Ryan Berman talks to thought leaders from around the globe in business, sports and entertainment to uncover what it means to be courageous in today's world.
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EP 125 Michael Marquis - CEO of Raw Sugar

Michael Marquis – CEO at Raw Sugar

Michael Marquis is the CEO at Raw Sugar, a national lifestyle brand that makes clean, premium, and healthy living products affordable. Prior to Raw Sugar, Michael held several major executive roles at Johnson & Johnson where he oversaw the success of brands such as Clean & Clear®, Listerine®, and the OGX® hair care brand.

Episode Notes

In a candid conversation with Ryan, Michael shares invaluable insights emphasizing the importance of team structure and relentless dedication to continuous improvement. We’ll also learn about Michael’s leadership philosophy as Ryan probes whether he leads his team as a cohesive family unit or a high-performing sports team. Finally, Michael shares why he made the leap to lead Raw Sugar and what he learned from (once upon a time) being an All-American college rower.

[00:00:36] Ryan: I'm so excited for this one. And I got, there's a few reasons why. I mean, the first one is, and I don't know if he would actually admit this. Let's start with Billy Collins, shall we? My business partner. I would say Billy would put you in the mentor category. Has he actually ever declared, declared you mentor?

[00:00:56] Michael Marquis: I don't know if he would admit that, like, I think there might, there might be an ego thing in there, but I think I would qualify if you made him list out some folks, hopefully I'd make the list. 

[00:01:06] Ryan: Oh, I would say so. Yeah. And, and, and just to be clear, there will be moments during the podcast. We're not going to call Billy in, but give, give me one professional zinger to ask Mike and give me one personal question to ask Mike.

[00:01:19] So there'll be a couple. And you can try to guess which ones were the Collins and which ones weren't. All right. First of all, it's great to see you. Congratulations on everything. You're, you're kind of, I mean, you're like a year, 15 months in on the new gig, correct? Yep. Yep. For sure. So for you, how has the shift been?

[00:01:39] I mean, look, 25 years, like as an experienced high performance executive, you've done this before building multi, you know, multinational brands, billion dollar brands. And now you shift into a new business. It's not really a startup, but do you still treat it like a startup? 

[00:01:56] Michael Marquis: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it's, the transition has been, you know, it's been what, you know, I'm really thankful for all the people I get a chance to work with.

[00:02:04] It's been great. You know, it's been what I was expecting. I mean, I was, you know, over 25 years in an amazing company and, you know, over the last few, I kind of decided what I really wanted to spend my energy and time doing and was really looking for that. and. Had a pretty, pretty high bar to leave such a, you know, such a great company.

[00:02:22] And then finally when, the right opportunity came along, you know, that kind of met all the criteria, luckily, you know, sometimes you get a little nervous that you're going to open up the hood and find something else. And, luckily everybody was exactly who they said they were in the business was what, what I was expecting.

[00:02:36] And, You know, it's, it's emotional to leave so many friends and colleagues that you spent, you know, 20 some years working with and, not seeing or connecting with as much every day, but some of them are lifelong friends that I continue to talk with all the time. So I think, you know, the new team has been, awesome to work with and, you know, we've been off and running.

[00:02:54] I mean, it's, it's definitely, you know, when you think about a startup, it's, You know, it's not a startup in that, like it's starting from zero, but there's certain, you know, processes and structure and stuff like that, that you're starting with a white sheet of paper and you say, all right, we're going to, we're going to have to build this from nothing.

[00:03:09] and I think they, you know, it's, it's on its way. So we're, we're pretty excited. 

[00:03:13] Ryan: Now, when you say there's a criteria, is it a literal written, you're clicking, clicking box. Tell me more.

[00:03:22] Michael Marquis: Yeah. Yeah. It's actually one of the things that I, I got from another mentor of mine and I get to a lot of people I talked to, which is, you know, have your list, kind of your make me move list.

[00:03:30] You know, it's like, here's what would make, you know, that I'm looking for and actually write it down and work on it. Like you might write it the first time and as you go and you meet people, you might refine it. And, you never want to be running from something you want to be running to something. And so I think like write down what you're running to.

[00:03:46] And I think I, Yeah. You know, at the time when I was, I was starting to look, I had daughters in high school and I wasn't going to be moving until they were out of high school. So that was important. I wanted to work in certain categories, a certain size of business, you know, certain things relative to kind of ownership and, you know, what the, the role would be itself.

[00:04:04] And so, You know, I worked on that and worked on it. And, you know, I think when I first met the team, behind raw sugar, I remember coming out of the first meetings, the last time you got these calls from recruiters and other people. And after about 10 minutes, you go, Nope, we've, you know, we're over and we're one for three or something.

[00:04:19] You just, you know, you don't want to waste people's time. And I think I came back from the first conversation, talked to my, my wife and said, Oh my gosh, we're, we're four for four of this, you know, we're going to have more conversations, but so far we're heading down a good path. And, Yeah. And so, you know, because it's, it takes, you know, there's a lot of folks who, you know, it's hard to make that move away from, you know, an organization that was so long.

[00:04:40] So it was a helpful tool for me to be able to like, yeah, I, I checked all the boxes. Now it's time for me to, you know, see if I'm ready to do 

[00:04:48] Ryan: this. I know you don't have to like unveil all four, four, four, but you know, for someone that's listening, what, what did you look at? And is it a prioritized list? 

[00:04:59] Michael Marquis: it, it wasn't prioritized.

