Bonus Episode! Method's Adam Lowry And Eric Ryan At The HIBT Summit
Support for the how I built this summit comes from American Express offering eligible card members, flexible funding solutions smart savvy way to fund your business. The powerful backing of American Express don't do business without it. Terms apply. Visit American Express dot com slash business. Hey, it's guy here. And today, we're going to bring you our second bonus episode from the how I built this summit that was held in San Francisco in October. And this episode is from my live interview with Eric Ryan, and Adam Lowry there the co founders of method, and if you haven't heard that episode we did on method on the podcast. You should definitely go back and give it a listen. It's the story of two guys in the mid twenties who took on Unilever and Procter and gamble by starting a company that makes green cleaning products. Now adamant Eric spent fifteen years building method together before they each moved on to found new companies. So when I sat down with them at the summit, I really wanted to dig into just how they made their partnership work. So successfully how they manage their relationship as co founders and through it all now, they managed to stay friends. Thank you for for coming. I imagine a lot of people in this room. Maybe even in the bathrooms of the year Buena center for the arts. They will find that icon ick bottle of method hanso. How can you can you? Tell me how you got the idea. Can you tell us how the idea came to you guys go for it? So we so adamant I started this company at pine and Gough here in San Francisco now referred to as lower Pacific Heights in arguably, the dirtiest flat and San Francisco, so this is not the Martha Stewart story by any means, and I took a different approach which is not necessarily trying to find a problem to solve or a frustration. Because we are not known for our cleaning, especially Eric. Yeah. We saw a really big category which was a sea of sameness, and we started looking at the category and start to see some opportunities. Eric really kind of looked at it from from a brand perspective initially, which was his background, and I've very different background scientific environmental. And started looking at it from that perspective. And it just was one of those things. It's just started to grow. We'd really know what it was at first, but grew in you were in your like mid twenties at the time. How did you know that the other person was going to be the right partner? When you when you when you start talking about this? I don't know if he did I don't I don't think we did what I knew is that Eric thought in a way that was entirely different from the way that I thought, and I learned a lot whenever I spoke to him about business. And I knew that that was a necessary element for any business. And I'm just somebody that believes in just trying. Lifelong learning. And so I saw that as a huge asset. I think we're so different in the way we think in what our skill sets are in a typical business situation. I don't think we would ever been brought together. Yeah. One of the very lucky things for us is that we were friends and roommates and you as a founder you off to look to partner with businesses with people who are similar to you. But what you need is someone who's the complete opposite of you to make a business successful. Yeah. So tell me both of you would question with what skill sets. Did you bring to the partnership to the relationship? He can spell and do math. I was twenty five when we started the business. So I can't claim that I had a lot of skills. Chewed a background in chemistry. Background was chemical engineering. I'd been a climate scientist. I knew how to computer program, I knew how to do sort of technical stuff and could figure out problems at very simply atoms inside the bottle. He understood that the chemistry. Chemical engineering the sustainability behind it. And I was outside of the bottle, which was the the design and the branding of it. And one of you, and you may not may not know who one of them is an introvert and one's an extrovert. See we we need each other. I've got a joke for you know, the difference between an introverted engineer. An extroverted engineer now the extroverted engineer looks at your shoes while he's talking. So so you guys, obviously, very different personalities. Totally different skill sets. How did you figure out who was going to do what I think it kind of came pretty naturally again? I there was no way. He was good. Trust me to do. Chemical engineering. Yeah. I mean this skill sets being so different. We kind of had to spread out on the field but early on startup, you're doing everything. Right. So Eric was didn't have any formal sales training, for example, but he was very much on the sale side of the business leading customer relationship development. And that sort of thing is that harder for you to do, you know? Yeah. Probably a little bit. It also required me to do things. Like, learn finance, right? I have no formal finance whatsoever. But you know, that's that's typical in history. You were more comfortable being in the background and letting Eric kind of be the face of this to investors and partners and customers. Yeah. Part of that's around my internal motivation. Which is I am oriented the way that I am introverted. If you wanna call it that. But also, I'm I'm much more. This is not a commentary on Herrick. I'm much more just sort of internally motivated about trying to learn new things and get better at something. Get a little bit better. Every what are you saying? Yeah. That was the caveat. So so yeah. But I think that that you know, to kind of bring that around that's actually really important in a business is that you have separate roles that you can that you can play, and it actually was very much to our benefit. I mean, some of our very early sales pitches that we talked about on the show where Eric was out in front of the customer, and I was kind of squirrel in a way trying to figure out stuff. In the meantime, and trying to get it all to come together at the right time. Yeah. You know, we've had episodes where the founders co-founders split up, and it's bad, you know, and it it's it's actually more common than not your case is almost unusual because you're still friends you see each other even though you've gone your separate ways. And you both have separate companies today which will talk about but there must have been tension. I mean, I mean, they're still business decisions that have to be made there still processes. So how did you did you deal with that ten? Yeah. And you're under extreme stress in pressure. And you do this as a partnership, and I always tell people it's it's a lot like a marriage, but it's it's even harder because you can't have makeup sex. So you've got to find alternative ways through it. There's so much. I could say right now. But so much of the tension of the two of us of these very complementary skills, and you can see the tension in our our brand in great brands have tensions. Right. So we had to find healthy ways. And I think we understood each other well as friends and it took a few years, but when we really learn to understand each other, well as business partners, and what are different work styles were like, and we could respect it and understand it. And then we were able to support each other in a completely different level. It's just been amazing. I would just add to that. We've fought like cats and dogs we hated each other's guts for and you live together. I don't remember hitting you. That was good score. One for you. And we actually had to intervene in it. But the key for us was recognizing that it was way more important for the business that we have a constructive relationship, then to get our own individual way. And the