During this week’s One Take CEO Interview, Tastefully Simple Founder and CEO Jill Blashak Strahan discusses what it was like to grow her 1995 startup into a $143 million-a-year business, and then lead through seven consecutive years of losses running into this year, when Covid-19 hit. Ironically, those bad times forced her organization to return to being scrappy like a startup: lean, creative and agile—must-have traits for most businesses looking to grow this year.
“We ran though about $32 million in reserves...My turnaround advisors said, ‘too bad you had reserves because you know, you might have done something sooner [to turn things around]’,” she says. At the time, Blashak Strahan was doing everything possible to improve the business—including investing another $5 million into it with a line of credit. But in hindsight, matters she wishes she would have addressed sooner include recognizing the company had become too top-heavy (of 350 employees, about 50 were in leadership), and that she as a leader had stopped focusing on what she’s best at—building and creating. Also, headcount reductions—as painful as they are—needed to happen faster, as did initiation of a new discipline of always asking why a new hire is really needed.
Based in Alexandria, Minn., Tastefully Simple taps thousands of independent consultants across the United States to sell its seasonings, sauces, baking mixes, meal and entertainment kits and gifts through home tastings, online parties, catalog sales and website.
About One Take CEO Interviews
CEOs openly share how they’re leading during 2020’s pandemic and other challenges during candid, un-rehearsed and unscripted ‘one take’ interviews begun in May 2020. Each is independently produced by Dale Kurschner, who for 30 years served as one of the Upper Midwest’s most trustworthy, timely leaders in business journalism. Dale most recently led Twin Cities Business magazine as its Editor in Chief (2010-2018) and today serves as a strategic communication consultant at Platinum Group. No funding or other financial consideration is provided by companies interviewed in this series. Interviews are by invitation only and chosen based upon the relevance of what may be discussed during an interview.
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