Expertise, experience, and excellence mixed with character, kindness, and a commitment to quality makes for one hell of a company culture cocktail. While always focused on our mission to change what the world is drinking, we believe establishing a professional environment that values our people as much as our profits and prioritizes true work-life balance ultimately leads to the type of serious and significant engagement that results in lasting, sustainable success. Operating with positive intent, communicating with respect and honesty, demanding quality throughout the process, embracing change as we celebrate unprecedented growth, and remaining ethical, principled, and accountable, this is The Flavorman Way.
Far too often professional environments and corporate cultures center around fear and politics, selfishness and greed. Hey, it’s a dog-eat-dog world, right? Survival of the fittest where the only thing that matters is the bottom line. Profits over people, numbers over names, policies over common sense, legal liability over ethical responsibility, exorbitant executive bonuses over reasonable working wages. The relentless pressure to outperform year-over-year and meet arbitrary and unreasonable goals and expectations can and will warp your mind, challenge your character, suffocate your creativity, and exhaust your spirit. Every day is a battle to keep perspective, manage your boss, and prioritize yourself. It’s no way to work and certainly no way to live. Nonetheless, it’s an undeniable reality for far too much of the American workforce. At one time or another, we’ve all gotten a taste of that dangerous toxicity, which is why when you find a supportive, encouraging, rewarding, and empowering culture like the one here at Flavorman, you can’t help but celebrate and appreciate it.
And at our core is The Flavorman Way, a roadmap of guiding principles that define and shape how we communicate, behave, and interact internally so that we can be at our best externally. The foundation of Flavorman is rooted in our expertise, character, and commitment to quality and with the company’s explosive growth over the last three years, it became clear that we needed to formally identify our core values and fundamentals if we wanted to protect the sacred culture that’s inspired the genius and ingenuity of our people and process for the past 31 years.
Including when COVID hit in 2020. While most of the world was shutting their doors and struggling to stay in business, we quickly transitioned to producing hand sanitizer for the state and actually ended up hiring people when the panic of the pandemic was at its height. And we haven’t stopped. Over the past three years, we’ve more than doubled our workforce (from 38 employees to 66) while continuing to set new revenue records seemingly every month. Add in the completion of our transformative new $8.5M, 27K-square-foot Scott Reed Building and our move later this year to an additional 13K-square-foot building that will more than triple the working space for our world-class lab and flavor teams, and it doesn’t take a beverage scientist to figure out business is booming. Make no mistake about it, the future of Flavorman is now. And as we continue to navigate our way through this period of rapid growth and significant change, we’ll make sure we don’t go astray by staying true to The Flavorman Way.
1) Assume Positive Intent
“See the best in people and watch how they fight to prove you right.” – Skip Prichard
The road to success is often filled with potholes, wrong turns, and torrential downpours. But the companies that weather the storms and make it through do it because of their people and leadership. And when both are aligned, great things can happen. Look, we all make mistakes. Even the best of us. But when companies show grace and understanding instead of judgement and disdain, they earn the kind of meaningful trust and authentic buy-in that ultimately leads to long-term success. When smart, motivated, and well-intentioned professionals are given the benefit of the doubt and a chance to right their wrongs, a fierce loyalty and deep appreciation are developed for an environment that supports us at our worst and celebrates us at our best. Sure, there will be those who take a foot when given an inch, but the rest of us will take that inch and give it back in spades because that’s what you do when you’re a good teammate on a great team. You play inspired because you’re surrounded and supported by inspired people. Positive intent > toxic politics; trust > micro-management; grace > judgement; empowerment > fear.
2) Be Accountable & Engage In Blameless Solutions
“Wisdom stems from personal accountability. We all make mistakes; own them…learn from them. Don’t throw away the lesson by blaming others.” – Steve Maraboli
All five principles of The Flavorman Way intersect and overlap in many ways, particularly the first three, as true accountability and honest, respectful communication can really only take place when the parties involved trust everyone is operating with positive intentions. When it’s about the whole instead of the parts, the team instead of the individual, then people can truly come together, move forward as one, and address issues and solve problems effectively because of a shared trust and respect. The Blame Game is a devastating and destructive force, and yet, it’s played at the highest stakes routinely in far too many professional environments – where ego, politics, and greed create a toxicity that drains the spirit and poisons company cultures.
3) Communicate With Maturity, Respect, & Honesty
“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply.” – Roy T. Bennett
When we think about interpersonal communication, we think about the importance of speaking and writing with clarity, purpose, and sincerity so we give ourselves the best chance to get our point across. However, no matter how carefully crafted the message is or how authentically it’s delivered, it doesn’t matter if nobody is listening. That’s why it’s so critically important that communication travels down a two-way road, where interactions take place with open minds, empathetic hearts, and positive intentions. That’s when you establish the kind of direct and honest communication that gets things done and moves companies forward.
