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

Photo Diary: Forest Grove Farmers Market

The Latest
Thursday, May 14, 2015
IMG 8469BY JASON E. KAPLAN | STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

There are more than 160 farmers markets in Oregon, contributing an estimated $50 million in sales, according to the Oregon Farmers Markets Association. We checked in on the Forest Grove market, which for several years has brought local produce and food vendors to Main Street in the center of town.


Read more...

The Green Paradox

June 2015
Friday, May 22, 2015
BY EMILY LIEDEL

Inside the topsy-turvy world of corporate sustainability rankings.


Read more...

Picture This

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

As a general rule, the more people with autism can be provided with visual cues, the better they will be able to understand and manage their environment. It’s a lesson Tom Keating learned well. The 61-year-old Eugene grant writer spent 31 years taking care of his autistic brother James, and in the late 1980s developed a spreadsheet that created a series of nonsense characters that grew or shrank depending on how much money James had in his account. 


Read more...

6 development projects reshaping Bend

The Latest
Thursday, April 09, 2015
bendthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Bend has reclaimed its prerecession title as one of the fastest growing cities in the country.


Read more...

Downtime with the director of Barley's Angels

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Live, Work, Play with Christine Jump.


Read more...

Celestial Eats

May 2015
Monday, April 27, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER AND EILEEN GARVIN

A power lunch at Solstice Wood Fire Cafe & Bar.


Read more...

Downtime with John Helmick

June 2015
Tuesday, May 26, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Live, Work, Play: CEO of Gorilla Capital.


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