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A Great Team

A Great Team

Hello and good day!

One of the very rewarding things about having a business is getting to hire and work with a team. I had a realization not too long ago.

As a company grows, the percentage of work done by the owners shrinks. This has nothing to do with how hard the owners work. It is a function of the overall amount of work that needs to be done.

You can keep working your 10 to 14 hours a day, but as time goes on, and the company's total daily work hours grows from hundreds per day to thousands per day or more, your 10 to 14 hours becomes a smaller and smaller part of the total.

As time goes on and the business progresses, the vast majority of work is handled by team members, not the owners of the business. That means that the success or failure of a business is largely dependent on the quality of the team.  And I can tell you with all sincerity, we have a great team.

Our business is essentially broken in to 4 teams and each team has a team lead.

Our team lead for cacao buying is Oscar Ayala. Oscar has been with us since the very founding of our company, some 15 years ago.

Melko runs our post-harvest processing. He has also been with us since the founding of the company. For over a decade, Melko and my brother Brian were roommates. They slept about 5 feet from each other in a big room on beds covered by mosquito nets.

Most of that room was dedicated to storing cacao that was ready for export. It was the only big house in town, and it served as our admin office, Brian and Melko's living quarters, and our cacao storage warehouse, all in one big room. The entire house was essentially one big, grey, concrete room.

Melko is the strong silent type and one of the smartest and hardest workers you'll ever meet. By now, he is one of the pre-eminent cacao processing experts in the world.

Our chocolate production team is run by Javier Valencia, our chocolatier. He was a family friend for a long time before coming to work with us. Our retail team is run by Wade Nelson, also a long-time friend before coming to join the company. There are many more names that I could throw out there, but if I start naming every name, this email will spiral out of control.

A couple of things to point out that we are very proud of. The people who come to work for us tend to stay a long time. I think it is because they know that we actually care about them, and we try to be fair on principle.

We want everybody to thrive financially and do work that they enjoy. We set high standards, but to the extent that team members are striving after those standards, we don't micromanage.

We try to lead by example.

If we want team members to work hard and go above and beyond for our wonderful customers and cacao farm partners, the team needs to see us setting the tone by doing the work ourselves, consistently.

They need to know that we aren't just talking. We're not asking them to do things that we don't even really believe in just because we like to hear ourselves talk.

I don't follow too many sporting events lately. I used to be much more into sports but life, and kids, and work, take up most of my time. But when I was into sports much more, the NCAA tournament was always my favorite. I filled out the bracket and followed along closely. I loved to watch the upsets and the buzzer beaters.

I've tried to watch some of the highlights from this year's tournament, but every time I try, I fall asleep on the couch.

Anyhow, my brother, my dad, and I all went to San Diego State University at some point, so we are all Aztecs fans. As an aside, I'm the only one of the three who graduated with a master's degree from SDSU. No big deal. Just putting that out there.

One thing we've been following with excitement is the run that SDSU is making in the tournament this year. They just knocked off the number 1 seed Alabama a couple days ago.

My brother and dad caught the entire game, and they told me about it afterwards. It sounds like SDSU wins through a grinding, hardnosed, defensive style. They wear people down and shut down the opposing team's offense.

I played basketball growing up and I know that a strong defensive effort comes from a certain mindset, and it is the ultimate team effort. The coach is getting his young men to work together very well.

Also, my brother Brian mentioned to me that a lot of the players are third- and fourth-year players. These guys have been playing together a long time. They know and trust each other. That means a lot.

Some schools recruit a lot of star athletes who only stay a year or two before growing pro. That means they'll have the best players, but not the best team. And it takes a team to win the games, not just one or two players.

This reminds me of a great line from the movie Miracle, starring Kurt Russel. It is about the 1980 USA men's hockey team. This team won the gold medal by beating the Soviet Union.

The Soviets were considered unbeatable. They had been completely dominant for years. At the beginning of the film, Kurt Russel is overseeing tryouts and he dismisses some of the highest talent players.

Fhe rest of the coaching staff thinks that he is nuts. They ask him what in the world he is doing. He says, "I'm not looking for the best players, I'm looking for the right ones." He wanted the ones who could form a strong team, who could work together in unison to produce excellent results.

We are lucky to have just such a team here at Fortunato Chocolate.

If you've enjoyed our products over the last few years, please know that they are the result of hundreds of cacao farm families, and dozens of team members working hard, and as a team, day in and day out.

And being a part of this team is a true blessing for our family.

I hope that you have a truly blessed day!