Joe Jacober has more than 25 years of experience as an entrepreneur and brand revitalization authority. Joe is CEO of Innovative Brands Accelerator and most recently, Innovation Ranch, a brand revitalization and consulting company focused on emerging consumer products and brands and led a successful exit for an RTD 100% fruit juice company where he was interim CEO. He was also President of China Mist Tea Company where he was responsible for restructuring this iconic global tea company that led to more than 20% growth and resulted in its highest revenue and operating income in company history. Joe was also the founder and CEO of Innovative Brands (Pert Plus & Sure) and responsible for building the company from acquisition and infrastructure to a $100 million business with a 22%+ EBITDA margin leading to the successful sale of the brands. Joe was also a member of the senior management team of UTI, Inc. during its successful IPO and led other successful startups including Belae Brands, a $90 million consumer company. At The Dial Corporation, Joe launched Liquid Dial hand soap, the category’s first antibacterial liquid hand soap and became the #1 brand that generated over $250 million in annual revenue and ushered in a wave of new consumer products with antibacterial properties.
Joe Jacober: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joejacober/
1. How did you get into the industry?
I started my career working for an ad agency and wanted to be more engaged in the total marketing process, not just one element. So I was hired by The Dial Corporation to launch Liquid Dial, the first antibacterial hand soap in the market. They wanted someone with advertising experience since they were going to roll out a significant advertising investment, so I fit the bill. Working on this iconic brand really immersed me into the business of consumer products. We served a new consumer need and ultimately changed a category. That’s where I developed my passion for growing and scaling products that bring meaningful value to consumers.
2. Any emerging industry trends?
The biggest trend is how much small companies are now impacting new product development in the CPG industry. It used to be that large companies were doing all the innovating and then it seemed like that morphed into simply launching a series of line extensions, which helped to save on costs but didn’t keep up with the changing preferences of consumers. So small companies have stepped in and now represent more of the innovation than ever before. Consumers want meaningful value from their products. They want to purchase from brands that share their values and enhance their personal lifestyle. Digital marketing has opened up tremendous opportunities for small CPG companies with great ideas to reach consumers and build a following before they invest in growing and scaling their company. Where historically, large CPG companies dominated the retail channel making competition for brand awareness and shelf space indomitable for small players. The digital transformation of retail has changed all that. Ecommerce enables innovative entrants to reach consumers and test their concept - it has broken down traditional barriers to entry.
The second development has been the development of omnichannel distribution via large companies. Grocery stores, for example, used to all be local. Now, most groceries are sold through large chains. In the same way, new channels have emerged, and you see Walmart, Target and even Walgreens and CVS trying to get a share of the market alongside clubs and the newest comer … online merchants like Amazon.
Both trends create challenges and opportunities for entrepreneurs as they look to how they can build a business and decisions on the best way to engage consumers with these new to market brands.
3. Any industry opportunities or challenges?
To reach the growth stage of a product’s lifecycle requires experience across all business disciplines. Most small companies just don’t have a full-fledged management team to get to the next level. They need to streamline and evolve their financial systems, marketing and selling strategies, distribution strategies, supply chain production, and manufacturing environments. Most also struggled with raising capital. Since private equity has become a bigger part of the investment marketplace versus what used to be called venture capital firms, it has also become harder to source start-up capital. From the PE’s viewpoint, it is just as complicated to research a $50 million transaction as it is a $5 million deal. So why would they spend the time and money for something that may be a higher risk?
Innovative Brands Accelerator bridges these two issues. We bring discipline and rigor to the entrepreneur and share with them information that “they don’t even know to ask for” as well as the structure and reporting and financial data. That makes the process simplified for potential PE partners.
4. Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
The start of Innovative Brands Accelerator came about specifically by recognizing how many new CPG entrants there were who just didn’t know how to scale and grow their companies. These entrepreneurs have new ideas and products that serve new and changing consumer needs but the brands struggle to successfully move from the introduction to the growth stage of their product lifecycle. We saw that they just didn’t have the infrastructure and experience to make it grow - but we do. Combined, we have over 100 years in the CPG industry, so we decided to start a company where we could give back by sharing our experience and passion to help good brands be more successful.
5. What's next for the Business in the near future?
With the launch of Innovative Brands Accelerator, we are focused on establishing a portfolio of concept-proven clients that bring meaningful value to their consumer base and distribution channels and looking forward to their success as they level-up to scale and attract major equity infusion.
6. Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
We focus on attracting brands that are enthusiastic and committed to evolve and grow and want to avoid the missteps from trial-and-error that occur…Founders, CEO’s and investors, seek us out for our ability to embed our team in the company and then drive change from within - as a part of the team.
7. Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
A few years back I was asked by The Dial Corporation to turnaround the Dial Soap brand. I had no interest, but was called up to the CEO’s office and explained that they needed a more entrepreneurial take on a brand that revenue and market share were starting to decline. After taking it on, I learned that the discipline and rigor of building a business and making it successful has nothing to do with size. Before taking on this huge business I had only built smaller businesses. By going back and focusing on the fundamentals of what makes and good CPG business strong, I was able to have success with a much bigger business. Often times there was a lot of risk-taking in business and the key was doing it based on very grounded experience, using fact-based decision making and using a creative approach to problem-solving… meaning that there is always more than one way to get things done.
8. Ideal experience for a customer/client?
Our accelerator program is tried and true. We developed it based on our experiences launching and growing CPG brands. What our clients most enjoy is confidence. We often hear from founders that they worry about what they don’t know. Because we’ve been there done that, we can show our clients the path to success without the entrepreneurial stumbling and trial and error. We also don’t take over. Our clients remain in control of their companies.
The accelerator is an 18-month program. The ability to level-up your leadership team and infrastructure in that short of a timeframe is an important benefit that can excite and energize the whole company.
9. How do you motivate others?
I’ve found that people, by and large, want to do meaningful work. They want to know that what they do matters. When you take the time to draw the line between what someone does and how that makes a difference, people are motivated to do their best work. That’s one of the main reason we work with companies that are bringing meaningful value to their consumers. It is very fulfilling to help companies like that succeed.
People also like to succeed. So providing the tools to be successful, is critical for motivation. Oftentimes success or failure is placed on an individual or individuals. But that’s not usually correct. More often, it’s the systems and processes that enable a company or an initiative to be successful or not. When the right infrastructure is in place, the talents of people can really be utilized and leveraged and that is when you see a company transform.
10. Career advice to those in your industry?
Communication and ownership. No matter what your title or role, good communication skills, and an ownership spirit will serve you well.
When you truly understand the needs and priorities of the company and are accountable for your part, you will be rewarded with positive results.
Success is always a group effort. You need to be able to effectively listen to and understand the needs and expectations of the people you work with.