3 lessons the CEO of multimillion-dollar brand Hint water learned when she started doing the 'dirty work' as a leader

3 lessons the CEO of multimillion-dollar brand Hint water learned when she started doing the 'dirty work' as a leader
Insider

3 lessons the CEO of multimillion-dollar brand Hint water learned when she started doing the 'dirty work' as a leader
Kara Goldin.Kara Goldin
  • Kara Goldin is the founder and CEO of multimillion-dollar beverage company Hint.
  • When the pandemic hit, she personally helped stock shelves at stores like Target with her product.
  • She says getting your hands dirty as CEO teaches you a lot - like how to make strategic decisions.

In the early days of the pandemic, when many CEOs were sitting in hours of executive meetings on shifting their strategy or fretting over financial documents to see how they could avoid layoffs, Kara Goldin - founder and CEO of multimillion-dollar beverage company Hint - was using some of her precious time to do something surprising: stock shelves.

Every day, she would help her team by going to grocery and big-box stores near her home in Marin County, California, to see if their unsweetened, flavored water had flown off the shelves like most other products.
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When it was sold out, she'd work to get trucks of Hint water sent directly to stores, sometimes even going so far as to unpack them herself. "I was working at Target San Rafael and a store employee gave me additional space, saying how impressed he was to see the founder stocking shelves," Goldin told Insider in August.

This unconventional move got Goldin more than extra shelf space. Here are a few of the ways she feels being unafraid to get her hands dirty helped her company not just survive but succeed through uncertain times.

It helps you and your team practice resilience

While delegation is a critical leadership skill and you often want to trust the experts you've hired to manage different aspects of your business, "the buck stops with you as the CEO," Goldin told Insider. That means when the going gets tough, you might have to dive in and help the team get going.
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Goldin said that, while your employees may be great at what they do, many of them don't have the learned resilience that leaders and entrepreneurs have gained from all the challenging times they've been through before. It's your responsibility in moments of uncertainty to help your team problem solve and see possible paths forward.

"During challenging times, you need a leader who is going to set the course," Goldin said, adding that's why "the best CEOs today build great teams to be able to manage the day-to-day, but also never lose a handle on the different aspects of their business."

It teaches you how to make strategic decisions

Stepping down and doing some work on the ground floor can also be a great way to inform your high-level, strategic work as a leader. After all, there's no better way to figure out the problems you need to solve than getting in the weeds yourself.
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Through her experience stocking shelves, Goldin was able to see how she could redistribute her team to solve immediate problems and prevent having to lay anyone off.

After seeing how panicked consumers were about whether they'd be able to get basic essentials, she and her team planned a massive campaign reminding customers they had plenty of stock on their D2C website - ultimately leading to a 300% growth in D2C sales of their product. This also led to the decision to delay the launch of their liter bottles in favor of creating a hand sanitizer so consumers could have more and better options for staying safe.

"Watching exactly what's going on in the market and how can you solve the customer's problem is a great way to keep top of mind with the consumers out there," Goldin said. Plus, doing some of the day-to-day tasks can be a great way to get your hands on market research.
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It builds trust with your team

Perhaps most importantly, doing some of the dirty work yourself allows you to lead by example and ensure you're not asking your team to do anything you wouldn't do yourself - something that becomes especially important when people are afraid for their safety.

Goldin - who had long-term employees ask if she was trying to kill them when she suggested they needed to go into stores - realized she needed to go in herself to ensure it was a reasonable ask for her team.

"I've never been in the military but the best leaders in military history did exactly the same thing," she said. "You don't sit there and send your troops in and put their lives on the line - you jump in."
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By "putting herself into the scrimmage," Goldin said, she was able to determine whether she was making the right call and also share strategies with her team that made going into stores feel safer for her. Plus, her team appreciated that she was so willing to put herself on the line.

"I don't think you can sit there and live in your glass castle as a leader anymore," Goldin said. "I think that you have to actually jump in and make sure that you're moving people in the right direction."

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