[00:05:01] I think they were all kind of equal in terms of what they need to do. Some of them were personal. Like I wasn't moving until my daughters were out of high school. You know, there was things I, I started to really wanted to work on smaller businesses and so where I can have a lot of ownership. So I was going to be a CEO.

[00:05:18] I mean, that was, that was a piece of it. I wanted the business to be at least, roughly 100 million or larger, in terms of revenue, because I was not a startup guy from zero. Like, I felt like I was more of a scale person. I could take something, I could scale it. I wanted to be in health and wellness and, and, you know, areas that I have a personal passion around and then there's things around kind of the ownership.

[00:05:41] And, you know, are there people I want to work with? Do I feel like I have a connection when I go and I meet with people? And so that, which is really important. I mean, you're going to be. And that's run into the trenches with folks. And so you feel like you have similar values. so I think all of those kind of came, came about, in, in kind of a pretty formal process where you'd go and say, Hey, this is, this is the criteria.

[00:06:00] Ryan: So it's funny when you look at your background and like, even before work. And look, we're not going to talk too much about sports today because it'll be humiliating for our sports team. You're the Philly guy, so you're used to winning as a, as a Washington sports fan. 

[00:06:16] Michael Marquis: We're used to getting into the final thing and then losing right now, but, but yeah.

[00:06:20] Ryan: I'm actually Googling the word finals right now. I'm not familiar with this term, but you know, if you go all the way back, like you, you started as like a pretty badass rower, right? I mean, all American rower. And I would love to know in your mind, What has rowing taught you about business? Like, if you take a look at your time back then, is there like a thread to how you go about your business or how you go about building teams that you learned from rowing?

[00:06:47] Michael Marquis: Yeah, yeah. I mean, it was pretty foundational in terms of a change in, I don't know, me as a person and everything. And I think, One of them is discipline. I mean, and I think if you talk to my team, I'm a pretty disciplined person in terms of like structure is helpful. Sometimes it gets a bad name, but as you you give team structure of this is when meetings are going to happen.

[00:07:06] This is when deliver was going to happen. Actually, it creates a lot of space for people to be able to do other things because there's not a question of of, You know, when things are due or, you know, how we're gonna operate. And so coming in and providing structure, I think, is pretty important. And rowing is pretty structured sport.

[00:07:22] I mean, it's the, those folks that, you know, are up at 5 a. m. 6 days a week while you're in college and everybody else is walking back from the bars and we're heading out to work out. And so, like, it, it is, it's pretty structured, And I think, I think the other thing that happens is you start realizing that, you know, you work towards something over time and, it's continuously, you continuously get better.

[00:07:42] Like, it doesn't happen immediately. And, and rowing is not one where it doesn't take a lot of, you know, Honestly, it doesn't take a lot of skill, like golf or stuff like that. I mean, you put the ore in, you pull really hard, you take it out, you put it back in again. I mean, it's, you can learn pretty, pretty quickly, but you get stronger and stronger and stronger.

[00:07:58] And you start realizing over years that, you know, that, continuous work ends up having paying off, you know, over those years. Greg Lamond, the, the Tour de France and the cyclist has one quote one time after one is like third or fourth. And I asked him, like, Does it ever get easier? He said, no, I just go faster, you know, like, and so there's a part where, you know, the, the, the work kind of keeps going in.

[00:08:19] and I think when you go and you're building a team, or you're building a business, you have to realize that it's going to take many times, you know, years to kind of get where you need to go to. And that kind of showing up every day, putting the work in, showing up every day, putting the work in is, is part of what.

[00:08:34] and I think the last one is the team orientation, and there's no individual, if you can't, you can't take eight people are in a boat and say, this one guy was the reason that they won. I mean, and so there's a, there's an element of selflessness, I think, in working in teams that happens there. 

[00:08:47] Ryan: You know, this reminds me of a, so pre pandemic, I, I went and saw Reed Hastings from Netflix speak.

[00:08:55] And one of the questions that somebody asked him is, is Netflix. A sports team or is it a, or is it a family sort of chuckled is like, yep. He was like, we're a sports team. This is not, this is performance. Not, not everybody's going to play the same minutes. Let's ask the different players. But when I look at what you're building at raw sugar, I mean, there's a lot of family going on here too.

[00:09:22] You just have your. Huge barbecue in LA, there's a watermelon contest. And someone was very upset that there weren't pictures of the watermelon. That was, is it a family or is it a sports team? 

[00:09:34] Michael Marquis: Yeah. I mean, I think the, I think the people every day, I think we're, we're, we're competitive, you know, we're, we're out there against the mission.

[00:09:41] So I think, day to day, it's more of a sports team. I think when we have our family picnic and things like that, I think we have to recognize the way that. A person is able to show up every day and contribute their best and be able to be, you know, fully engaged relies on the people that are within their family as well.

[00:09:57] So like the reason why we do this is a great opportunity for me to thank the partners and spouses and kids and friends and everybody who, who are in their lives to thank them for what they do is actually make it possible that that that athlete, if you will, can show up and perform each day. You know, we're supportive.

[00:10:13] We, we worked with each other out of love, but there's a, there's an aspect of keeping up the pace to the pace that everybody's operating out. That is an expectation and there's a requirement. 

[00:10:23] Ryan: So I think we're going to do a little dance here where we'll, let's talk about your last life and then we'll, we'll move into Russia or just for a hot second.

