: Do The KIND Thing

BookReviewDo the KIND Thing

Boundlessly, Work Purposely, Live Passionately

By Daniel Lubetzky

Ballantine Books, 2015

Hardcover $26, E-read $14, Audio $11

In a Nutshell – Hidden inside this unique autobiography is the recipe for building a major food company from scratch.

Who’s it for? – Business owners, aspiring social entrepreneurs, readers looking for a good story.

Quote from author – “Welcome the wildest possible range of ideas.”

When considering a successful business owner, the appeal comes from identifying exactly how the innovator takes a unique concept and grows it into a product with an immensely successful business.

For those unfamiliar, KIND is a natural foods company founded by Daniel Lubetzky in 2004. The company manufactures six products known for their whole ingredients and unique clear wrapper. Lubetzky is known as a social entrepreneur – someone who combines social objectives with a businesses.

At first glance it appears that “Do the KIND Thing” is a shameless self-promotion for its author’s company – KIND bars and products. The book’s cover is adorned with the identical colors, logo and font of KIND’s healthy snacks. Inside the cover is the story of the meteoric rise of a billion dollar food company and the autobiography of its founder.

After learning the food industry from a previous company he started, Lubetzky began his new nutritional food bar company first as a concept, followed by the development of a product superior to energy bars that were already on market shelves. The brand KIND came later as a product name that serves as a mantra for the organization and its customers to treat others and the rest of the world.

Lubetzky had a clear vision for KIND: Nutritional bars that have higher grade ingredients than existing competitors and a clear wrapper to highlight the large pieces of fruit and nuts in each bar. A major takeaway in the process were techniques Lubetzky initiated for brainstorming and not limiting company challenges. Lubetzky talks at length about envisioning a profitable company and giving back to social causes while producing an energy bar that is both nutritional and tastes exceptionally good. Company brainstorming eliminates editing and negative discussion to very late in the process, resulting in transforming ideas that are successfully implemented instead of dismissed.

Lubetzky is direct in recounting his own missteps and is humble enough to explain when his big ego gets in the way. Early on Lubetzky tries to sell his line to Zabar’s, a major specialty food store in New York. After being rebuked, Lubetzky listens to the owner’s criticism. Unfazed, he returns several weeks later to successfully sell to Zabar’s after making the owner’s suggested changes. As KIND grows larger, it takes time but Lubetzky learns to step back, delegate and let the glory shine on the rest of his team.

It’s a combination of Lubetzky’s nature and nurture that is the basis for his business philosophy and success. Lubetzky’s background has familiar attributes of other uber-successful innovators: He is a first generation immigrant, started several businesses at a very young age, has the intelligence and drive to graduate from Stanford Law School, and the energy and persistence to never give up. Lubetzky takes time to detail his family background. His father was a World War II Holocaust survivor who immigrated to Mexico. The influence of his family and his Jewish faith on Lubetzky’s determination is inspirational.

If there was ever a case study for highlighting the elements of a successful startup, “Do the KIND Thing” is it. This includes lessons learned through mistakes, a clear vision that permeates the company as it develops and an owner who has the aptitude and attitude to make it all succeed.

It’s suggested to listen to the audio version of “Do the KIND Thing”, narrated by Lubetzky himself. His personality, humor, and enthusiasm shine through even more than the written book, although both are worth recommending.

Chris Wendel is a consultant and commercial lender with Northern Initiatives, a community development financial institution based in Marquette. Wendel lives and works in Traverse City and can be reached at cwendel@northerninitiatives.org.

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