Natural Foods Merchandiser

Words to live by

Ten naturals executives share the philosophies that guide them in business and life

John Vlahakis
President and founder, ECOS/Earth Friendly Products
"I believe in nothing. I fear nothing. I am free." —Nikos Kazantzakis

I've got these words on my refrigerator door. It shocks some people, including my mother, so let me explain. I love this quote because I loathe a closed mind, can't stand a dogmatic, narrow philosophical stance. It's vital in life to keep an open mind, so "I believe in nothing" means "I'm open to everything."

I'm Greek. I'm rational, maybe excessively rational—but it's foolish to emotionally react in fear to a circumstance. It's so much more realistic to approach problems as solvable issues, knowing that there's an answer, an adjustment, a wholesome response that will be proactive. So "I fear nothing" because fear debilitates.

To be open, and to be fearless, brings great freedom. I wish for this great freedom not only for myself, but for my family, my friends and all of you.

Terry Lemerond
President, EuroPharma Inc.
"All things that happen are for good to those who love the Lord." —Romans 8:28

When things happen, they may not always seem good. They may seem destructive, harmful and, in fact, just the opposite of what you would like to see happen. In my experience, we should be patient, thankful and wait on the Lord to see the outcome of what may have happened. We can't always see what good can come out of something that doesn't seem right, but God can. Our minds are so small that we can't even see what may happen 30 seconds from now. But God knows what's going to happen a trillion years from now. It makes much better sense to put my life in His hands, to thank Him for any outcome, to be patient and watch for the glorious things that He will bless us with. It never fails that several months or even a year later, something I thought was so bad then has become a blessing, and it's the best thing that could have happened. Just trust God for the best outcome.

Gary Barrows
President, Bluebonnet Nutrition Corp.
"We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have already done."—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Bluebonnet invites natural food retailers to judge us by what we have done, not what we promise to do. In our industry, as in life itself, when push comes to shove it's not what people say; rather, it's actions that count. Bluebonnet has stayed true to its original mission statement by exclusively selling to health food retailers, while others have made promises and abandoned our industry for other seemingly more profitable channels. This disingenuous loyalty has harmed our industry and taken health food specialty products into not-so-special environments. We are an industry of specialty products, and if your store shelves are filled with products highly discounted in mass-market stores, through Internet or catalog-only companies … then what makes your health food store so special?

Bluebonnet is a specialty brand sold exclusively to health food stores. Judge us by what we have done, and judge others as well. We believe you will find that our integrity is intact, and you have a partner with whom to grow your business into the future. Come join us as we work together to protect our beloved industry.

Greg Kunin
President and founder, Ola Loa LLC
"Every day is the greatest day of your life."

You should never lose sight of how beautiful and glorious every day is. Three weeks after I graduated from high school, my 8-year-old brother was killed in a freak accident when his best friend hit him in the head with a golf club. In honor of my brother, I live each day to the fullest and realize it's all good. No need to sweat the small stuff and be stressed—in reality, it's all small stuff.

In the late '50s, my father, Dr. Richard Kunin, developed a philosophy in his psychiatric practice that he calls the InnerSmile. He made it possible for me to see that happiness was a choice that we made, and to realize that no one's pain and suffering is worse than anyone else's. It has given me the ability to see that my relationship with my brother is ongoing; it is not "over." We share together every day.

The other quote of significance to me is, "An idea without execution is a delusion." I think it comes from Warren Buffett, but I'm not sure where I heard it. It is so true, and I am reminded of it all the time when trying to get something done.

Randy James Rose
President and CEO, Enzymatic Therapy Inc.
"I do the very best I know how—the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end."—Abraham Lincoln

I like this quote from Abraham Lincoln for a number of reasons, among them the evident humility, recognizing that no individual is perfect, but that pursuit of excellence brings about positive outcomes. I also appreciate his steadfast focus on doing the right thing despite the implied adversity he faced.

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to be a part of Enzymatic Therapy, as we aspire to excellence in every facet of our business and are steadfast in delivering our promise of "What BETTER feels like!" to consumers and our retailer partners.

Joseph E. Scalzo
President and CEO, WhiteWave Foods Co.
"At WhiteWave Foods, we make promises we can keep, and keep the promises we make."

This is an essential tenet of my management philosophy because it underscores the importance of accountability. As a company that manufactures premium organic products, keeping the promises we make is critical to our future, the integrity of our products and our leadership position within the organic community.

We remain unwavering in our commitment to the organic industry and believe keeping our promises is not only vital to our success, but also the success of the people who have made our business possible—our family farmer partners, our retail partners, our local communities, our consumers and our employees. To that end, we also believe it is critical to keep promises that support the causes in which we passionately believe:

  • To convert more land to organic. After all, more organic production benefits our environment and supports better health for all of us.
  • To bring certified organic products to more and more families across the U.S.
  • To support clear and rigorous organic standards and to fight to protect them.
  • To stand together with others in the industry to grow the industry responsibly and change the world one organic acre at a time.

    R. Mark Davis
    CEO, The Organic Center
    "Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing."—Helen Keller

    Meaning: Seize opportunities as they come to you, and work to contribute to society.

    Jennifer Hodges
    Founder, Hero Nutritionals Inc.
    "You've achieved success in your field when you don't know whether what you're doing is work or play."—Warren Beatty

    Gil Pritchard
    President and CEO, Avalon Organics
    "A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do."

    The first big influence on me was the honor code from my days as a cadet at West Point. Living by this code was not optional at the Academy, and its principles have helped guide my life since then. Integrity is one of Avalon's core values. It is true north on our moral compass. We've found life is much simpler when the truth is told. Business relationships tend to be more mutually respectful and more productive when built on a foundation of truth and trust. Over time we've added a couple of building blocks to this cornerstone to help further define our code of conduct. These include: "Bad news is always bad, but it's worse when it is late," and "It's not the commitments you make, but the commitments you keep that matter."

    It is my hope that we exceed our customers', competitors', representatives' and consumers' expectations in these areas.

    Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVII/number 3/p. 78-79

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