Scott Sensenbrenner is one of the pioneers and leaders in the growing natural products industry. He is also a generous philanthropist, having contributed to the advocacy programs of several organizations. In 2020, he has also been elected to the Strategic Advisory Board of the American Nutrition Association (ANA).
As CEO of Enzymedica, Scott Sensenbrenner leads the Florida-based company that sells “natural digestive health” products to more than 30,000 stores worldwide and on the internet. The company has been active in the industry since 1998. For more than 20 years, the company has achieved tremendous success, and now its flagship enzyme brand has become the leading product in the United States. Over the years, Enzymedica has also received over 50 awards from the industry, which includes several People’s Choice Awards from the Better Nutrition Magazine; several Best of Supplements Awards; and multiple VITY and Nexty Awards.
In 2009, Scott Sensenbrenner became the President and CEO of Enzymedica. As chief executive, he “oversees the Company’s strategic vision and corporate growth.” Prior to becoming CEO, he was the Vice President of Thorne Research, a “leading professional market natural medicines manufacturer” that serves more than 20,000 healthcare practitioners. He was also the Group Director of Perrigo Nutrition, which is the United States’ “largest generic pharmaceutical, OTC and nutritional company.”
Scott Sensenbrenner began his career in natural products with Enzymatic Therapy in the 1990s. Currently, he also sits on the board of many nonprofit organizations, which includes the Sarasota County Economic Development. He also served as director of the Roskamp Institute, an organization specializing on research into the “diseases of the mind.”
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Jerome Knyszewski: What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Scott Sensenbrenner: As with every business there is a sea of competition, but what makes Enzymedica stand out from the crowd is our absolute commitment to our People & Planet philosophy. This begins with our core mission of searching the planet for natural solutions to support digestive health & total body wellness that represent the highest level of efficacy, quality and purity without compromise. As we discover nature’s answers to good health, our purpose continues via our commitment to help educate the world so that people can make informed choices to support their journey of good health as they advance throughout their lives.
Going beyond our products, we support several non-profits which are dedicated to making the world a better place. For example, our Aqua Biome Fish Oil brand was formulated to not only be the best in the world, but for every bottle we sell, we donate to Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium — specifically their effort to restore reefs which have been devastated by environmental factors.
This is Enzymedica’s ongoing purpose — to leave a legacy to the world that will extend beyond the individual lifetimes of our team — we are committed to our mission of People & Planet. This philosophy helps us stand out to consumers as they also seek to make a difference in their own health and simultaneously a commitment to the planet. We’re also able to recruit top talent because so many people are tired of being just a number in a company and want to have a purpose that goes beyond the paycheck.
Jerome Knyszewski: Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Scott Sensenbrenner: The key I’ve learned from my experience in building Enzymedica, is to never lose focus on your core mission and make sure that you take your time in hiring the right team. In the early 2000s, my professional philosophy on management changed dramatically when I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great. During those few hours with him, he redirected my mind on the importance of recruiting the right team as he said that too many leaders look at themselves as being the answer to problems.
To this day, we relentlessly follow his advice in that we take a bottom up servant style leadership approach and seek out candidates who are driven to succeed. It’s the job of the manager to support team members and ensure that they have all the resources needed to thrive versus telling them what to do.
Jerome Knyszewski: None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Scott Sensenbrenner: In the course of my life I have been blessed with many mentors who helped me along the way. The biggest influence came from Bob Roskamp. He has been both an inspiration on how to live an amazing life and also in his partnership as an investor in Enzymedica.
Early on in Bob’s life there was a family tragedy that placed him on a course to make a difference in the world. This ultimately led him to build a very successful business in developing long-term care facilities across the US, along with a host of other enterprises. What makes Bob standout is he has given back to so many by humbly sharing his wisdom and by personally donating a fortune to establish several nonprofits, with the most well-known being the Roskamp Institute. It’s led by a team of world-class scientists seeking to find solutions to healing the diseases of the mind.