[00:10:29] So like, I think, I mean like J and J or Ken view or whatever we're called now today, not a small organization, probably put themselves in the sports team arena. What, what did you learn from there? I mean, there's so much you've learned, but it was like, if you could like sort of distill it down to one or two huge principles that you wanted to bring into this universe, what would those one or two be?

[00:10:55] Michael Marquis: Yeah, I mean, there's a part even, you know, I, children are going through college and even as they go to exit college, I would always recommend them to go to an organization of that level of quality, because I think you end up learning so much through various experiences around. How to, how to tackle problems, how to tackle issues, whether you're working on a global team or a local team or different functions or, you know, against different problems against different brands, it's those kind of diversity and experiences that you get so quickly that allow you when you kind of get dropped into, you know, a new situation that allow you to make sense of it all and go there.

[00:11:32] This is kind of like other problems that I've seen. yeah. I think there's an aspect of how to, like when you, when you work in a large organization, you can also understand how a business works because it's almost personified on, you know, there's a, there's a whole team of supply chain or quality or regulatory.

[00:11:49] And you want, you start understanding how all these things work together, that if you get dropped immediately into a small organization, there might not exist one of those functions. Realize that it's an important aspect of of getting things done on a bigger scale, and you might ignore it for way too long.

[00:12:05] And so I think, I think that multidisciplinary, you know, kind of, experience is really important to learn so that you kind of understand where you might have blind spots on if you were to go to a small organization. 

[00:12:18] Ryan: When I think of JJ, I imagine that there's layers and layers and layers. It's part of the deal, right?

[00:12:24] Like, in some ways, it's good. In some ways, it's good. You're, you're, you're well, well projected, but like, as you think about your communication style. I mean, you're managing up, you're managing across, you're managing your team. What, what was your approach like for like leading teams across multiple levels of management?

[00:12:47] Michael Marquis: Yeah, I mean, everybody's got their own style, I guess. Right. And, I remember there was a senior HR executive there who was trying to describe me 1 time. And she said, you know, you're seen kind of as an agitator. I was like, I guess I see that as a good thing, but, it might be. And I think you're working through multiple layers.

[00:13:06] I mean, everybody has their different approach on how to do that. I was 1 who usually in the room would say what everybody was thinking, but no 1 wanted to say, and I think it, It is one of the things that, I think is important in terms of getting business done, even with our team. Today, you know, and raw sugar, I mean, our 1st thing on our values is no ego leadership.

[00:13:24] And like, there's, there's an element of being able to, you know, say, when when things, you know, at different levels of the organization, you know, don't seem right and be able to speak out about it. and I think sometimes it's harder in order organization, because I think it's, you know, it takes take some credibility over time to be able to do that.

[00:13:41] And I think as you're coming up the ranks, sometimes it's harder to have that courage to be able to. Speak up like that. but yeah, 

[00:13:47] Ryan: I can totally see you by the way, as a Philly guy, be like, that is a compliment. Yeah, exactly. 

[00:13:53] Michael Marquis: Exactly. Yeah. It's I thought it was a compliment, but it was definitely a tag bro.

[00:13:56] So like, I, I'm sure there's other people that don't see it the same way. But it's, you know, I think it's, it all comes from a place of wanting to do the right thing. And, you know, wanting to move fast and move with intention. And I think in some cases, you can get frustrated with them in a large organization if, if not everybody's moving at the same speed.

[00:14:12] I read this in that there's a book called CEO principles. I forget the author that I was reading it as I was getting ready for, For, this role. And there was a paragraph in there that was talking about large companies and small companies. And one of the pairs that really stuck with me, it was a quote that said, in large organizations, there's so many smart people, so many intelligent people, the problem is they all think they're in charge.

[00:14:33] And that's usually what the, the challenge is, is that everybody's very smart, everybody's looking at a problem from their own kind of functional or regional or P& L perspective. And, One of the things that is, you know, that is liberating when you can go small organization is the clarity of decision making ends up being really clear. So you do much faster. 

[00:14:50] Ryan: I'm curious as you've shifted into this role, you know, it's co founder business, right? It's Ronnie and don't don't. So do you think, or did they give you any inkling on, Hey, you're coming into.

[00:15:06] It is a family and we want to be more of a sports team, or was it already on the path of like, no, our people are aware that this is about performance. What, what was shared with you or, yeah, 

[00:15:16] Michael Marquis: it was more, it was definitely more beef. I mean, they, they're, they're, you know, they're business people who've operated in, retail and manufacturing for a long period of time.

[00:15:25] So they, they, They get the demands, the expectations from our customers and from consumers. So, there are certainly people who have been on the journey that, hold a special place in the heart of raw sugar because they were there from, you know, employee number 234 that, you know, are important for us to recognize and, and, not sighted as the business grows.

[00:15:45] but they understand that it's, you know, we're here to win. 

[00:15:50] Ryan: Yeah, it's pretty cool. I mean, you guys are raw sugars tiptoeing towards it's it's decade anniversary, curious to hear what the party's going to look like, but like you think back to before those first real launch days at target and natural was like, it may have been in the store, but it was in the back of the store.

[00:16:11] You know, it was better for you, but it was so, you know, it was good for you, but it was so expensive. And now, I mean, as your daughters have grown up. I mean, I'm sure they've seen a complete shift and like, wait, this doesn't make any sense. This is better for you to better product. How do we make this accessible to all?

[00:16:28] Is that sort of the idea here? 

