Gym for the mind (health and wellness in entrepreneurship)
Welcome to the Supreme Leadership podcast where we interview business leaders every entrepreneur should follow. I’m Alinka Rutkowska, CEO of Leaders Press and today I’m excited because we’re taking to Michael Heinrich, CEO of Oh My Green.
Michael explains that you don't need to burn yourself out as you run your business. You can still be healthy and well by creating a gym for the mind.
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Alinka: Michael! Welcome to the supreme leadership podcast.
Michael: Thank you. So very excited to be here.
Alinka: Yeah, I'm excited to have you. Well, my first question is, what would you tell an inspiring entrepreneur if they wanted to become Michael in the future?
Michael: That's a really great question. So the way I would talk about it and think about it is that there's essentially two aspects to it. One is like [inaudible 00:00:36] the person, and then two is general good best practices as an entrepreneur.
For the first one, Michael as a person. So What I've been trying to do is really create this new model of leadership, where ... What I've essentially observed this, that often times entrepreneurs and leaders in general foster this culture of burnout, essentially, where people are highly stressed at work, and I think there's some stat that I've recently read that stress accounts for more deaths than diabetes, and I think another unhealthy factor combined.
Michael: It's really mesmerizing to me that that's actually still the case. And to come here from wanting to create something very, very different, and really be a role model for that. And so there's really three components, for how I think about leadership.
One is am really anchored on purpose. And that means that I've been very, very clear from the very beginning. That's actually one of the first things I did when starting with [inaudible 00:01:43] green. Is to put in place what exactly the mission statement is, and why I'm actually doing this. And we can get to this as well in terms of why I started the company and so on.
[inaudible 00:01:55]. There's a whole story around it. But the mission was very clear. It was to empower people to live healthy and blissful lives. And so that was number one there. Then number two was I wanted to make sure that, no matter how tough it got during this journey, that I'm always maintaining a wellness. And wellness to me is really for [inaudible 00:02:15] deference. Because entrepreneurship is very much a marathon rather than a sprint.
And so you have to, as an entrepreneur, especially as Michael stay healthy in mind, body and environment. Is what I call these three factors. And so what that looks like to me ... And I call these my non negotiables, is I sleep seven hours a day. I meditate twice a day for one to two hours each time. I do ... Shoveling come through three times a week. I eat healthier organic foods on a daily basis and make sure that I have meaningful relationships in and outside of work.
And then I also make sure that during meetings for example, we can go on walks in nature. And so that's how I nourish my perspective of mind, body and environment, to really maintain that wellness no matter what the situation is. Because sometimes you'll have very sticky people's situations to deal with or difficult customer situations, but one shouldn't really lose one's wellness.
And then the third piece is really around relentless focus. So one of the things that I believe I've done relatively well is to make sure that at any stage of the company, I'm deeply deeply focus on what matters. Because there are a lot of things that we can do, like just answering email all the time and responding to every inbound requests that comes in versus really thinking strategically and saying, "What is the core metric that matters from me right at this stage."
And so ... For example at the beginning stages of entrepreneurship, and that goes a little bit into the second point that I was mentioning general entrepreneurial advise. All that matters is product market fit. And if you don't have product market fit, then it doesn't matter what all the other activities are. You might be trying to sell as much as possibly. You might be trying to spend as much as possible and marketing.
It doesn't matter if you've really tailored the right product to the right user base. And so that would be monomeric Hugh messages to being a good entrepreneur. Do whatever it takes to get to product market fit. And then once you post product market fit, and it's much more about building the company, building your next products, really building strong distribution pipeline, and so on.
So, it's a bit of a long answer, but those are the two key components to being Michael. One is this new model ... This new model of leadership, and then two is really general entrepreneurial advice that I would give.
Alinka: This is great. So Michael, how did you get to that conclusion? Was it through mistakes, trial and error because that's how we learn? Or did you work with a mentor? How did you ... We talked about the what ... Let's talk about the how. How did you become who you are?
