Do the KIND Thing

Think Boundlessly, Work Purposefully, Live Passionately

About the Book

For the socially conscious, the intellectually curious, or the creative soul comes an inspiring, New York Times bestselling handbook for success in business, life, and the all-important task of building a more compassionate world—by the visionary founder and CEO of KIND Healthy Snacks.
When Daniel Lubetzky started KIND Healthy Snacks in 2004, he aimed to defy the conventional wisdom that snack bars could never be both tasty and healthy, convenient and wholesome. A decade later, the transformative power of the company’s “AND” philosophy has resulted in an astonishing record of achievement. KIND has become the fastest-growing purveyor of healthy snacks in the country. Meanwhile, the KIND Movement—the company’s social mission to make the world a little kinder—has sparked more than a million good deeds worldwide.
In Do the KIND Thing, Lubetzky shares the revolutionary principles that have shaped KIND’s business model and led to its success, while offering an unfiltered and intensely personal look into the mind of a pioneering social entrepreneur. Inspired by his father, who survived the Holocaust thanks to the courageous kindness of strangers, Lubetzky began his career handselling a sun-dried tomato spread made collaboratively by Arabs and Jews in the war-torn Middle East. Despite early setbacks, he never lost his faith in his vision of a “not-only-for-profit” business—one that sold great products and helped to make the world a better place.
While other companies let circumstances force them into choosing between two seemingly incompatible options, people at KIND say “AND.” At its core, this idea is about challenging assumptions and false compromises. It is about not settling for less and being willing to take greater risks, often financial. It is about learning to think boundlessly and critically, and choosing what at first may be the tougher path for later, greater rewards. By using illuminating anecdotes from his own career, and celebrating some past failures through the lessons learned from them, Lubetzky outlines his core tenets for building a successful business and a thriving social enterprise. He explores the value of staying true to your brand, highlights the importance of transparency and communication in the workplace, and explains why good intentions alone won’t sell products.
Engaging and inspirational, Do the KIND Thing shows how the power of AND worked wonders for one company—and could empower the next generation of social entrepreneurs to improve their bottom line and change the world.

Advance praise for Do the KIND Thing
“An enjoyable read . . . wise advice about matters from product development to people management.”Financial Times

“By sharing the ten tenets that helped KIND grow, Daniel Lubetzky has given entrepreneurs a road map to success that includes both passion and purpose.”—Arianna Huffington, president and editor in chief, Huffington Post Media Group
“Lubetzky uses the power of kindness to build purpose into his business and his community. He’s a role model for future leaders.”—Mehmet Oz, M.D., professor of surgery, Columbia University
“I’ve always been a fan of the KIND brand. This engaging and inspirational book shows how coupling a social mission with creativity can spark change and empower a generation.”—Bobbi Brown, founder and CCO, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics
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Praise for Do the KIND Thing

Advance praise for Do the KIND Thing
“An enjoyable read . . . wise advice about matters from product development to people management.”Financial Times

Do the KIND Thing isn’t just a behind-the-scenes tour of one company’s staggering growth. It’s the story of one entrepreneur’s belief that success can be built on a foundation of empathy and, yes, kindness. By sharing the ten tenets that helped KIND grow, Daniel Lubetzky has given entrepreneurs a road map to success that includes both passion and purpose.”—Arianna Huffington, president and editor in chief, Huffington Post Media Group
“Lubetzky uses the power of kindness to build purpose into his business and his community. He’s a role model for future leaders.”—Mehmet Oz, M.D., professor of surgery, Columbia University
“I’ve always been a fan of the KIND brand. This engaging and inspirational book shows how coupling a social mission with creativity can spark change and empower a generation.”—Bobbi Brown, founder and CCO, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics
“Lubetzky has proven that financial success and achieving a social goal are not incompatible—a great lesson for entrepreneurs and for anyone who wants to do good. Do the KIND Thing succinctly explains the elements that lead to success in both realms, emphasizing the need for humility over vision and grit.”—Lester Crown, chairman, Henry Crown & Company
“Lubetzky has written the playbook for anyone with a passion and a vision for leveraging business as a tool for social change. His journey has been anything but easy and straightforward but his honest and at times hilarious descriptions of his many failures will serve all aspiring entrepreneurs.”—Pamela Hartigan, director, Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship, Saïd Business School University of Oxford
“In Do the KIND Thing, Daniel Lubetzky reminds us that doing well and doing good are not mutually exclusive. KIND is a stellar example of how a business can be both highly successful wbile also advancing a culture of decency and generosity.”—Richard Plepler, chairman and CEO, HBO
“This book is an invaluable practical guide to what it takes to create and run a business and a brand. Priceless examples of both successes and failures can be found throughout, together with the values of simplicity, trust, and transparency. By reading this book you learn business essentials; you will also come to know and love the man.”—Sir Mark Moody-Stuart, former chairman of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group and vice chairman of the UN Global Compact
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Do the KIND Thing

