Hiring for Culture and Growth

Hiring for Culture and Growth

Denis and Lanny discuss Carnivore Meat Company’s impressive business turnaround based on intentional culture, agility, transparency and people-centered recruitment and hiring. Carnivore Meat Company is the nation’s leading private-label provider of premium-quality, raw frozen and freeze-dried pet food and treats. The Green Bay-based, family-owned company manufactures products under the Vital Essentials and Vital Cat brands and also provides private label products for some of the largest pet brands in the world. Carnivore’s mission is to provide dogs and cats (and other carnivorous pets) the opportunity to lead long, vibrant, healthy lives, with premium raw foods that are sourced, made and packaged in the USA.



Denis: Lanny Viegut, welcome to Coffee and CEOs.
Lanny: I believe that strong leaders are strong decision-makers. And that doesn’t mean you make the right one every time. But it’s the ability and the capacity to make a decision.
Denis: Why don’t you just give us a little background on who you are and what you do.
Lanny: Well, Carnivore Meat Company is a raw pet food manufacturing company. We produce raw-meat diets for dogs, cats, and other carnivorous animals all over the world. We’re based here in Green Bay. We have three locations. Our brand is called Vital Essentials—that’s in the pet food space in the marketplace. And Vital Essentials can be purchased at about 6000 independent pet specialty stores all over the country, and it’s available in 14 different countries across the globe.
Denis: So you’ve had some rapid growth. And hiring, retention in today’s marketplace is so challenging. There aren’t enough good workers out there for the positions that are available. How did you go about finding these great people to grow so quickly? What’s the magic?
Lanny: There’s never a silver bullet. So we have a several-pronged approach. Some of our best people come from referrals of our current team. You know, recently we implemented a referral program, where we recognize those who bring others to the organization as candidates for different roles.

We also have a, what I believe is a very unique and specialized recruiting and selection system. The process that we have is just as important for us as it is for the person who is going to be joining our company or who’s considering joining our business.

So it really starts with the role description. And it’s not just a list of tasks. It’s about—we incorporate the behavioral portion of it. For example, we talk about the candor, the candid conversations with teammates and vendors and management. That’s built right into the role description. When you come into our organization, you do everything you can to help each other be successful. You do whatever it takes, whatever is necessary, such that the customer has a great experience. So those things aren’t relative to the job that they applied—that they’re actually going to do in terms of tactical and, you know, day-to-day activities. But those behaviors have to be exhibited every day.

Denis: Culture is everything in successful companies. It’s how you engage internally, externally. It’s building out that customer experience. And we’ve found, yeah, the tasks of the job can be taught, but the culture is the culture, the person you’re bringing on, and the more intentional you can be about it, the better. And it sounds like you’re doing a really good job with that.
Lanny: Yeah. I think part of it is recruiting for the things you can’t teach.
Denis: Congratulations. Great growth. Everything you’re doing … spot on, from what we’ve learned and our expertise. No doubt you’re—there’s reasons you’re successful—and thank you for sharing them with us. What’s next?
Lanny: Great question. We’ve always been an opportunistic organization. And what I mean by that is, when I first started, you know, someone asked, “Where do you think you might be in five years?” And I was thinking, “Man, if we could take a bankrupt business from a little less than a million to five million, we’d be rock stars.” What we learned along the way is there’s been more opportunity for us than any of us ever would have thought.

I’ll say this. The companies, the organizations that are in our space that do similar things that we do, are in a really great place from the standpoint of consumers coming into that, you know, transitioning from commodity pet food into ultra-premium, natural, real-meat diets. And the fact that our competitors are trying to get in that market space and they’re doing everything they can to get in that, that tells me we’re in the right place.

Denis: Right, right.
Lanny: There’s a—you know, I believe that—you know, I’ll probably be gone from the industry by the time it happens—but I think in ten years the products that we produce today will be the market-share leader in the pet food space.
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