[00:16:30] Michael Marquis: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think they were ahead of their time in terms of making clean products. and it took a combination of, you know, Don this kind of creative vision, around products and Ronnie's expertise and, and business and supply chain and sourcing and knowing kind of this could be done.

[00:16:45] and then in partnership with target who, you know, stands for affordable joy. And so there was this element of how to, how to make something affordable and how to make it wonderful. And I think one of the problems with the, you know, The real natural products that existed back then is they could be to the mainstream consumer a little bit kind of intimidating a little bit to granola, if you will.

[00:17:05] And so what they did was make clean products, but also in the design, it was designed for display and design for the mainstream person who was trying to do a little bit better. And, You know, the white bottle bamboo cap. It's not it doesn't scream. Hey, this is a, you know, you pick this up in the small natural store in your, you know, in your town.

[00:17:25] This is more of a mainstream product for, you know, the millennial parent, if you will. And I think they hit a sweet spot in terms of the design and the execution. and, you know, we've continued, the business continues to kind of grow and grow because also the product performance is, it's great. You know, we're, we're able to, design the products from a quality standpoint.

[00:17:43] That is, Really, really high level and, you know, make some of the choices to put product before marketing, which I think is one of our mantras is, you know, great marketing, get somebody by product once, but a great product and some coming back over and over again. Yeah. 

[00:17:56] Ryan: In the spirit of courage. And I think this is more from what I read from like Donda.

[00:18:03] I mean, target is basically the first one that says, yes. It is a massive swing. It is a massive cut. It's not a small test, right? This is like, go big or go home, and a swing for the fences. And I think about your style with rowing about being consistent and being disciplined every day. They're almost like, you know, against or opposites of each other.

[00:18:23] But then I, I did read that packaging and labeling was super disciplined. And so where do you see it's like the time to go big and where do you see it's like, stay disciplined and let's go small and be smart about how we, how we grow. 

[00:18:37] Michael Marquis: Yeah. I mean, I think, I think you have to listen to both sides of the brain.

[00:18:40] I mean, that's one of the things that I love working with our team is we have both sides, both the creative side that, you know, are, I learned this recently who are polychronic, meaning they don't show up to meetings on time. And then you have the other side of the team who is monochronic, who show up on time and expect everything to be done.

[00:18:57] And I think as long as you embrace those two groups, you have A, you know, big swing of the fence, you allowed to have some of those creative ideas, see the light of day. And then, you know, you have folks, you know, me, the supply chain team, everything behind them going like, all right, here's what the order part is going to be.

[00:19:14] Here's we're going to be the forecast is how we're going to build our analytics behind it. But you don't let that drive. You know, the big idea and the vision you want to have for the company. And so I think you'd have to find ways to make sure that both live in the, you know, in the meeting room and the boardroom and the discussions and give space for that.

[00:19:32] Ryan: Well, you know, I like this Polly, Polly and Molly will call them. How does Polly and Molly survive a pandemic like in this hybrid workforce? Like, is it, when you say they they're showing up late, is it showing up to a zoom late? Is it, are you, is everyone back in the office? What's your. Yeah, strategy on all this.

[00:19:52] Michael Marquis: yeah, well, it's a good question. We had a, we did this last week as we were kind of working on our long term plan and I got into this topic and it kind of blew the meeting up and I'm deciding we can't put that in the middle of like a strategic planning conversations, kind of, you know, world predictions, but, We've hit, I think, a pretty good sweet spot.

[00:20:09] I spent some time with employees, last week around, you know, how, how people are feeling about it. and we have a blend of both. We have, our critical masses in LA. a lot of our teams out there, we'll meet a couple of days a week in the office, you know, by function, and, and have those meetings.

[00:20:24] We're there as a total company once a quarter. And then, frankly, we were out on the front lines a lot. We're with customers, we're with suppliers, we're at conferences. And when we do that, it's important for us to bring along those leaders that need, training, education, you know, leadership kind of exposure.

[00:20:42] you know, you can do that in the hallways of a big company. lessons that that does happen in a smaller company. you're spread a little bit center to be able to do that. So what's important is to bring them along on those. Those trips, those customer meetings, those interactions for them to get the experience with leadership and have some quality time, whether it's waiting for a flight or, you know, getting ready for a meeting.

[00:21:03] so I think we kind of have this multi prong approach to it. that right now, I think is, I think is working. You know, certainly with an LA base, we want to keep people not on the highways and productive and healthy. And so it's, yeah, eliminating the commute, five days a week, I think is also something they really value.

[00:21:18] Ryan: I mean, we've got to be careful when talking about pandemics for all obvious reasons, but it did feel like the hand wash Part of your business kind of got noticed and that was sort of a gateway to the rest of your, you know, your brands, your, your, your categories. Is that an accurate statement? 

[00:21:43] Michael Marquis: Yeah. So in 2020, Yeah, hand wash took off because one, we had some really smart people doing some great things from supply. So we had supply during that time. and, target recognizes actually as their vendor of the year in the category. And so we were, really proud of that factor. And it got a lot of brand awareness and, and, you know, the quality of a product in consumers hands in 2020.

[00:22:05] when everything came back to earth in 2021 from a hand soap standpoint, the business actually grew in 2021, but it was because when they came back, to the stores, they had a great experience with the hand soap and they bought body wash and hair care and kids and men's. And, and so, it definitely lit a spark that allowed the business to have a much stronger, awareness.

[00:22:25] And so, it, Yeah, we're glad we were there for people when they needed product, and we're able to deliver and it's nice to have them come back and reward us for, good service and good, good quality products. 

[00:22:36] Ryan: You're in so many different categories now. I mean, it's not like you're in one aisle, you're cross aisle.

[00:22:42] And how does that help you or how does it hurt you? Maybe it's a better way to say it when you're like trying to like articulate the story. Sure. Does the buyer get it? Do they get the full picture story all the time? 

[00:22:54] Michael Marquis: Yeah. Well, not all the time. Sometimes we have to spend some time, but the You know, if you take back to the very beginning of why brands existed, you know, back in the, you know, late, you know, early 1900s and why brands were created is they ended up being a mark of trust that the quality of the product they were buying was at a certain level of expectations.

[00:23:16] And I think what's happened in the last, the last decade or so is that within categories, there are certain brands that are standing for. Clean products that they know don't have things that are going to surprise them. And when you stand for that as a brand, you, can go into categories where consumers feel like the, the need is not being met and meet that need.

[00:23:39] And that's why we've, I think, had a lot of success across multiple categories, because that's the way consumers see us. And we also do it as we come in, not by. Taking the price points in the category and and jacking them up 2 times at a very affordable price point. So I think that has worked and, You know, and then we usually have kind of at any given retailer, kind of a sponsor buyer who kind of sees the whole vision that we partner with that, can help us kind of navigate through different kind of retail challenges to make sure that we can, we can present ourselves as one holistic brand 

[00:24:12] Ryan: going back to the very beginning again on on your J and J days.

[00:24:15] But I find it fascinating. You don't run into too many financial analysts that end up as global directors. Did you, I mean, maybe the simpler question is like, how did you go from, Hey, focusing on the money. I mean, even today you're in the business of delivering brand love. You know, this is, so talk to me about that shift and how you see it as a competitive advantage as well.

[00:24:41] Michael Marquis: Yeah. I mean, I think, When I sit down, I talk especially about, you know, people, my daughter's age and, and, you know, people are starting out their careers. One thing I really focus on with them is, about being curious and curiosity and feeding that and being innately curious. And I think what ended up happening is when I was in.

[00:24:57] Finance and, you know, in different roles, when you started asking why you were doing something, why was this important? Why? Who does this go to? What? And you kind of were a little annoying with your 57 questions to people. You end up finding folks who are who are actually really excited to be able to sit down and explain.

[00:25:16] You know, explain the context of what you're working on to you. And as you start kind of getting more and more context, you start realizing where the,you know, where the business decisions are being made and that curiosity is a kind of, you know, building your knowledge and foundation. and, you know, so I was in finance for a few years and then saw that a lot of the decisions and on brands and consumer goods were being made in brand marketing.

[00:25:38] Worked my way over there and, you know, I, you know, just kept asking questions and, you know, ended up, you know, feeding that curiosity. And I think that's what, what led down that, down that path. 

[00:25:48] Ryan: I mean, now it's just part of the timeline, but if you could go back to that, I mean, that is a leap. It is a courageous leap.

[00:25:55] Sure. Do you remember it being like, is this the right decision for me or did you just know and go?

[00:26:01] Michael Marquis: Yeah, I mean, it was definitely curious because the last person in finance who whatever marketing ended up getting, getting fired about 6 months later. So I got a lot of warnings going like that. Well, usually don't do this.

[00:26:12] And so, you know, it's a tougher thing. Most of the recruiting is out of, you know, kind of top MBA schools and I didn't have an MBA. And so. but I knew, like, I, I wanted to do something on a broader business standpoint. So it was either like, do this and take a leap or go back to business school or doing something.

[00:26:26] I was pretty young and, you know, there's a lot of other options over there. And in many cases, a lot of those leaps, I go back to, you know, mentors and sponsors and people in my life who were like, you know, really felt there for me. My first manager, you know, our leader in marketing, who kind of sponsored me to come over.

[00:26:44] I think I talked to him last Friday. I mean, it's now, you know, you know, 25 years later, that, you know, as a sponsor, you felt that you felt. supported by having somebody who really wanted you to be there and, you know, it was there when you messed up and, you know, I remember, I still remember bringing into office and bringing me the riot act and I screwed up a few times, but then let me, let me, go back and, and, you know, continue to kind of thrive in the organization.

[00:27:09] So, no, I think, I think it was, I think some of those leaps, early on in your career are really good to, to make. And, you know, they usually work out if not, if not for the specific role, but in terms of like building your confidence to be able to do those more. 

[00:27:22] Ryan: I don't feel like this is a, as much of a, Problem for this next generation workforce.

[00:27:28] I think they're making leaps like almost too many leaps personally, but I, you know, that's just from my own perspective. all right. This is a Billy Collins special here. So here we go. I look, you've got two amazing daughters. What have you learned from being a, this is his language, hashtag girl, dad. And I think the second part, typical two parter for Billy, when you did relocate down to Tampa and you brought your family, like, how'd you know it was time to like, Lay down roots in this new place.

[00:27:58] Michael Marquis: Yeah. Yeah, so I'm going to have the first one. I don't know that the list is really long, but we've learned from the girls on, you know, how to lead. I think some of the best, you know, things are stories to tell versus just, you know, business jargon. I always go back to a moment and, during the pandemic when we're trying to decide, are we bringing people back when the office or not?