Chapter 1

Thinking with AND

An Introduction to Avoiding False Compromises

It was May 1994. Mother’s Day was a week away, and I sat anxiously by the phone. Across New York City, small ads in neighborhood newspapers proclaimed the launch of my new venture, through which Arabs and Israelis cooperated to make skincare products like Dead Sea bath salts, hand-­treatment creams, and mud masks that I had assembled into gift baskets. These would make the perfect gift for moms, the ads explained, sending a thoughtful message of peace through business.

Cramped studio apartment/corporate headquarters; narrow black IKEA desk; second-­hand chair: I had set up my “office” in anticipation of a flood of orders. My biggest worry was how to process and fulfill them all.

I had been starting businesses since elementary school, beginning with the magic shows I put on for neighborhood kids in my native Mexico City. But, at age twenty-­five, I had just thrown away the promise of a Wall Street legal career to start my own company, based on a new concept I thought could change the world: economic cooperation between conflict-­torn peoples as a way to help them get to know one another, create an incentive to build a shared future, and achieve peace. Building bridges between people was my passion, and I wanted to use commerce to help nudge neighbors closer together.

I was convinced that it was possible to build a company that was “not-­only-­for-­profit”—­one that sold great products and also did its small part toward making a better world. I believed I did not have to choose one or the other; our company could achieve both goals at the same time. First, though, I would have to get customers to buy the goods.

A week earlier, a delivery truck driver had rung up to apartment 8A, on the corner of Eighty-­Fourth Street and Second Avenue, to announce the arrival of my Dead Sea cosmetics shipment.

“Come on up,” I said over the building’s intercom.

“You don’t seem to understand,” he replied tersely. “Please come down.”

For my trial, I had asked my trading partners to produce a few hundred each of mineral-­rich mud masks, hand-­treatment creams with avocado oil, Dead Sea bath salts with various essential oils, and seven varieties of mud soaps. I had assumed it would all just fit in a corner of my tiny studio and would sell out quickly.

When I came down to the street, I saw that my order actually occupied an entire twenty-­foot container truck. The driver and I hauled box after box up to a room already filled with samples of sundried tomato spreads made through cooperation among Israeli, Egyptian, Turkish, and Palestinian trading partners, as well as packaging materials for the gift baskets. After stacking the boxes to the ceiling of my studio, I had to convince my landlord to rent me a windowless basement space next to the trash compactor to store the rest of the product. For the next two years, this crypt-­like cubbyhole would become my new office.

The company had now officially taken over my life. When I lay on my futon bed, I stared up at a towering wall of boxes that threatened to fall on me any minute.

But it would all be worth it, I felt. The idea that Bedouins and Jews had partnered to make Dead Sea cosmetics would surely please any mom who cherished soft skin and peaceful cooperation. With such a fresh, novel concept, I thought, the challenge would be keeping up with all the incoming calls.

The week passed. Mother’s Day came and went. Not one customer bought a single gift basket. Zero consumer inquiries. Zero sales. Most of my savings were locked up in inventory I could not move. And the smell of essential oils was suffocating.

I felt depressed. Terrified. In addition to sensing my dream slip away, I had no idea how I was going to pay my rent.

I worried about what my parents would think. They were already concerned that I was wasting my law degree. I was the first member of my extended family to get a graduate degree. As a Jew whose father had survived the Holocaust and a son whose parents had sacrificed so much to provide me with an education, I felt a keen sense of guilt and obligation.

And yet, this was my passion. This was my mission. I had to pursue it. I couldn’t quit. I was going to make this work.

At the end of the week, I threw some product samples into my battered fake-­leather briefcase, closed the apartment door carefully so the boxes wouldn’t crash down, and hit the pavement. I was going to sell my stock if I had to go door-­to-­door across the entire island of Manhattan and convince every buyer personally.

The AND Philosophy—­KIND’s First Tenet

This book is the story of what I discovered when I devoted my life to creating businesses that build bridges between people, from PeaceWorks’ Dead Sea products to KIND, the snack foods company that evolved from those experiences. By 2014 KIND had sold over a billion KIND snack bars and KIND clusters in more than 100,000 stores. The KIND Movement, which advances our social mission by performing—­and inspiring our community to perform—­unexpected kind acts, has touched over a million people.

Like many start-­up stories, mine has been rocky. The last two decades have been a series of ups and downs that alternately made me deliriously excited and desperately worried. Entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint of heart, and it’s impossible to tell how your story will turn out. All you have is your conviction, your ability to work hard, and your determination to never give up.

