I recently interviewed Tom Bilyeu, co-founder of Quest Nutrition (which makes the protein bar Quest Bar), to understand how he created such a successful company. In the past five years since he started his company, Quest Nutrition has become the 2nd fastest growing private company in North America (growing at over 57,000%!!) and its products are available in over 70 countries. But perhaps what’s most incredible is how much Tom loves his job and how he’s truly chasing his dreams. Here are five lessons I learned from my interview with Tom on how to chase your dreams successfully.
1. “Do something you would want to do even if you were failing”
In 2010, Tom was a successful Chief Marketing Officer of a technology company with an office view overlooking the Pacific Ocean. But he was hitting rock bottom because he wasn’t passionate about what he was doing and dreaded going into the office. So he did something about it. He and his business partners who shared his passion for health and fitness (if you ever meet Tom – he is really ripped) decided to start a nutrition company.
It was far from easy for them despite their collective experiences and this was why it was important to do something they liked even when they were failing. It took them 18 months to get a shelf stable protein bar through trial and error. And this was while they still had their day jobs so they were failing non-stop after an already hard day of work. But they loved every minute of it.
It was so important for them to do something they loved even when they were failing because starting a business is HARD yet that burning passion kept them persisting to the point they succeeded.
2. Have a belief system that you can be great at ANYTHING if you put in the time and effort
Tom and his co-founders created a Quest Nutrition belief system with the primary belief being that they can do anything if they put their minds to it. When they originally went to contract manufacturers to make their protein bars, they were told it was IMPOSSIBLE to create a great tasting protein bar without any sugar and almost no carbs. Rather than accepting defeat, Tom and his co-founders found a way to do it despite these “experts” saying they couldn’t.
Tom’s co-founder Ron Penna was a nutritional science fanatic who absolutely loved solving nutritional challenges and would research ways to keep the taste while reducing sugar and carbs. Tom’s other co-founder Mike Osborn was an “Iowa farmboy” who loved tinkering with the manufacturing equipment and with enough persistence found a way to modify the machines to create the protein bar they wanted to make.
With enough time and effort, anything can be achieved. What are YOU focusing your time and effort on?
3. Market yourself to find the true fans
In order to market their protein bar, Quest Bar, Tom and his co-founders took a strategic approach. They sent their products to their 1,000 potential true fans – people who would really understand what they were doing and making. Tom and his team sent handcrafted notes with the products to (i) explain WHY they created Quest Bar and (ii) to ask that they talk about Quest Bar – even if they didn’t like it! This allowed word of mouth buzz that made the sales of Quest Bar less of a challenge. Rather than trying to convert the average Joe Schmoes of the world on this product, Tom went after people who would understand and appreciate what he was doing because not everyone is a fitness fanatic who lifts weights 5 days a week.
When you market yourself or a product, do you find yourself going after those who would understand what you’re offering or are you banging your head against the wall trying to convert those who just will never get it?
4. Don’t focus on profits – focus on adding value to your customers
Tom is adamant that focusing on profits is ironically the way to reduced profits. He’s all about adding value. Every decision Quest Nutrition makes is based on how it helps the customer enjoy the product more. So it wouldn’t be a surprise that most product changes they make reduce the profit margin on each product but they still KEEP GROWING. In fact, Tom’s company makes more money now in a day than his last company did in a year (which focused on profits over customer value).
Tom also makes sure that he goes over the top with customer service no matter how ridiculous. He once had a customer who complained they chipped their tooth on a Quest Bar so Tom paid for the customer’s dentist bill to fix the tooth. When a customer said that a dog ate their Quest Bar package, Tom gladly replaced it for free. These customer value focused practices have helped create a community of evangelists which have enabled Quest Nutrition’s tremendous growth.
5. You can turn your life around at any point to chase your dreams
When Tom talked about his jobs out of college, he said he was the “king of remedial jobs”. He worked as a door-to-door insurance salesman, a video game store clerk, and a telemarketer. This really taught me that you can turn your life around to achieve massive success like Tom at any point if you focus on what you’re passionate about and you’re willing to put in the work. Tom told me that grit is the best predicator of success because success is never easy and it takes time. It took him 18 months to create the protein bar he envisioned through sweat equity.
Wherever you are in your life, I hope you find what you’re passionate about and pursue it with grit like Tom did.
Someone once told me that you can make your life whatever you want it to be. At some point, a lot of us forget that. I hope Tom’s lessons from starting Quest Nutrition help you get closer to living the life you want. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or comments.
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