B-Corp Series: Dan Heiges
When I talk about ways to make decision-making more inclusive, I’ve noticed that people either perk-up…or look overwhelmed. But the leaders who always want to talk about decision-making are B-Corp executives. B-Corp executives are a special breed.
Why? B-Corp certification for your for-profit company requires you to go through an assessment that measures how you operate with respect to your people, your partnerships, and your impact on the planet.
B-Corp executives are a special breed.
B-Corp executives are attuned to the people in their companies. And they’re attuned to the decisions they make, because they’ve had to look carefully at the ways their choices create a net social impact. Attunement is “baked into” being awarded a B-Corp certification.
They’re attuned to the decisions they make, because they’ve had to look carefully at the ways their choices create a net social impact.
B-Corp executives are the cohort of people who are leading the way by being conscious about their decision-making cultures.
And I thought you should meet a few of them:
President & Founder
Dan Heiges started Natural Development in 2007 to follow his passion for culinary arts and food science and fill a need for natural food product innovation. The company has developed a world-class reputation for flawlessly replicating commercial processes on a bench top scale—from baking, frying, and dehydration, to extraction, extrusion and fermentation.
With two locations and 12 employees, Natural Development is on the rise. They have a 3,000 square foot development lab along with a 23,000-square foot FDA inspected pilot plant, both located in Boulder, CO. They serve both start-up corporations as well as large food retailers.
Dan started Natural Development as a food science consultant. At the time, he liked the flexibility of juggling many projects at once but always dreamt of a larger playing field. He wanted to create an environment that provided the stability and benefits of a traditional corporation without sacrificing the flexibility of consulting. His long-term vision for Natural Development is to encourage innovation and creativity while providing job security, and to build a workplace where everyone was treated as a professional—with respect as the central value.
Dan’s early business influences occurred during his teenage days following musical bands and noting how they were managed. “Bands are impressive, everyone in a band has a role. That’s the key. It’s important that everyone knows their roles. And they know that those roles are important for the ultimate “music” they are making. It’s important that everyone knows they are trusted to play their part.”
Which doesn’t mean that Dan’s employees are docile people quietly noodling in the corner. “My team is compiled of creative and forthright individuals. No one is shy in sharing their opinion. I want to hear what they have to say, because I trust what they are doing and know that they have a unique perspective.”
Because Natural Development is still relatively small, Dan focuses on building consensus among the team. “Consensus-building allows us to build on everyone’s strengths. People feel empowered and respected—and that’s very important to me.” Still, the big strategic and financial decisions remain in Dan’s court.
“One down-side to consensus-building is that people take on too much responsibility and communication can suffer,” says Dan. And he believes that the company is at capacity to use this method. If the company wants to scale, they are going to have to create more formal structures around decision-making.
Take reporting as an example. Each team member does not report metrics in the same way, and Dan has not insisted on it, instead appreciating each employee’s individual style. Each person reports what s/he believes is relevant–which makes sense on one hand (since each person is being valued as a professional), and makes it difficult to report on standard metrics on another.
What Dan is facing now are the essential questions of growth. How can you take the best of what you have and maintain it… while bringing in some measure of structure? What will you have to give up in order to expand?
Being a B-Corp doesn’t provide much guidance here necessarily, but it’s allowed Dan to reaffirm his belief that “building a company on how I would want to be treated is a viable way to do things.” And he intends to keep that ethos moving forward.