[00:28:17] And a huge debate as a leader, and I'm running an office in Florida. And there's all kinds of, you know, different pressures, two days a week, three days a week. We're going to do and, we're sitting around the table and I, you know, when they get older, I was able to share a lot of, you know, things that were on my mind with them.

[00:28:33] And they were very smart,smart women that could, you know, give me perspective and my oldest daughter, Julia, who's an environmental science and ecology major at Emory and very, you know, sustainably minded. goes to me, why don't you do what you do for climate change for the office? And I was like, what do you mean?

[00:28:49] She goes, say you'll come back in 2050. Because that's on, you know, corporations make these long term environmental commitments in 20 or 30 years. And, you know, this 1 seems to be very urgent for getting people out of the office, but you're applying to change. 1 doesn't seem to be as aggressive. And there, you know, she was being kind of facetious about the whole thing, but I remember as a, you know, just as a leader listening to it, going like, yeah, you know, the.

[00:29:17] Her generation, some of the commitments that have been made in the past relative to. You know, climate change and sustainability are almost laughable to her generation. And so I think it's, it's one of the things that was, I don't know, I think I always remember that story because I think, you know, I will, whatever roles I'm in, I will kind of, you know, probably never commit to something that is, you know.

[00:29:40] 15 years out as a commitment to my organization, because I think it's, it's, it ends up being, kind of laughed off. but I mean, day to day, I mean, I'm, I'm learning from them, especially as it relates to, you know, how to market to a different, generation of consumers. So it's been, it's been wonderful.

[00:29:54] Ryan: It's super tricky as a creative, right? Cause it's like, You have to worry about, family focus groups. Like there's so many family focus groups, work like stories and like, just get my, get me a little nervous. Like, oh, well, the CEO's wife, like this idea, but, but I find I'm doing it too with my kids.

[00:30:13] Like they're the ones living in. This, this fast paced world and like, how am I creating a better world for them? And undeniably this next generation, what I love about them is it's a little cliche to say it, but they wear their values on their sleeves with their dollars. They're not going to wear support something that's not in line with their value system.

[00:30:33] So it's very much real. 

[00:30:35] Michael Marquis: Yeah, yeah, no, it's been, Yeah, they've they've been, you know, amazing parties on this whole journey. and, moving down here. I mean, it was, you know, moving down the floor. It was a little bit of a,I never would have, you know, people told the guy from Philly. I was moving the floor.

[00:30:48] I would have laughed at, you know, like, I never thought it would be down here. And I think when we. when we purchased the, the company at J and J, and I started commuting, I knew the community thing wasn't working for me and my family. We decided we were going to move, and, you know, and we thought it was, you know, for a short period of time, I think probably the pandemic and everything kind of extended some of that.

[00:31:07] And, you know, we were kind of Locked in place, and I think also like a lot of people, over the course of that time, probably our values and our priorities in life changed over the course of that. And, Decided to, you know, we've been here now six years and decided to make this a bit of a home base.

[00:31:22] and, we'll see where, we'll see where the world, world takes us next. But, but it's been, it's been a good journey so far. 

[00:31:28] Ryan: Billy just assumed because there was a Wawa nearby is why he moved down 

[00:31:32] Michael Marquis: there. Yeah, it was, I was very pleasantly surprised. The funny thing is, is with the fillies in Clearwater, there's like a small little contagion of, Philadelphia down here from Wawa to a, a really good Eagles bar that I can go watch the Eagles at that is not, it's not the highbrow fans either.

[00:31:47] It's like the good, there's usually some, some craziness going on. 

[00:31:50] Ryan: We call that home. so if you can go back and change, you know, like 25 years of some pretty serious rooms, some serious, seriously professional rooms. But if, if there was one decision that you would have changed of your career, you know, what, what would that have been?

[00:32:09] If there's like one place that may be like, Oh, I should have done this versus that, or, or what's your even philosophy on like looking back and being like, huh, that would've been interesting if I would've done that different. Yeah. 

[00:32:20] Michael Marquis: I mean, I think the one thing that you're often get caught in that is, You know, there's a lot of folks, I think, especially in the U.

[00:32:26] S. that are very resistant to pick up and move their families, move their young families, away from family and friends and support network and stuff like that. And, I was one of those, for sure. You know, like, and you would, you would say all the right things of, yeah, I'm open to it. And then, you know, the offer would come and you would come up with some reason why it didn't work for you.

[00:32:45] And, And I think it's, it's one of the best things you can do for your Children, like, and it's one of the, it's one of the, even today, they wouldn't tell you that, they're better people because they picked up and had to move and had to simulate in school and, you know, get a different environment, the pros and cons of it and everything.

[00:33:04] And I think it's one of the, I look back and those opportunities were probably presented to me earlier when, you know, my Children were younger. And I think having that courage makes some of those moves a little bit earlier, I think, is one of the things that, You know, it might have opened up some, some different doors, but I think also just make everybody a bit, a bit stronger and tighter as a family, because it does, you know, it definitely does happen.

[00:33:26] It's just, if you see it, you see it time and again, then it's hard to get that perspective. I think when you're chasing around a, you know, a four and a two year old and, you know, saying, gosh, I need all these people in my life to help me make things work. and it's a work now, you know, and, I think that leave is one that is hard for people to see and make.

[00:33:43] Ryan: Well, I like the resilience that's built into families or your kids when you do make a shift. And like I live in San Diego, California, I don't have to have the conversation with my wife. I know she's not interested in moving somewhere else, but I, but I like that. Barely any of my clients are here. Like I'm always on a plane and most people would be like, Oh, does that, doesn't that bother you?