Michael: Yes. There's really two components to it I would say. One is just personal experience I've had in the corporate world. And then two is really having very, very strong mentors, alongside the end. There's just too many examples would probably tell them on podcasts, around the type of mentorship that I've received over time.
But let's start with how some of the experiences have shaped me. One is, I've been fortunate to work in various different fields, anywhere from tech product management at Microsoft and SAP, to being a management consultant at Bain & company, to working at a hedge fund called Bridgewater Associates and then find [inaudible 00:05:55] turn entrepreneurial journey. And so what I've been able to learn there is that, the types of environments that I wanted to be a part of.
And in many cases, sometimes the environments that pushed me towards a bit of a burnout stage. And what I also learned that certain ... Environments don't really think about wellness holistically. So for example, they would stay at work life balance is really important. And then you go into the kitchen and you see ultra processed ingredients, you see ultra sugar, eggs, drinks and it's not fully congruent.
And some of these experiences then basically shaped me, and to figuring out, "Okay, what is actually meaningful to me in a particular work environment." And that's how I ended up starting [inaudible 00:06:49] as well as, because I said, "I'm really enjoying the people in the problems I'm working with in these environments." But somehow some meaning is lacking for me.
And then when I went through this search of meaning, health and wellness really came up very strongly for me. And I recognized back into my past that I've essentially grown up with a grand mom in Berlin Germany that is a medical doctor. But instead of giving us or me specifically medicine, every time I had some type of health issues, she would much more have a preventative health mindset where she would say, "Eat directly from my garden and you won't get sick. Don't drink over-sugared beverages. Have a consistent exercise."
And when I said ... I look back at my past, I realized that she was in a way of very much ahead of her time and teaching, and it's preventative mindset. And I said, "I can bring sort of this wellness thinking to corporations in the US and create a company around it."
And so that was really that first Aha moment for me. But then I had to figure out, well, how do I actually do that? How do I build a business model? How do I create a company around this whole concept? And that's when I went back to graduate school. So I went to Stanford and took a class called the lean launchpad with a professor called Steve Blank. And he was probably one of my biggest mentors early on in this whole process of getting to product market fit.
And he had a few really interesting in core messages. So one was that startups are not a smaller version of the big company. They're really a search process for a scalable business model. And until you have that product market fit, you're still in that search process.
And in order to determine what your business model will look like, you have to get out of the building and speak to at least about a hundred people in your industry to really understand whether this idea works and how to shape that idea from different angles. From having the right product for the right customer demographic, to having the right channels, to having the right operational model.
And so that has really deeply, shaped me as an entrepreneur, and really changed my journey over time. So I feel really fortunate that I've had him as a mentor along this journey.
Alinka: That's great. I love it that you drop some names here. Well I agree. Mentors are extremely important. And ... Well now you are a mentor, right? With say your company. I'm sure you mentor, mostly on a business level, right? In corporations. So what is the type of mentoring that you do and what is the area where the people you work with need most mentoring in?
Michael: Yes, that's a great question actually. So there's a few different types of mentorship I would say that I'm currently exposed to. There is general in the company type of leadership mentoring, where you see some type of behavior that you say that maybe it's not fully aligned with the company culture and you do some mentoring around that and some correcting around behavior. [inaudible 00:10:21].
Then I would say there's gentle general mentorship that I provide to other peers and other startups and I've joined an organization called YPO, and there's a lot of ad hoc opportunities for doing that. And it could be on a specific business problem somebody is facing, on a specific personal problem somebody is facing.
And then finally I really love giving back because I felt very fortunate to have had mentors like Steve Blank, where then ... For example this last quarter, Q1 I was actually a manager then for the lean launchpad class. And so it came to the full circle where I help the team with their idea and kind of thinking through that, and helping with that business model creation. So those are sort of three ways I'm engaged as a mentor at the moment. Happy to dive into specific pieces of that too.