I cannot say enough about how much Bob has influenced me and I consider him almost like a father. The greatest lesson he taught me was his own philosophy in life, which is that many of life’s challenges come disguised as opportunities. It’s what you do about them that makes all the difference! That quote from Bob is displayed prominently in our conference room and I cannot tell you enough about how often we reference it in our team meetings and dozens of visiting CEOs have taken pictures of it to share with their own teams.
Jerome Knyszewski: Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. The title of this series is “How to take your company from good to great”. Let’s start with defining our terms. How would you define a “good” company, what does that look like? How would you define a “great” company, what does that look like?
Scott Sensenbrenner: In my view, a good company is one that is financially strong and has a solid portfolio of existing and new products. A great company is composed of a synergistic team that is focused on the core mission and values with a longer-term approach to what success looks like. Furthermore, great companies are able to maintain the core focus, but also pivot when they see the market is going beyond a trend to consistent reality.
One of my favorite examples of a company that was once upon a time great and eventually fell from grace is the Hostess company. We all grew up with Twinkies and Wonder Bread since those brands dominated. But in the early 2000s, their leadership team felt the trend of low carb diets was a fad, so they didn’t adapt their portfolio. As sales plummeted and their critical mass engines failed, they lost control of what was once a great company — leading to the depths of bankruptcy. We should all learn from their mistakes and know when to stay the course and when to pivot, since sometimes trends truly are fads and not worthy of a strategy shift.
Jerome Knyszewski: What would you advise to a business leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth and “restart their engines”?
Scott Sensenbrenner: Over the last decade we have consistently outperformed our marketplace, but this has come with an intense effort of staying on top of what is or is not working in our organization. In some years we have had less-than-expected results due to a variety of unplanned issues.
As you look forward, it’s important to build your business so that any part of it is designed to fail. Why? Because no one has a crystal ball and you cannot anticipate what you do not know. This year is a great example. No one could have anticipated the impact of COVID. For us this resulted in both positive and negative trends in the various channels we sell to.
For example, our retail marketplace experienced considerable declines in consumer traffic, while our online and international business outperformed. It was this forethought years ago, in diversifying our business model, that has created numerous growth engines — each capable of driving growth and/or making up for areas that are experiencing challenges. This does not happen overnight. If you take on a new channel or segment make sure that you have the resources and are committed long term to making it successful. Otherwise, you can extend your company too far and all segments could fail. The key is to implement one area at a time to ensure the foundation for success is in place.
Jerome Knyszewski: Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
Scott Sensenbrenner: As I mentioned earlier, I grew up in a fiscally conservative family that influenced my core to be financially responsible. I’ve taken the same approach to my professional life by ensuring that before we take on a new initiative, we are in a financial position to fully fund it. This doesn’t mean we do not take financial risks — we often do.
Speaking to financial stability, this year presented its own unexpected issues related to COVID. Early on we focused on building our cash reserves in the event that the economy will take longer than expected to recover. This required an internal review examining what areas are driving revenue versus what is considered a “nice to have”. As we made certain cutbacks, we also increased investments into accelerating key growth engines. So far this has paid off. We are growing above plan in those same investment areas, while we have increased our liquidity of cash to record levels. Hopefully the economy will recover quickly, and if it does, that cash reserve will be deployed into growth engine acceleration. If the economy takes longer than expected to recover, we have the financial resources to comfortably ride out the economic storm.
The main message I would like to convey is the importance of using your own intuition in knowing when to invest and when to reserve cash. Listen to that intuition. Don’t delay in your approach to pivot your business or time will catch up to you and before you know it you are dealing with a problem from which you unfortunately may not recover. As much as growth is important over the long march, it’s even more important to ensure your own financial viability so that you can have a future both for yourself and your employees.
Jerome Knyszewski: In your experience, which aspect of running a company tends to be most underestimated? Can you explain or give an example?
