Chris Hall

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. There is a better way to do everything vs working harder or longer.

Chris Hall is currently the Chief Executive Office at Talking Rain Beverage Company and has been with the company for over ten years. Prior to joining Talking Rain, he worked in the hospitality industry and served as a submariner in the United States Navy. Chris’s time in the Navy and the hospitality industry has helped mold his commitment to service, dedication, and drive for excellence.

In 2007, Chris joined the Talking Rain team as an HR Assistant, from there he transitioned into his first sales and marketing position at the company, focusing on schools and trade marketing. In early 2009, he became the Midwest Market Manager and within that same year, expanded his role by becoming the Midwest and Northeast Regional Sales Manager. As the Sparkling Ice business began to grow, Chris became the Director of Sales for the Midwest and Northeast, helping land one of Talking Rain’s top retailers to date, Kroger. As the VP of Sales for the Midwest and Northeast, Chris helped the company achieve its goal to have 100% DSD coverage and distribution. In late 2014, Chris was named VP of Sales, where he first oversaw the DSD and Retail business. Later, he assumed responsibilities for all Sales and Supply Chain Operations in the role of Chief Operating Officer. By mid-2018, Chris was appointed to Chief Executive Officer, where he led the charge in re-designing the corporate pillars (Purpose, Vision, Values, & Foundation), developed and implemented the Path to Sustainable Success (Corporate Strategy), and accelerated the pace of the business with a focus on optimization and product pipeline. In 2018, the company achieved a record-breaking sales period, with over 15 million cases of Sparkling Ice shipped throughout the US through June, July, and August.

Chris Hall has a B.S. in Business from Central Washington University and resides in Black Diamond, WA. When Chris has free time, attention goes to his family and spending time outside with his grill and meat smoker, both of which allow him to relax and recharge.

Where did the idea for Talking Rain Beverage Company come from?

Sparkling Ice was first created in 1992 after we saw that consumers were looking for a flavorful, sparkling beverage, without all the calories and sugar. To meet our consumer and customer needs, we created Sparkling Ice, a boldly flavored, zero sugar sparkling water.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

I wake up at 430am, quick exercise on the rower, then out the door by 530am. At the office by 6 am, spending the first 1-2 hours preparing for the day. One thing I do to increase productivity is to limit the number of reoccurring meetings on my calendar, as they can become mundane and repetitive for everyone involved. I typically use my lunch hour to connect with various teammates for one on ones. Once I’ve wrapped up all things Talking Rain and Sparkling Ice, I usually able to leave the office between 5 and 6 pm. In the evening, it’s either business engagements or time with the family.

How do you bring ideas to life?

We bring ideas to life by cultivating a culture that’s aware of the marketplace, accepting of the new or out-of-the-norm, and willing to act. It’s not easy to meet the consumer at the shelf with the product and timing they expect. If you can pay close attention to consumer’s needs, watch the market trends, remove your bias, and pivot when necessary, you will be successful. We were very lucky to watch that all fall into place when we first released Sparkling Ice.

What’s one trend that excites you?

Examples: functional waters, caffeinated waters, or even caffeinated Sparkling Ice. =)

The sparkling water category has changed rapidly in the last several years. You can find so many varieties now—water enhanced with electrolytes, water infused with CBD. We have been particularly intrigued by the caffeinated water trend because we found that many avid diet soda drinkers were turning towards soda for the caffeine and not necessarily the taste. In the last year and as I hinted above, we launched a new line extension, Sparkling Ice+Caffeine, which has 70 mg of caffeine from sourced from coffee beans. We’re finding that it hits a sweet spot for people—more than a diet soda but less than a cup of coffee. We see a lot of opportunities in functional waters and are excited to see how the category expands.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

Creating connections through a “high sense of urgency” communication. Success happens as a team. Together we’re a highly functioning. I don’t have all the answers, but by bringing all the right players together, we can move fast, solve issues, and capitalize on opportunities for both Sparkling Ice and Talking Rain brands.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Take advantage of every opportunity to network and build connections. Opportunities to learn and grow come from those around you.

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast. There is a better way to do everything vs working harder or longer.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Listen more and talk less.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

In 2018, we transitioned from traditional media to 100% digital media. Through avenues such as social media, digital banners, videos, and pre-roll, we’re able to highlight our variety, colors and zero sugar messaging and tie back to Sparkling Ice’s naturally sourced colors and flavors. Digital marketing also allows us to target our heavy buyers and target consumers while shifting our communications and creative efficiently and effectively, as needed.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Not paying close enough attention to marketplace trends/shifts. Over the years, we missed out on opportunities for growth from both Sparkling Ice and Talking Rain brands that fit within our core capabilities, opportunities that we could have easily jumped on. We’ve learned to keep eyes wide open to current trends and use available data to become more predictive on the packaging, flavors, line extensions, and net new innovation.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Here’s a business idea: Create a window cleaner that actually cleans the inside windshield of a vehicle without leaving streaks or residue. As an avid car enthusiast, keeping my vehicles clean is a priority. To this day, I still have not found any commercial, residential, or automotive window cleaner that cleans without streaks or residue.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

Dinner with the family last Friday. It’s getting harder to find time to shut it down and enjoy uninterrupted family time.

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

Right now, MS OneNote and my Ipad. I recently switched to digital for all notes, tasks, etc. Using OneNote allows me to access important notes across all devices on the fly.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Harvard Business Review – The monthly magazine is always full of useful information that you can apply to our Talking Rain and Sparkling Ice business. Also, use their database to pull articles based on business situations I’m facing to help.

What is your favorite quote?

“Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth” – Mike Tyson

Key Learnings:

1.) Like the creation of Sparkling Ice, when you are listening to the consumer and have a keen awareness of the current marketplace, lightning has a much better chance of striking.

2.) If you can pay close attention to consumer’s needs, watch the market trends, remove your bias, and pivot when necessary, you will be successful.

3.) Listen More and Talk Less.

4.) There is a better way to do everything vs working harder or longer.