big learning was because we're so different learning that when Eric says something, you know, what he really needs. And when I say something he perceives it differently than what I'm trying to say an example of that Eric life. You are. I think you mentioned to me. And I I don't know if this ended up in the final version of the podcast, you're very communicative. You're kind of an open book. And and sometimes you described the way that atom dealt with challenges are pressures was to kind of internalize. It will stay quiet. Yeah. Adam kind of needed the space, then get the energy to go attack. The problem you thought it was angry with you or something like that. Yeah. Or withdrawn like like like the house is on fire. And I was looking what he was doing it. I didn't feel he was. Having that same sense of urgency where he just needed to approach it from a very different way. Where when I'm under pressure under stress, I have to attack the problem head on. And that's very classic introvert extrovert. Did you ever get a coach or like a therapist or somebody? Yeah. We did. Opponent of did therapy together. It got us rate for marriage. But I'm a big proponent of that. Because it's what helps you understand this like the situation that we just talked about where when things get stressful Eric talks a lot and Adam shuts up, right? And that's two different people responding in different ways that still need to work together in ways their constructive. Even though they're stressful. And so having somebody to help you understand that you know, what Eric by talking a lot what he means. By mean, not I'm trying to think my way through a problem that we kinda gotta meet each other in the middle and use the best of each other skill sets get through it. I'm just really fascinated. How you were. So kind of mature about this. You were so young in your mid twenties. I mean in your mid twenties or going through lots of things in general like we're going to do with my life is working out. And yet you both seem to just have this very single minded focus on making this thing work in a lot of that is driven by. A lot of us are trying to do which is to create meaning through our work. Right. And yeah, we spend an awful lot of time working. So if we can make it meaningful that's something that has been a goal for our for us all along. And that means yeah. Putting putting yourself a little bit aside because you're trying to create something that's bigger than you could ever be. Yeah. What what do you think the difference between good tension and bad tension is right because trust trust. Wow. Well said yeah, I mean because conflict can be good, right? Yeah. Usually is. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I say trust. Maybe that's obvious but conflict is a great thing. Because it's where you are able to build an idea into a bigger better idea, and you're going to have differences of opinion and trust is what allows you to evaluate that objectively as something. That's a better way of solving a problem that your business has or a better idea than the one that Suzy are Bobby came up with. With all by him or herself where there isn't trust. That's when things get weird, you know, authorship becomes more important than quality and all kinds of stuff for for people in this audience or early stage entrepreneurs and trying to build something and maybe thinking about a co found or maybe they have a co-founder there's a small team. What what would you have wanted to know, you know, twenty years ago that would have been helpful for you as you've now grown and scaled your own businesses. I I always occurred people take a partner because it's one thing to let yourself down really hard to let someone else down and that partner you keep each other going when things get really hard, which which they always will. And then I was encouraged people to find somebody who's just the complete opposite of your skill set. So between the two of you, you can cover as much of of the business as possible and go into it with an open mind because I think you'll learn. More about yourself than anything else in terms of. What you're good at? And what you're not good at how you're perceived and how ultimately you can be affective, and how you can lead people in a way that's true in authentic to type of person. You are I asked you earlier both of you. How did you know that the other person was the right person and your answer was we didn't. So was it. I mean, it was just serendipitous that you just I think. Yeah. A little bit of luck, and you know, a startup his journey, and you kind of figure out along the way, and if Adam it started method on its own it probably would have looked like a birkenstock smell. It smelled like one. It. If I start on my own at probably like, Hello kitty. In have been toxic did work. And because of us coming together in bringing these different points of view in the strengths we created. I we're gonna take credit for it. Because we haven't found by who did it first. But really the first echo Shiga product that was high designed and deep sustainability, which is really hard to do. And we are both insistent that it would have these these qualities in brought it's a lot of our personality coming together. A big part of it is well as making the commitment that hey, I'm going to start this business. Right. You start a business? That's at least a ten year commitment. Sure. And I'm going to do it with this person, which you know, I mean, we're using the marriage analogy a lot right you it's something you've got to commit to not just the way it starts. But how you're going to develop it over time. So that you can make it work to the benefit of the business. And then I think a key is always put the business before yourself. And if you do that it'll bring you back around to that when he says something that gets on your nerves or there's a stressful situation. This is great group therapy. Right. Yeah. You you are both running your own businesses. Now, you you sold method, and you're no longer involved with the company, Eric you run Ali, which is a by vitamins and nutritional supplements, you pricing target and ripple you pricing that all over the place whole foods as well. It's a plant milk company. What are you? Most miss about about not working with the other person, Eric's, creative, spelling. In all seriousness. Eric is one of the best people I've ever met in just kind of coming up with. We're really building on ideas little nuggets that sort of get built into. More interesting and creative ideas. That's that's what I miss about working. Yeah. First of all, I just missed our sense of humor. We have. We we always had a lot of fun together in the office. And I miss that daily bands over like brothers from a different mother. I love how Adam would push these really hard initiatives around sustainability or chemical engineering that would would scare us all but we'd get behind. I think ocean. Plastic was was one of my more favorite ones as well. To launch a line of products that were made from plastic retreat from the ocean. And I miss being surrounded by his really kind of big on his thoughts on that every day. So cool. Adam Lowry, Eric Ryan, the co founders of method the founders of ripple and Ali. Thank you. Eric Ryan, Adam Lowry, founders of methane at americ-. Join me live on stage at the how I built this summit which happened last month at year Boina center for the arts in San Francisco. More of these short bonus episodes from our summit event, we'll be coming out every Thursday of the next month. So check out your how this feed for new ones next week. My interview with John Zimmer of lift thanks to Casey Herman who produced this episode routine air Bluey wrote the music, I'm guy Roz and even listening to this special bonus episode of how I dealt this NPR.