[00:34:09] I'm like, no, my kids are smart enough, even at 10 and seven to know. That like, yes, it takes hard work to live in a place like this. And if that means daddy has to be on a plane, thank goodness for FaceTime, then, then that at least there's a lesson in almost all of my decisions. The first layer now is like, how will the family sort of marinate in this?

[00:34:34] Will they get it? And so, Yeah. It would be nice to have a couple of clients in San Diego. But I'm sure you feel the same way being in Florida. I mean, how often are you in California now? 

[00:34:45] Michael Marquis: Yeah, we're there. at least have a quarter plus a couple other times. but honestly, I see most of the leadership team.

[00:34:51] Being Cincinnati day after tomorrow with folks, you know, and so we, we, we're traveling quite a button, a bunch to meet with customers and everything. But, but, yeah, I mean, I think, you know, this work from home thing plus travel, I think is a fairly good, good balance as long as, you know, folks are willing to do it.

[00:35:07] it's just what it would have been harder. I think I'm a family, you know, a different stage of life. 

[00:35:12] Ryan: So 15 months in at Raw Sugar, let's say you, you, you come back 15 months from now. Mm-hmm. , what, what will you have like, oh, would be you most proud of that you've sort of helped accelerate at the business?

[00:35:26] Michael Marquis: Yeah, I mean, I, one of the things that, when you have a founder based business, you know, these founders who are, you know, have the passion and you start pulling things out, but they have the vision and they're doing everything right and you, you know, everything under the sun and working like crazy. And then as you go and you bring in, you know, a level of, support and, you know, kind of professionalism at the top at different things, you usually bring in kind of the top executive.

[00:35:49] Team, which we, which we have done and we've gotten some great talent, but it's running marketing, supply chain and sales, finance, et cetera. And, but we're in an organization really takes off is when the folks, you get a, a group of folks underneath them. That are hungry and passionate to, to learn and drive the business and they're empowered to do the work.

[00:36:11] and that's where we've really been building, you know, some really strong talent and bringing them in because they're the ones who, the kind of organization I want to run is that they feel empowered to go get after it. You know, they understand what the brand is about. where our goals are, and they can go out and get after it.

[00:36:26] And, you know, when they come back to leaders, it's more telling us about their wins and their challenges and what they need help on. and that's where I think in 15 months, having an organization that is filled with people who are passionate about what we're trying to do and, can operate kind of independently, not everything being run up through a set of, a set of folks, I think is, It's kind of vision that I think will really be, really be winning.

[00:36:49] that, 

[00:36:50] Ryan: that is brand love as far as I'm concerned. And I think one of the things that you wish more organizations got, it's like PS, what you're telling the outside world, you should probably operationalize on the inside. And so I'm curious how brand love, like, how have you taken that? And where else have you seen it?

[00:37:11] And obviously we just talked about inside the organization. You want to amplify it. And how is it landing in the outside world as well? 

[00:37:18] Michael Marquis: Yeah, I mean, I need one example. One of the things is our kids line that I think from a brand love standpoint is, you know, it was launched great packaging, you know, wonderful sense.

[00:37:26] And, you know, in a, in an aisle that you can imagine with kids that there weren't a lot of clean products for kids. And so it was a lot of licensed product. And the formulas were, were not stuff that adults were used, which is kind of, crazy that you wouldn't be using. Salt baits or, you know, preservative systems and stuff like that on the kids that, you know, a lot of adults will use.

[00:37:46] And so we went in and we disrupted that and we're, you know, a lot of great success on it. But I think, when you think about brand love, when you start to talk to, you know, parents with kids, you know, bath time is not just, you know, washing in a great sense, but it's definitely play time as well, especially with those toddlers.

[00:38:01] And, we recently launched a product that was, slime, right? It's a slime that you can use as a body wash, right? Which parents, you know, hate slime, but this is one that rinses off. For instance, I could stick to the walls. It rinses off like a body wash. But when you think about like the brand ethos and the brand love that we have, you first make the slime and we don't have any artificial colors in any of our products.

[00:38:22] So we get the sample of the slime and it's clear and it just looks like boogers, right? It's just like... It's like, this isn't fun, this just looks like a clear gel. Yeah, we gotta make it green, pink, or something like that. so it's our first colored product, but actually we use chlorophyll. so we use natural chlorophyll is the green that's in there, versus any kind of artificial dyes.

[00:38:42] which I think it's pretty cool, because you're kind of going and saying like, Yeah. People come to our brand because they want to make sure it's free of, you know, all the things that are, they're concerned about. And so, but we also were listening to the kids and saying like, we need to have something that's a little bit of fun factor.

[00:38:56] So it's pretty cool. 

[00:38:57] Ryan: I instantly think of Ghostbusters. Like that is brand love and it's doing what's right for the consumer for sure. All right. look, there's a lot of future Billy Collins is out there in the world. and so in the spirit of, I just think we have a lot of people that listen that are, they.

[00:39:14] They are curious people. They, they do want to advance in their careers. What advice or like, if you're going to like take us home, a one, two, three on how they should go about, and you've already said, stay curious. Like, let's be curious in which take on what other pieces of snippets of advice can you give out?

