Friday, February 26, 2010

Annie's Homegrown

Last night, Annie's Homegrown CEO John Foraker spoke at Bryant University. He gave a terrific presentation about his firm's strategy, growth, and commitment to social responsibility. I found John's comments about values to be very interesting. He talked about how Annie's values were not written down when he joined the firm. He had not seen the merits of writing down a firm's mission and values in his prior jobs, but at Annie's, he found it invaluable. He described how the explicit statement of values really helped the firm identify who should be hired at Annie's, as well as what strategic options should be rejected because they did not fit with the values.

John also spoke about Annie's decision to expand beyond the organic/natural food channel. He noted that firms have to be very careful when making that leap to other channels such as club stores, mainstream grocery, etc. Conflicts can arise, and firms can lose their core base of customers if they are rejected by that original channel in which they excelled. John explained that Annie's took special care of its original organic/natural food channel partners such as Whole Foods. They worked to develop new and unique products for those partners. That special attention proves critical, particularly since the organic/natural channel proves ideal for many of the new product innovations that Annie's continues to bring to market. Too many firms make the mistake of simply offering the same products and services across all channels. For some companies, they find themselves ultimately rejected by some of their original channel partners, and the damage to the brand can be immense.

Thank you, John, for spending the evening with us last night!


John Foraker said...

You are welcome Michael! The students at Bryant offered up very thoughtful questions, and I'd be happy to do it again in the future any time.

One of the things I thought about after the discussion we had was another tool I've used over the years to think strategically about our growth and possible challenges ahead. That tool is the Greiner Curve, which you've no doubt seen. It's helped me "see around corners" ahead, so that we could avoid crashing into the common walls affecting most growing businesses...

In case your students were interested in a brief summary of it, you can find it on this blog link below.

What I've come to understand over time is that many of the problems faced by fast growing businesses are similar, no matter what industry, and they are linked to life stage challenges every company will face as it grows.

Best to you and your students! Let me know if Annie's can be of any assistaince in the future.

Regards, JF

Michael Roberto said...

Thanks so much, John, for spending the evening with us and for taking a look at the blog! I am very familiar with Greiner's work, and I agree that the challenges often are similar across industries. We'll be in touch about writing a new case.