4) Demand Quality & Ethics
“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” – Will A. Foster
Quality is at the core of everything we do here at Flavorman and Moonshine University because of the expertise, talent, passion, and commitment of our people. No detail is too small and no project is too big. Our lab teams have created more than 80,000 original beverage formulations over the last three decades. It’s an astonishing and impressive amount of work. And with the recent growth of the company and exciting developments happening, our R&D and flavor teams are as inspired as they’ve ever been to change what the world is drinking by continuing to capture the imagination of our clients so they can deliver innovative new products to an ever-evolving marketplace. In order to accomplish that mission, we’ll continue to depend on the talent and experience of our people and the power of our collaborative and thorough process, which begins and ends with quality, a defining trait of our business since day one. It’s why Jones Soda decided to work with us way back in 1994 after a number of their flavored sodas were failing in quality and needed to be reformulated. And in a matter of weeks, we not only made sure their sodas were shelf-life dependable, we turned them into their five highest-selling flavors.
5) Embrace & Celebrate Change As Necessary For Growth
“Without change there is no innovation, creativity, or incentive for improvement. Those who initiate change will have a better opportunity to manage the change that is inevitable.” – William Pollard
When our founder, Dave Dafoe, started Flavorman (legally known as Pro-Liquitech) more than 30 years ago in 1992, he was the only employee. Eighteen years later, in 2010, Flavorman still had just 12 team members. Today, as we previously mentioned, we have 66, more than half of which have been hired post-COVID. And it hasn’t been just our team that’s exploded in growth, our physical footprint has expanded as well. With the purchase of the building that will serve as the new home for our R&D and flavor teams and the completion of our game-changing production building, Flavorman’s state-of-the-art Beverage Campus in downtown Louisville, KY now populates an entire city block.
Things have been moving fast, but our team has embraced the changes and inevitable challenges just as we always have throughout our history, especially when times have been toughest. Whether it was almost losing Dave in 2004 when he was hospitalized for over a month or being knocked to our knees by an historic flood in 2009, we’ve been at our best when our best has been needed. For better or worse, in sickness and health, come hell or high water, this company will continue to rise to the challenge because of our selfless leadership, quality of our people, and commitment to each other.
In an interview with Forbes in 2015, Dave talked about his deep appreciation for the people who have shed blood, sweat, and tears right alongside him all these years. With a multimillion offer already on the table, Dave was asked why he hadn’t sold the company.
“I’m not just going to sell and whisk my way off to the Caribbean and leave people here who have helped me build this business. We have very little turnover. Many of our employees started right out of college. I’m only interested in a purchaser who wants to come in and build the business.”
That level of loyalty is why Chief Business Officer Jon Wood is still here after 27 years, Inventory Specialist Scott Reed is going 19 years strong, Special Projects Manager Cory Pierce has been here for 16 years, COO Scott Weddle is on year 13, and Chief Technical Officer Kristen Wemer has been with the company for over a decade. And that’s just to name a few.
Because the more things change, the more they stay the same. We’ve certainly come a long way since Dave bravely left the comfortable confines of corporate America at Brown-Forman and started Pro-Liquitech with nothing but his perfect palate and cash advances from a handful of credit cards, coupled with an uncanny ability to develop unique and original beverages. However, at our core, we’re the same company we’ve always been. Creative, dynamic, intelligent, passionate, driven, determined, and dedicated.
And it starts at the top with a group of steady, unselfish leaders who empower our people by cultivating a culture that shows us grace when we fall short of expectations, looks for solutions without assigning blame, communicates honestly and respectfully, demands quality in everything we do, and celebrates change and growth. The kind of culture that honors an employee’s 19 years of loyalty and hard work by naming its new $8.5M building after him; the kind of culture led by a founder and CEO who didn’t speak or take a shovel at the groundbreaking for the production building because he wanted our new COO to have that moment and become the public face of our company; the kind of culture that’s never lost its way through the years because we’ve always operated with the same commitment to quality and character that we had when we first opened up shop way back in 1992, when The Dream Team was dominating the Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Nirvana’s Nevermind was at the top of the charts, and Dave had a lot more black hair.
“As Flavorman enjoyed its 30th year in business and completion of our new production building, I reminded myself that I did not build Flavorman by myself. It was natural to name this building for a long-time co-worker who contributed in many ways to our growth. Companies often talk about creating meaningful company culture, and naming the Scott Reed Building is one way we continue to put words into action.” – Dave Dafoe, Founder & CEO
This is The Flavorman Way.
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