Alinka: That's great. What was your favorite model?
Michael: My favorite model is part of the class or-
Alinka: Yes part of the, yes the mentoring.
Michael: Yes. So, I'm obviously going to be supervisor and say that I really liked my team's model. They created essentially a concept where they created a gym for the mind, and they call it the neurocognitive Jen. And initially they had decided here that they were like, there's this going to work super well. And then the moment they try to execute on it, they met with a lot of resistance from the initial target market they were talking to.
And they didn't really see other multiples that were really taking off with that concept. But then as they did more discovery, they figured out that other models and other locations, there were not really focused on specific aspects and specific target demographics.
And so they then innovated on that, with their business model by going after what they called body hackers. People that want rigorous training, for their minds so that they could be the best athletes possible. And so when they then run around in the test, they had a, I think a 38 or so NPS score and then over a few sessions. I think the NPS score improved to almost 60 or something like that.
And ended up driving a good amount of revenue for the class as well after having done a few tests sessions. So I was really proud and happy to see the team succeed in that way.
Alinka: That's great. Every question I have for you usually have already some framework to share. Two models, three ways. It's looks like you've really thought about it. So I'm wondering if you were to write a book, what would you write about?
Michael: Yeah, that's, so ... That's a great question as well. And my way of thinking tends to be more systematic, and it's a ... That's how I myself digest information and then structure it for myself. So that's why you probably are getting some of the answers that you're getting.
But as far as writing a book, I think I would really talk about a this new model of leadership that I'm trying to build and then also add some of this general advice that I mentioned around being a really strong entrepreneur. So I would write again about being anchored on purpose, who inspired me, what some of the background of my story has been, even along the way, had I not work for Bridgewater for example, I wouldn't have gotten exposed to transcendental meditation, which has really been such a joy to have incorporated that into my life.
And it's really helped me maintain a really strong balance along my wellness journey as well. So yeah, that anchored on purpose PS. Again, talking about how do I maintain wellness? What are some of the models there? Even as part of that component, I would talk about having a learning mindset. Because a lot of the time, things don't quite go as you plan issued. As you plan that they will.
And it's really easy to blame oneself on that type of situation when you say like, "Okay, we've lost this customer and this key employees that have left, I must have done something fundamentally wrong." And then it's really easy to blame yourself around that.
But instead, if it's more for learning mindset and say, "Okay, what can I learn from this situation in order to improve this type of situation the next time around?" It's a much healthier relationships that are with yourself. And so I would have a component under wellness that talks about that as well.
And then the final piece would just be really about how do you just focus on things that really, really matters. That relentless focus piece as part of that new model of leadership. Because I was able to go to Grad school, have a full class load, start a company at the same time, be a teaching assistant, meditate to this three hours a day, get the right amount of sleep, have a good social relationships and still have rest time on the weekends and be able to take vacation and so on.
And it just requires a really strong, relentless focus on the things that matter. So would ... I would write about this components. And in summary, it's just sort of this new model of leadership that I want others to embrace.
Alinka: Does it have a name?
Michael: I'm still coming up with one.
Michael: There's something around maybe in leadership or building enlightened companies. So something around, along those lines I would say.
Alinka: That's great, but our listeners would love you to get that book out.
Michael: Thank you. [crosstalk 00:16:37].
Alinka: Yeah. Michael what's the best place for our listeners to go to get more of you?
Michael: So I'm starting to work on doing more guest appearances on podcasts, and also starting to write columns and online magazines. And so generally I share most of that either through my Linkedin posts or through my green [inaudible 00:17:10] Linkedin posts. So probably the easiest way is to follow on my green on Twitter or Linkedin or Facebook. And then have some of my thoughts essentially come up in that flow of what gets posted.
Alinka: Well, that's fantastic. So I encourage everybody to go ahead and follow you Mike. And thank you so much for this fantastic interview.
Michael: I really enjoyed it. Thank you for having me.