Scott Sensenbrenner: One of the biggest overlooked parts of business is that you have to invest in your team and how to communicate effectively. At Enzymedica, we are growing so quickly, and I devote a lot of time with each department to ensure everyone is on board with our mission and with changing times. Healthy communication is not to be underestimated and is vital to any company’s success. As we grow, we also evolve the way we communicate internally.
I realized early on that the increased demands of adjusting to COVID placed a greater burden on many individuals and departments. This created a capacity GAP that we had to address. The initial focus has been on delaying “nice to do” projects, while placing greater attention on strategic efforts which will move our revenue needle in the upcoming 12 months.
Going beyond refining our focus, we are now beginning to track our “say and do’s” individually, and also in our departmental commitments. This has increased accountability and ensures that when we say we are going to meet a deadline goal — the rest of the team can depend on it!
Jerome Knyszewski: Great customer service and great customer experience are essential to build a beloved brand and essential to be successful in general. In your experience what are a few of the most important things a business leader should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience?
Scott Sensenbrenner: I love this question since we are constantly focused on our strategy of customer experience. It begins with our trade customers, in how we train and manage our sales organization, right down to our call center. Then we extend our efforts to our consumer experience by ensuring that our products are the most effective in the marketplace. In the end, for us it’s about the efficacy of our products. That is our primary definition of how we measure customer experience.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are your thoughts about how a company should be engaged on Social Media? For example, the advisory firm EisnerAmper conducted 6 yearly surveys of United States corporate boards, and directors reported that one of their most pressing concerns was reputational risk as a result of social media. Do you share this concern? We’d love to hear your thoughts about this.
Scott Sensenbrenner: In today’s world, if your company is not engaged on social media you are missing the boat. Now more than ever, consumers are rapidly moving away from traditional media, i.e., print and TV, and are seeking out both education and entertainment online. It’s important to note that every platform has a different audience and tone and to make sure that you are not taking a one-size-fits-all approach to how you represent your company/brand.
Regarding reputational risk, it can be mitigated by simply working with your marketing and agency teams to set parameters up front as to how you want your company represented. I have observed with some of our competitors that they have tried to be actively involved in joining various movements. In every case, it completely backfired on those companies and created polarization of their consumer audience.
At Enzymedica, we are for all people and all beliefs and we stick to what we do best. This is the focus of the content we produce. It goes back to the question of “good to great”. Every company should focus on their core mission and never deviate on that messaging.
Jerome Knyszewski: What are the most common mistakes you have seen CEOs & founders make when they start a business? What can be done to avoid those errors?
Scott Sensenbrenner: The biggest mistake I see CEOs, and especially founders, make is that they place too much emphasis on their own self-importance. In the early stages of an enterprise it’s a necessity, since resources are limited and oftentimes the leaders have to wear many hats. The problem is that as the enterprise grows, it’s no longer sustainable for all decisions to flow through one person. Instead as Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great explains, it’s about finding people that are the best at what they do. It’s your job as CEO to provide them with the resources they need, and get out of their way, so they can succeed.
It’s also important to note that we all became who we are by making mistakes in our career path. It’s learning from those mistakes that makes us who we are today. So as we look to overseeing our leadership teams, make sure that you allow for a company culture that learns from its mistakes as opposed to one that presents fear in making a mistake. It can be a painful process, but ultimately it’s an investment in the development of your team to give them the freedom to succeed and fail. In the end, everyone is accountable and if mistakes do not produce learning from the individual or team, then it is time for you to step in and make the change needed to move the company forward.
Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
Scott Sensenbrenner: At Enzymedica, our core is all about continuing with our movement for helping consumers find healthier options for supporting their digestive health. It’s a long road, but one that we are very proud of and we use our passion for this movement as motivation to continue to stay the course and make a difference in the lives for all of the consumers whom we serve.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Scott Sensenbrenner: Readers can connected with me on LinkedIn. They can also visit our site and follow us on social media @enzymedica.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!