Starting as an HR Assistant, Chris Hall worked his way up inside the Talking Rain organization, taking on progressively more challenging work and learning the business inside and out. He moved into Marketing, then to Sales, where he led teams in the Midwest territory working to expand the company’s sparkling water brand across the country. This effort led him to become Vice-President of Sales nationally, then COO, and ultimately CEO.
Since taking the CEO position in 2018, he’s taken a strategic approach to new product development, putting a focus on people, and building a strong enterprise platform that has driven unprecedented growth in revenue, market share, and profitability. In 2020, they expanded the Talking Rain Beverage portfolio by launching the company’s first alcoholic beverage line and delivering several net new beverage brands in emerging categories.
Before joining Talking Rain, Chris served as a submariner in the United States Navy, where he developed his commitment to honor, dedication, and excellence. These values, a disciplined work ethic, and a mindset of “company-team-self,” have been essential ingredients driving the growth and success for him personally and have been the guiding light of his career at Talking Rain.
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Before we begin, our readers are interested to know about how you got started in the first place. Did you always want to be where you are today or was it something you were led to? Share with us your journey.
Chris Hall: Prior to joining Talking Rain, I served as a submariner in the United States Navy and worked in the hospitality industry. The Navy instilled many of the core values I hold today—honor, dedication, and excellence. These values, combined with my propensity to challenge myself and seek self-growth, have all contributed to my career trajectory at Talking Rain.
I joined Talking Rain in 2007 as a Human Resources associate before transitioning to the sales department. Over the course of 10+ years, I learned to say yes to every opportunity and have held nearly every sales position in the book. I worked my way up from Market Manager to Sales Manager to Director of Sales to finally VP of Sales. Later, I assumed responsibilities for all Sales and Supply Chain Operations in the role of Chief Operating Officer.
In 2018, I was appointed Chief Executive Officer, where I have taken a strategic approach to new product development. My focus has been on building a strong enterprise platform to drive growth in revenue, market share, and profitability.
Tell us a bit about your current focus. What is the most important thing that you’re working on and how do you plan on doing it?
Chris Hall: My current focus is maintaining a sustainable business model and continued growth. Through community obsession, advanced workplace culture, and by accelerating digital business practices, I’m working to ensure our organization stays on plan and maintains a competitive edge while remaining agile in the competitive market.
The post pandemic world is a rapidly evolving marketplace that’s complex, requiring us to quickly adapt to a new way of conducting business. Our “just-in-time” approach has been replaced by “just-in-case.” To have continued progressive results, we are investing in our scalability and an improved community experience.
Some argue that punctuality is a strength. Others say punctuality is a weakness. How do you feel about it, please explain.
Chris Hall: I believe punctuality is a strength. It is important to make that commitment to yourself and those who depend on you. It shows that you are dependable and can be held accountable for your responsibilities. Even during the pandemic, I felt that it was important to maintain a routine centered around discipline and focus. Every day I still got up at 5 AM and headed into the office at the same time. Having this punctuality and discipline for myself allowed me to be focused and not get distracted.
How important is having good timing in your line of work and in the industry that your organization operates in?
Chris Hall: Timing plays an extremely prominent role within the beverage industry. The industry is rapidly evolving as consumer preferences change and with new advancements in technology and even workplace trends. It is important to look ahead to examine and anticipate what consumers want so your brand can stay ahead of the game to bring beverages to market to meet consumer demand.
In a rapidly evolving marketplace, we cannot plan for every scenario, but we can prepare the team to respond accordingly. I believe proper preparation allows an organization to capitalize on those unique opportunities that are connected to the right place and time.
Founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson, states “Timing is everything in life, and it’s particularly crucial in entrepreneurship. People often equate success with luck, but it usually comes down to impeccable (and carefully mapped out) timing”. Do you agree with this statement? Please answer in as much detail as necessary.
Chris Hall: While there will always be varying degrees of luck involved, I agree that timing is more important when it comes to success. Impeccable timing is a result of proper planning and an agile mindset, which allows an organization to pivot when necessary. That way, when factors outside of your control threaten success, you’re able to quickly come together as a team and change your course of action.
As an example, many industries have faced headwinds as a result of the pandemic. From labor shortages to increases in customer demand to supply chain issues, we have all had to make changes to stay on course and meet the expectations of our customers. While the headwinds may be out of our control, having a strategic and well-thought-out plan that accounts for the headwinds is what will determine success.
As a leader/entrepreneur/CEO, how do you decide when to put the pedal to the metal and when to take a break? How do you time the key moments in your career?
Chris Hall: While taking quick action and taking advantage of the moment is important when it comes to staying ahead of the rapidly evolving marketplace, sustainable success is not possible if your People, Product, and Platforms are not in order.
Does my team have the support and resources needed to meet their goals? Are our products meeting the expectations of our consumers? Are our platforms capable of handling the increased demand? These are all questions that leaders should be asking on a daily basis. Listening to your workforce, your customers, and your consumers is the first step in knowing when to hit pause or put the pedal to the metal. A properly prepared organization—meaning its People, Products, and Platform—are dialed in and will naturally respond accordingly to opportunities. Keep in mind, whether it’s a hurdle, disruption, or an immediate positive benefit, all are learning opportunities to make you a better company, team, or leader.
Branson also states “If you’re starting to feel like you’re just going through the motions and losing sight of why you started, it might be time to take a break”. But how do you decide when to take a break?
Chris Hall: The pandemic is stretching us all to new limits. One of the most important challenges of today is finding time to pause and take care of ourselves so that we don’t experience fatigue or burnout. A phrase I use often is Be Better, which refers to being a better person and leader. If I’m feeling fatigued, I know for certain that my team is as well. This means it’s time to take a break and find a balance so that I can continue to be better for my community.
“Timing can be everything when starting up. It can be the difference between building a thriving business and not” How has good timing helped you achieve success in your career or business? Are there any particular examples from your career that you would like to share?
Chris Hall: I believe the opportunity door opens for everyone. Having situational awareness allows you to recognize those perfectly timed opportunities, but being prepared is what allows you to appropriately capitalize on them. In my career, the opportunity door has opened many times, which I ran through and never looked back. I may not have always been fully capable of what was being asked, but I knew I could figure it out.
“When you’re thinking of starting up, ask yourself: ‘Is the community I want to serve ready for this idea?’ It could make all the difference!” Would you like to add anything to this piece of advice for all the aspiring entrepreneurs?
Chris Hall: It is important to listen to the consumers within your marketplace. The concept of Sparkling Ice was born from listening to the consumer and what the consumer wanted, which was a low or zero sugar sparkling water with full flavor. We continue to focus on exceeding consumer and customer expectations and basing our decisions on what we know our consumers would want.
COVID forced many businesses to adapt fast, some did so successfully, others failed, it was a lot due to good or poor timing. What are some of the big lessons you’ve learned during the pandemic?
Chris Hall: We were lucky to have an influx of business during the pandemic, as consumers were stocking up on their favorite brands and trying to make bulk purchases while quarantined at home. We also utilized this time to introduce new products and categories of beverages as we saw many consumers looking for better-for-you beverages and alternatives for drinks. One such example is our new premium alkaline water, Talking Rain AQA, which has a 9.5ph level and offers enhanced hydration for consumers.
While we may have adapted quickly to the pandemic, we were not entirely prepared for the headwinds that we would face in 2021 due to supply chain issues, trucking capacity, and other issues out of our control. In order to get ahead of some of these obstacles, we had to identify our weaknesses and bring on more support to alleviate these pressures.
Another important lesson learned was the importance of our community. We are fortunate to have an amazing community of Rain Makers (employees), partners, and customers who have stuck with us throughout the years. We would not be the company we are today without the support of our community, and it makes us that much more motivated to give back to those who have supported us.
Your insight has been incredibly valuable and our readers thank you for your generosity. We do have a couple of other bold questions to ask. What fictional world would you want to start a business in and what would you sell?
Chris Hall: I recently watched the re-release of the film, Dune. At the end of the movie, I thought about how nice that world would be if all the houses got along and partnered with the planet’s population to focus on building a sustainable future that benefits everyone. Less about taking and more about building a sustainable partnership and planet.
Before we finish things off, we would love to know, when you have some time away from business, what is one hobby that you wish you could spend more time on?
Chris Hall: When I’m not focused on Talking Rain, I like to spend time at home recharging. Give me a free afternoon and I’ll be grilling in the backyard, playing sports with my son, and enjoying time with my wife.
Jed Morley, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Chris Hall for taking the time to do this interview and share his knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Chris Hall or his company, you can do it through his – Linkedin
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