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In the fast-paced, entrepreneurial environment that is New York, we see businesses measuring success through profit, head count and reputation. While those elements are essential to driving your business forward, thinking about what lies behind those factors is key to ensuring your company makes an impact. In my years as the founder and CEO of Corr-Jensen Inc., I have found that fueling my company with passion and purpose, and instilling that message in my employees, has led to some of our biggest triumphs. Here I share six guiding principles that have allowed our company to be more than just another player in the sports nutrition industry.
1. Let what you love inspire your business ideas.
Fitness has always been my passion — both in practice and in study. After breaking my back in high school wrestling, I made the most of the downtime and dedicated myself to learning everything I could about exercise, nutrition and supplementation. After completing six years in the Army, I not only solidified my belief in the importance of exercise in daily life, but I saw how discipline, service and hard work are core values that transcend every facet of our lives.
It was when I combined my passion for health and fitness with hard work and serving others that Corr-Jensen was born. This passion formed the foundation and now the company has grown to embody these principles in everything we do.
2. Recognize the white space in your industry.
In my company’s world of sports and nutritional supplements, too much emphasis is placed on the products and not enough on the person using the product. By moving away from being a traditional “supplement company” to a “lifestyle brand” we shifted the customer to the center of every innovation and business decision, surrounding them with support and advice, providing the tools so that they can be the healthiest version of themselves. We also made sure that every employee — from the warehouse to the field team — acts from a place of humility, hard work and service to bring the most value to the lives of people.
3. Make more than money.
Something dramatic happens when people and companies shift their focus from getting all they can for themselves, to driving as much value as they can in the world — for their customers, communities and employees. The tone of internal meetings changes as everyone’s intention is aligned. Interactions with vendors and customers become more transparent. People work harder, shoulder additional responsibilities and take risks knowing that everyone around them have their back. By striving for more than a paycheck, fulfillment comes from executing a meaningful, shared vision. It also amplifies employee engagement.
At Corr-Jensen we created the Virtuous Circle, built on the belief that some of a brand’s financial success is invested in purpose-driven causes that engage communities and employees at the heart-level. This in turn drives customer loyalty and employee retention, with increased brand reputation being a secondary benefit. For our Performix brand, we created the FitOps Foundation, which provides veterans a full scholarship to become NASM-certified personal trainers and helps them start new careers in the fitness industry. Our employees, customers and vendors all support and feel a personal ownership that the work we do together is greater than the products we make.
4. Find the right leadership.
Recruiting, onboarding and developing leaders in a fast-growing business is like playing golf blindfolded; you can trust your equipment, skill and the general direction you are going in, but it will still take a fair bit of trial and error and you will always shoot over par. The challenge for each leader in a growth company is to hire leaders for the roles you need them to play tomorrow but with only the resources you have today. Without having this in mind, by the time you hire and onboard, the position will have already grown larger than that person’s skill. The solve: Hire for what you believe the role will be 18 months from now, pay competitively based on that, and don’t be in such a rush that you settle for a candidate who doesn’t share your values.
5. Cultivate a culture that encourages involvement.
I mentioned Virtuous Circle earlier. While the goal is that this mindset is in the background of every interaction we have in our company, we needed to somehow systematize and quantify these actions of giving back. Each employee has a Fulfillment Bank Account that they can choose to make “deposits” in by helping the company’s FitOps Foundation for veterans, supporting a charity of their choice or winning an employee achievement award. When the balance reaches a determined threshold, employees can then make “withdrawals” in the form of going on an international service trip with our director of CSR, or having a cash donation made by the company to the charity of their choice.
6. Never stop evolving.
A friend recently shared with me an observation about living in the Internet Age: “With limitless information at our fingertips, people think they can learn everything they need to know on their own,” he said. “No one sees the values of mentors anymore.” In both our company and our foundation, we encourage people to intentionally surround themselves with formal and informal mentors to challenge and help them grow. Other fundamentals, like only engaging in business deals that are good for all parties involved and having fun at work, are guardrails that keep us focused on what’s important during the stressful moments of the business. Everyone in our company knows it is possible (and expected) to be hardworking, kind, humble and hungry for success as we have defined it.