[00:39:31] Michael Marquis: Yeah. I mean, someone said to me once what I thought was great advice. Take like the worst job at the best organization versus the best job at the worst organization. And I think there's some truth to it. Like, and you, you know, if you are curious and you get into an amazing organization some way, somehow, even if it's not exactly in the wheelhouse of what, you know, you want to do, you'll find your way.

[00:39:51] Like the, the green rises to the top. And so you, Yeah. That's where I think a lot of folks kind of, you know, sacrifice because I think they need a certain title or they need a certain, you know, things like that, you know, it's better. You're joining an organization, hopefully for the long term and, you know, look for those great organizations and check them out.

[00:40:09] Like, that's, you know, that's one of the things that I, as I go and I meet with kind of interns or folks, if people don't have like, 15 question for me and I have a meeting with them and they have like two or three questions. I'm like, well, you know, I'm done. And you, as I talk to my daughters, I'm like, you guys better, you better just pepper this.

[00:40:26] I don't care if it's a c e o of a Fortune 15 company, like you come in pepper with, with questions because they, that's what they're there for. They're there to like answer those questions. And and I think that's, those two I think are key,key to success. and I think, I think the last one is, You know, as you're going through and you're starting to work on things, you know, try to understand the why people are asking you to do things and it's kind of around the curious, but what ends up happening?

[00:40:54] I think what allowed me to kind of. Really, my career kind of, you know, get, get some great opportunities is, you know, I, I often find myself saying you asked me for a, but I thought about why you asked me for a, and I did, but I also didn't be because if I was you, I'd want to be, and here's B and usually it was B was what they, you know, they didn't brief me all that well.

[00:41:15] And it's afraid of, like, you get a crappy brief and you go, like, I did the brief, but that's probably not what you want. You probably won't be. And I think if you stop short of. Yeah. Really trying to understand what people are trying to deliver. You're not going to be able to separate yourself out.

[00:41:28] You're just going to kind of be a cog in the machine doing what's being asked of you. And I think you need to find a way to, you know, think beyond that and deliver kind of the extra. 

[00:41:36] Ryan: Yeah, I, I always say to my team, like, never forget that our phone rang for a reason. Like there is a problem that hasn't been solved.

[00:41:43] Yeah. Maybe that's not the right problem. Yeah. There's a different problem that we should be looking at. All right. I lied in the spirit of peppering leaders. I've got one more and then I'll let you roll. So, you know, when you've done what you've done for so long, I mean, you have seen, you got a lot of bats in a good way, right?

[00:42:02] But I'm sure there's still fear. I'm sure there's still like, you know, I won't go too cliche like what keeps you up at night, but fear and courage are kin. And how do you make sure that you unlearn? Or where do you need to unlearn things that used to be truths? Yeah. And now you see them, you're like, okay, is this one of those moments I have to be wary of this?

[00:42:23] How do you, what's that process like for you? 

[00:42:26] Michael Marquis: I, I think there's emerging kind of threats that happen on businesses that, You know, weren't the threats that you had before you used to have threats of customer issues or, you know, people coming after you, competitors, et cetera. And, you know, now you have threats of, you know, somebody decides to go on tick tock and has a million viewers and, you know, says something bad about you and it's taking this truth.

[00:42:48] Right? And so, like, you know, those are threats that that initially. You know, you'll go and check off a, oh, my gosh, what's wrong with this generation being the first response. But actually, you have to, you have to workshop that and go like, all right, what is, you know, how do you, how do you handle this now?

[00:43:04] How do you, how do you engage in different platforms? So I think there is, I think kind of understanding what those are, I think is probably one of the bigger things that you're, keeping up my, but I think that's where, like, as a leader, you have to put in the work of like, reading and understanding and.

[00:43:19] Sharing, you know, we're, we're, you know, there's a lot of members of my team. We share like books and articles and different things where we're just trying to kind of understand how to best react to different things that are going to be changing with, with the business. And so I think it's more so of, trying to keep up on, you know, what's, you know, what's changing.

[00:43:35] And also, you know, I think in, in that kind of staying true to, you know, your values, like if you take in the last, what is the last two weeks when threads launched or whatever, and so we threads launches and we decide how we go out and we get our, our handle. And, you know, you're talking with the team and you're going, you know, you're already managing like five social channels to begin with a really small team, like you're just, your head's going to explode if you kind of try to add this onto the work pile.

[00:43:58] Like, let's be, let's. Watch and learn and see how this plays out. And, you know, we're happy to be a fast follower. but it's important that we learn about it and understand. So you can't take the learning off the table, but you can, you can take some of the, reactionary actions off the table. So I think, I think as I've gotten, you know, gotten more perspective, you end up spending a lot more time educating yourself.

[00:44:21] Ryan: Well, Mike, thanks for your time, man. Continue to enjoy the ride over there. I look forward, when is your last daughter still in high school?

[00:44:28] Michael Marquis: Yeah. So she, she just graduated. So she's,

[00:44:30] Ryan: Oh, we look forward to you being a California resident soon then. 

[00:44:34] Michael Marquis: Right. I mean, she's going to Boston. So, so everything's tied kind of these coast pools.

[00:44:40] Ryan: Everyone's got it. I wish you in the business. Well, I feel differently about the Eagles, which, you know, thanks for coming on, man. Good to see you. 

[00:44:48] Michael Marquis: You bet. Take care. 

[00:44:51] Ryan: Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The Courageous Podcast. If you enjoy the show, don't forget to rate and review us on Apple Podcasts so more people can find us.

[00:45:00] See you again next week.

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