Bob's sage advice on staying independent

| Print |  Email
Linda Baker
Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Here’s how Bob Moore, the 82-year old founder of Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, describes the flock of venture capitalists, investors and large retailers who have expressed interest in buying some or all of his hugely successful whole grains company. “You have an apple pie waiting in the window and people think: how can I get a piece of that?”

I talked to Moore a couple of months ago in connection with my cover story this month on Oregon companies that sold to out of state firms. Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods, a privately held company headquartered in Milwaukee that employs about 250 people, was to provide a counter example of an Oregon business determined not to sell. Unfortunately, his story didn’t make it into the actual article, so I’m sharing a few of his words of wisdom here.

Moore, who founded the company in 1978, says “I haven’t ever been tempted to sell the company — never.”  But as the company has grown, “as the company became more recognizable around the earth,” the offers continue to pour in. “Seven or eight years ago, I was fielding three to four calls a day from potential buyers,” Moore says.

To deal with the onslaught, he hired Nancy Garner, his current executive assistant. “One of the conditions under which I hired her is under no circumstance would I accept any phone calls from venture capitalists, investors or companies who wanted to buy me out,” Moore says. “She did a magnificent job.”

Five years ago, Moore was at the trade show, Natural Products Northwest, where an unsuspecting salesman made a pitch for the company. Says Moore: “I physically took his two briefcases, and asked him to leave.”

That go it alone attitude has helped, not hurt, Red Mill’s bottom line. Fueled by global interest in whole grains and healthy eating, the company grossed $93 million in sales in 2010, and $115 million in 2011. Average annual growth is 25 percent.  Five years ago, the company had a 50,000 square foot warehouse. Today, Red Mill’s manufacturing and office spaces occupy a 325,000-square-foot facility. Iceland and Mongolia are among the latest countries to have developed a taste for the company’s whole grain flours, cereals and bread mixes.

A few Bob Moore tips for staying independent:

“I’ve financed all my new machinery, inventory and growth out of earnings.”

“If you need money, go to the bank.”

“You can’t grow outside your territory unless you go to trade shows.”

“The person with the money always makes the decisions.”

Since Moore has no plans to sell, what are his plans for succession? He answered that question a couple of years ago, after handing the company over to his employees through an employee stock ownership plan. That move ensures Bob’s Red Mill will stay, in a manner of speaking, in the family. “If I’m good at anything, it’s picking the right people for the right job,” Moore says.

Linda Baker is the managing editor of Oregon Business.

 

Comments   

 
Rob Bartell, President, Christine and Robs
0 #1 Keep Up the GREAT WORK!!Rob Bartell, President, Christine and Robs 2012-01-26 11:46:01
Having owned an independent family food business for almost 30 years I say AMEN to Bob's comments. He has worked very hard and LONG to build his business. He was a leader in the milling/multi grain business and opened many doors to companies like ours. Best wishes to Bob for many more years of success.
Quote | Report to administrator
 
 
melmwhite
0 #2 Thank you Bob!melmwhite 2012-01-26 13:27:58
Excellent story on Bob's Red Mill, its success, and Bob's take on financial independence. They have remained true to their roots, both in the packaged products and the restaurant. It's clear, at least to a casual observer like me who eats there once or twice a week, that Bob has instilled a sense of pride and responsibility in his team.

What a great Oregon company!






Quote | Report to administrator
 
 
McNair, the Big Sister
0 #3 I am impressed to by the Mill Company...McNair, the Big Sister 2012-01-26 14:35:56
They are doing great community work, in helping folks to eat better. It has surely help me in a lot of way....
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

The Private 150: From Strength to Strength

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

Revenues in Oregon's private, for profit sector maintained solid growth as the economy continued to rebound.


Read more...

Marijuana law ushers in new business age

The Latest
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
062315panelthumbBY KIM MOORE | RESEARCH EDITOR

Oregon’s new marijuana law is expected to lead to a bevy of new business opportunities for the state. And not just for growers. Law firms, HR consultants, energy efficiency companies and many others are expected to benefit from the decriminalization of pot, according to panelists at an Oregon Business breakfast meeting on Tuesday.


Read more...

10 Innovators in Rural Health

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY AMY MILSHTEIN | PHOTOS BY JASON E. KAPLAN

Telemedicine, new partnerships and real estate diversification make health care more accessible in rural Oregon.


Read more...

Downtime with Debra Ringold

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Dean of the Atkinson Graduate School of Management, Willamette University


Read more...

Apartment Mania

Guest Blog
Thursday, June 18, 2015
4805983977 11466ce1d6 zBY BRAD HOULE | CFA

While most categories of commercial real estate have performed well, one of the most robust has been apartment buildings.


Read more...

Urban renewer

Linda Baker
Wednesday, June 24, 2015
UnknownBY LINDA BAKER   

One year after he was appointed chair of the Portland Development Commission, Tom Kelly talks about PDC's longevity, Neil Kelly's comeback and his new role as Portlandia's landlord.


Read more...

Photo Log: Shooting 10 innovators in rural health care

The Latest
Monday, August 03, 2015
007blogBY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

You may have noticed the photos of our rural health innovators departed from the typical Oregon Business aesthetic.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS