Eran grew up watching his father grow a successful import business that was built on integrity and customer service.
A South African transplant, Eran started his career at Deloitte. From there, he came to New York to pursue his MBA at Columbia ‘14.
Eran was an early employee at Plated, where he focused on building planning and sourcing programs. The team’s collective efforts led to a $300M sale to Albertsons.
He then went on to join Nuts.com, one of the world’s largest nuts and specialty ingredient e-commerce companies. He was quickly elevated to COO and quadrupled the company’s capacity to support growth in 2020.
Today, he is the CEO and co-founder of Ingredient Brothers, the supply company that’s filling the void Eran noticed when he sat in the buyer’s chair himself.
What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?
For better or worse, I am a creature of habit. I remember judging my father for eating the same thing and wearing the same clothes every day of his working life. I swore that it would never be me. But alas, my wardrobe is filled with black V-necks and 5 pairs of the same joggers.
Outside of work, my daily routine is pretty standardized around clothes, food, and walking the dog.
But it’s that monotonous routine and standardization of the small things that allows me to focus more clearly on the things that really matter.
Within my startup, there are no two days that look the same. The constant context-switching that encompasses a day challenges my productivity. My philosophy is not to look at the mountain and get overwhelmed by the insurmountable amount of work in front of me. No matter what happens, I approach everything by breaking it down into smaller pieces, determining how to take one small step forward at a time.
In my experience, I have not found a tool or program that helps me be “productive.” Coming to terms with that was difficult, as I wanted the easy cure to my frustration. I realized I would never be fully satisfied with my productivity, and that is the energy that drives me. I embrace that energy now and use it to push forward every day.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Two main obstacles reduce the probability of bringing an idea to life:
1. You and your team are working on too many good ideas at once. There are often so many amazing ideas that would lead to value that it is tough to say no to even one of them. But you can’t do everything at once.
This over-eagerness usually leads to insufficient resource planning as well. I have seen it time and again where teams over-commit to ideas, and instead of executing well on a few, they end up falling short on all. This just causes a spiral and frustration until leadership realizes the error and pulls back.
2. The second obstacle is misalignment. The idea owner has a responsibility to align the team on the idea and project plan efficiently to execute it. This does not mean that everyone has to fully agree, and it does not even have to be the best idea. The most important aspect is to get everyone on the same page so you can move forward and execute.
The constant debate on what should be done next and teams avoiding difficult conversations usually leads to employees moving in different directions. If you take the time to plan and provide clear direction, then you will move forward quicker. Even if the idea is lacking, you can learn and iterate. I have rarely seen bad ideas that don’t add at least some value. But I have seen many teams debate what to do next for the same amount of time it would have taken to execute an idea.
Reducing distractions around an idea and providing adequate resources have greatly improved my track record.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I am obsessed with the low-code revolution and the adoption of global-remote teams by small businesses.
Low-code has opened the door for small businesses to develop solutions that fit their needs. It is similar to what the 3D printing industry has done for prototyping. If embraced, companies can empower their team to create and optimize the work that they do. It also allows you to tap into technology that would otherwise be limited to big industries. We use this to link all our systems together and automate many of our business processes.
Remote work has not only evolved how we think about office culture but has opened our eyes to a whole new pool of prospective employees. Similar to the low-code revolution, this concept was mainly reserved for large companies. You are now able to build a team that is made of people from all over the world. This sharing of knowledge and talent can only improve who we are and transport ideas in ways we have not seen before.
What is one habit that helps you be productive?
We strongly believe in the importance of creating objectives and key results. From day one at the company, when it was just two of us, we still aligned on our objectives and key results. This is a tool that I use to keep me focused and reduce the amount of distractions. It is not a mechanism for saying yes to projects, but rather forces you to identify what you will be saying no to. Whenever I am losing focus, I go back to these objectives and recenter myself around them.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be scared to ask for help. There was more of a stigma around mental health when I was younger. You were almost forced to put on this strong, confident bravado. There were times when I could have used a helping hand guiding me through certain situations, where I didn’t reach out to anyone. Where today, I wouldn’t think twice about it. Understanding that we go to the gym for physical well-being but avoid any help for mental well-being has been eye-opening and life-changing for me. To be successful, you need to embrace both and constantly work on both.
What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?
Network, network, network.
I always say yes to a conversation no matter what my preconceived notion is of how it will turn out. You just never know where it will take you. The ability to meet with people via Zoom has allowed me to expand my network and use that as a vehicle to grow our business. That’s why I usually end a conversation by asking if there is anyone else they think I should talk to. The ecosystem around most industries is usually small and building that support network can be incredibly helpful at the most unexpected times.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?
Honestly, if I’m having a bad day, I embrace it. I have this rule that I am allowed to get annoyed and overwhelmed, but I only have until the end of that day to feel sorry for myself. When I wake up the next morning, my attitude has to be about moving forward. New day – new start.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?
I have been fortunate to be surrounded by people I admire in the business world, from my father to several key managers. I am extremely proactive in going for what I want. I will spend hours understanding what I need to do to get to the next level. No one will look out for your career more than yourself. I would always look at the next opportunity I wanted, write down the skills they were looking for, and ensure I was developing those in my current position.
You must also proactively seek honest feedback in as many situations as possible. Large organizations have these structures built in but in smaller firms you may never get feedback. It may be uncomfortable but I always asked for feedback.
What is one failure in your career, how did you overcome it, and what lessons did you take away from it?
Probably the biggest failure in my career was being kicked out of undergrad for not passing enough subjects. I was young and naïve and had no idea which direction to go in. This moment was a pivotal turning point. I had the choice to give up or go beg for a second chance. Thankfully I did the latter, which changed my life. After that, I felt like I had something to prove and it pushed me to work harder than I ever thought possible. This showed me what I was capable of and it has pushed me ever since.
What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The best business idea is the idea that you decide to do. There are a few novel ideas that haven’t been thought of. Most ideas are just ideas until someone goes for them. Execution, not ideas, is what makes a business successful.
What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Airtable. We use it to run every part of our business. It has helped organize and standardize our data. We have been able to scale exponentially faster than we would have had we used the traditional Google sheet method to get started.
Do you have a favorite book or podcast from which you’ve received much value?
American Icon: Alan Mulally and the Fight to Save Ford Motor Company, by Bryce G. Hoffman. The tools outlined by Alan Mulally in this book can be used to organize a company of any size. The book provided me with a blueprint I use daily for managing an organization.
What’s a movie or series you recently enjoyed and why?
Drive to Survive has made me an F1 fan. The series did a great job at giving you a glimpse into F1 racing which got me hooked.
- Simple metrics are almost always better than complex models. It is most important for everyone in the organization to embrace a few simple metrics. From a leadership standpoint, you must ensure you are fleshing these metrics out regularly. Once you do this, the morale of your employees will improve, and your output will correspondingly increase.
- Getting consensus is valuable but should never prevent leaders from making the ultimate decision. Leading effectively is predicated on your ability to make decisions. At times of duress when consensus cannot be obtained, be sure to confidently make the ultimate decision.
- Find your Yoda. We tend to blow our own issues out of proportion, but a good mentor can provide invaluable support in helping you grow. Don’t be scared to ask for help.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.