One thread that runs through this book is a revelation I uncovered along the journey—­the power of thinking with AND. People often let circumstances force them into choosing between two seemingly incompatible options—­like making a snack bar that either tastes good or is healthy for you. At KIND we pride ourselves on creating new paths and models that avoid that kind of false compromise. Instead of “Or,” we say “AND.”

The AND philosophy has become so central to our thinking at KIND that internally we call it the KIND BrAND Philosophy. At its core, it is about challenging assumptions and thinking creatively. It is about not settling for less, being willing to take greater risks and, often, it requires investing more up front. It is not just a way to think positively, or a feel-­good attitude. It is about learning to think critically, frequently pursuing what in the short term may seem a tougher path: to be both healthy and tasty, convenient and wholesome, economically sustainable and socially impactful.

Some of the best ideas seem the most obvious in retrospect. The challenge is uncovering these opportunities when you have become accustomed to the way things are. In an effort to be efficient, your brain has a tendency to accept prevailing ideas or concepts that may no longer be correct (or may never have been). These shortcuts, called heuristics by psychologists, enable us to process information and reach conclusions swiftly. But they also bias us in favor of quick solutions that may not maximize our long-­term potential. Thinking with AND means that we consciously try to break away from these mental shortcuts. At KIND we take it slow, relentlessly questioning our first principles and then using repeated rounds of brainstorming to find new solutions that don’t rely on these assumptions.

This behavior lies at the very heart of our creative process. When designing products at KIND, we never allow cost considerations or other practical constraints like manufacturing efficiencies to be filters at the outset. Of course costs are critical; we prize resourcefulness and the ability to do much with little. But that analysis has to come after the open brainstorming. Otherwise we would never have conceived KIND bars with whole nuts and fruits, as they are harder and more expensive to manufacture than bars made from emulsions or pastes. The AND process helped us realize that this extra investment would be worth it. Every one of our top ten competitors makes their best-selling bars from homogenous pastes. This is a logical path because slab bars (as they are called in the industry as a result of their manufacture from slabs of mashed-­up, emulsified ingredients) run smoothly through the manufacturing line and cost less to make. But they leave many consumers dissatisfied, as they rob foods of their integrity and soul.

The AND philosophy has its costs. Because we use whole ingredients like nuts and seeds, which are not always of a totally uniform size, we often end up with bars that are slightly larger than advertised, but we can’t charge more for the somewhat greater bulk. Sometimes whole ingredients yield bars that are under weight, and we have to give those bars away free, as samples. By contrast, the traditional way of emulsifying ingredients into pastes can yield bars of uniform weight. Our way is more expensive, but many consumers find the quality is superior to that of an emulsion bar. It’s often harder to pursue the way of AND. But, as our market share growth demonstrates, if you have a commitment to excellence—­a commitment to avoid false compromises—­you will win in the long term.

Questioning assumptions also forces us to be nimble and staves off complacency. We’ve learned that just because everything is going well for the business, we can’t assume that the trajectory will continue upward. We continuously think critically about our strategy: Where will our next competitive threat originate? How can we develop new products and protect our core lines?

The AND philosophy is a great tool for entrepreneurs, particularly for social entrepreneurs. A social entrepreneur is a person who tackles societal problems and seeks to effect social change through creative mechanisms. At its essence, the entrepreneurial mind spots opportunities to create value: Social entrepreneurs detect problems in society and try to find solutions to improve the world; business entrepreneurs discover gaps in the marketplace and try to fill them to achieve financial gain. A social entrepreneur with an appreciation for the power of market forces tries to advance both social and business objectives in unison. Thinking with AND can help you solve social problems and identify commercial gaps as it forces you to confront the underlying assumptions, and to uncover objectives that are in tension with one another. Once you have identified the conflicting objectives that you’re trying to achieve and how they interact, you can start thinking about whether there are creative ways to accomplish both objectives at once.

About the Author

Daniel Lubetzky
Daniel Lubetzky is a pioneering social entrepreneur known for integrating social objectives with sustainable market-driven forces to forge new business models that build bridges between people. He is the CEO and founder of KIND Healthy Snacks and the KIND Movement. He is also founder of PeaceWorks and OneVoice, and cofounder of the apparel company Maiyet. Lubetzky has received numerous awards and recognitions for his humanitarian efforts and his business practices; among them he’s been named one of America’s Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs in BusinessWeek, one of 25 Responsibility Pioneers by Time, one of the Creativity 50 by Advertising Age, and one of the 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs at the Goldman Sachs Builders and Innovators Summit. He has received Entrepreneur of the Year awards from both Entrepreneur magazine and Ernst & Young. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and four children. More by Daniel Lubetzky
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