he setting was spare: a small table
and two chairs in an otherwise
empty conference room in Kind’s
New York City headquarters. The
discussion was anything but.
In the frst installment of a new
series called Icons and Innovators,
Inc. has paired well-known but not
necessarily like-minded entrepreneurs
to talk about their work.
Ron Shaich, the force behind
Au Bon Pain and Panera Bread, also
started Act III, an investment frm
that provides what he calls “venture
management” and eschews the traditional VC model in favor of long-term
investment. Over a 36-year career, Shaich has made high-stakes decisions as
his businesses have evolved, including dumping Au Bon Pain. He sees his job
as studying consumers to fnd out how to solve their problems. It’s allowed
him to anticipate trends such as fast-casual dining, which led him to Panera.
Daniel Lubetzky is the classic, from-the-ground-up entrepreneur.
An immigrant from Mexico, he veered away from a law career to pursue
and create an all-natural, minimally processed snack bar that would
change the market for healthy treats. He turned Kind into a multibillion-dollar, purpose-driven company. Along the way, he learned how to do
every job needed to make Kind a success, like showing up at stores at 5 a.m.
to meet buyers, and handing out samples on planes. He is the customer, but
now must operate within a much larger corporate environment.
Despite diferent approaches to their businesses—Shaich is more
analytical, Lubetzky more intuitive—the two found a lot to share about
the state of innovation and entrepreneurship in their hourlong conversation. You can read the highlights in the following pages or view the
entire conversation at Inc.com. —BILL SAPORITO
RON SHAICH One of the things
we share is this experience of
building innovative companies
that need to do innovation to
keep driving forward. How do you
think about innovation now
that Kind has become a large
and serious company?
DANIEL LUBETZKY For me, it’s a
very intuitive, gut process. For me,
it’s much more How do I feel?
What do I think is missing? Where
does my gut tell me there’s an
opportunity? It’s much more
instinctive than the more formalized process that exists in an
organization. Now that Kind has
grown up, we have smarter people
who need to do a lot of data
analyses and go through a very
RS When I think about innovation,
I want to start by understanding
whom I’m innovating for. Who’s the
target? If I don’t understand who
it is, I have a problem. And then
I want to spend as much time as
necessary to listen, to do it with
empathy, to understand, to brainstorm with others, but to understand what matters to that target
market or that target consumer.
What’s going to make a difference
in these people’s lives? And once
I’ve resolved what matters—and
I can put that on a single piece of
paper—then what I like to try to
do is what I call a rendering: Can
I paint a vision of what this innovation will look like?
DL Entrepreneurs tend to have a
slightly different language but
48 ● INC. ● NOVEMBER 2018 ● ● ● PHOTOGRAPH BY ERIK TANNER
Panera Bread’s Ron Shaich and Kind’s
Daniel Lubetzky discuss creativity, control,
and the future of entrepreneurialism.
ICONS + INNOVATORS